A composer is a person who writes music. The term refers particularly to someone who writes music in some type of musical notation, thus allowing others to perform the music. This distinguishes the composer from a musician who improvises. However, a person may be called a composer without creating music in documentary form, since not all musical genres rely on written notation. In this context, the composer is the originator of the music, and usually its first performer. Later performers then repeat the musical composition they have heard.
The level of distinction between composers and other musicians also varies, which affects issues such as copyright and the deference given to individual interpretations of a particular piece of music. For example, in the development of classical music in Europe, the function of composing music initially had no greater importance than the function of performing music. The preservation of individual compositions received little attention, and musicians generally had no qualms about modifying compositions for performance. Over time, however, the written notation of the composer has come to be treated as strict instructions, from which performers should not deviate without good reason. This notion is often seen as a purist one.
The term "composer" is often used specifically to mean a composer in the Western tradition of classical music. In popular and folk music, the composer is typically called a songwriter (since the music generally takes the form of a song), and composers of jazz are often referred to as jazz writers.
Composers who wish to set text (prose or poetry) to music must first discover whether the text is in the public domain and free of encumbrances, or protected by copyright.
The composer's letter should clearly identify the text to be set to music: the title, author, and ISBN number of the book in which the material appears, as well as the page number(s); if the whole text is not to be set, identify the relevant lines.
The as-yet unpublished composer should give the name and address of his/her interested publisher (or offer to do so if and when a publisher becomes available) and state that such matters are certain to be discussed later by the two publishers together.
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