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Home Composition Compose Like Beethoven in the 21st Century

Compose Like Beethoven in the 21st Century

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I am currently taking a ten-week continuing education class at Northwestern University on Ludwig van Beethoven. The instructor is Dr. Drew Davies, a professor at the Beinen School of Music at Northwestern University. Undeniably, he is considered the most celebrated composer of all time. It only makes sense that we infuse Beethoven’s concepts in compositions within the 21st century.

Beethoven listened to his own voice and “marched to a different drummer.” Before Beethoven, musicians were employed by benefactors such as the church or royalty, he was self-employed. Music was published through these institutions with single parts only. Beethoven published outside the main stream through publishing houses and sometime published the same piece at a variety of houses, making more money for himself. He published full scores.

21st century – Publish your own works, set up your own publishing company. Have a full and individual parts available. 


He expanded the orchestra, but had a balance of old styles using new techniques. He was comfortable in his own world and created his own rules, but kept a skeleton of musical composition rules as to not to upset the mainstream community. Accessibility of musical instruments though the use of massed produced instruments made it so the masses could now own musical instruments. Performances moved from small venues of chamber music to the huge concert halls for all people to participate. The piano was the new instrument of era. Beethoven composed chamber music, symphonies, and piano concertos, using old instruments as well as new. He composed for the masses to hear his pieces.

21st century – Use new instruments on the iPad or create your own instruments. Instead of huge performing groups, compose for small groups of instruments that create a different sound. Compose using instruments that are not normally used together. Set up a soundcloud account or youtube channel so others can view and hear your compositions.

21st century – Technology has allowed anyone to compose and have playback without hiring musicians to play the compositions. Composition has moved mainstream.

He was famous during his lifetime. However, not a child prodigy. He was what we call a “slow processor” or “late bloomer.” His personal life of hearing loss and unrequited love affairs place his as a tragic figure. He overcame many struggles and is seen as an “emotional” artist.

21st century – anyone can be a composer with access to a computer and free online tools. 

Now, move into the 21st century, taking Beethoven’s life, philosophy and innovations. Many music educators teach composition like they are teaching in Beethoven’s era, not composing how Beethoven created. They demand that students compose for the symphony using forms that are so old that even Beethoven changed them in his time. Let’s compose like Beethoven would if he was in the 21st century using innovative and creative ideas.

I am presenting “Composing Online Is Not Just Notation” at the TI:ME conference in Louisville. What I to intend to expand upon is letting people experiment with different instruments and notation. Click here for the entire presentation.


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1 Comment  comments 

One Response

  1. Wish I could see your presentation. What is the difference between composing and “creating sound”?

    I can have anyone create “art” on an iPad as well. But putting colors together isn’t necessarily art.

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