Best software for an aspiring composer

Living Fossil

Senior Member
However, I think where the real problem comes in is, when you are writing in a more accessible style, there is this temptation or trap to fall into where you start writing in a 1900's or 1800's (or 1700's or 1600's) style, or some combination of those (as I believe Jenkins does in Palladio), seemingly completely ignoring everything that happened in the 20th and 21st centuries, almost pretending they did not exist.
Just to put things in place (while not disagreeing with you):
There is an exact term for the category/genre that "Palladio" falls in:
It's called "Easy Listening"
The fact that it uses a traditional instrumentation and mimics some baroque stereotypes doesn't make it somehow "classical music".
Comparing it to Vivaldi (and similars) offers just blatant ignorance on the subject. But since i already mentioned the Dunning-Krueger effect, there is no more left to say in this thread. :)
(i know, it wasn't you who made this stupid comparison)
 

Willowtree

I make music
In some cases I believe that happens to some extent, yes (being written off as conservative).

However, I think where the real problem comes in is, when you are writing in a more accessible style, there is this temptation or trap to fall into where you start writing in a 1900's or 1800's (or 1700's or 1600's) style, or some combination of those (as I believe Jenkins does in Palladio), seemingly completely ignoring everything that happened in the 20th and 21st centuries, almost pretending they did not exist. Copying an antiquated style wholesale is not really very innovative like contemporary classical is supposed to be - it is instead anachronistic, just writing a piece a few hundred years out of time. So if you are dealing with more tonal materials, you face the challenge of how to reflect modern times and accept the music of the 20th (and 21st) century and be innovative in some way while still being fundamentally tonal. Reich does that with his rhythms and evolving patterns (which were slightly influenced by much older Perotin and Leonin style Notre Dame organum from medieval times), Whitacre does it with his diatonic clusters. But it is more difficult to pull off successfully (vs simply writing "darker" stuff) because we have the baggage of common practice period music being dragged along with us that is subconsciously influencing us all the time, and tempting us to simply mimic it instead of creating something innovative. It is like you have this big trap in the ground, and some composers dance around it successfully without falling in, while others stay far away.
There's this irony when we see some using functional harmony in contemporary classical, perhaps a consequence of how music is sometimes taught, although I see it more in those claiming to be self-taught than in students.

Yes, I agree! I think that sums up the challenges facing any composer in 2019 very well.
I'm going to go a bit on a tangent here, but take a listen to a lot of the music in the first half of the 20th century. Schoenberg and his contemporaries did a lot to explore atonality, but even then a lot of composers were slow to embrace it (Schoenberg's "emancipation of the dissonance"). And let's not forget all the (often anti-Semitic) comments about how this signified the end of civilisation and beauty and all that.

Meanwhile, take a listen to a lot of the popular music of that era. It tends to be rather upbeat, happy, celebratory and very consonant.

I would argue that you could essentially split up music here into "post-modality" and post-tonality. Not necessarily distinct categories, but more of a spectrum. (yes, "post-modality" is a lousy and vague inaccurate term I just came up with, but let's set that aside)

"Post-modality" then deals with the modern development and exploration of modes, pentatonicism and non-tonal harmony. You could further group this into jazz and non-jazz. I'd argue film music, game music, trailer music, everything the general population is going to have presented to them ... It's heavily derived from this.

Post-tonality in this context I'm talking about the breakdown of functional harmony and tonality, and the eventual establishment of non-functional tonal harmony as well as the introductions of noise music and a lot of the abstract stuff we saw, for example, from Stockhausen with early electronics etc. This is where we get contemporary classical music from.

This isn't academic on any level and is just a personal observation. But there very well seems to be a clear distinction between these two, and they express emotions very differently. I would argue the emotions that can be evoked by "post-modality" are those we associate with cinema as well as popular music. Anger, grief, happiness, sadness. Things we can put into words.

The emotions then often evoked by post-tonality are far more complex, often difficult (if not impossible) to put into words, because we do not have words for them.
 

Willowtree

I make music
Just to put things in place (while not disagreeing with you):
There is an exact term for the category/genre that "Palladio" falls in:
It's called "Easy Listening"
The fact that it uses a traditional instrumentation and mimics some baroque stereotypes doesn't make it somehow "classical music".
Comparing it to Vivaldi (and similars) offers just blatant ignorance on the subject. But since i already mentioned the Dunning-Krueger effect, there is no more left to say in this thread. :)
(i know, it wasn't you who made this stupid comparison)
Agreed. As I said previously, it's advertisement music. I think Jenkins on the whole is more of a new age composer than anything I'd call classical (nothing wrong with that), but Palladio ...

