An Exploration of Composing through Writing "Mirus"

December 15, 2015 / By: Matthew Thomas Dehnel

Composing is often studied in a strictly technical sense, focusing much on the music theory behind the work. Inspired by the doctoral thesis of Ralph Hultgren, this paper interrogates the composing process in a more personal sense. In this paper, I write about my creative process in order to share my thinking but also to analyze my thoughts and examine both how and why I compose. This is presented in an autoethnographic form, a method used to systematically analyze one's work as it related to their surrounding culture. The creative process is examined, but particular focus is given to personal strengths, shortcomings, and methods that fall outside of expected composition commentary. I first describe my overarching experiences and challenges with composing, then discuss the creation of my new concert band work, Mirus, in particular. This interrogation had many results, but three significant, overarching ones: 1) a deeper understanding of the craftsmanship of writing - the tools that I possess and the work it takes to utilize them; 2) the inspiration to compose more music, now that I have unpacked the tools, steps, and roadblocks; and 3) the realization that composers will benefit from journaling about their compositions as they compose.