What does it mean to “write” music?


My niece Rachel, a recent grad of RIT in film production, is here on campus this summer teaching summer camp kids how to make digital videos. We were watching some of the short videos her kids had produced yesterday (it’s amazing what a group of creative kids can do in a week of summer camp!) and Rachel remarked that they had written the music themselves too.

Of course, what she really meant was that they had assembled some original combination of the stock Garage Band loops to go along with the film. Somehow, that didn’t strike me as “writing music” – nobody had a musical instrument in hand, or a microphone, much less putting down marks on staff paper. It seems to me that we need another verb for this kind of bricolage activity that characterizes so much of current music-making.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s not a valid way to construct music – just that it’s helpful to distinguish between different ways of getting to a musical result.

Or am I hopelessly old-fashioned?

One thought on “What does it mean to “write” music?”

  1. Be careful about definitions. Back in 1979, in her cover of “So You Want to Be (a Rock ‘N’ Roll Star)”, Patti Smith announced “this is the era where everyone creates”. She wasn’t wrong, and she probably had no idea of the technology about to erupt that supports DIY artistic efforts.

    Grass grows up through the cracks in a sidewalk, and people will find a way to express themselves artistically with whatever thay have laying around. Old ways- old formalities- fall away as new tools and new technologies presnt themselves. It’s neither good or bad, and it’s not necessarily disrespectful to the old established ways. It’s just human nature to create with what you have around you.


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