For so many listeners music is cathartic. Depending on the style and mood, a piece may speak to a person as if it communicates their own story, sense, or desire. Instrumental works function in this way, without words, to express and convey meaning. Part of that meaning depends on the listener’s own imagination. I sometimes field-test a work by sharing it with someone, never telling the title, and allowing the person to respond in their own way. I know I’ve created a ‘winner’ if the piece inspired visualisation or the sense of being transported. I hope you find the sounds, rhythms, and melodies I’ve published in “Suffolk Skies” and “Noun” pleasant, entertaining, and relaxing. Beyond having a listen to my own musical efforts I have written a few tips for the reader. It can be a challenge to decide which works to publish, and which to abandon. Here’s how I build intent behind the music and how I decide what to publish:
Have a look through the archive of articles relating to music composition and development. The archive can be found in the left side panel. Or alternately, I have provided an easy link to articles by myself and others (below) as related articles.
Sometimes a work takes many hours or days to develop. Other times a work may ‘write itself’ quickly, needing minimal editing or restructuring. Some of the production process can be mundane. But, it is truly rewarding to produce a piece that flows and tells a story, or sets a scene. The listener may imagine their own story. Or, if one is writing a music score to accompany video or a movie, the listener’s experience as watcher is maximised. Most film score composers say that they feel it was a productive day if two or three minutes of (complete) score was achieved. For the composer of ‘smaller’ works having no such production deadline is a luxury. I maintain that self-imposed deadlines can breathe life and energy into works. It is a rule I often apply to my own works. On one hand, I am careful not to rush the piece at hand. On the other hand, enforcing an imposition such as a time scale compels me to push the piece ahead. I may use this ‘tool’ to complete a section at a time, or an entire work. I believe self-imposed deadlines also prepare a composer for those times when a commission really does come.
I genuinely enjoy partaking in the creative process whereby works pass through my hands and result in new, challenging sounds. My ultimate litmus-test for any work is whether or not it begs to be heard again. Not every piece I write makes it to publication…only the ones that call me back to be heard anew. I believe, that after I’ve crafted a piece, it should speak to me across a resting period. Given a break, if the work rings out in memory it probably has sufficient potency as a musical work to resonate and relate to an audience. If I myself find a piece forgettable, it isn’t worthy of publication/recording. The challenge here is not to be too in love with one’s own creative efforts. This helps to avoid selecting every piece ‘hoping’ there will be an audience for them. The truth is, an artists overall work is diminished by offering weak selections. If your weakest piece of music is still strong, your overall efficacy will show.
Music takes on new life, and new purpose for each listener independent of the composer’s intent. Some tracks are strong and bold while others were designed to soothe. I have to muster the fortitude to withstand an unexpected response. If the metaphor I’d built into a particular work was too obscure I may consider re-working it. I want most of my content to be accessible. I will say, though, at other times I simply acknowledge the response and hold firm. It may be a surprise to get a negative reaction from some listeners. Occasionally controversy is a sign of success or, that you’ve tapped a nerve. If you feel a negative reaction was unjust you must kindly (and with great understanding and humility) accept the person’s review. Taking a bad review with a grain of salt can either strengthen your convictions about a work, or cause you to consider aspects that you hadn’t previously anticipated. We must always be ready to edit a work. We must also realise when a piece functions differently than we’d imagined it would. In either case, if you conclude that the piece stands on its own, whether it garners ready acceptance or provokes strong reactions, it may possess sufficient quality to ‘send to the printers.’
I hope my tips have provided some insights for you in your work. And, I hope you’ve enjoyed the variety and flow throughout both of my albums. Thanks for having a read and a listen!
- “Suffolk Skies” debut album of instrumental music by composer Kurt Hartle (kurthartle.wordpress.com)
- How to Publicise and Promote Your Own Music (kurthartle.wordpress.com)
- What drives us to compose? (kurthartle.wordpress.com)
- On Composing (ivandrums.com)
- How to Preserve Artistic Identity When Life Gets in the Way; Finding Peace Amid Day to Day Interruptions (kurthartle.wordpress.com)
- Teasing out a Melodic Line; Melodic Development; Music Composition (kurthartle.wordpress.com)
- I get asked a lot about how to get started as composer for film, soundtracks, etc (pavmusic.wordpress.com)
- Online Music Licensing Resources (djduece.wordpress.com)
- Should We Encourage Listening to Music At The Office? (shoretelsky.com)
- Capturing Feeling in Music: The Work of John Williams. (catsandrubberducks.wordpress.com)