Composers - Should they let go?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by BigD, Mar 9, 2004.

  1. BigD

    BigD Member

    There has been a lot of talk on here about composers approving and dissaproving of what various bands do to their music. Of course they are entitled to their opinion but if they want something done exactly then why not write it on the score? If they want a crotchet to equal 150 beats per minute then they should write that and add a comment to the effect that it is non-negotiable. The same can be applied to extra octaves - if they don't want it then state that they don't want it in the score. (It could all get very boring though.)
    In the end though there is not a lot they can do about it.
    They should write what they would like, but then once the piece is in the public domain surely it is time for them to let go and let the conductors / bands have an input as well. (He who pays the piper?)

    Come on guys - let go a little.

    Discuss! :wink:
  2. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    I'm not a composer but have done a fair amount of arranging, so whether I really qualify to join this thread is debateable, obviously, but in my experience of hearing my arrangements, there have been times when I've heard a player do something different 'from wot I wrote' (or from wot someone else wrote and I arranged) and preferred the 'new' version of that passage. There have been other times when I've torn my hair out at other attempts to ad lib my arrangements! Swings and roundabouts?

    I know of one recording of a piece by Edward Gregson where the composer (I believe, apologies if mistaken) berated the band and conductor for including a supsended cymbal part right near the end which he hadn't written. Interesting and thought provoking topic! ;-)
  3. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    Mr Gregson is notorious for being fussy, I say good on 'im! ;)

    I don't we can reach a level playing field, composers come in all shapes and sizes and would be impossible to agree on this. Many composer, myself included welcome input whenever the ocassion arrises for it.

    When you start talking about 'experementing', it can all get a bit tongue-in-cheek and can be left sounding a bit comedic if not done artistically and with good taste.

    I don't think any composer would be bother if you took his music at 148bpm instead of 150bpm (conuctors are only human), what would be disagreeable is taking it 120bpm instead of 150bpm. Tempo dictates how 'fast' you write your counterpoint and harmony.

    I have written 2 pieces of music which give the performers an oppertunity to make up there own notes and make horsey sounds and stuff like that, they have sold a rather pathetic 0 copies, where my more sensible and atmospheric works have sold quite a few indeed. Although I must admit it was a little in bad taste writing these pieces, 'Harmony' and 'Disaster in Poetry'.

    In my own music I try to give each player something realy useful to do, but keep it in context of what I'm trying to say.

    IMHO, music has nothing to do with 'if it sounds good then what's the problem' because what sounds good to one person sounds like junk to the next. Music is about expression and the pulling powers of emotion, if us composers can concentrate on these aspects of music and use whatever tools and technique we feel nessesary to convey the expression and passion, we cannot go wrong. That, to me, anyway is what music is from a composers point of view. It has taken me about 10 years to really understand that in it's full meaning I believe that is what will move things forward.

    Let's not forget, music is for the people listening to it, the unmusical bunch who like no better to sit and be whisked off into a magical world that the composer has created. Should composers want to use 'experemental' techniques to do this, then no problem what so ever. Music and Socal philosophy before anything else I rekon, we're only human, we just want music to pull us and make us emotional.
  4. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    First, under current international copyright laws, the piece is not in the public domain until the composer has been dead for 50 years (or more, 70 years in the US). A copyright holder has the right to refuse permission for public performance for any reason, including alteration of the work in question.

    In a contest situation, it seems to me that the test piece should be played as close to as written as possible. Any kind of alteration could be seen, if the adjudicator chose to do so, as something to take off the score. Of course, the MD and his interpretation of the piece is also being judged, so it's up to the adjudicator to determine whether a particular interpretation/alteration is apppropriate when he scores the performance.

    In a concert situation, the MD's interpretation can be more evident. I played for several years under the baton of a well-known composer, and even he didn't always follow his own tempo and dynamic markings - and also frequently adjusted instrumentation to fit the strengths and weaknesses of the gorup at the time.
  5. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    70 years in the UK too. ;-)
  6. Pete Meechan

    Pete Meechan Member

    Unless a tempo mark has any (of the several) indications that it is an approximate (sp?) figure - then surely it is an exact mark. However, if a composer does want an exact tempo, then I think that it is wise to make a note in the score.