It's about as classical as pop songs using Pachelbel's Canon as a foundation.
 

miket

Egregiously untalented fanboy
I'm going to go a bit on a tangent here
That's fine, I enjoyed reading it!

And again, I pretty much agree with what's been said, especially regarding the possibilities for greater emotional subtlety and shading that more complex harmony allows. That is certainly its appeal for me.

Your way of classifying different strands of musical development seems as plausible as any other I've heard, as well.
 
OP
theaviv

theaviv

The Aviv
Additionally, we don't know how Taylor Swift feels. Chances are, she doesn't feel anything remotely resembling what her fans does. Or maybe she does. Who knows! ;)
We know what she feels. She makes a living out of making it public - through her music - and she does it so well, the whole world is entranced by her.

She writes from her life and experiences, which makes her a genuine artist - not a "craftswoman" like you might say:
An analogy to this would perhaps be that some of us are (in how we conceptualise ourselves) artists, and some of us are craftsmen. I suspect most of us participating in this thread belong to the former category, but I'm inclined to view it as a bit of an (imaginary) spectrum between art and craft.

I don't think you even understood what I meant when I wrote:
To me, success is when your audience can feel what you feel.

Taylor Swift has millions of fans feel what she feels through her music.

You will be left empty if your audience never understands your work. You may not want to believe it, but art is a social thing by nature. If you only create art for yourself, you will never reach your full potential. Magic happens when you have an audience to create for, even if it's just one person. God created everyone because he wanted an audience.
Music (and art in general, but especially music) is all about expressing what you *feel* - and this is the fundamental point you all seem to be missing here.

Success as an artist means your audience was able to feel what you felt when you made your artwork (in this case, a piece of music).

When Beethoven wrote a piano sonata or a symphony, he was expressing what he was feeling (like *no* other composer before him) - for example, the exhilarating fury in his iconic 5th Symphony.

(Music forever changed after him. His death marks the beginning of a whole new era of classical music, the romantic one. There's a reason why Beethoven is the only composer who gets his own chapter in textbooks.)

When Beethoven presented his work - whether by publishing sheet music or putting a concert together - he hoped his audience would feel what he felt - and oh boy, did they ever!

And so, Beethoven's story is really a happy one (as expressed in his 9th and final symphony) - and to say he was successful is an understatement.

By the way, Beethoven loved catchy tunes. He was mad happy when he came up with his little tune, Ode to Joy. They say he was humming it all day and night for weeks.

Do you know why catchy music is catchy? Because it is true.

A catchy tune is a *true* abstraction of a particular feeling that is both personal and universal at the same time.

Catchy music catches people because they can't resist feeling what the composer is expressing. It's magic that's hardwired into us - our minds' innate ability to right away recognize an arrangement of sound as having meaning, a feeling, and to sync into that feeling.

It's a beautiful thing when it happens.

To me - and to just about everyone else in the world except you "cultural elites" - it's what makes music *good*.

It catches you effortlessly.

There is an exact term for the category/genre that "Palladio" falls in:
It's called "Easy Listening"
No, it's called "Diamond Music" - because of its perfect abstraction of inhuman intensity and determination.

To hear such a perfect abstraction is like finding a diamond in the rough.

Like this lay YouTuber said:
"I know better than to read comments, yet some say this is not classical music, it is alchemy, same 12 notes many octaves, yet music by definition has an ease to the ear. I defy anyone to not admit this. How about imagine writing this yourself, sillies, then appreciate the genius this is. Pure spirit."

I don't share your definition of success, and I often make music that I know will make others feel very differently than me. If my music makes people feel the way I want it to make them feel, I've succeeded regardless of how I feel.

Additionally, we don't know how Taylor Swift feels. Chances are, she doesn't feel anything remotely resembling what her fans does. Or maybe she does. Who knows! ;)

I don't require my audience to understand my work, I require the client to be pleased and I require my music to augment my client's work. If I'm making music for my own projects, I require it to make me pleased, which in extent will likely make my audience pleased.

