For some people, composing is an arduous process of coming up with a melody and refining it, then laboriously deciding on harmony and going through possible chords. In my case, tunes generally pop into my head, pretty much complete. I sometimes do a bit of tweaking, particularly if I wait too long to write them down. And if I should try to get them back from memory without checking my notes, they may change in unexpected ways. Usually the later incarnations are the ones which will stick. Sometimes a tune will pop into my head multiple times, each being some variation on the other, often with dramatically different rhythmic implications. Such was the case with Troll Road and Troll Ring, but I liked them both enough to keep them as separate tunes.
When a tune comes into my head, it is generally in an ethnic genre or occasionally a classical one. When I was young, I used to come up with a lot of tunes which could easily have been written by Chopin, but I rarely wrote them down. These days it is more likely to be in the style of Swedish spelmanslag or an Old-Time fiddle tune. Sometimes I’ll come up with the first three or four sections of a tune and have to compose the rest the old-fashioned way. This is particularly true of tunes in a Bulgarian style, but fortunately the nature of the style is for each new section to expand on the previous part, so these tunes generally compose themselves. Every once in a while, I’ll realize that a tune I thought I composed is really just a variation on a traditional tune I already know or have heard a lot recently; other times it turns out to be a pastiche of pieces of different tunes put together in a new way. Then it’s a judgment as to whether I can really consider it my own. Of course most folks never know the difference. Indeed the traditional repertoire is filled with these types of “borrowed” tunes.