Wednesday, 23 June 2010


“Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts.” - Percy Bysshe Shelley

When one listens to music the experience is so very much different to when one plays it on a solo instrument or in an orchestra. Even more different is when one composes the music. One hears it differently in one’s head, and it evokes different sets of emotions that one tries to exteriorise. This is so unlike purely listening to music when one simply interiorises the feelings of the creators of music. Even the most facile music has birth pangs that can be quite painful for even the most gifted of composers.

As someone who has listened, played and composed music, the most painful of memories seem to generate the most powerful music. An interpreter can all too easily get lost in the technicalities of the work and concentrate in giving a faultless performance, however, if the feelings of the composer are not approached, the emotional impact of the resultant sounds can be lost.


How easy it is for you to sing!
You play the lyre like an angel,
Trills, happy intervals and major scales!
But these black notes, how mournful on the page,
What agony they hide, what pain, what effort…
They’re blackbirds, portents of death
Sitting like they are on five stretched wires.

Each note’s a wound made with sharp knife,
And you run through them without thought
Lightly skipping up the arpeggios,
Descending effortlessly the glissandos,
And think not for a moment
Of the poor composer’s
Creative torment.


  1. I don't know what it is like hearing music differently in one’s head, but I do recognise a beatiful painting when I see one :)

  2. Beautiful, although sad, poem Nicholas!
    I had never thought that the composer may hear the music differently to everyone else who listens to it...