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Bogusław Schaeffer - Introduction to Composition

Bogusław Schaeffer - Introduction to Composition

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"Introduction to composition" (Wstep̨ do kompozycji) by Bogusław Schäffer; [edited by Ludomira Stawowy and Stefan Ehrenkreutz; translated from the Polish original by Jerzy Zawadzki].

"Introduction to composition" (Wstep̨ do kompozycji) by Bogusław Schäffer; [edited by Ludomira Stawowy and Stefan Ehrenkreutz; translated from the Polish original by Jerzy Zawadzki].

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  • The composer's work on rhythmic models
  • Concepts of pitch-rhythm relationships
  • Rhythmic-dynamic relationships
  • 'Articulation of time''
  • Compositional application of chords 47
  • Microstructural organization
  • Intervals and their role in contemporary music
  • Intervallic notation
  • Intervallic analysis of linear motion
  • Selection of intervals and its consequences
  • Five-note models enclosed within the major third
  • Intervallic studies
  • Study in diagram — the realization
  • Approximate linear motion
  • A new way of treating the orchestra
  • Selection and particularization of tone colour
  • Preparation of instruments
  • Preparation in vocal and instrumental ensembles
  • Denaturalization of sound
  • Series — problem of variability
  • Forms of the series
  • Series that determine the sound language 75
  • Multi-intervallic series
  • Serialization of rhythm and dynamics
  • Serial articulation
  • Serialization and pointillism
  • "Oscillatory" and "modulating" serialism
  • Problems concerning total serialism
  • Technique of deschematization
  • Study of textures Series and their textural break-up
  • Texture and density
  • Influence of mechanical composing on texture
  • alphabetical index of examples



to composition




Translated from the Polish original by JERZY ZAWADZKI

Edited by Ludomira Stawowy and Stefan Ehrenkreutz

1976 oy PWM Edition, Krakow, copyright assigned to ZAIKS, Warszawa. Printed in Poland.


From the Author


1. What is a composition? How does it come into
being? What is a composition's basis? ...


2. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. What attitude
should a composer adopt towards these three time


3. What are "possibilities of music"? Where are they
to be found and how are they to be treated? .


4. Is there a new method of teaching composition?
If so, what is it like? ........


5. What are the methodological foundations of this
manual? What does the composer's craft consist
of today?


6. Who can be a truly creative composer? What
should his attitude to creativity be? ....


7. What are the conditions for authentic creative
work? When can we compose in fact but not just
"write music"?


8. What can be the impetus to creativity? Nothing
but play in the imagination? ......


9. Is originality an important factor in creativity?
May it be put forward as a programme, as the
first item of the artist's programme? ....


10. To what extent does the problem of choice exist
in today's music?


11. What attitude should a composer assume to tradi-


12. What constitutes the essence of new music, the
essence of new composition being created today? 12
13. A marginal, but important question in this state of
affairs: what is the contemporary composer?

. 12

14. How has the social status of the composer changed
and what is the nature of his social activity?

. 12

15. What are the characteristics of contemporary com-
posing craft?


in the method of employing the factor of change
in music . ,


20. The consequences of the limitation of components
to a few symbols


21. Simple and complex values


22. Is there a progression of rhythmic values from the
simplest to the most complex ones and how is it

23. The composer's work on rhythmic models . . 17
24. The limitation of rhythmic values to a few a bar
threatens us with a rapid exhaustion of movement;
how do we prevent it?


25. Possibilities of a new divergent way of treating
music written in simple metres


26. Possibilities arising from modern compositional
usages of metre. Playing by means of metre, fur-
ther development of metric techniques ...


27. Metre today


28. Ametric music


29. Are there any new time models and, if so, what do
they look like?


30. Complexity of rhythmic models


31. Changes and superimposition of metres and
rhythms within metres


32. Rhythmic complications


33. Metric complexity


34. Concepts of pitch-rhythm relationships ...


35. Compositional consequences of the repetition of
the same pitches


36. Relationship between the idea of constant varia-
tion and the formation of rhythm


37. Rhythmic-dynamic relationships


38. Rhythmic "harmonies" appearing as a result of
new co-situations


39. The restriction of composition exclusively or pri-
marily to the range of rhythm


40. "Articulation of time"


16. What factor seems to be the most important in
new music? . . .


17. Analogy and change — the opposition of these
notions to each other and the possibility of connec-
tions between them in a composition ....


18. Elementary study of the factor of change in music.
On what does musical change actually depend? . 14
19. Further compositional expansion of our research


41. Linear motion. The attitude of the contemporary
composer towards linear motion and its role in the
structuring of music

42. Foreground and secondary status of linear motion 30
43. Range of possible change in linear motion

. 30

44. Compositional reading of linear motion pitch col-


45. The dependence of the structure of chords upon
the contents of vertical arrangements of linear


46. Compositional application of chords ....


47. Microstructural organization

48. Intervals and their role in contemporary music . 33
49. Intervallic notation

. . 34

50. Intervallic analysis of linear motion ....

51. Selection of intervals and its consequences . . 34
52. Five-note models enclosed within the major third 35
53. Work on six-note models enclosed within the


54. Contents analysis of the variants of the chromatic
six-note universe


55. Harmonic models


56. Intervallic studies

. . 36

57. Study in diagram — the idea

58. Study in diagram — the realization . . . . 37
59. Codes


60. Approximate linear motion



61. A new way of treating the orchestra ....


62. Selection and particularization of tone colour

. 39

63. Preparation of instruments

64. Preparation in vocal and instrumental ensembles . 40
65. Changing pitch


66. The transformed note

. . . . ' . . . . 42

67. The gliding note

. . . 42

68. Composition with one note


69. Timbral intervals


70. Deformations

. . " •. .44

71. Denaturalization of sound

. 44


72. Series — problem of variability


73. Forms of the series


74. Series that determine the sound language ....


75. Multi-intervallic series


76. Further models of series


77. Serialization of rhythm and dynamics ....


78. Serial articulation

. . .