That's just my perspective though, and if your definition of success works for you, that's great and that's the important part. If mine doesn't work for you, discard it and stick to your own definition. :) And thank you for sharing your definition even if I don't share that viewpoint.
Fair enough. In the end, success means you achieved your objective - and we all have different objectives.

P.S. As you can tell, Beethoven is my favourite composer.
 
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mducharme

Senior Member
Music (and art in general, but especially music) is all about expressing what you *feel* - and this is the fundamental point you all seem to be missing here.
Not all music is about expressing what you feel. Some music is more intellectually driven rather than emotionally, or more emotionally complex but not trying to communicate any particular singular emotion (as Willowtree has said in slightly different words). And before Beethoven there was no real concept of music expressing what the composer was feeling - music was just something separate from the feelings of the composer. And those are all valid approaches as well, and still result in music, and very often (I feel) it can be good music.

Catchy music catches people because they can't resist feeling what the composer is expressing. It's magic that's hardwired into us - our minds' innate ability to right away recognize an arrangement of sound as having meaning, a feeling, and to sync into that feeling.

It's a beautiful thing when it happens.

To me - and to just about everyone else in the world except you "cultural elites" - it's what makes music *good*.

It catches you effortlessly.
Catchy music is not necessarily good, it is just easily digestible, and usually comprised of enough repeating motives that it gets stuck in your head (aka earworms). Some catchy music can be good, but not everything catchy is good. Sometimes really banal things can get stuck in peoples heads. A lot of music can be really really excellent but not catchy at all. So there is not really a strong correlation there.


No, it's called "Diamond Music" - because of its perfect abstraction of inhuman intensity and determination.

To hear such a perfect abstraction is like finding a diamond in the rough.
No, he put it on an album called "Diamond Music" because he wrote it for a DeBeers diamond commercials that aired on TV for years, and they used that music that became the first movement of Palladio.
 
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Willowtree

I make music
We know what she feels. She makes a living out of making it public - through her music - and she does it so well, the whole world is entranced by her.

She writes from her life and experiences, which makes her a genuine artist - not a "craftswoman" like you might say:
Now now, don't put words in my mouth. I didn't say she's a craftswoman, I merely said some seem to conceptualise themselves and their music as such (craft, rather than art). That's not a judgement call by me, but an observation of how some approach music.

I don't believe Taylor Swift's music makes me feel anything discernible, nor do I have a single clue what she feels based on her music.

That's just me, though. I'm not her audience.

I don't think you even understood what I meant when I wrote:
I believe I did, based on your elaboration. I merely don't share your viewpoint or philosophy.

Music (and art in general, but especially music) is all about expressing what you *feel* - and this is the fundamental point you all seem to be missing here.
I disagree with this. This is your belief. Your opinion. Not an objective fact. And we are all entitled to opinions. And I think it's great we are all arguing for ours, and of course you for yours.

But to claim I am missing a fundamental point because I disagree ... Perhaps, from your point of view, I do. But from my point of view, you are taking on an unnecessarily restrictive definition of art.


(Music forever changed after him. His death marks the beginning of a whole new era of classical music, the romantic one. There's a reason why Beethoven is the only composer who gets his own chapter in textbooks.)
Beethoven died about halfway through the romantic era, so this statement is rather erroneous.

By the way, Beethoven loved catchy tunes. He was mad happy when he came up with his little tune, Ode to Joy. They say he was humming it all day and night for weeks.
Did you spy on his chambers!? That's not very nice! ;)

Do you know why catchy music is catchy? Because it is true.

A catchy tune is a true abstraction of a particular feeling that is both personal and universal at the same time.

Catchy music catches people because they can't resist feeling what the composer is expressing. It's magic that's hardwired into us - our minds' innate ability to right away recognize an arrangement of sound as having meaning, a feeling, and to sync into that feeling.

It's a beautiful thing when it happens.
Absolute nonsense in my opinion, but thank you for sharing your perspective.

To me - and to just about everyone else in the world except you "cultural elites" - it's what makes music *good*.
Haha, I'm hardly a cultural elite, but thanks, I suppose? I spent last weekend listening to rap with my boyfriend and trying to get him to watch silly sitcoms. We then got drunk, and I listened to him rant about his farm and how he was worried about the solar panels something something.

I used to be one of those punk kids who ditched school and ranted about how capitalism sowes its seeds of its own destruction and that school was only there to socialise us into unquestioning slaves. (I was a very dramatic teenager).

