Theory and Practice
Hindemith required from the composer the absolute knowledge and mastery of the musical material so that he could create his works completely freely, unhindered by any technical compositional questions. Characteristics of the musical materials should not be allowed to make an effect on their own accord in the works, as if behind the composer's back. Hindemith understood the spontaneous «vision» of the work to be created, in as many details as possible, to be the actual compositional-creative achievement.
He considered the ability to have such «visions» as unconditionally given, and not teachable to others. On the other hand, he considered the working-out or «materialisation» of this vision in the materials of music, the technical aspects of the compositional process, to be teachable. Hindemith stated: «Technical knowledge can be acquired by anyone, whilst clear visions are the privilege of those with truly creative gifts.» He himself confirmed, for this reason, that «composition» cannot ultimately be taught.
The sketches for his works make it clear that Hindemith composed in this way: they regularly represent more or less complete writings-down of a work already completely conceived in thought. Hindemith neither collects themes and tries them out, for example, nor does he work out a piece; instead he simply writes it down.
This type of composing explains several special characteristics of his oeuvre: the complete mastery of musical techniques, the brief notes in the sketches that establish the overall course of the work in a way only comprehensible to Hindemith; the rapid speed of composing; his method of teaching, which always began with the overall outline of the work to be composed and led into details; the fact that Hindemith could write his music in all circumstances. In this kind of composition there can be no fragments, and Hindemith indeed left behind no significant musical fragments.