Why composers face the music


Sir, – I commend Michael Dervan for his thoughtful words (“Why would anyone want to be a composer?” Arts, December 18th) on the vocation of composing music. He identifies many of the hurdles composers must negotiate: mastery of technique, command of material, score preparation, and indifference or neglect from the world at large.

In answer to Mr Dervan’s question, I submit three reasons. The primary impulse, as for song-writers and sound engineers, is to create an audible work compelling enough to merit repetition.

Twinned with this is the urge, shared by architects, to master a conceptual language that governs all aspects of the work, from local detail to global structure.

A third factor emerges over time: composition is addictive. A work reaches completion not just because it is a certain length, but because its essential raison d’être has been fully expressed. When a composer earns that feeling once, he or she wants to repeat it.

I assert that most composers derive more satisfaction from this sensation than from public acclaim, which may explain why so many composers eschew populism, sometimes to excess. – Yours, etc.,


Irish Composers’ Collective ,

Victoria Street,


Dublin 8.