79. Serialization and pointillism


80. "Oscillatory" and "modulating" serialism ...

81. Modal serialization . . . . . . . - . 50
82. Total serialization — interchangeability of seria-
lized elements

. .

83. Problems concerning total serialism . . . . 50

84. Technique of deschematization ........


85. Technique of the reduction of elements inducing
monotony in serialism


86. Transformation of structures into textural forma-


.87. Study of textures

88. Series and their textural break-up . . . '. . 52
89. Series and their rhythmicization (horizontally-con-
ceived texture)


90. Possibilities of textural melodization of series or
horizontal pitch combinations

91. Examples of four-part textures (string quartet) . 54
92. Piano^exture


93. Possibilities in the handling of textures in music
for larger ensembles


94. Texture and density .


95. Possibilities of thickening vertical structures through
an increase in the quantity of material employed 56
96. Dispersal of material

. . . . . , . .56
97. Influence of mechanical composing on texture . 57
98. Combined constructions .'• .-


99. Textural results of the application of group tech-
100. Texture of large forms


101. True composition of music
102. Precomposition
103. Composition of time


104. Abstract and concrete
105. Aesthetic problems


106. Canons of composing
107. Counterindications and prohibitions
108. Choice of techniques, antinomies
109. Discontinuous composition
110. Automization of composition
111. Aleatorism
112. Composing of co-situations
113. Multimotivic work


114. Break-up of the model
115. Multidimensional composition
116. Ambiguous music

117. Multitechnical canons as models
118. Polyversional music . .
119. Composing musical actions
120. Final remarks



















Alphabetical index of examples . ....

. . 72


from the Author

In the didactic work which is herewith placed at the dis-
posal of the curious reader, the author set himself three
essential goals:

1. to show methods of composition from the still difficult
and not readily accessible technical aspect,
2. to acquaint the reader with individual solutions in the
various parameters of music, by means of examples
drawn (primarily) from the author's own compositions and
the works of those composers who most extensively influ-
enced the metamorphoses of contemporary musical lan-

3. to awaken and encourage the creative imagination and
the capacity for formulating ideas of the apprentice

Someone with no talent for composition cannot learn to
compose. Not much can be attained by someone who has
inherent or acquired prejudices against new music. Neither
can there anything be gained by someone who will treat
the entrusted didactic material in a superficial, cursory
fashion. Nevertheless, compositional talents in themselves
do not today suffice: contemporary composition is a difficult
craft, but control of it must and ought to be gained if we
deem musical language a language in which we wish to
express something.
The Introduction to Composition is a manual from which
it is possible to study contemporary. composition. It should
be studied slowly, in stages, with exceptional care being
given to the achievement of results which make artistic
sense. In this handbook the author has made an effort not
to repeat elementary information dealing with the notation
of music, or the capacities of instruments and the human
voice, since the reader can find these for himself in rela-
tively numerous publications. The author commences here
without preliminaries at a level which to many readers may
seem rather high but which, after all — at least taking into

account musical training in the author's own country — is
essentially not excessive. Perhaps a certain amount of infor-
mation pertaining to new music ought to have been reca-
pitulated, although a totally different prescription emerges
on the basis of the author's teaching experience. Composi-
tion should begin from the very first exercises and as-
signments — this cannot be left till later.

The Introduction to Composition consists of a concise text
and of a very extensive set of musical examples (in progress,
the work even went under the working title of an "Atlas").
The textual part contains 120 short chapter-problems and
discusses in detail the issues of rhythm, melic motion,
timbre, serialization, texture, as well as composition proper.
Each chapter is subdivided into short segments, as indicated
by the headings:

q — question
i — information
d — discussion
e — exercise
c — composition.

The texts of these segments are quite brief and concise.
Together with the pertinent examples and diagrams they
ought to give a rather clear picture of the problem under

Translation into English of this advanced specialized musical
treatise brought about a special set of difficulties in its
wake. The problems were of a higher order than is usual
in translation because the text requires a meticulously
employed, complex technical language that truly and effec-
tively deals with the issues of new music. In this regard,
many thanks are due Roy Wightman (musicologist from
England), Stefan Ehrenkreutz (composer from the United
States, fluent in Polish) and Adrian Thomas (English com-

poser residing in Northern Ireland) for their work on the
verification of the text from the linguistic and musical
points of view.

The written text is illustrated in the examples by numerous
diagrams (rhythmic models, rhythmic series, graphic models,
juxtapositions of results emerging out of the application of
open forms, a list of all the multi-interval sets, analysis
of the contents of series, permutational listings of chosen
models, listings of possibilities for differentiation of musical
material, analysis-graphs of compositional means employed
in a given work, etc.). The written text is further illustrated
by compositional exercises as well as musical examples
from 170 scores of the 60 most outstanding contemporary
composers, from Bartok, Webern, Stravinsky and Mes-
siaen to Cage, Stockhausen, Kagel and Bussotti. The
length of the listings, the size of the diagrams and the
musical examples depended here on the significance of
the given problem as well as on the potential of the
possibilities contained within the problem. (Thus, for
instance, a complete listing of all the multi-interval sets is
given here because contemporary composers regularly take
advantage of only a limited fragment of the collection, as
if unaware of the immense, attractive sum of possibilities
Of the complete collection; such an extensive juxtaposition
precisely illustrates such foregone opportunities in new

Each musical example is only identified in brief. Their
full titles together with information regarding scoring and
publication is given in the "Alphabetical Index of Examples".

At this point the author would like to express his warm
appreciation to all the editors and publishers who so
graciously consented to the inclusion of examples taken
from the works of composers published by them as well
as to those composers who made their manuscripts avail-
able for presentation in print.

