Is composing for you more mental or emotional?

Posted by: hanna2222

Is composing for you more mental or emotional? - 12/28/05 10:06 PM

Most of my composing has been an emotional
process...I'll have a feeling inside that
needs an outlet.
However, I have composed a few times with a
thinking approach. The most notable time is
when I wrote a minuet for a college play.
I studied a minuet in one of my piano books,
to figure out its structure as far as time, etc.
and then began to put together a melody. I finished it within an hour or so.
It was used by the drama department in School
for Scandal. Unfortunately, I don't have
a copy of it any more. Too many moves.
But how do YOU do your composing? Mental,
emotional, or both? Or like the movie
Close Encounters of the Third Kind, mathmatically? My music is pretty simple...nothing profound
like a symphony. (Now that would be a composition to be proud of!)
Posted by: signa

Re: Is composing for you more mental or emotional? - 12/29/05 02:31 AM

how do you define 'mental', or you mean 'rational' as opposed to 'emotional'? strange question.
Posted by: sarabande

Re: Is composing for you more mental or emotional? - 12/29/05 08:02 AM

- Kind of a thought provoking question. I would have to say both. Probably the two are inseparable. My ideas themselves probably arise out of emotion. It is most likely a mental thought that sparks an idea and then I let emotion take over to "play" the ideas out in my mind. Of course all music is designed to express and/or provoke emotion. I think I am influenced a great deal by all the music I have listened to growing up even from childhood. It's like all the music I've listened to jumbles together in my memory, when an idea strikes me, the music from within comes from bits and pieces of that "pre-recorded" music and out comes something new.

My ideas probably come from a combination of mental and emotional thought. The process of writing out the score and harmonizing, rhythmical interest, etc. is mental. The expressiveness of the piece like the dynamics, articulation, etc. comes out of emotion.
Posted by: hanna2222

Re: Is composing for you more mental or emotional? - 12/29/05 09:48 AM

Originally posted by signa:
how do you define 'mental', or you mean 'rational' as opposed to 'emotional'? strange question. [/b]
You're right....I didn't make it very clear.
I suppose I mean rational. I generally separate
my right brain activities...intuition, meditation, hypnosis, imagery, etc. from
my left brain activities...thinking, counting,
things like that.
I have been tested on this. Normal brains
are 15 on each, with a maximum of 30 on either
side. I test as 26 on intuition and only 4
on thinking! So I guess I'm asking do you
compose out of logic and left brain knowledge,
or right brain impression. Does the vision/musical inspiration come first and then
do you use your practical knowledgle to put it
I am classically trained so I can put on
paper what I write.
Did you see Amadeus where Mozart just sat in
bed and took dictation when he was too sick to
get up and play? To me, that was totally
inspired music...coming from intuition, not
I probably haven't clarified this a bit. But
its one of my favorite scenes in any movie in
the world!
Thanks for helping me muddle this out.
Posted by: sarabande

Re: Is composing for you more mental or emotional? - 12/29/05 10:19 AM

Do you think what "handedness" you are has an influence in musical creation? Say for example, I'm left-handed, so would that mean I might use one side of my brain predominantly over the other? I'm somewhat analytical. I am kind of wierd in that I almost would get more satisfaction in analyzing a score, tear it apart bit by bit to figure out where the sounds came from than play a piece of music although I'm so busy practicing or everyday life that I don't take time to do this very much.

When I compose, it probably first comes from within, out of expression, or emotion without much thought to where the ideas came from. Then I go back and "analyze" the idea. In writing harmony, I'm more analytical, although I may try to listen in my mind for the sound, then after I play it, ask what it is. Sometimes I realize, it's all just I IV V I and I get such a big kick out of it, almost laugh out loud that my musical "genious" was merely a simple progression. I think that's where it comes in the influence of what I've listened to and sounds I've absorbed from a very small age. I'm also tickled to analyze what seems like a complex Beethoven Sonata and discover it's I V I for one or two pages. I just sit there and laugh and laugh. It's really exciting to create something and ask where it came from. Of course I'm pretty rusty and don't know how to analyze more complex stuff just because I don't take the time to do it.

It's interesting how you got tested. My analytical side and emotional/creative side always seem to be waging wars. I use a lot of both. My dad's really analytical - examines every angle. I think he trained me to do that in things in general. But on the other hand I'm really an emotional/creative/expressive personality. Woe is me! I guess in writing I have to take advantage of both as I said before, whatever suits the purpose.
Posted by: hanna2222