With all due respect, I don't think I'm a cultural elite. But, if I give the impression I am... Hey, I'll take it.

No, it's called "Diamond Music" - because of its perfect abstraction of inhuman intensity and determination.

To hear such a perfect abstraction like finding a diamond in the rough.
Sounds like a catchy title for a label.

Fair enough. In the end, success means you achieved your objective - and we all have different objectives.

P.S. As you can tell, Beethoven is my favourite composer.
I can tell! I don't share your enthusiasm, but I do fancy some of his later works. I'm much more keen on late 19th century and early 20th century music
 

David Cuny

Summer, we hardly knew ye.
Do you know why catchy music is catchy? Because it is true.

A catchy tune is a *true* abstraction of a particular feeling that is both personal and universal at the same time.

Catchy music catches people because they can't resist feeling what the composer is expressing. It's magic that's hardwired into us - our minds' innate ability to right away recognize an arrangement of sound as having meaning, a feeling, and to sync into that feeling.
That's a bit like saying that a hammer hitting someone's thumb is an abstraction of pain.

Music is more a trigger for emotion than an abstraction of emotion.

Melodies are often arranged in forms that make them easy to remember - nested binary forms that combine the familiar with novel. They also often combine cadences of language - used in speech to mark meaning - that we'll respond to as if they were actually encoded with meaning.

But that doesn't mean that the music has any intrinsic meaning.

In fact, music can elicit strong emotional reaction and give the impression of meaning that are at odds with their lyrics. For example, a songs can sound happy - that is, be musically "encoded" to trigger positive emotions - yet have somber and depressing lyrics.

It's not clear why earwoms make us constantly hit the internal "replay" button, but it's probably keyed to the emotional response of the music along aligning with our memory encoding, with some sort of reward being triggered.

This article on why "Baby Shark" is so catchy is an interesting read.
 

Willowtree

I make music
That's a bit like saying that a hammer hitting someone's thumb is an abstraction of pain.

Music is more a trigger for emotion than an abstraction of emotion.

Melodies are often arranged in forms that make them easy to remember - nested binary forms that combine the familiar with novel. They also often combine cadences of language - used in speech to mark meaning - that we'll respond to as if they were actually encoded with meaning.

But that doesn't mean that the music has any intrinsic meaning.

In fact, music can elicit strong emotional reaction and give the impression of meaning that are at odds with their lyrics. For example, a songs can sound happy - that is, be musically "encoded" to trigger positive emotions - yet have somber and depressing lyrics.

It's not clear why earwoms make us constantly hit the internal "replay" button, but it's probably keyed to the emotional response of the music along aligning with our memory encoding, with some sort of reward being triggered.

This article on why "Baby Shark" is so catchy sugggests (among other things) is an interesting read.
To add to @David Cuny's already excellent commentary: While some elements of music do seem to have emotional responses independent of the listener's background, they're so dependent on other factors those elements can't predictably produce any one emotion. For example, music with high tempo is both associated with anger and joy. Slower tempo is associated with both sadness and peaceful calm.

And even then, the same music has been shown to produce emotions in listeners highly dependable on context. If you associate, say, steel pedal guitars with nostalgic memories of childhood, you will have a very different emotional experience listening to that instrument than someone who utterly hate the tone of it.
 

Willowtree

I make music
@theaviv And please, don't take any of my or anybody else's comments personal here. The music world (particularly when you come near anything orchestral) can be unrelenting, unfair and harsh. But no one here is trying to kill your enthusiasm, which you seem to have plenty of. And that's important.

Just bear in mind, none of us are as far as I can tell judging you or your tastes. We're just sharing our own viewpoints, offering guidance and advice as best we can (keep in mind I offered to go over your composition with you for free, something I would normally charge for).

We have good intentions. :)
 

rudi

Active Member
There's this irony when we see some using functional harmony in contemporary classical, perhaps a consequence of how music is sometimes taught, although I see it more in those claiming to be self-taught than in students.



I'm going to go a bit on a tangent here, but take a listen to a lot of the music in the first half of the 20th century. Schoenberg and his contemporaries did a lot to explore atonality, but even then a lot of composers were slow to embrace it (Schoenberg's "emancipation of the dissonance"). And let's not forget all the (often anti-Semitic) comments about how this signified the end of civilisation and beauty and all that.

Meanwhile, take a listen to a lot of the popular music of that era. It tends to be rather upbeat, happy, celebratory and very consonant.

