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Hi.

I woke up today and turned on the "Light Classical" cable tv channel, one of the "Music Choice" channels available through our Comcast cable tv connection.

A piano piece by Guastavino (I've never heard of him) was playing:

"Baile (From Tres Romances" from a recording "Piano Music of Guastavino"; performed by Duo-Moreno-Capelli".

I caught only the last minute or two of the piece. It was interesting; being played with gusto! I enjoyed listening to it.

Guastavino sounded like it could possibly be a Spanish name. I was curious to learn more about the composer, so I kept glancing at the tv screen to read the short snippets of info the tv channel displays about the composer whose music is currently being played.

One of the last snippets of info that flashed up on the screen stated:

"In 1975, Guastavino, discouraged by his lack of popularity, stopped composing."

!!!

REALLY?

I was stunned - shocked.

Creating your own music seems to me to be something innate, a need to express yourself.

It's hard for me to fathom how a person could just "turn it off", so to speak.

Guastavino's stopping seems very sad.

Could you "turn off" - just stop composing - forever?

Jeanne W


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Hi Jeanne,

I feel we are almost old friends now, so I'll start. Two composers who sort of stopped composing are Rossini and Sibelius. Rossini I believe said that he had retired, and Sibelius struggled to produce an 8th Symphony from 1924, when he published his 7th, till his death in 1957. Word is he had a drinking problem.

I just stopped composing too. I studied composition at Uni up to Masters level. My masters thesis (compositions) were marked by a lecturer from Oxford and he said I was ok. But when I finished uni I needed a job and took up teaching. After that, I just let composing slip. I did write a set of songs for the school musical production which went down quite well.

My excuses for stopping? It's just too hard. Easier for me to stop. The world doesn't need more ordinary music from me.

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Still... professional singers didn't stop amateur singers from singing. The phenomenon even created a lot of tv shows which in turn created opportunities for the amateurs, or at least greater exposure.

Yes, we do not need mediocre music, or music that is so familiar that listeners can almost tell whats coming next..
But what we need from you is heartfelt music, unconstrained from the norms of composition. and we understand, such music takes time.

You may have lost the incentive to write music. But when you have written that ultra-inspired music, it will transcend you. It will be a living testament of who Charles is... smile

So no pressure, eh? ... laugh


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Thanks Jeanne for putting me onto Guastavino. I found the following, which sort of puts his composing efforts into perspective.

"In 1975, however, possibly discouraged by his declining popularity, the composer stopped working, only to pick up the pen again in 1987, encouraged by Carlos Vilo, leader of a chamber ensemble, who was interested in performing Guastavino’s song and other works. The fruitful collaboration with Vilo’s group lasted until 1992, when he stopped composing for good.

Despite the many awards received in his lifetime – from the cities of Santa Fe and Buenos Aires, from the Justice Ministry, from the Inter-American music council – Guastavino never reached the popularity and recognition his music deserves. His final years were marked by illness and failing memory. He died in Santa Fe in 2000."

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Charles; Josh: Your replies have given me lots to reflect upon. A few comments...

Charles:

You say part of the reason you stopped composing is basically because life intervened. That surely happens to a lot of us. The necessities of everyday life take over. And there are only so many hours in a day.

You also say composing is "just too hard…", it was easier for you to stop. I'm curious as to how it was "too hard" or difficult.

You also shared your belief that "the world doesn't need more ordinary music". I wonder, however, what you may have accomplished if you had continued on? Perhaps something really, truly wonderful.

Josh:

Your comment: "when you have written that ultra-inspired music, it will transcend you" resonates with me. I'm always searching for that "lost chord"; attempting to hit upon those beautiful musical moments that transport the music (and us along with it) over the top. 😊 And your statement that a composition is "a living testament of who" a person is… I totally agree.

Lastly, in response to your last post, Charles, about Guastavino…

Thank you for the additional info about Guastavino. Your words in turn inspired me to listen more to his music. These four videos on YouTube are very enjoyable. Hopefully, if there are others reading through our discussion they'll give a listen!

Guastavino. Tres Romances - Martha Argerich & Mauricio Vallina


In the video below, the notation scrolls along as the music plays.
I had trouble following along with the notes at first. Then I realized why. I was thinking the notation was showing what just one of the two pianos was playing. Silly of me - it is, of course, showing the notation for both pianos.

Carlos Guastavino, Romance for two pianos op. 2 n. 1 - Las ninas de Santa Fe (c. 1940)


This Sonatina is especially beautiful. Again, the notation is displayed.
Carlos Guastavino - Sonatina for Piano (1947) [Score-Video]


Here is the same sonatina. This time we can see a pianist, Alegandro Sarmentero, playing it at the piano.
C. Guastavino - Sonatina (1945) - Alejandro Sarmentero, piano


Bravo, Guastavino!

