On my notepad: a line from a poem? Maybe. A phrase, a city street, nameless characters, their faces undefined. A plot that lies in wait....
I know there are finished works in these fragments. But until they are swept up by function, by the answer to this post's title, they are simply stragglers.
There are histories in our fiction and narrative non-fiction that predate their composition: every story has back story which may never be revealed to the reader, or may only be revealed in part. But when a story starts, it is because something has happened that is going to change its landscape, cause its main characters to undergo some degree of metamorphosis. We know we must have compelling reasons to tell a story, and so we ask, "Why here, why now?"
But this is not a question composers need to ask themselves before beginning a piece.
Since the language composers use is abstract rather than referential, they need only an idea. They do not need back story; they do not need a catalyst.
Still, miraculously, there are those pieces which sound as if an action was already in motion before the music begins, as if the thousand notes the composer had in his or her head are behind the first set in a score.
Sometimes, the techniques which achieve this are obvious: starting anywhere but in the tonic key, or on an unstressed beat....
And sometimes, the techniques are more elusive....
Causes Barbara Froman Supports
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Greater Chicago Food Depository
Lawyers for the Creative Arts