I would argue that you could essentially split up music here into "post-modality" and post-tonality. Not necessarily distinct categories, but more of a spectrum. (yes, "post-modality" is a lousy and vague inaccurate term I just came up with, but let's set that aside)

"Post-modality" then deals with the modern development and exploration of modes, pentatonicism and non-tonal harmony. You could further group this into jazz and non-jazz. I'd argue film music, game music, trailer music, everything the general population is going to have presented to them ... It's heavily derived from this.

Post-tonality in this context I'm talking about the breakdown of functional harmony and tonality, and the eventual establishment of non-functional tonal harmony as well as the introductions of noise music and a lot of the abstract stuff we saw, for example, from Stockhausen with early electronics etc. This is where we get contemporary classical music from.

This isn't academic on any level and is just a personal observation. But there very well seems to be a clear distinction between these two, and they express emotions very differently. I would argue the emotions that can be evoked by "post-modality" are those we associate with cinema as well as popular music. Anger, grief, happiness, sadness. Things we can put into words.

The emotions then often evoked by post-tonality are far more complex, often difficult (if not impossible) to put into words, because we do not have words for them.
Great post!
 

rudi

Active Member
No, he put it on an album called "Diamond Music" because he wrote it for a DeBeers diamond commercials that aired on TV for years, and they used that music that became the first movement of Palladio.
The first time I heard it was at the cinema for the said commercial... I remember thinking "that went by far too fast". It was years later that found out who wrote it :)
 
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Bollen

Vintage Member
I can't contribute to this thread as much as I'd like, due to time constraints, but I am carefully reading everyone's post!

I would just like to jump in on two things that bothered me:

Contemporary music tends to be darker than happy... This is the very opposite of what contemporary music is! If anything contemporary music has a much broader pallette and far more sophisticated and nuanced depths than what I call wiggy music (music written in the era when people wore wigs). While it might be applicable to some post WWII European composers (and not all), Americans were certainly writing far more optimistic pieces. But even some of Xenakis' percussion pieces were very raw and many would say "happy" (awful term to describe something as sophisticated as music), they're like the epic drum solo at the end of a modern jazz gig. John Luther Adams Become Ocean is hardly "dark". I wouldn't want to try to define it, but it's certainly a shade of consciousness, a mood shall we say, that was never expressed in music from previous centuries. I could go on for hours, but just think of many themes in the Rite of Spring, Bartok's hilarious string quartets or his Concerto for orchestra or even Ligeti's Bagattelles!

The other thing was the idea that catchy is some sort of desirable trait... Oh dear! If you really think that, then advertisement is your only path. Not even pop music aims for that! Some of the worst music in history has been so-called "catchy": who like shorts, the monster dance, I scream, you scream, etc. My flatmate, who's a classical violinist, is always getting horrendous music stuck in her ear that she hates. I mostly get people's expressions stuck in my head, particularly colourful ones "dats bloody gut now innit?" GB, "I ain't got no lawd in my yard, y'all hear!" US, Etc. And others in other languages. Also, like many have said, it completely depends on your exposure, ears and ability to sing. I used to get be bop tunes stuck in my head, most atonal pieces I've composed and whenever I think of the Rite, there's two bits that always stick with me for a few days, the opening line being one...:dancer:. People's brains get stuck on loops all the time, it's meaningless and certainly not worthy of being attributed to art.

I know I said only two, but to address @theaviv, making people feel what you feel with music is a pointless enterprise. People are more diverse and complex than all the music that has ever been written in history. You'd be lucky to find one person resonating with you on one moment of a piece, forget about a repertoire.
 

mducharme

Senior Member
As I already said, I feel music does not have to communicate emotion (and doesn't have to try) to be good music. However, since I compose film music as well I've thought a great deal about how music can communicate emotion (where that is the intent) and very specific emotions in some cases, and not come to any particularly solid conclusions (it is a complicated subject).