The author would also like to express his appreciation to
the Polish Musical Editions (PWM) for their sincere encour-
agement and for undertaking the difficult labour of editing
the Introduction to Composition and to all those who
personally were instrumental in helping this work appear
in print, namely: Felicyta Glen, Elzbieta Miinz, Anna Zoga,
Maciej Kowal6wka, Adam Kusiak and Andrzej Watala
(preparation of musical copying materials), to the team of
the Polygraphic Laboratory of PWM for slides of musical
examples, to Aleksandra Mitka (retouching and technical
preparation of musical examples). Miss Ludomira Stawowy
deserves separate words of thanks for the editing of the
whole. Only the author can have some idea of the problems
she had to face. Without her patience, endurance, hard
work, and various efforts this work would not have at-
tained its ultimate shape.

Krak6w, January 15, 1976

What is a composition? How does it come into being?
What is a composition's basis?

A composition is an autonomous artistic creation,,
impossible either to evoke or discuss apart from mu-
sical matter. A composition's basis will always be that
of our purely musical experiences and, above all, our
experiences of the range of possibilities of musical
material in itself. And even if we can occasionally
employ experiences from beyond the sphere of music
in a composition, we must remember that these external
impulses can have compositional significance for music
only after they have been translated into musical


A Fundamental Question: to what degree in contem-
porary musical creativity is it possible to conserve the
autonomy of a musical composition? Music is constantly
"endangered" by impulses from the outside; it always
seems to be tied to the time in which it appears. Yet
if we consider what these dependencies in fact have
been, in terms of their historical background, we shall
come to the conclusion that, despite all the common labels
which we bestow upon music as a result of confronting
musical activity with artistic trends and scientific
discoveries contemporaneous to it, music conserves its
own range even when the ties to other domains are
strong. Contemporary music, which interests us here
in a very wide sense, certainly has not as of yet
sufficiently matured to be subjected to a process of
generalization, let alone to a process of the discovery
of links connecting it with other domains. Developing
along many lines, music cannot be reduced to one
stylistic or technical model, and observations concerning
music will always be fragmentary. From such parti-
cles — in this manual they will be used as the basis
for concrete tasks — we build up general information
about music without resorting to forms of classifica-
tion, without any desire to discover certain definite
preconceived categories in it. In other words, we intend
to build up general information about music from such
particles following the way it originates immediate-
ly before us. No doubt music originates against the
background of different discoveries not related to its

very essence, but the most important experiences in
the experience of music are those contained within
music itself and restricted to it, even if we use
methods acquired through contacts with other domains,
e. g. fine arts, architecture, mathematics, psychology of
aural reception, and the like. Moreover, if we are to
talk about music, then let us talk only about its future.
The future of music is exclusively determined by its
potentialities, not by ideas. Ideas that are not fit for
musical realization are not ideas at all, since they lie
beyond the sphere of the very matter of composition.
Having no support in the past, a contemporary
composer can imagine the music of the future only
with regard to its potentialities. Tomorrow's music
ought to be composed by us today! This is also the
case as regards the pedagogy of composition — we
teach composition for the future.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow. What attitude should
a composer adopt towards these three time bearings?

Up to this time, the exposition of composition has
been retrospective in nature. The basis of teaching
composition has always been music from the past or,
more strictly, music of the past. Such didactic thinking
could engender a better understanding of music com-
posed earlier, but it could not provide the future
composer with what he hoped to obtain from this
mode of thinking. To be sure, we do say that one
should learn from the greatest masters whom, as is
only natural, we view as exclusively in the past, but at
the same time we are aware of the fact they have
nothing to tell us as regards the fundamental problems
of new composition. Moreover, one cannot today draw
comparisons with the old masters for whom our times
formed but a very vague future.

What are "possibilities of music"? Where are they to
be found and how are they to be treated?

"Possibilities of music", should not be understood as
being restricted merely to the number of techniques
available. Multiplication of the number of techniques
is a difficult problem; such a multiplication is often
only apparent. Dazzled by quantitative richness, we
might readily forget that it is quality, just the
opposite of quantity, that plays a decisive role in art.
The great innovator, Anton Webern, did not write one
new note and yet he achieved a great many important
solutions of the problem of new composition in his
works. The significance of his solutions became evident
only to those who observed the subsequent course of
events in music. In other words, it will not be our aim
here to make a huge catalogue of compositional tech-
niques, but to encourage the composer to slove — as
independently as possible — real problems of composi-
tion, and these can easily be found in all possible
internal relationships in music.


In discussing the possibilities of music,. those of new
music, we must not overlook the fact that although
they are virtually unlimited, they do not lie within
the reach of every composer's imagination. Certainly
a great many of the possibilities of new music, or even
most of them, are quite beyond the imaginative range
of a contemporary composer. The possibilities of new
music do not constitute a definite repertory of new
techniques (although it might seem so to most musi-
cians). The greatest changes in music were not brought
about by the addition of new compositional techniques
to the conventional stock, but were due to changes in
the very conception of composing procedure. In order
that such changes may occur, the»composer must fre-
quently delve to the very elements of music, verifying
the existing stock of techniques (once again, for his
own use) from the view-point of the inherent possibilities
of making changes in them. Otherwise the material in
itself will constantly dominate the composer, whose
creative activity will be reduced merely to the re-
production of his own personal variants to which,
after all, most contemporary composers confine
themselves. Overcoming this hitherto so important
determining effect of the material may be hailed as the
greatest achievement in contemporary composing. We
can now see how small the role played by technical
progress is for composition. In this situation it is now
all the more obvious, that all things considered, real
composition begins only from the point of a r r a n g e-
m e n t of musical material.

Is there a new method of teaching composition? If so,
what is it like?