Jeanne W


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I've tried composing before. Indeed, I have decent enough ideas, but not good enough execution. So I stopped.


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I believe certain composers and their pieces in the less-played repertoire ought to be re-examined.
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That's a great question and I hope more chime in on this.

For me, I have stopped composing certain kinds of music for sure. I used to write for theatre, until I lost interest. I also used to write in a quirky pop vein, until I lost interest. But giving up writing altogether....

I could see it happening, but it would have to be under circumstances I'd rather not think about. If I decided to give up composing, it would certainly be the least of my problems at the time. I could see it happening under terribly traumatic circumstances, where I'd be so consumed with whatever had happened that composing goes right out the window without a second thought.

I have to wonder if Guastavino had more ego than was good for him, and that's really what got him to stop. Perhaps he was too invested in popularity to see the forest for the trees. I made the decision early on that I wasn't ever going to pursue "making it" in music - it was too much fun as it was and if I wanted to make some sort of living at it then 90% of my time would have be be hustling for the next job, which sounds exhausting and demoralizing. Sure, it would be great if something caught on, and that has happened to a small degree, and it's great, but I'd hate to not have found that "lost chord" in piece X, or had the freedom to write Piece Y at all, because I had a job to write, say, some pounding tense bit for when the cop is creeping down the dark alley... (yawn). Years and years of writing for oneself has taught me so much more about myself than trying to "make it" ever would have. Invaluable. Best decision I ever made.

Ironically, I have learned in the ensuing years, that writing for oneself and not for popularity is easier said than done. The phantom of the 'big hit' always looms, and keeps trying to insert itself at every turn during the writing process. It's a constant struggle to ignore it.


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Farazissimo:

I'm not sure exactly what you mean when you refer to "execution".

If when you say "form" you mean: making sure it's a coherent piece of music - has all the parts (beginning, middle, ending, etc.), working on expanding your ideas or likewise excising parts that don't belong, making sure things ebb and flow, etc. etc.…

…I've always thought there must be those who excel in exactly the opposite way.

Some people surely must excel and enjoy going back and working on their ideas and perfecting "form", etc. but are weak in the area of "ideas".

Others, such as myself, excel and most enjoy discovering the "ideas", those passages that are appealing; would rather devote most of their time to that aspect of music composition.

It seems to me two such polar opposites who acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses could form a good working relationship. The "chemistry" of the two people, of course, has to work.

That "chemistry" bit is, perhaps, the greatest challenge. It's not necessarily easy finding someone you feel you are on the "same wavelength" with.

I posted a while ago expressing the idea of two polar opposite type composers getting together to form a working relationship. Most, if not all, of the responses here in the Composer's Forum shot that idea down saying no one would be willing to work that way.

If that type of collaboration resulted in two people continuing on, instead of giving up on composition altogether, including the part of the composition process they most enjoy, that would be a beautiful thing!

I'm not going to stop, am trying to improve working on "form"; however I, for one, would welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with another individual, to try that out.

I used to collaborate with another writer on a newsletter article we wrote for the company at which we both worked. We worked together beautifully.

I do think, however, collaborating on music compositions, two people together, would be more involved.

I guess you have to be one of the lucky ones who meets just the right person to collaborate with...

One of those matches made in heaven like Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Rogers & Hammerstein, or the super group individuals we read about who forge a musical relationship that produced great classic rock (for example, the classic 7 albums of The Moody Blues), to name a few.

Jim: I just now see your response. Will read and post a reply a bit later.

Jeanne W

Last edited by Jeanne W; 08/10/21 09:50 AM.

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Originally Posted by Jeanne W
Farazissimo:

One of those matches made in heaven like Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Rogers & Hammerstein, or the super group individuals we read about who forge a musical relationship that produced great classic rock (for example, the classic 7 albums of The Moody Blues), to name a few.

Jeanne W

Of course, John/Taupin & R&H were collaborators in which each had a distinct responsibility, so not exactly music collaboration. Ever wonder why novels, screenplays, etc. are often penned by collaborators, but collaboration of music composition is relatively rare? Reading your post got me to thinking whether I could do it, and I'd have to say No. The process is so lightning fast and mysterious that I couldn't get a flow going if I had to collaborate. Hard enough to keep the conversation going with the Muse, without having to include another living person in there.


