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What makes it coherent?

Discussion in 'Composition, Orchestration & Technique' started by JulianF, Apr 5, 2018.

  1. JulianF

    JulianF Member

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    What makes a track/sections coherent to you?

    Is it the motifs sprinkled throughout the piece? The new section containing elements from the previous? The same chord progression underneath? A simple structure that is easy to understand like AABA? etc.
     
  2. carlkingdom

    carlkingdom New Member

    These are all good thoughts. Any way you can make a lot of ideas “belong” together is a good thing. It’s a common frustration when listening to music... I think, “What the hell, going to this part made no sense.” Mostly in rock music. So it sounds like thinking of these things, you’re on the right track. -Carl.
     
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  3. d.healey

    d.healey Music Monkey

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    There are many ways to make a piece coherent, you've suggested some. You could also use rhythmic patterns, drones, instrumentation, and dynamic level to make it seem more coherent. There isn't a single answer, it depends on the piece and the context.
     
  4. gregh

    gregh Senior Member

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    pieces become coherent through predictability - which leaves the mechanisms for achieving that wide open and vary for audience anyway. eg some people like Philip Glass some find him boring, some like Xenakis, some find him incoherent
     
  5. Pantonal

    Pantonal Active Member

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    I believe predictability is the wrong concept, but you're close. When motives and themes get reused and varied that develops a familiarity (predictability), and thus coherence. However coherence is not what I consider the goal. When motives and themes are reused and varied in unexpected ways you get surprise. I think one of the best things a composer can do is elicit surprise with familiar themes and motives. It's hard to do, it takes thought and creativity, but it can be done. It doesn't rely on something completely new and novel (as in avante garde),but it gives the listener a fresh viewpoint on a familiar musical concept.
     
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  6. JJP

    JJP I put dots and lines on paper.

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    Hopefully I'm not being too being too pedantic, I wouldn't use the word "predictability". I'd call it "expectation". Much of this expectation is built into Western harmony. We know how our scales work and know where the home, or resting place is. This is why certain melodies and harmonies often work the way they do. It's a shared language with a set of rules listeners understand.

    We can also create expectation through repetition. Do something one way. Repeat it to establish consistency. Then the listener says, "Ah-ha. I see how this works," and expects it to continue or "watches" to see if it will change.

    Once the expectation is created, you can play with it by sometimes fulfilling it, other times delaying it and going in a different direction for a while. Once the expectation has been established, it helps to maintain listener interest because when you go somewhere else the listener is waiting to see how and when, or if the expectation is finally resolved.
     
  7. gregh

    gregh Senior Member

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    I don’t want to get bogged down in terminology, expectations /familiarity are all good terms as well. What interested me many years ago was developing algorithms to measure predictability across multiple scales, note/section/whatever. Modulating expectation was fairly core to compositional practice and can be measured. Gtg
     
  8. douggibson

    douggibson Senior Member

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    Yes, "varied repetition" and it's importance really can't be stressed enough. The other side of the coin to this is that
    "memory" is connected to "expectation". So in very general sense musical form is about memory and expectation.

    As others have already said, the composer can play with this and confirm or deny the material. This is based on the gradient of how much variation is unfolding. Either way a composer is helped by self imposing some kind of limitation. To say this another way, and in plain english, know the core of the idea. It's a challenge to figure out what to do when "anything goes". No one will blink an eye regardless of following common practice rules, or simply a person improvising "moment by moment". We have all heard so many different style and languages.

    So it is useful to know: are you trying to surprise your audience ? Confound them ? Or, what one of my teachers always stressed.....create inevitability. He used to always say "you know the difference between Mozart and Salieri?"
    Salieri, you can take this pattern and this one and move it around and no one will notice. With Mozart you change one thing it all falls apart." It's creating the illusion that the music "had to go there". Moonlight sonata, out of all the composition possibilities, had to unfold like that. Same with the 5th Symphony.

    Just like the music and emotions thread........ no one can do the work of learning but you.

    Great authors read a lot. Transcribing either by ear, or by looking at sheet music and writing it out by hand is very useful. Pick pieces you love. Another common task is to take say 8 measures of a piece you love, and then try and write the next 16. How would XYZ compose this.

    Then of course write out your answer, and then copy out by hand the answer from the piece you selected. I still think pencil (or pen) and paper is the way to go. Don't use the computer.

    Anyhow..... I will end with a very general list, of things I discovered that became important for my own composing. (this is very subjective. This is just my personal observations, they may be of no use to anyone else, and I am sure there are many others I am forgetting at this moment)


    What makes a track/sections coherent to you?

