How great artists become great — Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky

From Igor Stravinky’s Autobiography:

“For me, as a creative musician, composition is a daily function that I feel compelled to discharge. I compose because I am made for that and cannot do otherwise.Stravinsky,I Just as any organ atrophies unless kept in a state of constant activity, so the faculty of composition becomes enfeebled and dulled unless kept up by effort and practice. The uninitiated imagine that one must await inspiration in order to create. That is a mistake. I am far from saying that there is no such thing as inspiration; quite the opposite. It is found as a driving force in every kind of human activity, and is in no wise peculiar to artists. But that force is only brought into action by an effort, and that effort is work.”

Stravinsky quotes Tchaikovsky from one of his letters: “Since I begantchaikovsky-kuznetsov-200x261 to compose I have made it my object to be, in my craft, what the most illustrious masters were in theirs; that is to say, I wanted to be, like them, an artisan, just as a shoemaker is …. [They] composed their immortal works exactly as a shoemaker makes shoes; that is to say, day in, day out, and for the most part to order.”

How great artists become great (Michelangelo, Beethoven).
More on how great artists become great (Liszt).
Yet more on how great artists become great (Rodin).

2 thoughts on “How great artists become great — Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky

  • July 6, 2014 at 10:49 am

    This is the essence of Stravinsky’s genius. He emphasized his approach also in his Poetics of Music where he wrote:
    “This appetite that is aroused in me at the mere thought of putting in order musical elements that have attracted my attention is not at all a fortuitous thing like inspiration, but as habitual and periodic, if not as constant, as a natural need.
    This premonition of an obligation, this foretaste of a pleasure, this conditioned reflex, as a modern physiologist would say, shows clearly that the idea of discovery and hard work is what attracts me.” (Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music, p 52)

  • July 8, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Not particularly enamored of his work but artist Chuck Close said, “Amateurs wait for inspiration. The rest of us just show up for work.”

    Perhaps it’s a matter of putting the cart before the horse. Sit down and set to the job. While doing it inspiration may come. To sit passively waiting for a muse to “blow sunshine up your ass” is not the road to productivity and possibly greatness.

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