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  • by Judy Coder

Writing Music That Works

As a composer, I love hearing that my music is challenging, and that it’s also accessible. I’m not interested in writing the most difficult piece. My goal is to write music that is easily enjoyed, for the audience and for the performer. My goal is to write music that fills a need.

I have at times been tempted to write music for music’s sake, but the few times that I tried, I ended up frustrated because I couldn’t find anyone to perform the music I’d written. Music that cannot be shared is a terrible waste. I have since developed the habit of tailoring my musical writings for a specific purpose, often with specific performers in mind. Some of my work is commissioned, but all of my work is targeted.

It’s greatly satisfying to write an SAB piece for the small middle school choir with 3 male (nearly changed) voices, or a tasteful jazz arrangement that’s accessible for string players in their second year of study. Every time I hear my new music performed by someone else, I am excited to see what they’ll choose to do with it, and how they’ll make it their own.

The biggest treat, though, is hearing that my music has been chosen for a repeat performance based on its own merits. After the premiere of a piece, it is filed away in the vault, just one among many. In order to be chosen for performance again, months or perhaps years later, that piece has to have been truly memorable. I’m thrilled that has happened for me. It inspires me to continue to produce high quality work that is accessible.

Now, as I begin crafting my first masterwork – an opera – I am again thinking about practicalities: Who is my target performing organization? Who is my target audience? How do I draw them into the story, and into the music? This work will be too big to leave to chance; I can’t just write it and hope someone will be interested.

Music is a calling. Music is a gift. Music makes us whole. Music speaks when we cannot. Music connects us; music binds us together. The possibilities are limitless.

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