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Guide To Musical Composition
From the Preface:
"How does one begin, in order to compose a little piece of music? Pretty thoughts often float before me; but if I try to write them down and make a little musical whole of them, I commonly am stopped short after the first four measures, where my fancy leaves me in the lurch. If to the first thoughts I add new ones, they will not fit together rightly. Then I wonder at the composers of larger works. It is incomprehensible to me, how one can think out such innumerable thoughts, and fit them all together into one consistent whole. I remark, to be sure, that in such works many a thought, once there, comes up again, but as it were in a new dress. For the study of a School of Thorough Bass I have no time; moreover, such a work, without the special guidance of a teacher, would probably remain a book with seven seals for me. Besides, it is not at all my purpose to form myself into a composer proper; I only wish to have just so much light in this matter, as to enable me at times to write musical trifles for my own satisfaction, or at the most for good friends."
These words are taken from the letter of a friend, who turned to me in this predicament. I often have the same inquiry made of me by word of mouth, and information asked of me, which leads me to infer the quite erroneous notion of many dilettanti, namely, that a piece of music consists for the most part of a string of wholly new thoughts. To prove the contrary, in the most obvious and striking manner, I have made them give me a single measure, or only a couple of tones, out of which I have forthwith developed various little pieces, waltzes, polkas, &c, partly playing them over first on the piano, and partly writing them down without the aid of the instrument. This excited great astonishment; and quite as much so when I pointed out, in larger compositions, how whole periods are developed out of a few notes. Of course I could not make the matter wholly clear and comprehensible to such inquirers all at once; but I promised them to lead them to a spring, from which the greatest masters in the art had drawn, a real magic fountain, which so fructifies the inventive fancy of those who drink from it, that they find one musical thought continually crowding out another.
Where is this fountain? Quick, let us go to it! Gently, friends! Before we reach it, we must first go over a small mountain, and then we must not drink too hastily, for that is dangerous. The name of the magic fountain I can give beforehand; it is called Thematic Treatment.
Thus did this "Guide" originate. May it find friendly reception in wider circles, and lead many to the fountain. But a knowledge of the theory of Harmony is presupposed; Whoever wants this knowledge can easily obtain it through my "Introduction to the Theory of Harmony," of which this 'Guide" is a sort of second part, or further development.
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