Re: Is composing for you more mental or emotional? - 12/29/05 10:44 AM

I love your response. Very thoughtful.
If you are left handed, you are Right Brained
predominantly (intuitive).
If you are right handed, you tend to be more
left brained.
If you are ambidextrous (which I tend to be
as well...will deal out cards with one hand and
then hold them with the other!)...
It means both sides are developed.
Actually, I think playing the piano and
typing both develop the use of the right and
left brain.
Best of all is to have balance on this. Those
with a balanced right/left brain have it best.
The test I took was the Myers Briggs. My
therapist said I needed to learn to "think more!"
Instead, I became a professional intuitive.
I still do it almost entirely by feeling/sensing.
Then I follow up those first impressions with
my logical see if I can compute it
For instance, when buying a car...I may be
"attracted" to a certain car on the lot. IT
feels right to me. Then I will use my thinking
brain to analyze the mileage, gas consumption,
warranty etc. When I can get both sides comfortable, I'll buy it!
I think its similar for me in composing.
I'll put something together that feels right,
and if I bother to edit at all, Its been run
through my analyzing it will all
be written in 3/4 time, in the key of D...not
jumping around from D to A, and 3/4 to 4/4 time
in consecutive measures...but then, keeping
consistent within the melody "feels more right"
as general.
Perhaps I'm just overthinking/overworking
this. But delighted to have this discussion with
you all!
Posted by: Jeanne W

Re: Is composing for you more mental or emotional? - 12/29/05 12:43 PM

For me, composing is more emotional than mental. This is probably not good. Here's why I think that.

The music that flows out on paper initially typically benefits greatly from examining it analytically and shaping and molding it.

If I was writing songs with WORDS, I feel it is somewhat intuitive - since we all have learned to SPEAK in sentences, paragraphs, etc., we are much more likely to naturally and on the first try, come up with 4 lines of lyrics, go then onto a chorus, etc. Getting a coherant FORM or STRUCTURE for a song with words is somewhat easier, comes naturally on the first try.

What I do, however, is music without words, strictly piano music... In this case, I believe it is much LESS intuitive for music to initially flow out with a good structure. I can wind up with run on "sentences", extra "phrases", that do not fit properly into the kind of structure that composers try to adhere to. I know there is freedom to stray from these formats, but it's probably often not a good thing to do so.

In my case, the EMOTION is mostly what takes over in my music. I fail to properly WORK at it once its made its way into the world.

Done properly, I have to think, composing is a LOT of work. Requires a great deal of hard work, discipline, and STRENGTH to cut out those parts of the music you realize DON'T FIT the STRUCTURE - that have to be edited out - when you don't WANT to edit that beautiful little phrase out.

And then what can happen, after editing the phrase that doesn't fit, you've can wind up with two disjointed phrases you now need to fit back together somehow so they flow properly.

I do the FUN part. The CREATIVE process. Fail to work as much as I know I should on the WORK part. I need a massive dose of discipline.

Funny, considering how analytical I am with most other things.

So, as far as composing I'm more EMOTIONAL than MENTAL.

Jeanne W
Posted by: signa

Re: Is composing for you more mental or emotional? - 12/29/05 01:10 PM

i see it differently. without rationality and sense of direction/structure/form, the emotions conveyed in music would worth nothing or be meaningless or powerless.

Beethoven never composed his master pieces with only emotions in mind, while some modern or Romantic composers have tried so hard to find emotional expressions without checking boundaries and thus the music they created become over excessive or overblown and in turn becomes meaningless.
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: Is composing for you more mental or emotional? - 12/29/05 01:56 PM

I find the either or proposition disturbing. I don't even see these two as opposites. To compose emotional music without being intellectual about it is lazy. To compose intellectual music without emotion is a waste of time, music that communicates nothing is at best clever. My music is both emotional (otherwise why bother?) and intellectual (never sacrifice quality). Composing takes too much energy to do anything but always strive to do your best.
Posted by: hanna2222

Re: Is composing for you more mental or emotional? - 12/29/05 08:25 PM

Excellent point Steve Chandler!
I think you've settled it.
Posted by: Arjen

Re: Is composing for you more mental or emotional? - 12/30/05 04:21 PM

As far as I am concerned there is no such division as emotion vs logical: you have skilled and unskilled people. You have implicit skills and explicit skills. But not unemotional writing vs emotional writing.

When writing music you're trying to convey a certain idea, belief or feeling to those who listen to it. Always, be it a sonata by Beethoven or Japanese speedcore. Those with skills know how to write their songs in such a way that their target audience picks it up and understands it. Some people (Mozart for example) had a very well developed explicit knowledge of how music works: he could rationalize why his music would send a certain emotion. Others have more implicit knowledge: they can apply it but cannot explain what they are doing. Which can still result in excellent music.

Finally you have people with no knowledge. They neither explicitly nor implicitly know how to channel emotion through music. These people are easily recognized: they'll tell you music theory is a set of rules, and as a result their music tends to be quite bland and lifeless. These people don't lack emotion, they just lack the skill to translate it to music.

Just my take on it.
Posted by: Ted2

Re: Is composing for you more mental or emotional? - 01/01/06 04:59 PM

For me, musical creation, either composition or improvisation, and for that matter listening too, are neither intellectual nor emotional in the sense of direct experience. These attributes are often there, but they are one step removed. I am at a meta-level and I am regarding them as abstract entities. The finest creative process for me is a transporting, contemplative state, wherein a continuous organic evolution of abstract matter is taking place. I am generating it and observing it but I am not part of it.

This is not to say I do not have feelings about the process itself; it is the finest conscious state I can imagine. However, emotion and intellect are two small subsets of it, two colours in an infinite spectrum of mental events.
Posted by: kcoul058

Re: Is composing for you more mental or emotional? - 01/01/06 08:45 PM

certainly both!