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

halfwalk

Member
That's not really relevant to what I said. I said knowing/learning theory won't hurt you. You can teach yourself theory. Everything you just said has nothing to do with theory, it's just about if someone gets a bad teacher...
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.
 

ism

Senior Member
If you learn theory, you are taught how it's SUPPOSED to be done, and you feel bound by those rules. If you don't learn theory you may simply do what comes from instinct, with nothing to bind you. Someone who is used to the freedom of instinct might suddenly find their creativity hampered when learn that they're "doing it wrong." Others might feel this helps them. Again, it's up to the individual.

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

eph221

Member
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.
 
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halfwalk

Member
Bad teaching can always do more harm than good, Paulo Friere’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” is probably the classic analysis (and is quite a good read besides). You’re basically talking about what he calls the “banking theory of education”, which has a particular relevance for oppressed landless peasants under a hegemonic military dictatorship, but it’s not hard to see the effect at work in lots of music education also.

I’d argue, however, that what’s damaging here lies inherently in the social relations of the pedagogical context. And that learning music theory isn’t more inherently harmful than learning anything else.
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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ism

Senior Member
Nobody I know teaches this way (re hegemonic authority)
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.
 

jmauz

Active 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.
 

eph221

Member
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."
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!
 

Parsifal666

I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.
If you learn theory, you are taught how it's SUPPOSED to be done, and you feel bound by those rules. If you don't learn theory you may simply do what comes from instinct, with nothing to bind you. Someone who is used to the freedom of instinct might suddenly find their creativity hampered .
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?
 

MichaelVakili

New Member
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 *
 
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Parsifal666

I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.
It's certainly implicit. ;)
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.
 

robgb

I was young once
erhaps 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.
That may be true, but it's implicit even here on this forum, every time the subject comes up.
 

ism

Senior Member
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.
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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