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Reflections on being a composer

Some people say they’d love to be able to compose music, and some might even ‘have a go at it’ but tend to give up when all they seem to come up with are musical clichés.

One of the primary drivers that makes me think of myself as a ‘composer’, is a constant desire to create music that expresses something of myself, and that meets certain standards that I impose. I also enjoy ‘bringing to life’ music ideas.

Whether or not my compositions are successful (whatever that means), has never really been a factor in whether I keep composing. So for me, being a composer is just something ‘I just have to do’. There is an inner drive to create enjoyable music.

In my teens, I vaguely remember writing my first songs. Whether they were any good - who knows. The recordings have long since disappeared, but I remember thinking there was at least something valuable in them at the time. Maybe it was the youthful ‘rawness’ or the fact I was expressing myself.

One aspect of being a composer is a commitment to continuing to develop over time. I have written many songs and piano pieces over the years. Thousands of ideas have fallen by the wayside, and some survive to completion. So my writing has partly attained some level of quality by ‘evolution’ - in other words, only the fittest musical ideas have survived!

I like to think there is still a mysterious aspect to how a good musical work comes about, but there is much that comes about by determination, skill, and the desire to create. I believe God is the ultimate prompter of my desire to create, and I seem to find it in myself, and with God's help, to keep doing this.

I remember experiencing the ‘wonder’ of creating songs back in the 80s when I was given a large collection of song lyrics by a talented Sydney lyricist. The music I wrote with the sets of lyrics in front of me just seemed to come so quickly and with minimal effort. I can still remember the feeling. Getting musical inspiration, especially back then, was such a buzz. It still is today, but less so, as even good things tend to become a bit familiar over time.

Something that helps me keep writing new material is undoubtedly the storehouse of musical ideas that I have written previously. Remnants of them are still held in my memory and sometimes help to form new ideas. I have hundreds of these old ideas on cassette tape but I'm hardly ever motivated enough to go back and listen to them!

Probably the easiest thing for me is writing melody, and the hardest thing is how to bring them all together to make a successful finished piece.

Deciding on harmony is usually straightforward. Previous experience, intuition and hearing the next chord in my mind are the main ways. Sometimes the chord I 'hear' is elusive though, and I have to search around the keyboard until I find it. I don't continue that section until it's found.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my composing!

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