Composition cannot be taught, but in the present state
of affairs it can be demonstrated. It must then
be assumed that the young student of composition is
so mature a musician that the whole of this demonstra-
tion in composition may be addressed to both his
intellectual skills and artistic sensibilities. It is only
under such conditions that real interest in the subject
of composition itself can be aroused. The subject of
composition when treated in the whole wide range of
intellectual and imaginational problems can' become not
only functional but also attractive to the composer. The
author assumes, in addition, that the student of com-
position is endowed with powers of criticism and counts
on his skills in making his own choices. Finally, in
order not to return to this question further, the student,
if he is to go .through this course in composition
successfully, must have confidence in the author who,
before publishing this manual, thought -carefully not
only about the subject itself, but also about its expres-
sion in didactic terms.

The problem of how to teach composition needs further
explanation. Composition, like sculpturing and painting
but contrary to the writing of poetry, is taught up to the
present time. It might seem that now, after so many
years of practice, expertise in the teaching of composi-
tion has attained a level that satisfies current demands.
This however is not true. The teaching of composition
cultivated in our times is one of the most horrifying
anachronisms in new music. What is the source of this
disparity between composition, so advanced nowadays,
and its teaching? Above all, this situation arises because
the composer in his own work makes use of his own
experiences, while the same composer when he is
teaching avails himself of somebody else's experience,
experience of a kind which is often very remote from
his own talent, temperament and also his critical
judgement. The composer's own experiences are the
more valuable because they have been gathered very
slowly and only with the most intense activity of both
intellect and inspiration, of the musical imagination and
the systematizing process of the mind. Moreover, and


here we perhaps approach the most important point;
the. huge disequilibrium existing between style and
technique in new music brings about a situation which
resembles none of those met with so far in the history
of music. Today, when the stylistic layer of a musical
composition is not so closely related to the technique
adopted and when technique has, so to say, outrun the
style, even the most ambitious teaching of composition
must stop within the bounds of technique itself. Despite
these difficulties the contemporary method for teaching
composition, even if confined to the demonstration of
music, is capable of disclosing many of the regularities
that appear in new music, some of which may bear
the features of more general, stylistic regularities.

What are the methodological foundations of this
manual? What does the composer's craft consist of

This manual of composition is not a genuine manual.
Perhaps it does not deserve to be called a manual at
all. Although written with a definite didactic purpose
in mind, it is intended to demonstrate the fallacy of
the notion that art cannot be taught. Teaching is
possible where we are concerned with craft. In the
last few years craft has ceased to be what it had been
before and consequently it must now be conceived
in a different way, not in the sense of rules for putting
the voices together in a composition ("to compose" is
semantically associated with the Latin: componere
to put together), but in a new sense, that of the com-
positional utilization of the potentialities of music.
Moreover, the contemporary craft may be interpreted
as a specific kind of readiness for authentic composi-
tion, for the original, in its essence, posing of composi-
tional problems and their individual solution. For this
reason also, disinterested work, the only aim of which
is to get to know the potentialities of music, is desired
in the first stage of study. The suggestions received
should be transformed individually in the second stage!
The author attaches no importance to the studied rep-
etitions of what he propounds, but advocates the
actual transformation of his suggestions so that they
will meet the composer's own requirements, in par-
ticular the suggestions which have a good chance of
becoming his intimate property in course of time.

The issue of contemporary craft needs more detailed
explanation. Today's craft is based, as it were, on
contacts with the potentialities of music rather than on
learnable canons. In any case such canons would be
impossible in new music, since it lacks even the most
general intimation of some system. The systematization
of technical-compositional phenomena and problems is
hampered chiefly by the large number and diversity
of techniques applied by composers. In this respect the
traditional teaching of composition has already lost its
old sense. It can no longer be the teaching of craft,
as it once was in the past. Once, when the teaching of
composition consisted in passing on a set of rules to
students, such a method was reasonable and even of
some significance. Nowadays, when compositional tech-
nique has moved so significantly ahead of previous
practice, both pedagogy and its fruits must be focused
on one and the same task of posing and solving com-
positional problems, and thus more on the extension
of the range of vision than on the classification of new
phenomena, which in any case escape classification in
some respects.


Who can be a truly creative composer? What should his
attitude to creativity be?

The author assumes mastery of craft in the old sense
of the word. Here, in its place,, there appears a specific
theory of compositional potentialities of music. We
know (if not, we can easily see for ourselves) that
everything expressed in musical categories is music
(this may be exemplified by all the radical movements
in new music, e.g.,, those of Ives, Varese, Haba, We-
bern, etc.).
There is thus no justification* for ignoring all the
possibilities that arise from a new, unconventional
attitude to music. However, broad intellectual horizons
and aesthetic openness are required in order to deal
with this issue. A musician who confines himself to
the narrow categories of present-day utilitarianism
cannot foe a creative composer. He will turn out second-
rate products. These sometimes give a composer the
illusion of interrelating with respect to the evolution
of new music, but they have little in common with
authentic creativity.


What are the conditions for authentic creative work?
When can we compose in fact but not just "write

More often than not, composers act in the conviction
that creation occurs at a certain point in the matura-
tion of a musical idea. In other words, they feel that
they need only to begin work with some sort of musical
idea to have an artistic work spring into being. Nothing
could be more illusory! An artistic work makes sense
only if it has resulted from a necessity of creation.
Such a necessity of creation does not appear until the
musical work "sets itself" together, from the elements
chosen by the composer. At the same time we know
that the musical work must have its authentic be-
ginning. This is why' care must be taken that a com-
position always begin at the zero point without
any preconceptions. This will well nigh have to be a
principle while the present manual is being used. The
sum of ready knowledge acquired before may perhaps
be necessary in realizing a compositional idea; however,
such knowledge ought not to be used above all. The
Composer should know how to attain humility within
himself before music, whose very source material is
already aesthetic.
Guiding the material according to the state of your
ideas, try to obtain suggestions from the material
already produced. Make the material contain informa-
tion and then draw guidance and information from the
material — this is one of the main principles of
contemporary composition and perhaps the most
important didactic principle of this manual.

