Reflections On Musical Composition

An Integrative Technical, Aesthetical And Spiritual Approach

by Hridananda Andrés Ramón

A dissertation for a BA
in Music and Composition

Submitted to:
Department of Music
Iceland Academy of the Arts, 2008

The following dissertation is presented as an academic reflection on the art of musical composition. It is an attempt to offer a description and an analysis of various intellectual, technical, aesthetical, and spiritual considerations implied in the complex process of composition. They reflect the primary interests and concerns that I, as a student of composition finishing a BA degree at the Iceland Academy of the Arts (LHÍ – Listaháskóli Íslands), had to face and resolve during a three-year period of musical studies.

The paper starts by posing some overall preliminary remarks about musical creativity in the globalised multicultural society at the turn of the 21st century. This is followed by a study of the process of musical composition from three different perspectives as ascribed to three renowned composers from the Western musical tradition of the second half of the 20th century, namely: a technical perspective advocated by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971); an aesthetical approach ascribed to the French composer Pierre Boulez (b.1931); and a spiritually oriented stance characteristic of the British composer Jonathan Harvey (b.1939). The objective with this analysis is to observe how these three composers approach the craft of musical composition from one predominant point of view (although not necessarily disregarding the other ones), and to elucidate the reasons for which these composers approach musical composition from their particular perspective as well as the effects they expect to reach and the meaning they want to convey by doing so.

After presenting this analysis of musical composition within the 20th century Western classical tradition, a short survey will follow in which the stance of two Eastern thinkers and spiritual figures towards musical creation is presented, namely those of Indians Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) and Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007), this latter being also an active composer and performer. Here the main differences between the Western and Eastern traditions will be observed. View the complete PDF