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As of late there has been much interest in the creative process of musical composition. Most studies to date have taken the form of quantitative and/or psychological analyses performed upon composers by researchers who are not themselves composers. In contrast, this project takes a more philosophical and historical approach in that it takes time to reflect upon the context and manner in which music has been composed throughout history. Additionally, this study offers a more personal perspective as it draws information from the author’s own compositional process–as recorded in a composition journal–as well as the thoughts and reflections of composers throughout history. From this information, the essential elements of the compositional process–that is, the elements present in the compositional processes of all composers throughout time–are delineated and several conclusions are drawn about the nature of the compositional process and creativity in general. From these conclusions, several practical suggestions may be made, which might enhance compositional creativity.

Of the conclusions reached in this study, perhaps the most important is the pervasiveness of boundaries–limitations intentionally or unintentionally placed upon the compositional process–within the compositional process. Indeed, it has been concluded that without boundaries of some form, composition would be virtually impossible. Beyond this, however, boundaries help to focus a composer’s creative efforts and, in fact, make the composer more creative than they would have been otherwise. This would seem to suggest that, in sharp contrast to popular opinion, creativity lies not in freedom but rather in the manner in which freedom is limited. This, in turn, might suggest a new paradigm through which musical composition–and possibly all creative practices–might be understood and taught.