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Composing or improvising

"I think your pieces are improvisations rather than compositions," observed a German composer.

This observation caused the young pianist to wonder whether she had ever composed at all.

"I compose. I don't improvise," said a Dutch pianist. "I know what I want. I can hear it before I even write it down."

Just what is the difference?

When you compose, it is deliberate. When you improvise, it is not.

A composition is intentionally more structured than an improvisation, which is like a stream of consciousness novel or an impromptu speech.

When you compose, you think about what you are going to produce and how you will produce it. You may erase, redo, and keep changing what you write down until you are satisfied with it.

An improvisation is produced in the spur or spontaneity of the moment. There might be some guidelines, such as staying in a particular key or time signature, but you have a lot more freedom.

There is planning in composing but not in improvising.

"Who is doing the composing? You or your fingers?" asked a Dutch composer. "Because you are a pianist, your fingers are used to certain patterns. They may lead the way."

So your body knows what to do while your brain is asleep? Is that the message? Should composing come from the head or the heart?

Couldn't an improvisation be a composition and vice versa? After all, who is to know what really will happen? You might intend to compose a certain way but end up improvising it. You might improvise a composition.

The well-laid plans of mice and men --- are soon led astray.

31 March 2004 Wednesday

Related entries:
Composing, arranging, transposing
Creation not re-creation
Women composers
Composers concert in Utrecht
All the time in the world to compose
Composing the Suite Bussum
Starting from scratch
Composers talk
The melody finds you
Wrong notes
A muse to amuse or inspire
Original compositions by Anne Ku
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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.
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