Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Sergei Rachmaninoff on how to break the rules

with 2 comments

Sergei Rachmaninoff

I can respect the artistic aim of a composer if he arrives at the so-called modern idiom after an intense period of preparation…Such composers know what they are doing when they break a law; they know what to react against, because they have had experience in the classical forms and style. Having mastered the rules, they know which can be violated and which should be obeyed. But, I am sorry to say, I have found too often that young composers plunge into the writing of experimental music with their school lessons only half learned. Too much radical music is sheer sham, for this very reason: its composer sets about revolutionizing the laws of music before he learned them himself.

Segei Rachmaninoff

Written by nevalalee

August 17, 2013 at 9:50 am

Posted in Quote of the Day

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  1. I think this lesson applies to all art forms, including literature. Too often, a young writer will decide “I’m not going to follow these rules; I’m going to do it my own way”. They fail to understand why these rules were created, and thus fall into all of the pitfalls the rules were meant to sidestep. They defy rules simply because the rules exist, which leads to chaos and shoddy workmanship.

    And there’s the rub: very often such lessaiz fair approaches to the writing (or other artistic processes) are motivated not so much by a resistance to the regulations themselves, but by laziness. They don’t want to learn the rules or wait until they’ve learned them, so the blame the rules for “constraining their creativity”. Except having no limitations doesn’t enhance creative ideas, it dampens them. It means they don’t have to try, and lack of effort killed more potential stories than any regulation ever did.


    August 20, 2013 at 2:48 am

  2. I agree, although the more I get older, I also see that a slavish devotion to the rules for their own sake can also be a problem. The challenge is to cut a middle way, and it’s one I’m still trying to figure out.


    August 20, 2013 at 8:27 am

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