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#2311639 - 08/05/14 07:02 PM Re: compositional methods [Re: Nikolas]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7606
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
What is an "example v"?
A real typo, because I was typing from my phone! wink

Other than that, you still don't get what I'm saying?

An opinion that it is naive to compose short pieces cannot be taken seriously.
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#2311781 - 08/06/14 01:14 AM Re: compositional methods [Re: Polyphonist]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5276
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
What is an "example v"?
A real typo, because I was typing from my phone! wink

Other than that, you still don't get what I'm saying?

An opinion that it is naive to compose short pieces cannot be taken seriously.

Your reply about Chopin, was a reply to RogerW. I can't see the word "naive" in his post, or actually any kind of meaning close to that.

More over he, as well as me and as well as Steve are talking from our own perspective and are very clearly stating so. I don't know what's so wrong about that!

*I think* that the idea about short pieces vs large pieces is that a large piece eventually will need some development, while a shorter one can be "just" the melody and a counter melody and that's it. Nothing wrong with any of them, and I love them both (considering what I've been composing), but perhaps this is what Roger and Steve are saying (?)
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#2311820 - 08/06/14 04:41 AM Re: compositional methods [Re: Steve Chandler]
gsmonks Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/10
Posts: 638
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler
Originally Posted By: gsmonks
Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: Ritzycat
Some days, I only write a few measures before I get bored and feel I've exhausted myself. Sometimes I write a roughly two-minute long piece in an hour. I'm not a "seasoned" composer, so I don't know the complicated musical components that I can 'use'.

I usually start my pieces with a theme that I get stuck in my head. I am often conjuring up melodies in my head and then I just memorize them until I get home and write them out in Finale. Then I work on it some more there or save it for later.

The problem with "saving it for later" is that all but the best composers will never come back to what they have saved. The better thing to do is make it into a complete piece, however short.

Poly, that may be your modus operandi, but I always save it for later. My pieces are built up over lengthy periods of time. I don't believe I've ever composed any piece in one sitting. However, I also don't consider myself one of the best composers either. It strikes me that this is simply a difference of working methodology. I count on the different perception of things a day later to add insight into the finished product. I find the concept of inspiration of the moment to (for me) be overrated.


I don't think you can generalise about methods of composition without putting your foot in it. Approaches to writing music are probably as varied as the number of people working at the craft.

I believe I was very careful to NOT generalize. I was simply comparing the two methods as I perceive them and what I believe to be (for me) the benefit of my modus operandi. I really don't understand how you missed that.


I wasn't commenting on your post, Steve.

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#2311822 - 08/06/14 04:50 AM Re: compositional methods [Re: Nikolas]
gsmonks Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/10
Posts: 638
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
What is an "example v"?
A real typo, because I was typing from my phone! wink

Other than that, you still don't get what I'm saying?

An opinion that it is naive to compose short pieces cannot be taken seriously.

Your reply about Chopin, was a reply to RogerW. I can't see the word "naive" in his post, or actually any kind of meaning close to that.

More over he, as well as me and as well as Steve are talking from our own perspective and are very clearly stating so. I don't know what's so wrong about that!

*I think* that the idea about short pieces vs large pieces is that a large piece eventually will need some development, while a shorter one can be "just" the melody and a counter melody and that's it. Nothing wrong with any of them, and I love them both (considering what I've been composing), but perhaps this is what Roger and Steve are saying (?)


Development is more an attribute of 19th century music and earlier. Later composers (late 19th century, early-to-late 20th century) wrote more programme and programme-like music that was through-composed.

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#2311823 - 08/06/14 05:05 AM Re: compositional methods [Re: Michael Sayers]
gsmonks Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/10
Posts: 638
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
What are all the things you can do to a melody (just thinking out loud, here)? Original, retrograde, inversion, retrograde inversion, augmentation, diminution, reharmonisation . . . you can play with the harmonic rhythm, the melodic rhythm, you can write the melody at a different scale degree or using a different scale altogether . . . change the time signature, expose it as a single melody with or without accompaniment or weave it into a contrapuntal texture . . . then there are the various melodic shapes, there is reorchestration . . .

None of which addresses the use to which the end result is put.

For example, who among us can write a scary melody or piece of music? Something that strikes a visceral fear into the listener.

Maybe we should have a series of contests or challenges. Beginning with writing something truly terrifying.

H'm . . . you know, off the top of my head, I can't think of a single piece of really scary music. Can you?

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#2311829 - 08/06/14 05:25 AM Re: compositional methods [Re: Polyphonist]
RogerW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/08
Posts: 439
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
An opinion that it is naive to compose short pieces cannot be taken seriously.

