The essence of good composition

Having recently attended several promising but ultimately disappointing concerts of new music, it struck me that many of the compositions I heard, while artful, lacked the key ingredient to good composition. The composers were clearly highly trained – but somehow, in all their studies, seemed to have missed the overarching element of a musical composition that, if there, inspires. Sound as story telling. A solid architectural foundation upon which notes, like bricks, are laid. It little matters if the language of the composition is tonal or atonal, dissonant or consonant, contrapuntal or harmonic – but what must unfailingly be there is an underlying architecture that makes each note meaningful, with every note arising from an inexorable musical logic, with no note missing or out of place. Without that architecture, every musical gesture sounds empty. Many years ago, it was playing Bach that led me to first understand this – not a single note that doesn’t belong precisely where it is, no more, no less. But, like a building without a solid foundation, a musical composition that lacks a structural underpinning will collapse into a pile of notes that leaves you, at best indifferent, at worst, annoyed.