Music Theory - is there ever a point where you have everything in your composition under control?

Discussion in 'Composition, Orchestration & Technique' started by ein fisch, May 15, 2019.

  1. halfwalk

    halfwalk Member

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    My point is, learning theory does not equal understanding the vibrations of the universe and how they affect human consciousness. It is merely one way to contextualize a small subset of our understanding of the universe.

    For instance, there are theoretically infinite tones. Yet we arbitrarily restrict ourselves, generally in the "western" mindset, to just twelve. And thus, many are led to believe that an arrangement of sounds outside of those twelve tones is inherently "unmusical."

    What I'm trying to say is that music theory is just one perspective on what music actually means. So in thinking that "I've learned (a) music theory, therefore I understand music" is imposing an arbitrary limitation on your own perception of the universe. And that can potentially be harmful if you ever decide to decouple your mind from the cultural expectations instilled in you against your will from birth.

    Music does not exist except for inside the brain. It's just vibrations that we have learned to interpret, through the lens of culture, and filtered by the physiological limitations of our sensory organs. So you can learn all about how people have historically made sense of these vibrations (i.e. music theory), but you are learning only what has been agreed upon by authority figures throughout history. You are learning what someone else decided music means. And by committing to music theory you are shaping your own interpretations of the vibrations of the universe in order to fit neatly with those expectations devised arbitrarily, albeit through empirical observation, by people whose culture is potentially radically different than your own.

    I'll repeat, music does not exist except for inside your brain. Music theory can shape your perception of it, can help you make sense of what you're hearing, but does nothing to explain the why of music. And regarding music (or art in general) I would argue that the why is infinitely more important than the what or the how. And that must come from within you.

    Also, self taught in this context does not mean the information just spontaneously appeared inside your head from nothing. You read it somewhere. So maybe you are interpreting the "teacher" part too literally.

    Of course, if you're trying to get someone to pay you for your music, then yeah, probably play it safe.
     
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  2. ism

    ism Senior Member

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    Only if they subject themselves to the (hegemonic) authority implicit demanding the theory be respected.
     
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  3. eph221

    eph221 Member

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    Nobody I know teaches this way (re hegemonic authority) but there are benefits to having a private teacher rather than a classroom. There's always n+levels of abstraction Clearly, any professional knows that. I can see how teachers in colleges find themselves spinning their wheels most times. Hopefully, they're not disgruntled workers. Personally, I think the whole paradigm is useless. I don't know why anyone would bother getting a degree in music.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
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  4. halfwalk

    halfwalk Member

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    Interesting, I'll look into that. I have a lot of thoughts on what you've brought up here, though they definitely go well beyond the scope of music theory.

    Learning, often, isn't. But I'll stop there.
     
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  5. halfwalk

    halfwalk Member

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    Yet in academia we all must pass "tests" (among other things) or be considered as "failing." In other words, "Learn this the way I taught it, or there will be consequences."
     
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  6. robgb

    robgb I was young once

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    It's certainly implicit. ;)
     
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  7. ism

    ism Senior Member

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    The Frierian critique goes much deeper than individual teaching styles. And there’s an important sense in which the best teacher in the world, faced with needing students to pass a predetermined exam, is always going to be a part of a larger “banking” theory of pedagogy.

    The way that in recent decades composers who insisted on such trivialities as ‘melody’ or ‘sounding good’ we’re driven from the academy is one example. Fetishization of the prohibition on parallel 5ths is another.
     
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  8. jmauz

    jmauz Member

    While writing I'm completely OUT of control. I think that's the best mindset to be in...within the parameters you're given (brief details, cue restraints, hit points, etc.) you gotta just let it happen. I consider myself a vehicle for the music.

    Wow that sounded douchey. Point is, I do my best to get out of head and into my heart.

    Once it's written and I'm making tweaks, that's another story entirely. However, I try not to get bogged down with analytic harmony bullshit unless it can help me figure out why some certain interval or progression doesn't sound right.
     
  9. eph221

    eph221 Member

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    It may be in others, witness the posts here! Academia in general has its problems.
     
  10. eph221

    eph221 Member

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    There are many newer schools that only have pass/fail. In Sarasota, there's New College which is loaded with brainiacs who have success, it's a liberal arts school and is pass/fail.https://www.bestcollegereviews.org/colleges-without-letter-grades/ Look at the list! These are great schools!
     
  11. ism

    ism Senior Member

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    Conversely, I think there's a history of jazz musicians being shunned for being too intellectual
     
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  12. Rodney Money

    Rodney Money My hair is now growing back.

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    All I know is that I can look at a lead sheet writing out an entire arrangement with proper voice leading for saxophone quartet in less than an hour getting paid for it without even having to hear it on the piano. Then an hour later do a different tune for 2 trumpets, trombone, and piano. I blame theory.
     
  13. Parsifal666

    Parsifal666 I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.

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    Just because you're taught how something is supposed to be done doesn't mean you have to feel bound to those rules. I was a little surprised you wrote that. BTW did you know you look a little like Tommy Bolin?
     
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  14. MichaelVakili

    MichaelVakili New Member

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    Music theory is really just suggestions and names... Very good suggestions ,but at the end - music came first ,books and theory after that. Still a little bit is helpful - but if you start to obsess and think more academically rather than creatively I think that is were theory is more harmful. At least in my opinion *
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
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  15. Parsifal666

    Parsifal666 I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.

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    Perhaps your teachers. I had a set of wildly creative teachers who were wonderfully corny and heartbreakingly optimistic and I was actually inspired by them to check out avante garde heavies like Stockhausen and the Serial composers.
     
  16. robgb

    robgb I was young once

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    That may be true, but it's implicit even here on this forum, every time the subject comes up.
     
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  17. VinRice

    VinRice ... i am a robot ...

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    No you're right. Nobody should learn anything. That's clearly the way forward.
     
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  18. robgb

    robgb I was young once

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    The sarcasm is hardly necessary. There are a lot of ways to learn.
     
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  19. ism

    ism Senior Member

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    And I was always getting in trouble for parallel bleeding 5ths. Even when they sounded good. Even when it was a two part counterpoint where the melodies both needed those notes and were perfectly strong enough to maintain their independence in the face of the evil of parallel 5ths.

    It's one of my great adult pleasure to be able to play parallel 5ths any time I want.

    In fact, here's some now:



    I love this demo, and if I had written it, I might have been tempted to title it "ode parallel 5ths".
     
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  20. D Halgren

    D Halgren Senior Member

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    That's kinda his gig;)
     
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