I think the best chance people have of making others feel (in a universal way) what they feel through music is through the voice. Certain vocal inflections are used for certain types of feelings or emotions that are pretty universal for all of humanity. I can think of a particularly potent example (the Karelian lament (or Finnish-Karelian lament)) in which the emotions expressed through the voice would be quite clear to basically any human being:
Certain devices/progressions in film music (certain cliches, and in this case the word is not meant negatively) are associated with certain emotions, but it is a complicated question as to how much these associations are due to their use in other films for similar types of things, so that the brain begins to associate them, and how much these associations are for musical reasons. I think it is a bit of both in some or most cases, where wonderment can be expressed by having some kind of "pleasant surprise" chord that in the best of cases leads to ANS arousal (the tingling spine in listeners when that magical moment happens and the wonderous sight is revealed). But certainly these may not be universal for all humanity, for someone from a culture who has never heard any kind of tonal music probably would not be able to predict what would happen next in such a progression for the "surprise" to occur in the first place. So there is some assumption there of prior familiarity with the syntax of tonal progressions.
 

ism

Senior Member
hammer hitting someone's thumb is an abstraction of pain.

Music is more a trigger for e
Now now, don't put words in my mouth. I didn't say she's a craftswoman, I merely said some seem to conceptualise themselves and their music as such (craft, rather than art). That's not a judgement call by me, but an observation of how some approach music.

I don't believe Taylor Swift's music makes me feel anything discernible, nor do I have a single clue what she feels based on her music.

That's just me, though. I'm not her audience.


I believe I did, based on your elaboration. I merely don't share your viewpoint or philosophy.


I disagree with this. This is your belief. Your opinion. Not an objective fact. And we are all entitled to opinions. And I think it's great we are all arguing for ours, and of course you for yours.

But to claim I am missing a fundamental point because I disagree ... Perhaps, from your point of view, I do. But from my point of view, you are taking on an unnecessarily restrictive definition of art.



Beethoven died about halfway through the romantic era, so this statement is rather erroneous.


Did you spy on his chambers!? That's not very nice! ;)


Absolute nonsense in my opinion, but thank you for sharing your perspective.


Haha, I'm hardly a cultural elite, but thanks, I suppose? I spent last weekend listening to rap with my boyfriend and trying to get him to watch silly sitcoms. We then got drunk, and I listened to him rant about his farm and how he was worried about the solar panels something something.

I used to be one of those punk kids who ditched school and ranted about how capitalism sowes its seeds of its own destruction and that school was only there to socialise us into unquestioning slaves. (I was a very dramatic teenager).

With all due respect, I don't think I'm a cultural elite. But, if I give the impression I am... Hey, I'll take it.


Sounds like a catchy title for a label.


I can tell! I don't share your enthusiasm, but I do fancy some of his later works. I'm much more keen on late 19th century and early 20th century music

Eloquently argued.
 

Bollen

Vintage Member
As I already said, I feel music does not have to communicate emotion (and doesn't have to try) to be good music. However, since I compose film music as well I've thought a great deal about how music can communicate emotion (where that is the intent) and very specific emotions in some cases, and not come to any particularly solid conclusions (it is a complicated subject).

I think the best chance people have of making others feel (in a universal way) what they feel through music is through the voice. Certain vocal inflections are used for certain types of feelings or emotions that are pretty universal for all of humanity. I can think of a particularly potent example (the Karelian lament (or Finnish-Karelian lament)) in which the emotions expressed through the voice would be quite clear to basically any human being:
Certain devices/progressions in film music (certain cliches, and in this case the word is not meant negatively) are associated with certain emotions, but it is a complicated question as to how much these associations are due to their use in other films for similar types of things, so that the brain begins to associate them, and how much these associations are for musical reasons. I think it is a bit of both in some or most cases, where wonderment can be expressed by having some kind of "pleasant surprise" chord that in the best of cases leads to ANS arousal (the tingling spine in listeners when that magical moment happens and the wonderous sight is revealed). But certainly these may not be universal for all humanity, for someone from a culture who has never heard any kind of tonal music probably would not be able to predict what would happen next in such a progression for the "surprise" to occur in the first place. So there is some assumption there of prior familiarity with the syntax of tonal progressions.
How fascinating! I had heard this type of singing many times in my life, but I had no idea it was actually a tradition!

Now, just be the devil's advocate, although I agree 100% that this particular case does have some general archetypes, the question remains: what is she lamenting? That she broke her favourite salt dispenser or a son to war? I confess I have in many occasions used the little downward pitch bend during the release of a note in order to emulate a type of weeping, but the response has been anything but universal... Some people find it funny, others cool, other tender... Empathy is a weird one and although film has tried its best to "Americanise" our sensibilities, there still remains a huge chasm even amongst westerner....
 

