How do I write my music? Beats me! I really don’t know. I’m going to try to talk about it anyway.
The music seldom comes to me in the order you finally see it. Sometimes the beginning, end, or (more often) something in the middle comes to me, I know it’s right, and then have to figure out how to get to and then from that point, somewhat like figuring out a puzzle! It may be part of the melody, a rhythm, or a harmonic progression, and when it comes to me I pretty much instantly know I want to use it. It’s of course much easier to jump around like this nowadays, with music writing software.
Also, there is no one speed of the compositional process. Handel and especially Mozart dashed things off – and their handwriting could not keep up with the composing going on in their heads, so some of the music they ‘composed’ never got written down.
Beethoven was the opposite, finding composing difficult and slow most of the time. Bach was probably somewhere between these extremes, and my own process is similar: some of my music almost writes itself, while other parts of them (often those that sound easiest) are difficult and slow to come. e.
Igor Stravinsky said that he was simply “the vessel” through which his music passed, writing down what “someone or something else” dictated to him. I often feel this way when writing – as if I am merely taking dictation.
I’m also not one to dawdle much over my own musical past, and am much more interested in my recent efforts (in both composing and performing) than in what I did long ago. Bruno Walter, the renowned Austrian conductor, was once asked which of the four Brahms symphonies he loved the best; he replied, “The last one I conducted!”
Stravinsky complained that musicians always performed his earlier works (on which his fame continues to rest) and ignored his “later and more interesting” music! I am firmly in this camp.
In fact, I really hate recopying my old music, and my tune Take my life (I was programming this in Fall of ’09) dates from 1982 is the only older piece of mine I have revisited in a great many years. I work hard to get it right the first time rather than spend time rewriting something I goofed up! In that regard, “What I have written, I have written.”
To be continued….