I have no idea where you read that opinion. I can also say that it is normal for a pianist to start by learning short pieces, then eventually progress to learning longer pieces. That doesn't mean that I think it is naive to perform short pieces by Chopin.

The dictionary meaning of composition is "the act of combining parts or elements to form a whole". The quite natural progression when learning something like this is to start from the smallest elements. You first learn to combine notes to form a melody (or rhythmic patterns, harmonies, textures, soundscapes etc.). Next you learn to combine these new elements, melodies with harmonies, rhythmic patterns and other textures to form a bigger whole. Then you learn to combine these larger chunks into larger pieces of music. There's really no way around this. You can't write a sonata unless you first learn how to write the smaller elements of a sonata. And Chopin was very able to compose sonatas, so I really don't know what news you want to break to him.

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#2311887 - 08/06/14 10:02 AM Re: compositional methods [Re: RogerW]
Michael Sayers Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/13
Posts: 1137
Loc: Stockholms lšn, Sverige
Hi Roger,

Maybe there is an art to the appropriateness of particular musical material for various durations of music? The opening of Beethoven's Hammerklavier sonata is "obviously" (but not necessarily) the start of something other than a prelude, and as well of something other than a work with for instance only 20 minutes compass. Some composers seem to have issues in one extreme or the other - Chopin is great in both, but for instance Schubert seems to have had some issues in composing for large multi-movement forms.

I don't know if originating one type of material vs. the other, and either of the needed quality, is easier, maybe shorter compositions with more concentrated focus just need a different type of effort rather than being intrinsically easier to pull off.

Some composers seem to be most secure with the monumental and gargantuan, and to possibly have issues with the miniature (with Wagner and Bruckner there are examples of this).

This is all a very general observation, and very roughly sketched out, yet maybe there is something to it? As a professional composer maybe you have some insight about this.

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#2311920 - 08/06/14 11:59 AM Re: compositional methods [Re: Michael Sayers]
RogerW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/08
Posts: 439
Hi Michael,

Regarding material suitable for long or short pieces, I think proportions is the most important word. There needs to be no difference between a 3 minute or a 15 minute movement when it comes to form, they might both consist of the same structural elements, but the individual elements are longer and more expanded in the latter. An 8 bar main theme that ends with a perfect V-I cadence would for example be very difficult to use as base for a large scale piece.

Composing good music of any length is not easy by any means and it would be wrong to claim that anyone composer writing mostly short pieces is less worth, if those short pieces are of great quality. Some composers will find that they like one or the other more, which is good, because we need all kinds of music. We wouldn't want all novelists to churn out only >2000 page epics either. smile

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#2314230 - 08/11/14 03:04 PM Re: compositional methods [Re: Michael Sayers]
gsmonks Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/10
Posts: 638
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
The difference between long and short pieces music can often be likened to the difference between novel writing and poetry.

It's often said that the best writers (both novel-writers and poets) have more written about them than their own total output.

Several cases in point- a number of very short compositions by both Schumann and Debussy. Their very brevity is the reason they're used as examples for analysis in university. Bach's Chorals, Inventions and Symphonias would qualify as well.

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#2314843 - 08/13/14 06:08 AM Re: compositional methods [Re: RogerW]
Michael Sayers Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/13
Posts: 1137
Loc: Stockholms lšn, Sverige
Thanks Roger!

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#2314859 - 08/13/14 07:02 AM Re: compositional methods [Re: gsmonks]
Michael Sayers Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/13
Posts: 1137
Loc: Stockholms lšn, Sverige
Originally Posted By: gsmonks
The difference between long and short pieces music can often be likened to the difference between novel writing and poetry.

Perhaps, yet these are two different genres or "instrumentations" for communication with words, the distinction isn't so much about form defined in connection with an expression over time as it can be in music. Poetry can be short or long, and prose writing can be short or long. Epic poetry can be vast in its breadth, length, height and depth, as with Byron's Don Juan.

With Thomas Wolfe his short story "Death the Proud Brother" has a different feel than the great novel "Look Homeward, Angel" - Thomas Wolfe's short stories seem closed off into being short stories, even when published "unedited" (not Charles Scribner's Sons published, Maxwell Perkins ed.) and where they appear as more episodic and with a less apparent, more subtle basis of structure. It is possible to feel that the paragraphs in his short stories are quite different than in his novels, yet analysis doesn't seem to disclose in a widely applicable way the essence of the distinction.

Charles Dicken's famous sentence - "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." - this "obviously" belongs with a novel. And yet the much shorter opening sentence of George Gissing's "The Nether World" also belongs with a novel - "In the troubled twilight of a March evening ten years ago, an old man, whose equipment and bearing suggested that he was fresh from travel, walked slowly across Clerkenwell Green, and by the graveyard of St. James's Church stood for a moment looking about him." Even in much shorter sentences than that last one there can be something in it which says "novel", not "short story". Sometimes a sentence that seems to say little actually says a great deal if it is heard properly, sometimes what it doesn't say and how it doesn't say it is what conveys that there is "more".

