This post was inspired by Stravinsky’s Poetics of Music Lesson Three – The Composition of Music (Amazon affiliate link)
Every now and then, the stars align and I’ll write a tune in under an hour. Every element naturally comes together and I’ll walk away with a perfect and succinct piece of music that I’m pleased with and ready to share with the world.
I used to rely heavily on these kinds of moments and would get frustrated when they didn’t occur more frequently, or on demand. I thought that ‘aligning the stars’ was a state of mind a composer could enter into. I thought that that was the primary force behind the creative process.
Composing for me, used to be an attempt at recreating those moments. Needless to say, more frustration would ensue…
Stravinsky’s third lesson fights the notion that creators of music are fueled solely with inspiration, imagination and/or fancy.
“This appetite that is aroused in me at the mere thought of putting in order musical elements that have attracted my attention is not at all a fortuitous thing like inspiration, but as habitual and periodic, if not as constant, as a natural need.”
“Hard work” interests Stravinsky, as opposed to inspiration, imagination and fancy, which imply a certain passivism in the creative process. To highlight this, he refers to himself as an “inventor of music.” Inventors are explorers with a strong “faculty of observation.” They may have moments of passivism, but those only exist because of their very active “speculative spirit.”
Considering my struggles as a composer, this lesson really resonates with me. I’m trying to put it all into practice. I don’t rely on those spontaneous moments of inspiration anymore. Most of my compositions now take me many months to complete; I’m more comfortable with that now.
From here on in, if the stars align, I’ll welcome it. But in the meantime, I’ll be doing whatever it takes!
“(The composer) seeks a satisfaction that he fully knows he will not find without first striving for it. One cannot force one’s self to love; but love presupposes understanding, and in order to understand, one must exert one’s self.”