Coming To Terms With Music Composition

There are some answers that have stared you in the face from the very beginning of your search, but sounded so simple that you dismissed them. The questions that have fueled my search in the world of music — for what can define beauty, what is music, and what purpose does it serve? — have often led me to form unsatisfactory answers along the lines of “it depends”. Liberality and open-mindedness: I do not belittle these things, though they are what propelled me as I underwent the mental changes necessary to modify my taste and theories in music, and lived without a strict set of rules. Not the rules presented by common practice tonality, but in a wider sense, rules that could universally govern music as it has been heard since the beginning of time. As I attached myself to this school of “musical agnosticism”, I would dive more deeply into the sounds of what I believed to be historically significant musics of all kinds in the late twentieth century, in search of reason, or some principle or another that could support what these people who fascinated me were writing, justifying my progression in this field of study.

Perhaps had I not first gained a testimony of the solid principles regarding my faith in God, I may have recently simply dropped my faith in all things, seeing no solution to such philosophical questions. I know that may be unfair, considering that perhaps all people at one time or another have also asked these and that is reason enough to believe that the answers do not exist. However, I know that some things are concrete, of science, mathematics, and nature. There is beauty enough in these true things that give me hope for the future.

Things that emanate hope, love, and faith. Music and sound with identity, neither plain nor ridiculous. Music that holds within it life. These traits would do well in every new composition.

Can the modern composer begin his studies without feeling that we currently live in a time of such absolute freedom and lawlessness, that beauty is simply perception? Where is the standard for beauty and passion? Perhaps there is not a decisive line, but stand back and see if there is not a threshold that can be exceeded. Can randomness, atonality, and experimentation be used other than to signify randomness, atonality, or experimentation? One listening to these unimaginative forms would without difficulty point them out. We live in a “century of death” as Bernstein declared, in which the underground world of classical music pushes itself further and further out of sight. The populace should not have to turn to film score compositions to find new creations with life. They alone do not hold the key to greater music. A new century is still on the rise. Time grows ripe for music to experience a true rebirth.

I think anyone wishing to pursue this course of study already knows the answers to the most simple questions. Any success can only come with passion and self-discipline, and with or without the aid of fellow peers and professors, nothing else will bring about results. You will find that, just as with everything else, music cannot be taught. It must be developed, through rigorous self-discipline, diligent effort, and earnest and sincere practice.

Had I not personally investigated the matter? Had I not once been convinced that the truth was somewhere on the earth? I wondered time after time, as I sat there in nearly empty recital halls reserved for concerts of new music, where was this wealth of wisdom that could fuel such innovation. I have seen and heard enough for my own tastes to toy with the works of the philosophies of modernism. Therein have I found so many examples of beauty, smothered in twentieth-century stipulation for free originality. I know that my views are disputable, as I was once one who would argue against such. I cannot say that I know more than anyone. But I am not afraid to say that I believe that this world deserves something more.

I want you to give me a master of melody and color, one who can weave themes of fine personality, detail, and development. Each new creation born as the most beautiful spirit of its time, that will leave no eye dry. Every note filled with power to justify its existence. With love, always, as an essential ingredient. A true master; there are some who qualify, but there must be more. Who will take up this mantle?

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