    Tempo's are a funny old thing - Ludwig van had a dodgy metronome - so his tempos are possibly wrong (age old debate, I know). If you ever listen to Stravinsky conduct his own music, the pieces are usually at a vastly different tempo to which he himself had indicated!

    Again, it comes down to convention. There is no need to start putting things down (or up!) the octave. In fact by not writting it, I would say that this was as clear as you can get to indicating that you don't want octaves.

    It all would get very boring, you're correct. A composer doesn't have to start clarifying on a score the simplist of things (Yes, this is a minim, etc.).

    True - not always the best attitude though, is it?
    Agreed. Trouble is, a lot of composers are absolute control freaks, but if they don't want other people to have an input on their music, don't let them play it! Simple as.

  7. nickjones

    nickjones Active Member

    Edward Gregson picked out the YBS recording of " Ladaute Dominum " as a point of the difference between interpretation and changing parts. My brother Mike played Rep with YBS from 1995 - 1997. and as I recall the cornets were asked to play without straight mutes during one of the first variations ( which is written ). and the added cymbal at the end.
    In a concert or recording liberties are taken ( the pedal notes in Journey in Freedom on the Black Dyke Eric Ball Cd ).
    ? I know some conductors want extra sounds , but I think a lot of us have thought at a contest " yes that was great " only for the judge to say " over blown" or " not what the composer intended "
    how controversial is this....why not play what is written for a change :lol:
  8. BigD

    BigD Member

    "public domain" was probably the wrong choice of words. :oops:

    I meant that once a band has bought a copy of the music then surely up to the conductor and players as to what they want to make of it. (within reason.)

    I would like to think that no contest has ever been won by a completely square performance which included no feeling or artistry from the band or conductor.

    Personally the minute a composers try's being a control freak is the minute I am put off buying that composers music.

    Music is an art - not a science, so any rigid constraints surely diminish the value of why we all do it in the first place.

    Don't get me wrong, I insist that all my bands play exactly what's on the paper, especially at contests, but often it's what is put in to a piece that's NOT on the paper which really makes the difference.

    I like to stimulate debate! :wink:
  9. Pete Meechan

    Pete Meechan Member

    Good point - I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between 150 and 148

    Depends on if it is good music or not! Though I do think that the tempo directs much more than how 'fast' you write counterpoint and harmony

    I think that it is a bit simplistic to say that 'music is about expression and emotion'. I don't thik composers should concentrate on getting 'these aspects of music' - this attitude to composition leaves far too much to chance in a piece of music. For me the most important (even before 'material' things, such as harmonic language), is the shape of a piece of music. It is a much harder skill to experiment with shape, rather than going for a 'cheap shot' at the old emotional strings. Although I completely agree that we should use what tools and technique we want to convey what we are trying to say or do - but I always try to remember that an audience wants to hear the piece, and that they dont carry a score around for anaylsis purposes. 'We cannot go wrong' - we can.

    I'm glad you've worked uot the full meaning - sounds like a good place to be. Think that it might be judgement day before I begin to realise.

  10. I like the banter here between composer and player. Both sides do have good points. I would just like to add as a composer the possible reason that we come off as control freaks. Anything done outside of what the composer intended to write, good or bad, reflects squarely on the composer.

    Sometimes being protective is just a matter of survival. I've been in audiences listening when when a particular interpretation wasn't taken too well. The questions I heard were not directed at the group playing or the conductor. What I heard was 'That wasn't very well written,' or 'I didn't like that piece.' If that was the first time someone heard any of that composer's music, it could be the last time they'd want to hear or buy off that composer.

    On the other side, say there was added improv that was very well received by audience. The composer would get the credit for the added flair. Sounds good, right? Conductors go to buy the music for their group and that section isn't in or even alluded to in the score. Who would get the blame? Right.

    Just a perspective......

    Ken F.
  11. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    Composer control freaks!!??