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Originally Posted by Jeanne W
Farazissimo:

I'm not sure exactly what you mean when you refer to "execution".

If when you say "form" you mean: making sure it's a coherent piece of music - has all the parts (beginning, middle, ending, etc.), working on expanding your ideas or likewise excising parts that don't belong, making sure things ebb and flow, etc. etc.…


Yes, making sure that my ideas turn out to be a coherent piece of music has been largely the struggle I've dealt with.

I have decent ideas too, so maybe a partnership would work well if I find someone interested in hearing my ideas.

Some of my ideas are pretty interesting, I'd like to think.


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Originally Posted by Farazissimo
I have decent ideas too, so maybe a partnership would work well if I find someone interested in hearing my ideas.

Some of my ideas are pretty interesting, I'd like to think.

Send em my way, I'll see what I can do! Sounds like a fun experiment


My work is available at https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/jim-of-seattle/
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Originally Posted by Jim of Seattle
Originally Posted by Farazissimo
I have decent ideas too, so maybe a partnership would work well if I find someone interested in hearing my ideas.

Some of my ideas are pretty interesting, I'd like to think.

Send em my way, I'll see what I can do! Sounds like a fun experiment
I'd be willing to send you some of my ideas. Do you mind if I PM you them? I don't want to share them out loud simply because I don't want anyone else to use them.


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Jim, Farazissimo:

Please follow up to let us know if you pursue this and, if so, how it works out.

This is a cool experiment, for sure!

Jeanne W

Last edited by Jeanne W; 08/12/21 08:57 AM.

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Originally Posted by Farazissimo
Originally Posted by Jim of Seattle
Originally Posted by Farazissimo
I have decent ideas too, so maybe a partnership would work well if I find someone interested in hearing my ideas.

Some of my ideas are pretty interesting, I'd like to think.

Send em my way, I'll see what I can do! Sounds like a fun experiment
I'd be willing to send you some of my ideas. Do you mind if I PM you them? I don't want to share them out loud simply because I don't want anyone else to use them.

Oh that's what I was assuming you would do. Or you can send them directly to my email address which is in my signature


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What an interesting thread! I agree with Jim that perhaps Guastavino was more invested in popularity than in the work. Actually, I can understand that to a degree, almost every creative person wants external validation. Don't we all need "Atta boys?" Still, like Farazissimo I find composing music is hard. It's like sucking a golf ball through a hose, but I can't stop. I can change style and/or genre, but I'll never stop.

Lately, I've been writing pop music. It's much easier, write some lyrics (hopefully meaningful) attach some music, arrange it, sing it, record it, mix it, done! But the lyrics provide the structure and overall form. That's much easier than the tyranny of a blank page and trying to fill it with inspiration. I need an overarching idea to give a piece meaning. Still at my age I'm ever hopeful someone will notice. Some have along the way we all need "Atta boys," or at least I do.

Steve


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Steve:

Regarding your comment that lyrics provide structure and overall form - that's a good observation, I've often thought the same.

I believe structure and form becomes much more of a challenge when there are no words; the music is instrumentation only.

Jeanne W


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Regarding this thread's topic. I am more of a player (piano) than composer although I've done some composing. My piano playing these days is largely standards and the Great American Songbook - I do a lot of "ear" playing. Igor Stravinsky in "Poetics of Music" (taken from lectures at Harvard) said that a composer improvises aimlessly that way an animal grubs for roots. He said they both are exercising a compulsion to seek things out.

So, using Stravinsky's insight as a model, when I do compose, I usually come up with just a notated measure or two, then play around with it at the piano looking/listening for something I like. It's a slow process. But when stars are aligned just right, there's a mental process...maybe similar to a mediation, but not meditation. This process alone can justify the effort for me. Sometimes what I've come up with is more of a sketch that I experiment around with. I have no need to create a finished formal "work" that others will be performing.

It seems to me that others must have somewhat similar processes. Another side of this "coin" for me, has been to transcribe music that I wanted to understand the nuts and bolts of. I did this with Burt Bacharach's "Alfie" and "Promises Promises". Also Keith Jarrett's 1970's compositions. "Le Mistral" and "Mysteries" about 5 years ago.

I've been trying to motivate myself to spend at least an hour daily to either composing or transcribing. Regarding the time issue, I've been retired 6 years now. I usually spend 3-5 hours daily at the piano.

On a side note, it seems to me that all composers should be ear players at least in part.

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Originally Posted by Steve Chandler
What an interesting thread! I agree with Jim that perhaps Guastavino was more invested in popularity than in the work. Actually, I can understand that to a degree, almost every creative person wants external validation. Don't we all need "Atta boys?" Still, like Farazissimo I find composing music is hard. It's like sucking a golf ball through a hose, but I can't stop. I can change style and/or genre, but I'll never stop.

