Where do your ideas come from?

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Where do your ideas come from?

Postby Rainmak3r » Fri Dec 06, 2019 11:07 am

I've always been fascinated by the concept of inspiration, muse, or however you want to call it. In the tracks I've shared on this forum, I've tried to describe how the process worked for me every time, as it's the part of the journey that usually excites me the most: the moment where you get that spark, that idea, that you know can become something more. Notice that this is not strictly speaking related to composition (I've seen there's a post open for that already), but to what happens before that, and that may or may not lead you to actually work on it further.

I realize it's not the same for everyone: I know for some people they just come from improvisation, whether by themselves or with other musicians. While some parts I wrote did come that way, most of the times it happens completely differently for me. I remember someone in an interview (I think it was Yanni, but I couldn't find mentions of that again, so I may be wrong) describing something very similar to what it feels to me: at random moments I simply start "listening" to music in my head, as if I had just tuned in to a "radio" somewhere. Often this music is quite long (1-2 minutes) and already "orchestrated" somehow, of feels like that; and more importantly, most of the times, once I "hear" them once, they basically stay in my mind forever. I always try to write the gist of them down any time an idea I like pops to mind (just to be sure I don't forget it, and can get back to it later), but there are some dating from years ago I never sketched and that I still remember perfectly to this day (and often repeat or sing to myself), knowing I'll have to give them form sooner or later. The fact that these ideas pop up so strongly always makes me fear that I'm actually just remembering something I've heard somewhere else, but so far I've never found myself unconsciously "plagiarizing" an existing track; the way I hear them, though(e.g., their "orchestrations", whatever the genre), are definitely inspired by things I've listened to and loved, which means those ideas are for sure filtered through how I probably think composers I like would write them. At any rate, any time such an idea arrives it's always surprising and exciting, and I always end up wondering if I did indeed just tune in to a mysterious place where someone else whispered it to my mind :mrgreen:

Does this feel familiar to you? Or is the process for you different?

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Re: Where do your ideas come from?

Postby milo » Fri Dec 06, 2019 1:23 pm

I have a similar experience sometimes. I have thought of melodies in the shower, or while running, driving, or any random activity. Usually not during a cognitively demanding task, but while doing something where I can let my mind wander.

I also have musical ideas that come more directly or deliberately, while working on a specific song I will get an idea for a change to the composition, performance, mastering, etc. Also when I am playing an instrument, sometimes I will wander into some part of the fretboard and find a little riff that really pleases my ear.

When I was younger the second method made up most of my composition. I would find a riff, then work it into a full song by adding lyrics and other instrument parts. As I get older I am doing more of the first method, because I have the musical skills to actually perform what I heard in my head. I remember that I couldn't do that when my skill set was weaker.

I am really awed by stories of Beethoven composing entirely in his mind at the end of his life when he was deaf. His later works are amazing, but he only ever heard them in his mind's ear. Now there's a man who knew his craft! But I wonder how different his later works would have been if he had been able to hear them as he composed?

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Re: Where do your ideas come from?

Postby thumbknuckle » Sun Dec 29, 2019 4:01 am

On one level an answer to this question would require answers to other questions regarding the nature of creativity and consciousness and perhaps concerns of a more paranormal nature. That is an interesting conversation to have but not a topic I am going to tackle from this hotel lobby. It's been a long day and the Ohio State game is on.

On a more practical level many of my compositional ideas are an outgrowth of whatever concepts I am obsessing over at the time.

Here's an example: I'm a bass player and I try to keep a pretty steady practice schedule. For a while there I was working hard at coming to grips with a tonal/melodic/rhythmic concept where I was using a set of symmetrical scales ("modes of limited transposition" if you prefer), the (poly)tonal environments they implied, and some mixed meters (stuff like 7/8 counted 3+2+2 or 13/8 counted 3+3+3+2+2). Lots of time playing different syncopations, arpeggios, approach tones, enclosures, yadda yadda yadda. A sort of bebop inspired 8th note sort of vocabulary. The practicing was not especially creative, more methodical and disciplined, but as I really started to get this stuff under my fingers and clear in my inner ear the ideas started to flow. I ended up writing a book of 27 (and counting) tunes that all live in this really specific little world.

I have had similar experiences with a set of acousmatic pieces which shared a set of signal processing techniques, a book of trio tunes that an old band of mine performed, a set of marimba pieces which shared a specific serial/intervallic approach to organizing the pitch material, and several other things.

Spending a lot of time thinking about a compact and well defined concept has become something of an aesthetic axiom for me. Privileging depth over breadth. I like the results of this sort of thinking and it seems to help me get stuff done.

Also helpful is a lot of time spent playing music in as many diverse settings as possible. Especially improvised music.

and weed, of course.
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