On Composing, Shedding Tears, and The Emotion of Music – Contributed by Peter Grenader

Posted: November 20, 2012 in Experiences, On Beauty, On Music
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The words below are not mine. They come from a friend that I’ve known for over 35 years. A man who made possible my first ever public performance of electronic music, who shared in the friendship of my most influential high school teacher, John Waddell, and who has remained a friend for all these three and a half decades. It is a very beautiful post, originating on Facebook, by my old Encino neighbor, mentor, and friend Peter Grenader. Here it is, verbatim. Thanks Peter…. We can dedicate this one to the “Great Harmonic Set”.


To all of my friends you successfully and sometimes painfully survive the process of composing music of any ilk:

If, when in the throws of writing, we cannot experience moments when other composers contributions to our art moves us to tears, then it’s time to pack it up and move on.

I’ve asked myself a thousand times why I do this. When I do – often I begin the process by listening to the second movement of Beethoven’s 5th, the Andante. The intention being a benchmark of what should be, yet it often only reminds me of that which I am incapable of creating… so why do it? Why make another film after Cinima Paradiso, or sculpt another portrait after the The Virgin and Child with St. Anne? It seems the answer comes from the very emotion stirred by the works which effect us, that once one stops trying to impress their audience by a flexing of creative muscles and instead relies on that fundamental emotion as the transmitter – then and only then can we consider what we’ve created art. At that point it has the same right to be as any other and fit to be seen, or heard or most importantly – felt by others.

When this milestone occurs is often times evasive. For me personally it was when I realized that listening to works by other composers could predictably move me to tears. That’s when I knew I got it. The free reception of their emotion afforded me the conduit in which to transmit my own. I’m not talking perfect fifths here, or the ‘love chord’. I’m talking about representation of many emotions – love, anger, pride even sexual angst through an equally varied pallet of sonic possibilities: pitch, amplitude timbre or rhythm. Many parts of Le Sacre du Printemps and almost none of Subotnick’s Until Spring could be called pretty – but they are both highly emotional works. Masterpieces in that regard.

Something to think about as we struggle….

  1. Peter Grenader says:

    very well said. this guy is a genius (wink). Thank you for dong this, Steve.

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