Geomir

Active Member
@theaviv And please, don't take any of my or anybody else's comments personal here. The music world (particularly when you come near anything orchestral) can be unrelenting, unfair and harsh. But no one here is trying to kill your enthusiasm, which you seem to have plenty of. And that's important.

Just bear in mind, none of us are as far as I can tell judging you or your tastes. We're just sharing our own viewpoints, offering guidance and advice as best we can (keep in mind I offered to go over your composition with you for free, something I would normally charge for).

We have good intentions. :)
I think the problem is to BALANCE between:
- Not being low confident, have low self-esteem, and be sure that you are going to fail and be eaten alive in this cruel world of music
- Not being overconfident, arrogant, and think that everyone is waiting to get ecstatic with your amazing compositions

This balance must be kept always. (Plus knowing the right people to help you and promote your music can always help)! :)
 

mducharme

Senior Member
Now, just be the devil's advocate, although I agree 100% that this particular case does have some general archetypes, the question remains: what is she lamenting? That she broke her favourite salt dispenser or a son to war? I confess I have in many occasions used the little downward pitch bend during the release of a note in order to emulate a type of weeping, but the response has been anything but universal... Some people find it funny, others cool, other tender... Empathy is a weird one and although film has tried its best to "Americanise" our sensibilities, there still remains a huge chasm even amongst westerner....
In this case I feel that it isn't so much the music itself that leads to the empathy. It is instead the iconic vocalization of crying, which I perceive as an authentic emotional response from another human being and it triggers an appropriate reaction in me. To me, it is completely different from music with a downward "sigh" that emulates that. The "sigh" as musical figure really is only partially iconic (a direct representation of that thing) -- it is certainly also partially symbolic (an abstract representation of that thing). Symbols bring in all sorts of cultural and personal baggage that lead to them being viewed differently than iconic or indexical references. When you abstract the "sigh" at least partially as a symbol by interpreting it musically, you may lose the intercultural meaning of pure icons or indexes. (Note that I am using terms from Pierce's semiotics theory, a good simple breakdown is shown at: https://vanseodesign.com/web-design/icon-index-symbol/)

Also please note that I don't necessarily view the Finnish-Karelian Lament as outstanding in a musical sense. I see it as a direct example of a musical form where the primary intent is to move the listener, and I feel that it accomplishes this in a cross cultural way. But, I would argue, it accomplishes this universal communication of emotion by means of tone-of-voice instead of specific musical techniques.
 
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theaviv

theaviv

The Aviv
@theaviv And please, don't take any of my or anybody else's comments personal here. The music world (particularly when you come near anything orchestral) can be unrelenting, unfair and harsh. But no one here is trying to kill your enthusiasm, which you seem to have plenty of. And that's important.

Just bear in mind, none of us are as far as I can tell judging you or your tastes. We're just sharing our own viewpoints, offering guidance and advice as best we can (keep in mind I offered to go over your composition with you for free, something I would normally charge for).

We have good intentions. :)
No harsh feelings at all. I think we're having a very good discussion here and I appreciate it. I am learning from this.

That's a bit like saying that a hammer hitting someone's thumb is an abstraction of pain.

Music is more a trigger for emotion than an abstraction of emotion.

Melodies are often arranged in forms that make them easy to remember - nested binary forms that combine the familiar with novel. They also often combine cadences of language - used in speech to mark meaning - that we'll respond to as if they were actually encoded with meaning.

But that doesn't mean that the music has any intrinsic meaning.
David, that's a cold way to think about music.

Of course music is an abstraction. All art (or maybe almost all art) is an abstraction of something.
An analogy in fine arts - suppose artists never went in the direction of things like cubism, surrealism, impressionism etc. because they thought they thought they would be too weird for people who just wanted to look at realistic portrait paintings, and "painted down" to the masses who would view them. Imagine how much great art would have never existed.
Michael compared music to visual art.

A painting is almost always an abstraction - i.e. a representation - of something.

Mona Lisa
The Starry Night
The Kiss

The titles tell you what they represent - what they are an abstraction of.

Even so-called "abstract paintings" probably represent things that only the artists themselves can explain.

If you create something without meaning, is it really art or just a random arrangement of elements made by a sentient being?

Dennis Dutton attempted to answer the question of what constitutes art using anthropology. Before he died, he summarized his findings in a book titled The Art Instinct. He argued that the phenomenon of art can be found across all human cultures, past and present. He argued that the definition of art is not black and white but more like a scale. He determined there are a dozen criteria points, and the more points you have checked off, the closer it is to art.

