How many people here also compose?

April 22, 2021, 3:45 PM · The fashion of composing for violinist composers seems to have mostly died. Some of today's top soloists don't even compose cadenzas! I think the negative stigma towards violinist composers plays a hand in this.

Introduction aside, how many of you compose music of your own? What kinds of music do you compose? Did you have any education in composing and theory? If so, how much?

My response to the prompt: I do compose casually. The kinds of music that I compose are overly tonal romances, atonal stuff, virtuoso showpieces, etudes with finger and bow patterns that I usually practice with, cadenzas (Paganini 1 and Mozart 5, although I deleted my Mozart 5 cadenza out of embarrassment), and some casual piano and violin chamber music. Most of my compositions are short too. I have had some not too advanced music theory education for a year.

Replies (26)

April 22, 2021, 4:09 PM · I don't compose too often, but would consider myself to still be a composer. I write something serious maybe once a year, but the only compositions that most people seem to want to play of mine, are actually my cadenzas! I had pretty regular theory lessons between the age of 10 and 16.

Anyway here is a shameless plug of some cadenzi :) Hopefully some of you might be interested to try them, or to consider writing your own.

Mozart G 1st mvt:


Mozart B flat all movts, played by my good friend:

April 22, 2021, 6:01 PM · I compose occasionally, though mostly I just arrange and edit music. My son is an excellent but unmotivated composer. I wish I could get him to compose more frequently. He's also one who rarely ever finishes a piece. He has written his own cadenzas for both Mozart 3 and Mozart 5, though, and will be writing ones for a Joseph Bologne Concerto that I am currently editing and he is currently writing the piano reduction for.

My daughter has composed one piece -- under duress.

Edited: April 22, 2021, 6:26 PM · I'm the kind of composer who compulsively trashes everything he writes before it can take shape. I have a much better track record with arranging; I pretty much only play my solo / ensemble arrangements these days. I can never finish my compositions o~o

I really like your first cadenza there, James. Short and sweet! Not drawn out like so many overblown cadenzas. Interesting that you came right out of the tutti with such energy, too.

April 22, 2021, 7:04 PM · I've composed a couple of times, but only as part of my school subjects (GCSE/A Level). I still have somewhat regular theory lessons. Recently started with a new teacher on that
April 22, 2021, 7:45 PM · To add on to my original post: I've actually had theory lessons for longer than that, but I was just too stupid to remember. I used to be a pianist as well, and I do a lot of self-conducted research about musical structure + I try to find patterns in existing pieces.
April 22, 2021, 7:56 PM · Nope. My playground for making new things is synthetic chemistry.
April 22, 2021, 8:33 PM · Nice cadenzas, James!

I'm trying to blunder my way around making some beats. I wouldn't mind undertaking some formal theory training at some point.

April 22, 2021, 8:43 PM · I don't compose either, my playful creativity is painting with pastels (summer sport) and watercolor (winter sport).

Wow, there sure are a lot of people who do many things!

April 22, 2021, 9:25 PM · Mike, what's the negative stigma towards violinist composers? I think it's a shame that tradition seems to have largely fizzled.
April 22, 2021, 9:35 PM · A lot of the "music connoisseurs" that I've encountered consider violinist composers (Sarasate, Wieniawski, Paganini, Vieuxtemps, etc) to be "circus music" or a similar insult. More generally, I think they consider anything without a complex structure (atonal or counterpoint heavy) or written by Brahms or Beethoven to be brainless. This is especially true if it's a virtuoso work. I see those violinist composers suffering from these degrading insults often.
April 22, 2021, 10:02 PM · Thanks Mike. So "music connoisseur" = "snob". I think classical music would be a lot more vibrant with more composer musicians, violinists or otherwise. Imagine if all rocks bands only played covers.

To your original question, I don't compose but I aspire to one day. But I don't play violin terribly well, so I wouldn't be a violinist composer exactly, though the music I imagine wouldn't be complex enough for the connoisseurs.

Edited: April 22, 2021, 10:35 PM · I compose, but infrequently and slowly. I've only completed a handful of pieces: a piano quartet, a horn concerto, and a few chamber miniatures. The piano quartet took 4 years to compose, the horn concerto took 2 years, and the short chamber pieces have each taken between 2 and 8 weeks. I have a symphony, a string quartet, and a second horn concerto on the backburner, all of which I started years ago. I'm definitely not a performer/composer; in fact I'm least comfortable composing for the instruments I play because I feel that I'm too likely to accidentally copy something I've played. My composing is completely separate from performing, and I find that playing other people's music interferes badly with my ability to generate my own musical ideas.

I had some theory and musicianship lessons from my piano teacher's oldest son (who was just beginning his career as a conductor) when I was in high school and preparing for the ABRSM Grade 8 theory and DipABRSM piano performance exams. In college I had about a year and a half of informal composition lessons from one of my neuroscience professors who turned out to be a former professional musician and a student of Nadia Boulanger.

April 23, 2021, 9:42 AM · I would say I compose, but I'm creating, writing and performing fiddle tunes, not classical genre pieces. If those count, then I compose whenever the mood strikes and had only what theory was required of me during my degrees.