In addition to what we should call the authentic
necessity of creation, play in the imagination may also
became an impetus to creation. Thanks to such play,
we can obtain very interesting results, and the rules
made up by the composer may become a specific
system in course of time. In great measure, the very
playing of a game (not establishing the game's rules)
becomes transformed into composition. At moments of
reflection we can enrich play in the imagination by
the contemporary achievements of science and thus
assume a new critical attitude to composition, so neces-
sary in authentic creativity. Creativity may be
treated as a sort of information; then the problem
of expanding the media of artistic expression achieves
primary significance. Both imaginative play and learning
contribute to the formation of situations which other-
wise would never have been attained, and this indeed is
already saying a great deal. Generally speaking, we
may adopt the principle that it is worth our while to
compose if we obtain results that could not otherwise
be achieved were it not for creativity. In this respect
creativity aims at the disclosure of the truth a'bouf
music, its potentialities and new responses effected by
it. If we repeated stereotyped entities and solutions,
such as may justifiably be described as contaminations
or repetitions, in so doing following after other com-
posers (or falling in together with them, which by no
means improves the situation), then, to be sure, we
should enrich, the repertory of the given stereotype
without enriching music itself. "Play the imagination"
usually occurs in the sphere of values that we
have already come to know and do not care much
about. Far more important to new creativity are com-
positional results that contribute to the expansion of
what we know about music and, consequently, of our
imagination. Known stereotypes can be developed only
when the play is begun at the beginning (this is why
most of the sections given to concrete tasks start from
elementary composing principles).

What can be the impetus to creativity? Nothing but
play in the imagination? All too often, out of play in
the imagination, out of fancifulness come conventional
stereotyped creations, which have already been heard
somewhere (by someone else); in' what way are.such
stereotypes to be expanded?

Is originality an important factor in creativity? May it
be put forward as a programme, as the first item of
the artist's programme? What must an artist do, if he
is not ingenious or capable of original creativity?


Although it has never been emphasised, history proves
irrefutably that one of the fundamental canons of true
compositional creativity is originality. The awareness
that, at the same time that you are reproducing your
impressions, derived from knowledge of previously
existing modes of composing, a few hundred other
composers are occupied in a very similar manner (and
to a similar- artistic effect!) should encourage you to
action in another, even in an opposite direction. For
this reason originality in creation should be brought
into the foreground. Assuredly, originality alone, when
not underpinned by the composer's awareness, is in-
sufficient (in any case, in spite of appearances, it is
often simply unattainable in this situation), but
in creativity it is a sine qua non. If in a couple of
years you find that you have not managed to attain
authentic originality, stop composing. Leave it to others.
In order to resolve this, one must be not only a good
musician but a keen critic as well. Compose indiscrim-
inately, but later have a lodk at your work with
a different eye — as if you were a stranger. Let nobody
forestall you in criticism; always be the first.


To what extent does the problem of choice exist in
today's music?

In the course of composition, we are constantly making
acts of selection. The element of choice is inherent'
already in decisions regarding the kind and range of
information to be employed. In short, it may be said
that selection is part and parcel of creation, even when
we do not consciously take this into account. On the
other hand, deliberate selection, as a restriction already
imposed in the initial assumptions,' is nothing but the
restriction of music itself, and nobody can approve
of this.

The problem of selection (it will be dealt with in more
detail in Section 108) needs a special comment. A great
many musicians claim that selection is the most
important law of creation; the source of this opinion
may be the axiom that pieces based on unselected

techniques, pieces composed "chaotically", are of no
value. It cannot be denied that music, like any other
branch of art, demands exactitude, well-ordered rea-
soning and differentiation of material. It cannot
however be denied either that for many years music
was developed within ranges so narrow that composers
could not become aware of its great potentialities. It
would be indecent to compose chaotically in full con-
sciousness, but I venture the statement that future
generations will find orderliness in many situations
which we regard as chaotic now. This orderliness will
be of a different, higher rank. Let us repeat it once
again: selection (whether we like it or not) always
accompanies a creative act. We can make sure of
this, if not otherwise, by observing the "selection of
techniques" in the composers who not so long ago were
considered to be heedless of any principles and norms.


What attitude should a composer assume to tradition?
What is traditional music to him and must he neces-
sarily set himself up in opposition to it?

Present-day music has been determined to a great
extent by its history. History has really formed present-
day music and set bounds to the imagination of coin-
posers of new generations. Be an assiduous researcher
of its history, especially as regards the development of
music, of instrumental and vocal techniques (bear in
mind the fact that all the musicians with whom you
may have dealings still dwell almost entirely within
this climate). Do not imagine, however, that tradition
will be in a state capable of teaching you anything.
Great composers did not look back to tradition, they
created it themselves. Thus, the musical tradition
should have the import of a negative magnet-
ic field for you. One thing more: do not despair
over losing contact with tradition, this cannot happen.
Remember that even if you manage to attain maximum
originality, you will enter the zone of that only
seemingly lost tradition. Being conscious that whatever
you do automatically merges into tradition, try to only
think of tradition in terms of that negative field.
(Staunch anti-traditionalism has however nothing in
common with creativity. One always creates for and
not against something.)



What constitutes the essence of new music, the essence
of new composition being created today?

