...a country (Hungary) whose population, even today, is barely over ten million has produced so many musicians and so much outstanding music. I am grateful for having been born and trained there.

Sir Georg Solti

Creativity kept in training

28 August 2019

Dániel Dobos has had some fruitful months lately, winning both the Junior Classical Musician of the Year Award and the first prize of the 2018 Bartók World Competition. The young and modest composer knows 'those beneficent limits' precisely within which he can freely release his imagination and create the right piece of music.

It’s good to receive frameworks because sometimes it is harder to compose a piece of music when we are free to do what we want,' as you stated once about the 2018 Bartók World Competition. Do you think the composer’s fantasy needs limits? To what extent? Until when is it liberating, and at which point does the persistence of rules become restraining in composition?

It is worth clarifying at the very beginning what we mean by limits and frameworks. Going to the cake shop is an excellent example of this: if we keep it within a frame, it is undoubtedly a pleasant pastime. However, if we do not care about the limits and go there almost every day, our body weight will be inversely proportional to the weight of our wallet. The same applies to the limits set in composition: it does matter how far we can go; otherwise, we lose the musical balance. If we set the boundaries too tight however and define everything, then we lose the composer’s creative approach, and the process might become mechanical.


Dániel Dobos. Photo: Liszt Academy/László Mudra



As a composer, you live in constant symbiosis with your fantasy. How can you consciously release your imagination on a particular occasion, or do you prefer to wait for the inspiration to come while composing?

Fantasy is an indispensable element of composing, but creativity will only remain fresh when we keep it in training. Various famous composers have claimed that regular composition should not be abandoned, even at times when we lack ideas. I realised that if I leave too much room for my imagination, I won’t get the desired results. There are exceptions, of course, but it is better to let the process of composing proceed on its own way: we think about it, deal with it, or even dream about it, but forcing rarely ends up with real success.


Several successful participations in Hungarian composer competitions, such as the 4th Béla Bartók National Composition Competition in 2014 or the competition celebrating the 135th anniversary of the birth of Zoltán Kodály launched by the The Hungarian Composers’ Union, where you came second with your work inspired by Hungarian folk music preceded your first prize at the Bartók competition. Does it mean that within your composition it is mostly folk motives that capture your fantasy the most? If so, why?

I became more familiar with folk music in a summer camp in 2016. Before I just observed the genre, it didn’t really interest me seriously. At the camp, I got totally caught up with it, and I noticed that I was interested in it as much as in other composition related subject. There is such an ancient power in Hungarian folk music that only a few musical cultures have. You can love it or not, but you can’t be indifferent to it. Its message is free of all unnecessary frills, conveys genuine emotions and moves a lot of people. I strive to represent a tiny piece of these features in my own music, as a catalyst of my imagination.


As a member of the Y generation, how do you see: does today’s digitized, accelerated lifestyle destroy or enrich our fantasy?

I find digitalisation a favourable process. The manual parts of composition have become faster and simpler thanks to music notation software. Today, we have more communication tools than we used to, and almost anything is available on the internet, so I can easily find people on social media who can help me with what I am interested in. However, I can also see the drawbacks: there is not enough time to digest our events and experiences. It would be good to take breaths between two tasks and recharge our spiritual ammunition. Our bodies are continuously rushing in the world; our souls are desperately trying to catch up. This 'robot mode' can be sustained for a while, yet if we want to be present and act creatively in the world, it’s time for a change of pace. I hope that when nobody is able to keep up with the world, the world will somehow 'notice this' and stop, or at least slowdown.


Anna Unger