I also edit and arrange a fair amount for strings only as that's what I'm most comfortable with. I wouldn't consider arranging fully composing since someone else had the idea first and I'm just adjusting it to whatever situation is required.

April 23, 2021, 9:51 AM · I’d love to compose, but I don’t know enough music theory to do so...
April 23, 2021, 12:26 PM · I do compose. I make part of my living from making 'library music'. That's the stuff they use for backgrounds on tv shows. It can't be too adventurous or demanding of attention as there is usually dialogue going on. Intending to make more of my core style music soon. My own style is a bit more weird!
Edited: April 24, 2021, 4:57 AM · I wrote a couple of ensemble pieces for the House Music Competition while at school (the first one, a Prelude and Fugue, was probably not too bad - my orchestration for both was quite good), and a "Dance of the Molecules" (Speed marking Tempo di Waals) for our physics master, who played clarinet in the Royal Amateur Orchestra, who complained that I didn't give him enough space to breathe, so it's never been played on the clarinet. Since then, I've only written a couple of choral carols and a hymn tune (8 8 8 iambic), and harmonized/reharmonized a couple of hymn tunes. I may write a cadenza or two.
Edited: April 23, 2021, 1:12 PM · Yes I compose, mainy chamber music but I'm working towards writing more for winds and brass and large ensembles.
Edited: April 23, 2021, 2:01 PM · Compose... a symphony? A violin solo piece? A duet? A sonata for piano and violin?

Yeah, composing a symphony might seem overwhelming and a "proper" composition, while a sonata, for example, seems way lighter to do, more free, but I think that every single performer is a composer as well. When you perform a piece you compose your exact way of playing, you are doing something new. You are playing the work of another musician, but I think you are still a composer inside. Practicing is not only getting the notes right like a robot, they have to make sense to you, and you start drawing your own Bruch, your own Mendelssohn, etc... Every performer has a little composer inside, working within during your dozens of hours practicing a concerto.

If this wasn't true, every performer would sound the same. Think about it, even if you compose something new and you do a really bad job, you can end up composing something that doesn't sound new at all, boring, repetitive, dead...

April 23, 2021, 2:35 PM · Not a composer, but I do some arranging as needed. A blank piece of music paper stays blank, but sometimes someone else's idea will trigger something more from me. I unfairly disqualified myself long ago because I did not do well in my theory courses, and my piano technique is level zero.
Edited: April 23, 2021, 3:34 PM · There is some great violin music being composed: Naoko Terai, Mark O'Connor, and Regina Carter to name just a few composers. Check out Gidon Kremer's alblum from the mid-80's where he plays some virtuoso works.

I agree there may be some stigma. I don't see my local orchestra programming Paganini or Vieuxtemps. Not sure why; there's some very good music there.

Gabriel Banat, who was a member of the NY Phil, wrote a very good book on Joseph Bologne, who was an 18th century virtuoso. Defintely worth a read. I see that the South Carolina Phil programmed one of his overtures this year.

April 23, 2021, 5:06 PM · I'm pleasantly surprised and moved to hear that so many people here are also composing. So moved that I'll almost spare you a joke about decomposing.
Edited: April 24, 2021, 4:25 AM · I'm not sure how much Escherishi Accolay IS involved in decomposing.
April 24, 2021, 1:00 PM · Are the pretend composers from youtube gonna be emigrating to this site?
Edited: April 25, 2021, 12:54 PM · During my school days I did a little bit of composing. The morning Assembly at my school always included a couple of hymns which were accompanied by a small band from the school orchestra. I was the cellist in the band and would regularly compose descants for the flautist who would otherwise get fed up with doubling the violins. I also composed a few hymn tunes which were used in Assembly, which meant getting a basic harmonic background from studying the Bach chorales. Hymns in school Assemblies have apparently long gone out of fashion, so I reckon my contributions to that genre have joined the ranks of compositions that have disappeared without trace over the centuries!

In a school concert, I gave a performance of the first movement of the then recently discovered Haydn C major cello concerto. I believe it was the first performance before an audience in my region. The edition I used didn't provide a cadenza, so I composed my own, a fairly short one (and playable by me!), keeping as close as I could to Haydn's style - unlike a cadenza in one of the first commercial recordings of that concerto which was unfortunately far too 20th century for Haydn.

Incidentally, Haydn's C major cello concerto has a similar style to that of his G major violin concerto, and is at a similar technical level - perhaps they were composed in the same period?

Since my school days I haven't done any composing.

April 30, 2021, 9:19 AM · I compose some music too. I'm primarily a pianist, so I've mostly written piano pieces. Most of them are quite short.

I learnt some music theory in secondary school, but it didn't help that much. What did was playing actual music and analysing the harmony and structure.

My music sounds like it could be classical music, but people who know their stuff will know that Mozart didn't write any of it.

May 2, 2021, 5:10 PM · An orchestration class in college completely changed my outlook on writing music, and while I haven't invested the time to come up with compelling original material, I really enjoy arranging and orchestrating works. I also teach my students to write their own cadenzas, which is a really fun experience overall.

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