I have had quite a few musically talented students in my life, three or four very musical and one extremely musical, but it is only Time that will show. For the time being, none of these have yet understood the essence of composing, nearly all of them having taken alternative roads. Young composers desperately search for a voice of their own, but they don’t realize that it’s no use searching at all costs; either it will come of its own accord through listening, studying and composing, or it won’t. It’s no use forcing oneself, it’s no use composing cerebrally with new techniques and styles at all costs and producing compositions as much as possible without emotional and intellectual discernment. The natural balance between the instinctive and subconscious drive, together with the intellectual intelligence of a composer, will lead him/her to have a personal voice if there is one to be developed. However, in the end, all this has to come from a person with deep emotions and visions. The difference between being extremely musical and having a unique voice that transforms itself into Art is enormous and very fortunately undefinable. The differences between being musical, very musical and extremely musical are very much smaller and easily definable. The fact that Bach and Brahms were considered conservative and Beethoven and Wagner were considered innovative is of no consequence, since Art transcends Time and takes into consideration only the depth of emotions and visions.
To the beginner with exceptional qualities who searches for his/her voice, I can only say that since it has to be unique, so must the different aspects of the Harmony, Counterpoint, Orchestration and Form be unique. The student that copies Masters must not continually preoccupy him/herself whether he/she is going forward towards being unique. Freedom from simply copying requires time, which is of no consequence to reaching uniqueness. Preoccupation and doubts are normal, but excessive worry and lack of free thinking may actually stop the creative and artistic process.
A vast education of the classical styles is very important since it gives the means to quicken the comprehension of Music. Moreover, a good teacher will also guide, explain and pass on an oral tradition of infinitely small musical nuances that no text can ever give.
Musical ideas must have a strong musical identity in all their parts. Harmony, above all, conveys the emotional depth of a work. For a musical idea to be unique it must have the right balance of harmony with possible melody, counterpoint, rhythm, orchestration and colour. Too much repetition or too much diversification, which in the end gives the same impression to the listener, can lead to boredom. Again, the right balance of well-defined principal and secondary musical ideas (which derive from the former, but are at the same time contrasting and have their own strong identity) develop into unique small structures and, again, the right balance of small structures develops into larger ones and eventually into an unique form. Even secondary passages must have a strong identity and always aim for the highest quality. Balance is not a purely conscious calculation but is that particular equilibrium between the right conscious and subconscious choices.
In other words, the only important attitude is to follow one’s personal intuition without fear, always trying to be true to oneself.
London, 13th August 2015
I have resumed orchestrating the Symphony and slowly, slowly go on. I have had so many moments of physical pain between the vertebrae and one knee (both will have to be operated on one day) that I have felt I was aging terribly fast and I now feel I have to finish the Symphony before I become totally invalid.
20th October 2015
How do composers work?
There are many ways, but two main categories: those who work as much as they can and those who work when they feel like it because they are also distracted by other things and want to lead a varied life. I am one of these. I have composed very little in my lifetime and could have created at least five times as many works as I have. However, I hate to be pressed and hate to compose works that I don’t want to and when I don’t want to. I have never wanted to work in the summer. I love life and am very spoilt and want to lead it in full. I have been very, very lucky never to want or need anything that I couldn’t have. I know I am in a very special situation. Often I have taken advantage of my lucky situation and composed very little because I have looked at TV, Internet, gone out with friends, travelled, both for pleasure and for Culture, read Literature and Art books and articles, gone to exhibitions, concerts and dinners, written to friends of which I have plenty…… and Time flies. Furthermore, my health has often hindered me, as well as the health and the death of my loved ones, so not everything has been paradisiac.
I will try to fight as much as I can all my health problems so as to lead a sensible and varied life till it ends. I hope to continue to be as lucky as I have been up to now.
20th January 2016.