Are musical influences important to a composer, or is it necessary to be original?

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Are musical influences important to the composer

or is it necessary to be original?

        Throughout musical history, from medieval plainsong and chant, through to the serialism and minimilism of the 20th century, music has evolved.  I believe this evolution has occurred due to a combination of influences and originality.

        All composers are given an education including musical theory and instrumental lessons.  The facts they learn during their education, and the pieces they play when learning an instrument form the basis of their musical influences.  It is impossible to play a piece without, to a certain extent, analysing it; whether one likes the piece, or dislikes it, it becomes part of your musical background that influences you.  As such, and because all composers must learn the history of music, and play music written by other composers, I do not believe that musical influences are so much something that is important to the composer, as something that is unavoidable.  Whether or not it reflects in the pieces that they compose, all composers are influenced by the works of past composers.

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        However, given that music has developed so greatly over the past few centuries, it would be impossible to say that there is no evidence of originality.  Looking back, it is possible to see moments of originality that have allowed new musical techniques to be pioneered.  The Mannheim school, comprised of composers who wrote for the orchestra at the court of Mannheim in the second half of the 18th Century gave rise to a great many of these new techniques.  Most notable of these is the Mannheim sky-rocket, wherein the music rises in a series of ascending arpeggios from the bottom of ...

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A nice essay that serves to weigh up the balance of original ideas with ideas 'borrowed' from other pieces. A balance that any new composer should address as they compose for themselves.