Why You Should Admire Composers

If you listen to any pop or other popular music in this day and age, you might admire the singer who writes their own lyrics, but the creativity usually stops there. I admire the people who create a memorable tune or even put a creative spin on an old one. I admire the composers and arrangers.

I have arranged a couple of pieces of music, and it sometimes feels very daunting. However, just like any skill, it takes many hours of practice to feel comfortable and knowledgeable about that skill. At least with arranging, the tune is already there, with composing, you have to try to create something original, fresh, unique. So, to do my best to break it down, here are three reasons why composers should be admired.

1. Familiarity
Nearly every developed skill has theories or a set of rules to follow. It is no different with writing music. There are many rules that have withheld the test of time and are used in popular music today. An example of this, is many popular songs using the same chord progression as Pachebel’s Canon in D, which was written over three-hundred years ago. One reason for this, is most humans are hard-wired to play it safe, or be surrounded by the “familiar.” That’s why a song you may have not liked at first, grows on you after hearing it a hundred times on the radio.

2. Uniqueness
When following the rules that breed familiarity, it becomes more and more difficult to come up with something that sounds new, yet aesthetically pleasing. That’s one reason I admire composers, not only do they know their theory, but can still create something new using that theory. On the other hand, I also have admiration for the innovators. These are iconic composers, such as Cage, Stravinsky, and Beethoven who broke much of the rules of music theory during their time. These composers’ music may have been accepted or ridiculed then, but they created iconic pieces that are still performed and listened to today.

3. Subtle Engagement Strategies
A final acclaim, is the subtle changes made during a piece. In a pop song, this could be a singer singing solo and then the bass dropping in. But, it could also be a change of instruments, an increase of speed like William’s Jaws theme, or dynamics like in Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, or adding decorative notes to a theme like Mozart’s 12 Variations of “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman,” (aka. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star). All these techniques and more, keeps the music from going stagnate and in turn, keeps the audience engaged.

All in all, great composers are talented writers of music. They are much like great authors, but conveying a story of emotions, feelings, and more without the need of words. They write unique, innovative works that breed familiarity to the listening ear; and engage us through subtle, yet dynamic changes, that can tug at your emotions. Therefore, composers are much to be admired.

 

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