some thoughts about composition

->deutsche version


many processes in composition need a lot of time
thinking feeling phantasizing inner hearing deciding and finally writing the score
or in electronic music programming etc
try to feel which time a piece, a process needs
try to give it this time
often there is too few time — why?
fast fast fast — but fast is surface, fast is function —
when is it time to say no to this pressure?


every instrument needs continuous care, continuous contact
same for meditation, for training in gym or sport
and also the same is true for composing:
we see that the work flows better when we spend time in composing every day
we see how hard it can be to come in again after a break
this is partly because of the circumstances
but on the same hand it is our part to care about it
we need discipline


my impression is that many composers make much too few sketches
they consider composition as writing the notes on the paper
but this is only the very last step
if we compare a composition to a landscape, we should not try to come as fast as possible from here to there. we should try to explore the landscape itself:
how is it build?
which rocks, which trees, which rivers, which fields?
how can i move in it?
if we compare a composition to a human (or animal) being, we should not try to force this person to do this, or to be like that. we should try to know this person:
who are you?
how would you like to be?
how can i help you to become what you are?
for this process, we need to write, to draw, to sketch. everyone has to find her/his method and way. there is no right or wrong. and it does not have only its value in approaching to the final destination, it has its value in itself

bad questions

is my music good?
leave it to others to judge.
the good question would be:
did i try my best to bring out my music as good as i could?
(i.e. take enough time, go to details, write a good score etc)
is my music better or worse than ... ?
do you believe music is like sport or competition, ranking?
are you asking this because you want to be better than x?
or do you feel worse than y?
how can you come to your own value, without being better or worse than anyone else?

tradition and community

there is not one music, there are many musics
not only considering time / history and geography / region
there are also quite different musics in contemporary music
different in what the composers like, in which systems they live
different in the works which are important for them
and also different in habit, in the way of thinking and speaking about music
the world of new music is a wide land with many villages and houses
and it is open. it is not closed like the classical european music, or perhaps like persian traditional music. it will develop, it will change
be a part of this development, be a part of this change
try to find out which music you feel close, and which persons you feel close, for learning, sharing, discussing, teaching
with these persons — musicians, composers, supporters, audience — try to form a community: come together, organize concerts, establish meetings
you need this community, and the others need you

new music

in european history of music, there has been many times a new music, for instance:
the ars nova (new art, ~1320) which called the former music ars antiqua (old art)
the new way of „fresh consonances“ (~1430) which we now call renaissance
the „seconda prattica“ (second/new way of composing, ~1600) with new expressions etc
the new simplicity around 1760 which we now call „classic“
so new musics come in and become old
our (?) contemporary (?) „new music“ is now already more than hundred years old, so really old music ...
what is it? not to use triads, not to use normal ways of treating instruments?
for me personally, i consider new music, or my new music as having this as essentials:
it is free music; nothing is prescribed a priori to do or not to do (compared to songs, beats, major/minor etc)
it does not apply any already existing technique, but it looks from a „new“ perspective to things (fozié majd, for instance, said something like: „there was this musician in traditional music, and the way he finished pieces was so extraordinary — i could have made a piece about it.“ — this would be an example for a new look to things)


yes we need success
but succes is not a simple thing. there are, for instance, quite different addresses which can give you success or not:
the musicians who perform your piece. for me this is perhaps the most important success: do they like to play my music or not. but on the other hand: muscians have their own interests, their own measurements — this may or may not meet your music (classical case: the violoncello player who was angry about beethoven‘s string quartet op 59)
the collegues who listen to your piece. probably the experienced ears to hear and minds to judge. but rare to find a work which or a composer who is acknowledged all over the different groups and directions; even in „classical“ cases like cage or nono, how much more in present music
the directors who perform pieces or give commissions. they have usually a good overview, and some of them a deep understanding of music, but of course their selection and judgement also depends on factors like personal taste, fashions, publishers, marketing, themes etc
the audience which listens to your piece. there are so many audiences ... and many dependencies and changes in the audience‘s judgement, for instance the success someone already has. lachemann, for instance, is now applaused even in a classical concert context — how different has this been some decades ago
this does not mean that all the people in theses different groups are stupid and we can ignore critics or should not enjoy success. it does only mean that success is a complex thing, depending on many factors and different reasons
apart from the different groups: for what do we need success?
do we need success because we want to be loved and confirmed?
do we need success because we want to get a certain position?
do we need success because we want our music to be played?
do we need success because we want to get commissions?
these are quite different ways, functions of success.
when success is there, it can make things possible. we are asked, for new pieces, for speaking about our music, we are invited, we may even get jobs. but on the other hand, success causes problems. it can corrupt your music because people often like things which are easy to listen. it can seduce you to repeat a way of composing because you know that people liked it and want to hear it again (as your „brand“). it can make you compose too much because you must satisfy the hype
there is another success, a success in the dialogue between you and your piece. you will be satisfied when you did what you felt you had to do, when you gave to your piece what you could, when you worked with the best possible concentration and dedication
then you will feel an inner success, a deep satisfaction, and perhaps this inner success must be the base for all other successes, and the corrective for them
a composition is a gift, not an exchange

reserved space

i think composition needs in many ways a special place. it may be physically or metaphorically: it needs one room which is only there for somposing; a room which is protected to be this and nothing else
it is necessary because our daily life is built on rules which are not pro composition: time pressure, duties, functions, distraction. composition needs time, concentration, dedication and being „out of world“ in a way


how much to put into a piece, to want by a piece:
too few: then it may miss some depth
too much: then it is overloaded
how much to doubt, to hesitate:
too few: then it can lead to automatic and reproductive activity
too much: then you are blocked, you do not move any more, and do not accept your imperfection

the way / composition and life

we experience our life as a line between two points: birth and death
(it is not the only way to experience existence here, and it might not be the best, but it seems to be the common one)
when life is as it should be, we experience it as a way. we say: i am on my way
when life is not as it should be, we say: i cannot find my way, or: i feel blocked, or: i am in a dead end
for a composer, to compose pieces is one of the most important means to find his/her way. here, in the process of composing we have a special field for being confronted with our questions and problems, and possibly being able to solve them: fear, doubts, politics, hardships, calamities, wishes, needs. composing offers a special place for us to deal with hard things, make our way with them and at the end perhaps see them different

(tehran, march 2017)