Composition based on reproduction, that is, composi-
tion originating at the point of intersection of conven-
tion, tradition, schematism, and vague concepts
concerning the essence of new music, is increasingly
coming into prominence dn new. music. Do not attempt
such reproductive composition anfl do not recommend
it; in part, art has always been used by petty manu-
facturers. Creativity must not rely on reproductive
elements, otherwise it ceases to be creativity. If you
succeed in finding appropriate masters for yourself,
learn to study in their work the potentialities
of music but not music itself, which cannot bear repe-
titions and, as a matter of fact, changes continuously
(for such is the nature of art).

There is a contradiction here, which should be explained.
Certainly, composition hitherto has to a great extent
been based on the principle of reproduction, and yet
that which is the most valuable in music looks how
different. The question arises whether these two
tendencies can be reconciled. No doubt they are rec-
onciled by art itself, in which the revelatory element
borders upon the reproductive one, but the contempo-
rary composer must not assume this in advance. Even
if we are anxious to go beyond eonnmitting certain
reproductive stereotypes, we shall commit them
continually; we are still victims to either yesterday's
or today's tendency to stereotype. This is why, governed
by ethical principles of a higher order, we ought to
avoid everything that might bring us into the disrepute
(pitiful with regard to creativity) of being replicative

The contemporary composer ought to be a discoverer,
an inspirer and dictator of aesthetic taste. If he lacks
ambition in this respect, he will descend to the level
of the "also-ran" producers of music (easily replaced
by other producers, etc.).


Let us consider these aspects individually. The com-
poser as discoverer. In music, as in any other field,
discoveries occur constantly. "Occur" is not the right
expression. The composers are the ones who make
them. It is to them that this role has been assigned
(if it is true). To be a discoverer in music does not
mean to disclose the regularities contained in it (for
this task may be undertaken by a contemporary
analyst), but to produce material characterized by such
relations that it becomes possible to uncover hitherto
unknown possibilities in music. Associated with this
task is the composer's role as an inspirer. The creative
composer should incite others to act in spheres of which
they have scarcely any presentiment. Any kind of new
music is inspirational, both at the time when it is
being created and presented and — for this may also
happen — when it becomes the centre of concern for
others. The last of the composer's roles, the dictation
of aesthetic taste, is the most difficult. It must be
emphasized here that the composer himself, and not
the reviewers of music or the audience, is to decide
what is good, to decide about aesthetic issues. After
all, our artistic taste today has also been moulded by
composers, not reviewers.


Social changes have lately affected everyone. How has
the social status of the composer changed and what is
the nature of his social activity?






A marginal,, but important question in this state of
affairs: what is the contemporary composer?

Most certainly, the activities of the contemporary com-
poser cannot be assessed by the standards of the pre-
vious century. Nowadays his activities are more intro-
vert than extrovert, concentrated more on the object
than on its effect, and enclosed in a model which he
moulds himself, not in a- model imposed on him.


Here there is a problem calling for explanation: to
what degree is the composer dependent on his envi-
ronment, on the circles in which he displays his activity?
These relationships are treated in many different ways.
In some social systems the composer is one of many
people engaged in co-creation, subordinated one to
another by the very fact of their being put on an
equal footing. It happens — and today we feel it more
keenly than at any other time — that in a world of
different contradictory interests he has moved right
out to the margins of society, where, after all, he can
act so much more easily and independently, because
he has been debarred from his previous role, verging
on a mission (nineteenth century!). In various systems
of our times the composer assumes different roles;
however, it may be stated in general that his social
activity is not direct but transcendent. To serve one's
society means to compose as well as possible.


What are the characteristics of contemporary composing

to think over and creatively transform a great many
problems that arise in connection with the. present
situation of contemporary music. For that which art
uses least to its advantage is freedom.


What factor seems to be the most important in new

The most important factor of contemporary music,
music which has been evolved over a few decades
and has enjoyed various successes in individual fields,
is the change of material and its change in relations.
Change has existed since the remotest 4imes; however,
in new music it has simply become a governing prin-
ciple and its absence brings about situations which are
obscure in many respects. Change results in a very
natural manner from the only formal principle that
has survived up to now, namely, that of variation.

The contemporary composer's craft is not restricted
simply to composing. From the practical point of view
composing is an easy action — assuming both the
musical talent of the composer and his authentic need
for creativity — and it bases itself on a craft which
can be conveyed in a short time to anyone, on condi-
tion that he is a fully mature musician. However,
correct composition does not suffice today and most
certainly it cannot be the motivation for creative
activity. In order to achieve anything in composition
one must know how to introduce values which are
unknown to it. For this purpose, the composer's con-
sciousness must be expanded by a number of experi-
ments which may become the basis for a continually
augmenting ideational superstructure of new creativity.
The aim of this book is to encourage the contemporary
composer to action in directions which have hardly
been indicated in music. The potentialities of music
are enormous, their realization up to now relatively
small. To remedy this state of affairs it is necessary

The foregoing problem is not quite unequivocal. Change
can be attained with a high proportion of elements left
unchanged. There need only be a partial change, not
a total one. It is not certain whether the very percepti-
bility of variation is important here. Perhaps it suffices
that this rule shall be observed in composing only.

Compare Examples 1, 2, 3 and 4. Find where these
pieces resemble each other and where they differ (each
example is to be compared with each of the remaining
ones,, there being 6 comparative juxtapositions alto-
gether). Establish which examples bear the greatest
resemblance to each other (in the largest number of
facets!), and which differ most. This is, however, only
a preliminary task. In the further course of analysis
of the examples find to what extent we can speak of
change in each of them and whether it is sufficient in
all of them; moreover, see what the composers observe
to avoid monotony when they use elements little
capable of being changed and how they compensate


for restrictions in some facet. The solution of these
problems is not simple and, therefore, the secrets of
the factor of change must be divined intuitively. In
coming to know further the functions of the causa-
tional factor of change, these functions will no longer
be as inaccessible as they were at first contact.


