Sonata No. 153

Sonata No. 153

A few weeks ago, I tried to pass a short two-paragraph musing for these pages past the editors that be, but it didn’t fly. I was told I had to flesh things out more. Frustrated at sticking to the same three-paragraph model I produce nearly every week, I typed the extra paragraph and, admittedly, the piece turned out to be much better. This week, I received a challenge to attempt an exegesis detailing how I always write this weekly blog in three paragraphs. Haven’t you noticed—seriously, go back and check the past few years—it’s always three. Anyway, the idea is so meta, right?

I think of it as sonata form-esque. Exposition. Development (which is where we are right now, I guess). Recapitulation (and at this point I haven’t a clue what that’s going to look like). One, two, three. It seems to be a rut of some kind, and a beautiful one at that. Why fix it if it ain’t broken? As composers, we tend to stick with formulas that work for us, and these formulas usually exhibit self-similarities on many levels. So as my inner artist says, “no way, man, these are all lazy crutches,” the inner reality-check guy looks over all the music I’ve written down over the years and sees tons of connections between pieces.

Third paragraph: Time for the topical throw-down. This is the spot where everything gets wrapped up, spun out, hammered down, or what have you. Compositional ruts be damned, if a format works, we should stick with it. It just makes practical sense. However, sometimes our imagination overflows the molds we set up, and if we don’t allow for spillage, we might be missing some genuinely interesting stuff. Which leads me to the question: Should I hit the enter key a few more times and let things rip?

Hells yeah!

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4 thoughts on “Sonata No. 153

  1. ottodafaye

    “As composers, we tend to stick with formulas that work for us”

    Speak for yourself, Pink Boy. Many I know strive to do exactly not that.

  2. William Osborne

    Most of what we call “standard forms” (sonata-allegro, rondo, fugue, etc.) were not really all that formulaic. For an obvious example, the piano sonatas of Mozart and Beethoven are full of very profound structural variety. We see these structures as formulaic because our knowledge of them is so superficial, and because the theoretical concepts we use for analysis are so reductive.

    I enjoy your three paragraph blogs, especially the humor. On the other hand, I recently read on the AMC website that the organization has about 2000 composer members. That’s a lot of composers, so why do so few participate here? (It has been that way ever since these blogs were established.) Would a different approach to the blogging increase interest? Would more geographical diversity increase participation from those regions? Would it help if the blogs included more technical issues of genuine professional interest to composers? Is the general ethos here so New York-centric that most composers simply don’t feel interested? Or is composition a profession of somewhat self-involved loners who aren’t inclined to chat with each other? I have no idea; those are only a couple thoughts.

    William Osborne

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