What does it mean to ‘compose’?

Tomorrow I will present a paper at a postgraduate symposium in Leeds about composition and what it might entail. This talk also forms a small part of the argument in my PhD thesis. A the moment, it poses more questions than it answers. Below is an abstract for this talk:

What is really involved in the act of composing? Does it concern ‘material’ (whatever that is) or structure? Are composers genuinely ‘creating’ when they compose or are they merely rearranging what already exists into a coherent form? In order to explore this area, my investigation begins with the following question: what level of constituent ‘material’ is necessary for a piece to be recognised as the same piece or to be identified as a different piece? My practice-led investigation into this query concerns a series of compositions where each piece is a re-ordered version of the first composition in the series. This collection of pieces poses several research questions: first, can (or will) these pieces be perceived as separate compositions that share the same obvious ‘blocks’ of material (which is essentially what they are) or as essentially the same composition? Second, if perceived as separate, do the ‘movements’ in this collection sound like separate compositions by different composers or like separate compositions by the same composer? Third, if they sound like separate compositions by the same composer, then is it the micro-level which determines whether or not a piece sounds like it is written by a particular composer? Finally, what can this research say about the act of composing?

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