Traps for the Uninitiated Beginner in Composition


l. I write in the same style as my teacher (even though I am not aware of it).
2. Keyboard skills are a waste of time.
3. Harmony and counterpoint are outmoded skills.
4. My music is the best: no contest. The other composers are dweebs (unspoken).
5. My goal is to get a soft university gig.
6. Screw the audience: they just want to hear Handel's Messiah.

Modus Operandi:

1. I really concentrate on pitch.
2. I am not aware of the independence of pitch, rhythm, texture, register.
3. I like to use a synthesizer for orchestration.
4. Deadlines are of no consequence: they must wait for me.
5. Meter is meaningless, a necessary bother to keep players together.


1. I never sketch: I keep everything fresh from the hopper (first thoughts)
2. I never throw anything out: it's all inspired.
3. The object of composition is prizes ( awarded by the other dweebs).
4. I always study the trendy comp leaders rather than Mozart or Bach.
5. I never go to live concerts, unless my piece is on.
6. If I think too much, the result will be academic.


1. I work on one piece at a time, and each one is a masterpiece.
2. I always write from beginning to end (like a painter going from corner to corner). I like to be surprised.
3. I really can't hear what I'm writing in my head (but I like the way it looks on the page). I also can't remember any of it.
4. I will use a groovier and/or more complex notation for visual effect, when a more traditional or simpler one will be clearer.
5. I hate traditional ensembles (performers are dopes, conductors are jerks: they are too limited to learn my complex score, even after 100 hrs. of rehearsal time. I never take their suggestions, either).
6. If the score is obscure, that was my intention.

Updated: February 1, 1997.