Ernst von Dohnányi

Creative Vision

After entering Florida State University, I made an appointment to interview Ernst von Dohnanyi to discuss creative aspects of symphonic composition. -

I was fourteen and a student in the high school that was part of the university when I interviewed him for my term paper.

I quickly explained that my interest was not limited or even focused on music composition but encompassed the entire field of creative work, including painting, sculpture, architecture, and other arts.


His initial response to our meeting went quickly from "What is this kid doing in my office?" to something akin to "This could be interesting."

From our conversation:

A painter begins by seeing a landscape or a whole and complete vision. The task is to transform this experience into art that captures the essence of the scene already present in view or the mind. A sculptor sees the figure already entirely existing in the block of marble. The task is to reveal and share the vision. An architect sees structure fully formed, waiting to be explored, and ultimately expressed in details that allow completion by others.

  • Architect,Working,On,Drawing,Table,In,Office
  • Concept,Architects,,Engineer,Holding,Pen,Pointing,Equipment,Architects,On,The
  • Detail,Of,Artist's,Hands,Sculpting,Marble,With,Hammer,And,Chisel
  • Architect,Designing,House,For,Client

My musical compositions often begin as a complete work in its entirety -- all at once -- an instant in time. The task is to transform this extraordinary insight into a form that others can experience. The musicians can then add their talent and interpretation to the completed score. Finally, an audience will hear the complete musical performance unfolding in time.

Creative exploration, as it evolves, has many surprises. Some are engaging discoveries, only lightly present in the original vision. Some reveal problems that don't quite fit and need some fussing to get right. But, all are delights -- eventually.

Three essential components are:

          An absolute passion for the work.

          Total mastery of required skills.

          Reverence for creative inspiration.

In the seven decades since this conversation with Ernst von Dohnanyi, I have continued to seek teachers and experiences that enhance my understanding and personal expression of creativity in its many forms. I did include painter, sculptor, and architect in my quest and remarkable people in many diverse arts.

Ernst von Dohnányi -- Amazon

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