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The Creative Processes of Music Composition: Types of Composers

1) The Spontaneously Inspired Composer, is more or less the type of composer described by Hindemith. He is a composer whose creative process involves a compositional style wherein inspiration comes in “flashes”, sudden, unprompted and impulsive. Hindemith describes this type of composer as a “genuine creator”. He states: “If we cannot in the flash of a single moment, see a composition in its absolute entirety, with every pertinent detail in its proper place, we are not genuine creators” (Hindemith, 2000, p.61, par.1). Schubert is mentioned as being a composer of this sort. He allegedly wrote a song every two or three days which coincides with Copland’s assessment of this type of composer who tends to favor shorter compositional forms. It has been said of Schubert “Schubert wrote songs in bursts, on the back of restaurant menus, when the mood took him, or when a particular poet's work seized him”.
2) The Constructive Composer as described by Aaron Copland is one that may have "flashes" as described by Hindemith. However, his "visions" are limited and produce just musical ideas in the form of themes or melodic material that has to be constructed or molded into a composition. Beethoven is associated with this type of composer. This is apparent when his creative process is analyzed through his sketch books which reveal how his thematic material evolved and were methodically constructed over a period of time. (Copland, 2002, p.21)

Paul Hindemith debates this. Believing that Beethoven’s creative process reflects that he possessed “musical vision” his explanation for Beethoven’s evolving melodic sketches was, as he states: “ accommodate it to the unalterable necessities of an envisioned totality, even if with all his technical skills and experience he has to pass it through five or more versions that distort it past recognition”. (Hindemith, 2000, p.61, par. 1)
3) The Traditionalist, is a composer who writes in a style that is traditionally accepted for a specific time period. (Copland, 2002, p.22) Bach’s compositions are often viewed as a reflection of his faith. His creative process most likely included the “visionary flashes” described by Hindemith. In fact, Hindemith acknowledges that all composers may have visions but only the creative genius or “true creator” has the “ability to retain the keenness of the first vision until its embodiment in the finished piece is achieved” (Hindemith, 2000, p.62).

4) The “Pioneer” is a fourth type of composer. Their style is converse to that of the traditionalist. The music of Debussy, Berlioz, Schoenberg and Cage would be considered pioneering because they, according to Copland “… clearly oppose conventional solutions of musical problems. ….their attitude is experimental” (Copland, 2002, p.22, par.4) Hindemith dismisses this compositional process of Schoenberg, namely twelve-tone techniques, as a true creative process.

Hindemith denounces the "act" of selecting one of the more than four hundred million possible permutations of the twelve-tone tempered scale and placing them in rows for use as melodic and harmonic material to create a composition is sheer nonsense and uninspired. He does not view it as a creative act. Rather, in his words it is equivalent to “poetry that is created by pouring written words out of a tumbler without calling in grammar and syntax”. Hindemith labels such ones as merely compilers of notes, not composers of music. (Hindemith, 2000, p.122). (Personally, I am in disagreement with Hindemith's assessment and "opinion" of this creative process.)