Updated: Oct 12, 2020
When it comes to music composition, there are questions and then there is THE question.
There are several questions a composer must ask when he/she is composing music. In my most recent article, I mentioned a few that were relevant to the topic.
Allow me to mention some more here:
How long will this piece be?
What form will this piece take?
What ensemble will I be writing for?
What type of harmonic language will I use?
Will this piece be thematic or motivic?
Will this piece be tonal or atonal?
Will this piece involve elements of aleatory or serialism?
Will this piece have electronic elements?
What tone do I want to emphasize?
What kind of mood do I want to create?
What message do I want to send?
And on, and on, and on...
These are just some of the questions I tend to ask before I put pencil to paper.
Now, even within the body of the composition, questions still abound.
Within a composition, practically every measure has a number of questions that must be asked before you can proceed to the next one.
Musical phrasing for example... Will I use traditional musical phrasing in my composition? How long will my phrasing be? How will that phrasing affect the structure of later passages?
As you can see, questions are critical when crafting a composition.
But there is one question that overshadows all others...
WHAT'S THE POINT???
The "what's the point?" question is the single most important question you can ask about your music.
Now, before I'm misunderstood, the "what's the point?" question is not about composing music for other people. It is not about trying to impress anyone else.
Those things will be the byproduct of answering the "what's the point?" question correctly.
The important thing is that, as a composer, asking this fundamental question will determine the quality of the music you compose. Why?
Because asking this question before you compose, while you're composing, and after you are finished will keep your mind on the quality of music you are creating.
Asking "what's the point?" before you compose helps to focus on the reason for the work to exist in the first place.
Asking "what's the point?" after you finish helps you to critique the quality of the completed work.
But the most important time to ask the question is when you're composing because this is the time when you're creating patterns of notes, structuring dynamics, determining harmonic progressions, and a host of other decisions that will make or break your music.
Is the music just as interesting during the soft, quiet passages as it is during loud tutti ones?
Are accelerando passages placed at appropriate moments? Do they enhance the music?
Do your motives develop and are they easy to follow?
What message are you trying to communicate to your audience?
Your composition should be dominated by the question, "what's the point?" If it is, your music will be so much better for it.
What do you think? Is "what's the point?" the most important question in music composition? Do you have a more important question? Let me know in the comments section!