Six I's of Composing*



  • study counterpoint, theory, orchestration, musicology, performance,dance, drawing, photography, floral design,  etc.
  • "I believe strongly in the philosophy of composing by intent, not out of ignorance..."




    • Improvisation
      • think of yourself as an explorer discovering (listen!)
      • brainstorm ideas, experiment! … and just write them all down in clusters (notes, words, gestures, motives, colors, textures, dynamics, choreography, etc.)
    • Inspiration
      • only rule = do not sit around and wait to be inspired
        • inspiration comes through doing!


  • build the skeleton of the piece (form, outline, map, time-line, chart)
    • you may need to go back to Idea to come up with more motives, textures, clusters, etc. to incorporate into your structure
  • write down in words what it is you want your piece to sound like
  • in some cases, it can be effective to begin by planning the end
  • you don't write down or orchestrate all the notes at this point

Inscription (Ink)

  • implement the infrastructure ideas by writing down all the "notes" ... in other words: make the work reproducible by creating complete instructions enabling others to perform your work without you present


  • examine the piece carefully and critically
  • read through the entire score multiple times (hearing the music in your head)
    • check if everything is timed well
    • listen for "flow"




  • promote your work by meeting with performers, conductors, and organizations






  • keep in mind all you learned in Intent
  • development
  • contrast, suspense
  • “Compositions that thoroughly explore a few ideas succeed more often that those that expound many different ideas but develop them less.”
    • pg 4 of Techniques of the Contemporary Composer by David Cope
  • tell a story (narrative) - have a trajectory
  • foreground, middleground, background
  • transitions
  • silence (rests, breaths)

* Adapted from Scott McAllister's Four I's of Composing as described on pp. 53-54 of Tori L. Patterson's dissertation.