Composer: how to find your own style

That’s an interesting question! I guess, many young “classical” composers break their heads on figuring out the answer. So do I…

Here I would like to write about my vision of composing as a professional. Style of composing: “classical” or since word “classical” has very wide meaning (are we talking about Classicism period music – Mozart, for example, or in “general classical music” like Bach, or in the end, “classical” is just a music that is performed in a concert hall?), so let’s call it “intellectual”.

For the beginner creation of smth usually starts in the beginning by imitating smth, what was done before, smth we have seen or heard: following someone’s else style or a way. We need to learn to compose in style of such masters like Palestrina, Bach, Bartok, Messiaen and Ligeti, so to learn a form and how to develop a piece or idea. But after, there is a time to form our own style and this period is full of search, doubt and discoveries!

Listening to above mentioned composers and studying their style gave me a lot. Later on I found great source of inspiration in Russian traditional music. Traditional music fed many great composers because in it are focused traditions and one of the best ways to do the things: intervals, rhythms, feelings… This music is time-tested and that’s why it has a lot of power in itself. So using the traditional music is always a good choice, I think.

Here I would like to go back to the beginning of my path as a musician. When one starts dreaming to become a musician, he usually has different dreams and goals such as: becoming famous and rich (of course! To be musician it is the best way to become wealthy, we all know that, ha-ha :-)) or to give smth to people, world or country. I had some of those dreams (I didn’t become rich yet though, but maybe soon) and ended up (did I? Because you never know, what will come tomorrow!) just willing to make a small contribution to music, if it will turn out so.

But how to make such contribution? The answer lays, I think, in next: one has to link his music to what was already done before. Then – to extend it, building a bridge between the past and the present, mix with some modern understanding of the world, so to connect those two moments, to give roots to the music. So if we keep this mindset, then the way is more clear: one has to study traditional music and combine it with his own (modern) vision of the world and feelings. That’s also how most likely you can enrich music of your country (and music in general).


Getting influenced by music from other countries.

As I wrote above, I get inspired by Russian traditional music. But I also like African and Indian music. And I would like to use it in my music too. Of course, I don’t want to become an African or Indian music composer. I was not born in any of those countries. Stylisation is totally fine until it is done occasionally and well. You can borrow some elements for your pieces from other musical traditions, African rhythms, fro example, but one has to “implant” it carefully. At this point of my studies, I believe, that it’s better not to spend time on trying to do things, that are far from your understanding and culture. Most likely a Spanish guitarist will compose better flamenco piece, than you and with better balance and character. And a chance, that you will enrich Spanish music by writing in this style – is very small. So it’s better to concentrate on the music of your home country or on the music of area near where you lived most of your life or where you were born and which you understand very well. But interesting to notice, that it is easier to become a performer of music from remote countries, than composer, because in this case we deal with different thing (there are some great flamenco players interprets, that are not Spanish).


As a conclusion I see, that music with no roots (just some pop song) has almost no future and obviously less past. It’s comes, lives in a moment and then disappears, like it didn’t exists. Some people believe, that music is more about revolution, than evolution. Myself at the moment I think, that it should gradually evolve from what was done before. Only then it will have a sense and meaning for the people. Only then it might be understood and be useful somehow. Appreciating traditions and adjusting them to the time we live in.