Hey there all! Don't worry, I'm not dead yet! In fact, I'm working on two things right now. One is one of my usual mega-projects which take frickin' ages to finish, and the other is a piece that was inspired by the movie Gravity which I should finish soon. Did I mention I saw Gravity? My opinion is the same as most people's - I LOVED IT. I highly recommend it for any space-science nerds out there. That said, it's also one of the most intense movies I've ever seen, so if you're easily scared, would not recommend as much.
Now, on to the actual point of this post. I've seen a lot of people lately who don't seem to understand the concept of musical flow/nurturing, and I want to set this straight. So, without further ado...
Flow is one way of thinking about composition, and the overall form. It can be used to aid in transitions, choosing where a climax should go or not, and generally figuring out how the piece should develop. In my transition article, I gave this general summary:
If you analyze music, it might eventually become clear that almost all good music has a direction - a purpose - somewhere it's trying to go. Musical flow is very general, and it depicts the overall feeling of the piece - the movement and changes that the piece goes through. If this flow is disrupted, it's often jarring and breaks the person out of their musical immersion. If the flow remains unbroken* throughout the piece, however, the piece simply brings the listener along for a ride, and they 'experience' the music rather than simply hear it.
This summary clearly states the key point of musical flow. It's the flow of the piece that keeps everything together, and is almost completely universal, allowing it to be a wonderful guiding principle for all music.
There is more to the flow of music than just transitions, however. There are different climaxes which can happen in different ways, and different breakdowns. Using the same exact formula or flow for every piece tends to become more boring, so these should ideally be varied multiple times. Sometimes having little climaxes earlier in the piece can help with a later climax, or sometimes, it can ruin a piece. Typically the biggest climax is the last one, though sometimes people use it as the second-to-last climax instead.
Ideally, the flow of music forms more of a wave rather than a line, several lines, or a simple curve. There are some climaxes, some breakdowns, introduction, exposition, all the elements of... well, storytelling. Music with flow has a point, a direction. It has somewhere the music is taking the listener, rather than simply letting the listener sit there without any meaning or direction. Remember, the journey is often what makes the end worth it - the end is less often what makes the journey worth it.
Nurturing is another way to think about composition. It is compatible with the idea of musical flow, but doesn't rely on thinking that way.
Nurture is more a way of developing themes in pieces and finding out what to do next compared to musical flow. When you get a musical idea, try to think of it as a child or seedling plant rather than as an idea alone. Creating the music based off of this idea, then, is like raising the child and nurturing the plant. When nurturing music, you are not trying to force it into a box. I see this happen so often, and it rarely turns out well. When nurturing music, you're letting it develop naturally. Make the music, and if you get an idea for it to go into, let it do so! Follow where the music wants to go, and guide it with gentle nudges rather than forcing it to fit your idea perfectly. Remember, people develop and can easily become different from what they started as, and with more knowledge of composition, you can learn more. One good thing is to have the music recall some of its previous ideas and sections - remind it of what it used to be.
Some examples of good musical flow and nurturing from multiple genres are:
Terran 3 - Derek Duke, Glenn Stafford, Tracy W. Bush and Jason Hayes This piece has several background themes and moves through multiple sections that differ greatly from each other.
I am the Walrus - The Beatles This piece might not be the best example, but it is a fairly good piece as an example. The flow is more interesting than most pieces, and there are multiple themes behind the lyrics.
Ecosystem - Step This is a wonderful example of themes working together so that it sounds natural, while having a great deal of melodic content.
Scherzo In B flat Minor - Chopin Obligatory classical example, since this is what the ideas are based off of (not that they can't apply to other music).
Venus - Kor-Rune A rock piece full of clear ideas which show up throughout the piece.
Origin - Geoplex DnB piece which shows more nurture, and decent flow at the least.
Hopefully this will help people with the overall composition of their pieces.
If this was helpful and you think someone else could benefit from it, please show it to them. :) If this gets a good response, I'll likely post it on the Music In Simple website when that is created.
Any questions or edits you think could be made? Please PM me.