    Well, I think it's healthy to have this stigma, after all composers are in a position of control. A composer should have the ability to take charge and say 'This is what I have to say with my music, come listen and enjoy the ride' NOT 'hey, i've written some music, i don't know if u'll like it, it's not very good i don't think, but listen anyway'.

    Composers are different, we're control freaks, fussy and artistically frustrated. I'm not gonna deny it, when it comes to my own music, I know what I want and I believe composers should stand up for their (musical) believes and not 'cave' when someone disagree's with thier methods. I say, if people think they can do it better - go do it! ;)

    I'm sure Pete will agree with me on this one, when you start speciallising in composition and really getting into things like Schenkerian Anaysis, Strict Counterpoint and all sorts of heavy stuff like that, that's when things start to really click. I remember years ago writing 'naviely', but now I know a lot more about music I look at it in a totally different light, it's like my eyes have been opened.

    Sometimes it's not what you know that's important, it's what you don't know that's the missing factor, IMHO.
  12. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Michael Babb, who has had many pieces published by the Salvation Army, has written a few pieces for our wind ensemble. When introducing the latest one, he explained his approach as follows: he likes to do the first rehearsal himself, but after that he feels is role as a composer is over, and it is then up to others to interpret the piece as they see fit. . . having said that, if he feels Andrew is taking too many liberties he has been known to chip in with the odd "suggestion" :shock: :wink:

    I've also just been reading in the sleeve notes of a recently acquired cd, how Neal Hefti had originally intended "L'il Darlin'" to be an up-tempo number. Apparently he stood before the Basie band, counted the band in only for Basie to stop the band almost straight away, counting the band in again at half the speed - the making of a standard :!:
  13. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member

    Well, don't get me started!!

    I know it can never be a black and white issue, but I think it's pretty simple. The composer puts what he wants played in the score. All sorts of things, rubato, absolute volume, decoration (in baroque music) and many other nuances are added by the performer. If we are discussing band music pure and simple, I don't think the performer should add notes (re. octave below thread).

    The performer has much to add, but should respect these boundaries, in my opinion.
  14. Straightmute

    Straightmute Active Member

    I like to think that composer, performer and audient have a triangular relationship where each is dependant on the other two.

    I haven't met a composer yet who didn't enjoy the thrill of a performance where their music is 'filtered' through the interpretation of the performer; there is always something new to discover about your own work, and in my experience good music will generally survive a few weak performances.

    No one performance is ever uniquely correct and any number of valid interpretations might be possible - something that adjudicators should take into account...

    From the performer's perspective, I'd be unhappy about going onto the stage with an interpretation I didn't really believe in; 90% of the time that means getting as close as possible to what I imagine the composer intended, but sometimes composers will leave us with something puzzling or ambiguous where a more directly creative approach is required.

  15. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    and then a new thread will be born 'Composers - I'd wish they'd make up their minds'

  16. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member

    Not sure if that's a good idea or not...... :wow
  17. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    Yes it is really, isn't it, all the performers have to do is sit down and read the music, a mean what is so difficult about this? Especially, with your music Philip, you always give your performers something useful to do, why would they want to 'add' anything to your music anyway?? :? If things like this are being done to Mr Sparke and Mr Gregson, then us up and comming composers are gonna be in for a real nightmare.

    If any folk here play in an Orchestra, I hope you don't 'experement' with the 500 Bars rest you have ;)
  18. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    mmmmmmmmm, Indeed! :wink: Blood everywhere! It'll be the most contraversial thread of all time, may even beat the 'Sibelius' thread! :)

    Still, there's enough composers here on tMP for us to win!
  19. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    Brilliant!!!! Is your music at Anglo Music Press coloured in muti-coloured notes? :wink:

    Someone's got Sibelius 3 and got bored and has started adding colour :wink: Sorry Philip, seems like an obvious joke :)
  20. HBB

    HBB Active Member

    No. It's really long (yet really well set out) and full of 10 bars of g's all tied to each other! :p

    :lol: :lol:

    (No Offense meant--- I love Kaleidoscope really!)