What is Art? Denis Dutton's Criteria:

1. Direct Pleasure: The art object is valued as a source of immediate experiential pleasure in itself, often said to be "for its own sake."

2. Skill and Virtuosity: The making of the object requires and demonstrates the exercise of specialized skills. The demonstrations of skill is one of the most deeply moving and pleasurable aspects of art.

3. Style: Works of art are made in recognizable styles, rules that govern form, composition, or expression. Style provides a stable, predictable, "normal" background against which artists may create novelty and expressive surprise.

4. Novelty and Creativity: Art is valued for its novelty, creativity, originality, and capacity to surprise its audience. This includes both the attention-grabbing function of art and the artist's less jolting capacity to explore the deeper possibilities of a medium or theme.

5. Criticism: Wherever artistic forms are found, they exist alongside some kind of critical language of judgment and appreciation.

6. Representation: Art objects, including sculptures, paintings, and fictional narratives, represent or imitate real and imaginary experiences of the world.

7. Special focus: Works of art and artistic performances tend to be bracketed off from ordinary life, make a separate and dramatic focus of experience.

8. Expressive individuality: The potential to express individual personality is generally latent in art practices, whether or not it is fully achieved.

9. Emotional saturation: In varying degrees, the experience of works of art is shot through with emotion.

10. Intellectual challenge: Works of art tend to be designed to utilize a combined variety of human perceptual and intellectual capacities to a full extent; indeed the best works stretch them beyond ordinary limits.

11. Art traditions and institutions: Art objects and performances, as much in small-scale oral cultures as in literate civilizations, are created and to a degree given significance by their place in the history and traditions of their art.

12. Imaginative experience: Art objects essentially provide an imaginative experience for both producers and audiences. Art happens in a make-believe world, in the theater of the imagination.

https://sites.google.com/site/allenhumanities/first-semester/second-quarter--aesthetics---form/what-is-art

He discovered this by immersing himself in the art practices of various cultures, past and present. He looked for universal traits. He argued that the phenomenon of art is innate to human nature, arises naturally in human societies much like language (hence the title of his book, modeled after Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct).

It would be best to just look at examples...

Here's a sketch I composed:


When I composed it, I imagined a prince setting off on a quest to rescue his princess. He mounts on his horse and then stares off at the vast field facing him before embarking on his mission, galloping bravely along the way.

I conducted a little experiment. I played the sketch to a coworker (nonmusician) without telling him anything about it, not the title, nothing. I asked him to tell me what he was imagining as he was listening to it.

I swear this! He said he was imagining a hero mounting on a horse and then galloping away!

Here's another one:


I asked the same coworker to tell me what he was imagining this time (of course, again, without telling him anything, not the title, nothing).

I swear! He said sunrise.

He couldn't believe it when I handed him over my phone and showed him the title!

When music is a true abstraction of something, it's like magic! Other people can see and feel what you see and feel.

I still believe what I said earlier is true:

Do you know why catchy music is catchy? Because it is true.

A catchy tune is a *true* abstraction of a particular feeling that is both personal and universal at the same time.

Catchy music catches people because they can't resist feeling what the composer is expressing. It's magic that's hardwired into us - our minds' innate ability to right away recognize an arrangement of sound as having meaning, a feeling, and to sync into that feeling.

It's a beautiful thing when it happens.

To me - and to just about everyone else in the world except you "cultural elites" - it's what makes music *good*.

It catches you effortlessly.
Let's look at examples of catchy music.

First of all, the two skeches above. They are catchy (writing catchy music is what I do best - I have a talent for it) and I believe it's in part because they are perfect abstractions of what I was imagining.

But here's some other examples:

Eine kleine Nachtmusik

Com'on, are you gonna argue against that? It's an abstraction of, well, "a little night music" - a little night of lightheartedness, socializing, and fun. Mozart probably wrote it for an aristocratic party.

In the Hall of the Mountain King

Grieg tells you what he was going for in the title. You can't argue the piece is not catchy! He did an awesome job in the abstraction.

Palladio

Jenkins named it after Andrea Palladio, a Renaissance architect. Whether he was imagining perfectly cut diamonds or the wonders of human architecture, the feeling he captured was that of outmost intensity and determination - because that's what it takes to perfectly cut a diamond or build a monument that is meant to last eternity.
 
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