From Beethoven to Shostakovich: The Psychology of the Composing Process

By Max Graf | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV. The Composition Process

I.

ACTUAL COMPOSITION work is accomplished in a regulated coordination of unconscious forming and critical thinking, of inspiration and work. This harmony of the creative forces is the most difficult part of compositorial work. It may be disturbed at any moment, and requires an uninterrupted balance of the conscious and unconscious faculties. When Mozart did not complete works he had begun, but preferred to start afresh on something new, it was because collaboration of fantasy and work demands a certain warmth which had cooled off. Works with large forms, such as Bach fugues, Beethoven symphonies and Wagner's music dramas cannot be created without long lasting coordination of mightiest musical fantasy and greatest spiritual strength. Nor was this co-ordination on the great bridge arcs of musical work permitted to be less perfect for even one second. Similar masses melt only in the biggest smelting furnaces.

We are astonished to learn that Haendel wrote his oratorio "Israel in Egypt" in two weeks, or that Schubert wrote eight songs in a single day--October 15, 1815--and another seven songs four days later. This calls for such perfect union of inspiration and work that their cooperation takes place without pause and without restraint. A composer like Beethoven had to struggle

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