How Do Composers Know When a Musical Work is Finished?

May 28, 2014

mister a music place

2011Symposium_1_2I read an interesting question on social media the other day. A composer asked, “When do you know that a composition is finished?” Several answers were offered, ranging from “when the composer has expressed everything he or she wanted,” to “when the parts are passed out to the musicians.” The first of these has potential. Like a good conversationalist, a good composer says things of interest, but never over stays his welcome. A good composer knows how to make every note count, never stopping too soon, or writing too many.  As a listener, I have had the experience of listening to a musical work that ended abruptly and in an unsatisfying manner, and I have also had the experience of thinking the music was ending, only to discover that it was not, and enduring a meandering affair until at last it concluded.

Leonard Bernstein finished his Omnibus broadcast by stating…

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