Analogy and change — the opposition of these notions
to each other and the possibility of connections between
them in a composition

the techniques of new music as spontaneously, as pos-
sible, "unconsciously". Some time later, subject this
piece of music to a very scrupulous examination for
mechanically applied analogies and tendencies to change
the material (naturally it cannot be, for instance, a typ-
ical dodecaphonic piece in which the change of pitch
is, althought it should not be, the point of departure
for composition. Compare Schbnberg's music with that
of Webern, who did not compose dodecaphonically,
but went above and beyond dodecaphony). Taking
detailed notes, find the point your present composi-
tional consciousness has reached and its distance
from the problems that you have got to know from
Examples 1—4.

Up to the present time music has always been based
on both these factors. However, in new music analogy
has had to make room for the factor of change. In the
first place, the factor of analogy has lost much of its
formative power. So far as composition is concerned,
analogy puts music to death: when, for example, there
occurs a repetition of a passage of music, composing
ceases to be what it ought to be. Therefore, analogy
had to be abandoned in favour of the variational
principle with all its consequences. Music is now ruled
by the principle of constant but not mechanical

Re-examine closely the functioning of the individual
elements of music from the examples (1—4) you al-
ready know. Find in which elements the principle of
variation prevails and in which that of analogy. Now
establish to what degree analogy is mechanical (neutral,
indifferent, conventional, simply not perceived by the
composer as potentially changeable) or how far it
results from special selection, the deliberate surrender
of change, and, on the other hand, to what degree
change is non-imeehanical (and therefore applied inten-
tionally, not because change is possible but because
its introduction brings about such an animation of
the musical substance as cannot be attained in another

Compose a short piece for piano, at first without
considering either the meaning of analogy or the func-
tions of the factor of change; compose it in the same
way as you composed everything before, reaching for


Elementary study of the factor of change in music. On
what does musical change actually depend?

The essence of change in music depends on the pres-
ence of internal changeable relationships. In order to
demonstrate this, we ought to make use of the musical
consequences of assuming the binary system. Handling
the numerical symbols 0 and 1, we can perform a
number of operations, which will excellently illustrate
this problem (never hitherto taken seriously).
Real change, such as we are concerned with in music,
cannot be formed mechanically. It suffices to take
a look at the result of the simplest method to make
sure of that. Let us take, by way of example, only two
symbols (they may represent, e.g., two percussion
instruments differing in pitch): 0 and 1. If we decide
that our model will be the formula 01010101 etc.
(Example 5), the most elementary analysis of such
a process of variation will show that although a change
occurs at each moment, the whole process is marked
by superior analogy, which ruins the change, which
we have otherwise so perfectly programmed. What are
we to do to avoid this? To answer this question we
ought to inspect the very process of change somewhat
more closely. In our example there are only two pairs
of symbols, 01 and 10. We experience the absence of
the pairs represented by 00 and 11 as a lack of informa-
tion regarding the possibilities of structural changes.
This is why, for instance, the arrangement 10011, or
the like, will satisfy us much more than the previous
mechanical juxtaposition of contrasting values. In


musical terms, the alternation of two symbols stands
for an ordinary tremolo on two percussion instruments,,
which by no means can be regarded as satisfactory
either aesthetically or technically. However, let us try
turning the next sequence into musical language
and it will appear much more attractive than the
structurally reduced tremolo (as will other similar
sequences). Let us draw from this observation as many
compositional consequences as possible. It should be
kept in mind that only the translation of such an
arrangement into musical language may be of didactic
significance. There is no reason to fear that such an
analysis of the possibilities of music leads to something
in the nature of musical abstraction. Each abstraction
can be changed into the concrete, if only we turn it
into musical language and ideas. This remark also
concerns many of the subsequent sections.

Mechanical change should be contrasted with internal
change. How to do this is shown in Examples 5—8,
which are to be analysed very closely (Example 8a
presents the universe of possibilities and Example 8b
presents a long digital sequence composed sponta-
neously; the attainment of the full universe requires
rational complementing — the composer should not aim
to attain this universe but ought to be aware of its


Develop as accurately as possible the ideas given in
Examples 5—8 by using new categories. Now that you
are familiar with the principles of real internal varia-
tion in m'usic, try to compose a number of musical
pieces for percussion instruments of non-defined pitch.
They may be pieces both for one performer, who plays
a number of similar or different instruments, and for
two or more performers, in which case the number
of different instruments may be proportionally smaller.
In these compositions you must not go beyond the
boundary of chamber music, but lay stress on the
virtuoso treatment of the instruments. At this stage
you should not yet attempt to write extensive pieces;
they should rather be concise forms, each time treated
differently in respect of movement and metre. The
handling of a fairly large number of instruments ne-
cessitates the extension of the binary system into
a multi-digital one. However, the digital system should
not be developed to consist of more than a few sym-
bols, otherwise we lose our grip on the whole stock
of variational possibilities of arrangements. This is why

it is better to employ stratification —• very character-
istic of composition — in which there is an overlay of
several programmes.


Further compositional expansion of our research in the
method of employing the factor of change in music

We can work with three or more elements: Examples
9—12. Example 9 illustrates the variation of internal
two-note cells built at four different pitch levels and
Example 10 the configurations of three-note cells at
three different pitch levels (10b — note: there is
a possibility of exchanging the pitch elements). Example
11 shows the variation of cells of several notes with
an inner division defined beforehand (and thus with
the number of repetitions of the given pitch deter-
mined in advance); as a result, here too, the factor of
change observed by us comes into prominence, though
in another form. Example 12 combines the experiments
from Example 9 with a new problem of change up to
four places (internal change: the digital sequence in
the order: 1—4, 2—5, 3—6, etc., cf. also, Example 6b
and c) and at the same time illustrates the possibility
of the translation of abstract structures into musical

Handling pitch material of various numbers of
elements (e.g. from 2 to 5) and applying different meth-
ods of internal variation for it, and therefore, as it
were, putting different demands on it as regards
variation, make 12 different successions varying inter-
nally in different manners. Basing yourself on the
given models (Example 13), examine minutely the
possibilities of internal differentiations (in the first
case it is to be a series of six-note cells, in which three
notes are the same and three are different; construct
also your own models).