Lately, I've been writing pop music. It's much easier, write some lyrics (hopefully meaningful) attach some music, arrange it, sing it, record it, mix it, done! But the lyrics provide the structure and overall form. That's much easier than the tyranny of a blank page and trying to fill it with inspiration. I need an overarching idea to give a piece meaning. Still at my age I'm ever hopeful someone will notice. Some have along the way we all need "Atta boys," or at least I do.

Steve

Atta boy.


My work is available at https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/jim-of-seattle/
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Originally Posted by Steve Chandler
What an interesting thread! I agree with Jim that perhaps Guastavino was more invested in popularity than in the work. Actually, I can understand that to a degree, almost every creative person wants external validation. Don't we all need "Atta boys?" Still, like Farazissimo I find composing music is hard. It's like sucking a golf ball through a hose, but I can't stop. I can change style and/or genre, but I'll never stop.

Lately, I've been writing pop music. It's much easier, write some lyrics (hopefully meaningful) attach some music, arrange it, sing it, record it, mix it, done! But the lyrics provide the structure and overall form. That's much easier than the tyranny of a blank page and trying to fill it with inspiration. I need an overarching idea to give a piece meaning. Still at my age I'm ever hopeful someone will notice. Some have along the way we all need "Atta boys," or at least I do.

Steve

I've done a lot of both. I have some gifts when it comes to lyric-writing, and have gotten a whole lot of atta boys for them. But they are too much damn work. Getting the syllables right, watching out for singable vowels, telling the story, setting up the joke, maintaining consistent diction.... ugh. Then there's singing them and mixing them... My album of piano duets is proving SO MUCH easier.

I haven't really thought about the structure thing before. I found myself starting at the wall just now thinking about that. For me, I think since I did songs with words almost exclusively for over 20 years, maybe I think that way by default. I've written fantasy-type through-composed pieces, but I usually abandon them before they're done.


My work is available at https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/jim-of-seattle/
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Originally Posted by indigo_dave
Regarding this thread's topic. I am more of a player (piano) than composer although I've done some composing. My piano playing these days is largely standards and the Great American Songbook - I do a lot of "ear" playing. Igor Stravinsky in "Poetics of Music" (taken from lectures at Harvard) said that a composer improvises aimlessly that way an animal grubs for roots. He said they both are exercising a compulsion to seek things out.

So, using Stravinsky's insight as a model, when I do compose, I usually come up with just a notated measure or two, then play around with it at the piano looking/listening for something I like. It's a slow process. But when stars are aligned just right, there's a mental process...maybe similar to a mediation, but not meditation. This process alone can justify the effort for me. Sometimes what I've come up with is more of a sketch that I experiment around with. I have no need to create a finished formal "work" that others will be performing.

It seems to me that others must have somewhat similar processes. Another side of this "coin" for me, has been to transcribe music that I wanted to understand the nuts and bolts of. I did this with Burt Bacharach's "Alfie" and "Promises Promises". Also Keith Jarrett's 1970's compositions. "Le Mistral" and "Mysteries" about 5 years ago.

I've been trying to motivate myself to spend at least an hour daily to either composing or transcribing. Regarding the time issue, I've been retired 6 years now. I usually spend 3-5 hours daily at the piano.

On a side note, it seems to me that all composers should be ear players at least in part.

At first I read this:
I do a lot of "ear" playing. Igor Stravinsky
And I was instantly extremely impressed. How is that possible????? Then I re-read. Regarding the grubs thing, I can definitely hear that in Stravinsky's music. Like in Rite of Spring, I can practically hear old Igor saying "Hey, here's a cool thing: da da da da" for a while, then, "OK, here's another cool thing I came up with la la la la". Once I noticed that, that it plays kind of like a consecutive procession of individual ideas, the whole thing felt different. So it's interesting to hear that he said that.

I also like to ponder nuts and bolts like that. I like asking myself, "What is it about that part right there that always gets to me?" For example, "Alfie" has that ii-V-i into the relative minor (Beatles "Yesterday" does that too) which works so well especially since it's harmonically pretty static before we get to that. And the big leap in the melody right at that moment is pretty exciting. As for "Promises" I've actually stolen a trick he used in that song, at the very end, when that long note is held, the harmonies change key back and forth underneath. He also waits until the very end before it goes up that high. Unusual and so exciting.

I love thinking about this crap.


My work is available at https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/jim-of-seattle/
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