Getting back to music, a short prelude can have some of this "open" quality as well, such as Chopin's Op. 28 No. 20 which was a fountain for variations by both Busoni and Rachmaninoff. Yet many short works are "closed", e.g. Chopin's Op. 10 No. 1 is closed off into being an etude.

I've been trying to think of the precise way to conceptualize such distinctions with music. It is something beyond harmonic analysis and phrase lengths, something that seems elusive of exact description yet a simple "open" or "closed" paradigm doesn't by itself convey what it really is about. As with some sentences, what music doesn't say somehow can be a dominant factor in what it does say, and that area isn't an easy one to explore.

p.s. - During an interval time in the past I was an English Major, and I have read virtually everything by the great authors and not only the "American" and "British" ones wink. Henry James is an "American" author when written about in the U.S., in Brittania he is a "British" author.



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#2315331 - 08/14/14 06:56 AM Re: compositional methods [Re: Michael Sayers]
gsmonks Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/10
Posts: 638
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Originally Posted By: Michael Sayers
Originally Posted By: gsmonks
The difference between long and short pieces music can often be likened to the difference between novel writing and poetry.

Perhaps, yet these are two different genres or "instrumentations" for communication with words, the distinction isn't so much about form defined in connection with an expression over time as it can be in music. Poetry can be short or long, and prose writing can be short or long. Epic poetry can be vast in its breadth, length, height and depth, as with Byron's Don Juan.

With Thomas Wolfe his short story "Death the Proud Brother" has a different feel than the great novel "Look Homeward, Angel" - Thomas Wolfe's short stories seem closed off into being short stories, even when published "unedited" (not Charles Scribner's Sons published, Maxwell Perkins ed.) and where they appear as more episodic and with a less apparent, more subtle basis of structure. It is possible to feel that the paragraphs in his short stories are quite different than in his novels, yet analysis doesn't seem to disclose in a widely applicable way the essence of the distinction.

Charles Dicken's famous sentence - "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." - this "obviously" belongs with a novel. And yet the much shorter opening sentence of George Gissing's "The Nether World" also belongs with a novel - "In the troubled twilight of a March evening ten years ago, an old man, whose equipment and bearing suggested that he was fresh from travel, walked slowly across Clerkenwell Green, and by the graveyard of St. James's Church stood for a moment looking about him." Even in much shorter sentences than that last one there can be something in it which says "novel", not "short story". Sometimes a sentence that seems to say little actually says a great deal if it is heard properly, sometimes what it doesn't say and how it doesn't say it is what conveys that there is "more".

Getting back to music, a short prelude can have some of this "open" quality as well, such as Chopin's Op. 28 No. 20 which was a fountain for variations by both Busoni and Rachmaninoff. Yet many short works are "closed", e.g. Chopin's Op. 10 No. 1 is closed off into being an etude.

I've been trying to think of the precise way to conceptualize such distinctions with music. It is something beyond harmonic analysis and phrase lengths, something that seems elusive of exact description yet a simple "open" or "closed" paradigm doesn't by itself convey what it really is about. As with some sentences, what music doesn't say somehow can be a dominant factor in what it does say, and that area isn't an easy one to explore.

p.s. - During an interval time in the past I was an English Major, and I have read virtually everything by the great authors and not only the "American" and "British" ones wink. Henry James is an "American" author when written about in the U.S., in Brittania he is a "British" author.


I had quite a chuckle because of your comment re Henry James, during which I had a flashback to a Star Trek episode where Klingons (and other alien cultures) claimed Shakespeare as their own.

In terms of long- and short-form works, it depends upon the concentration or density of ideas, and here I'm referring to the overall body of work, not the many exceptions. If there weren't any exceptions, I'm sure someone would feel compelled to create them, humans being the perverse-minded creatures they are.

Where paragraphs are concern . . . now isn't that a lost art! Paragraph construction! Editors and proof-readers have turned into a dumbed-down, parochial lot, with their mind-numbing obsession over short sentences and small words. I'd love to send some of them excerpts from Hemmingway's posthumous book The Garden Of Eden, in which he explores a breathtaking approach to sentence and paragraph construction, not only eschewing the use of punctuation whilst maintaining subtle breaks in the form of conjunctions and other devices, while weaving complex sentences and paragraphs together, each sentence often containing three parts- one part situationally descriptive, one part tactile, one part dialogue. The effect is akin to watercolours and pastels, of trying to physically merge with a painting.

Rowling's Hairy Potty is so much washroom-stall scribbling by comparison.

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