The consequences of the limitation of components to
a few symbols


In this section we are no longer concerned with the
vast multitude of general compositional possibilities,
which in any case music never fully utilizes, but are
concentrating upon the problem of exclusively internal
change. This is work to be done "in depth" and — if
well executed — it may bring about a marked ex-
tension of the awareness of composing techniques. In
the course of cognisance of the laws governing music,
such "work 'in depth' " may lead to a better under-
standing of the essence of music.

A decision to accept limitations in components after
having worked through the foregoing exercises im-
mediately gives rise to the following question: isn't
there a risk of confining ourselves excessively to a min-
imum on making such a choice? Assuredly, such
exercises, as have gone before should not be treated
mechanically but, on the contrary, should be understood
from the outset as musical models. This is not difficult
since in music abstractions, as we know, turn readily
into concrete phenomena. For this reason, it should be
possible to obtain many different consequences from
even the fewest juxtapositions. So far, the element
modelled here is rhythmically conceived motion, but
the symbols, which are subject to the laws of change,
can also be translated into other musical elements.

In Example 14 find traces of the consequences of a thor-
ough-going analysis of the problem touched upon in
Sections 17—19.

Such a division will be musically complex just as
a division of a | bar into halves (Example 15) will
also be complex. Complexity occurs if we contradict
an originally accepted principle. In Example 16 we
find further details concerning superstructural musical
complexities. The values set together in this way are
called — customarily though perhaps not quite reason-
ably — irrational values.

Scrutinize Example 17 carefully for places where
irrational values have been used and find out what
the. consequences are for the general impression
of motion and movement in the music. Find those
places where the music is animated by the in-
troduction of irrational values, those places where
it need not be enriched by this method and, lastly,
where the introduction of irrational values is imma-
terial to the process of music. Undoubtedly, owing
to the introduction of irrational values the text becomes
visually richer, more difficult to read, and at the same
time makes the performer provide at least approx-
imate equivalents to the complex structures. Examine
the example for the places where we may speak about
expressive benefits involving musical movement result-
ing from the application of irrational values.

Compose a short piece (abounding in rests) in two
versions, one based on simple values and the other one
with irrational values superimposed on them. Compare
both versions and find what sort of methods of trans-
forming simple values into complex ones suit you


Simple and complex values



Is there a progression of rhythmic values from the
simplest to the most complex ones and how is it ex-

Rhythm is apperceived on a logical not an auditory
basis. We may therefore safely say that rhythm includes
both simple and complex values.

We must be aware that the division of a bar composed
of two quavers into three equal parts is a procedure of

We can arrange a progression of rhythmic values,
having at our disposal an increasing number of values
which differ from each other in richer and
richer numerical relations. In comparing rhythmic
values with each other, we endeavour to find a com-
mon denominator. The more disproportionate the dif-
ferences occurring between the values, the more


complex is the logical structure of the whole. Example
18 shows how such progressions can be produced
(18a — the method of finding proportions and the first
orderings of the material obtained; 18b — the full
system of values obtained not only by dividing them
but also by combining different values, owing to which
the range is gradually widened still more and the
arrangement of the rhythmic system undergoes a still
greater enrichment; 18c — the close analysis of two
extracts from the table of rhythmic progression; 18d •—
the possibility of arranging a series of different rhyth-
mic values only slightly distant from each other:
naturally, in practice values which lie so near each
other do not have much of a practical application;
nevertheless we should get to know them).

20b shows a series of developed rhythmic processes,
whose inner variety is more emphasized by differentia-
tions of melodic motion (in the approximative sense of
the word melodic) and articulation. Finally, Example
21 illustrates the process of the gradual complication of
rhythmic material, being based invariably on one
series of pitches (in order to obtain comparative
material). The use of one and the same series for very
different rhythmic models makes it an element of
minor importance. The example visualizes a change in
the composer's way of thinking. Note that, as regards
movement, consequences of a higher order can be
obtained even from the simplest models (Example 21,
passages 3, 4, 6, 9., 10, 12, etc.). -

In practice, the compositional consequences of such
a progression may to some extent contradict the ex-
istence of an equivalence between the complexity of
a musical picture and that of the complexity of the
effect on the listener. This, however, should not
obscure the fact that only notated relations are of
objective value to us. The antinomy between the image
presented by notes and its expressive effect has always
existed in music; we must put up with it and simply
take little notice of it. What is more, such antinomies
ought to exist, for they create in great measure what
we might term—• the enigma of art.

Closely analysing Table 19 (19a is based on simple
values, 19b on combined, conjoined, values), try to find
for your special favour several dozen "two-voice" suc-
cession whose development might enliven the monotony
of the rhythmic models used so far.


Only the piano has been employed in Example 21.
All the passages exhibit similarity in the method of
procedure itself, but differ nevertheless in texture.
(Observe, that increasing the quantitative number of
techniques as well as bringing various irrational
additional values into interaction enriches the rhythmic
material only in certain aspects, as we already know
from the previous chapter.)

Using simple and irrational values, make up 6 different
juxtapositions of rhythmic models in

<» £> u> «>
I and l metres. Arrange the models together in
a progressive succession keeping in mind the rhythmic
result (the models must not be arranged on the
mechanical principle of asymmetrical complications!).

Make up, independent of metre, a series of 24 rhythmic
models and space them out within sections lasting
approximately half a minute each. Take care that no
mechanical repetitions of similar situations appear
in them.

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