    Controlled repetition
    (Talked about above already)

    Staggered Melody

    Syncopation


    Voice leading

    Common tones between chords

    Sound Kernels
    – These are motives or (hooks) which form the entire basis of a composition. The best composers can create the largest universe from the fewest notes

    The “Sounds” of Silence

    Let the listeners mind fill in the blanks? (Mary had a little .....................) (chainsaw)

    Temporization: Ostinatos can often fall in this category. Feels like you are moving without moving.
    If you have 16th notes for a measure of just D and F the harmonic rhythm is not moving any faster than if
    whole notes were given to those pitches. But to the listener it feels like moving.

    _____________________________________________________________________________________

    Creating "highlights" (How does the listener know what is most important in a piece. What should we focus on ?) *particularly instrumental music. Vocal music tends to take care of itself, but these techniques still apply. For example what words are most important.

    Duration

    Doubling

    Dynamics

    Register

    Repetition

    Rhythm/Silence



    * The antithesis of each can also be a very effective for formal development of your composition. As a general rule pieces that explore a few ideas thoroughly (ie. in variety of ways) tend to be more successful than those that have a multitude of ideas scantly passing by.
     
  9. Pantonal

    Pantonal Active Member

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    So Julian (the OP), did we answer your question? Was this helpful?
     
  10. Sibelius19

    Sibelius19 AKA -Erick McNerney

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    I think all of the things you've mentioned are good, but I think they actually describe what could make music "engaging" or "interesting" or even the elements of the piece which may or may not render it "coherent." Coherence is a whole different thing to me. Coherence is an overall quality of the piece which can be applied globally. I may have lots of little sections of music which when focused in on, they aren't that interesting, or even coherent, but in the greater context of the piece, make the piece have coherence. To me, it doesn't even need to follow any convention to be coherent. It just needs to be logical in some way or another (even via assertion). I can't help but think of Rite of Spring or any number of pieces by Schoenberg. In some way these pieces were self-referential, and so the only way to really judge their coherence is by understanding the piece in its own context. Many people at the time probably thought it was nonesense and lacked coherence. Doesn't mean it did indeed lack it? So whether something is deemed to have coherence is just as much a part of the listener's opinion as it is the composer's composition.

    I'm not really saying "anything goes." Sort of, but not really haha.
     
  11. douggibson

    douggibson Senior Member

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    Nothing you have said directly responds to, or refutes, what I wrote. After the 2nd sentence you use musical examples that directly illustrate what I wrote. Stravinsky and Schoenberg are great examples of the techniques outlined above. Thus I am at a loss for what your argument is.
     
  12. AlexanderSchiborr

    AlexanderSchiborr Senior Member

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    There are so many things...yeah..what an answer..

    Actually there is the point, I don´t know anything about your background, but when I speak for myself: I actually need (ed) to learn the absolute basics before starting to write any sophisticated stuff, because at that time where I didn´t match to write any basics all my so called sophisticated stuff was "pseudo" sophisticated and just utterly nonsense. Having said that: Start (I think you want to know more about how to create this) with simple short pieces which of course why not features an idea twice, and a b section then returning to the core idea back. It is as simple as it sounds but when you don´t train the basics don´t be a chopin or rachmaninoff..thats´the point. So start simple and basic. Study thefore song / music literature, transcribe also music. Find out why pieces work. There are things in music history which apear over and over again in one or another form. Sure Doug gave a very good idea and thoughts which are much more in depth already.
     
  13. Sibelius19

    Sibelius19 AKA -Erick McNerney

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    I don't have an argument. It's simply not one. I liked your post. Perhaps I worded it in such a way that it sounded like I was "refuting" what you were saying. Not at all. I was just emphasizing that for me, the whole of the parts is what makes something either coherent or incoherent. So I guess what I said was more of a musing based on what you said (whether I realized it at the time or not).
     
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  14. OP
    OP
    JulianF

    JulianF Member

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    Yup. I was just letting replies come in so I didn't say anything.

    I welcome any more if you've got something ;)
     
  15. AdamAlake

    AdamAlake Music Person

    Short answer: Every new thing must be related to what came before.
     
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  16. Pantonal

    Pantonal Active Member

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    While there is some truth to this statement I disagree with such a blanket statement. Sonata form in general has two theme groups, so by definition some of them are unrelated. Also, sometimes a major change to unrelated material is what's called for in music. Contrast can be a very important a feature in music. Making a coherent piece with contrasting sections is more of a challenge but one many composers have explored in depth for centuries.
     
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  17. Sibelius19

    Sibelius19 AKA -Erick McNerney

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    I think it's like telling a story though. Eventually those things do become related, either over the time of the piece, or by reflecting on the meaning of it all together after listening to it. But yea, if you simply go into it thinking linearly, I agree with you there.
     
  18. DoctorGuitar007

    DoctorGuitar007 Member

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    But isn't the 2nd subject in sonata form still related to the first, in that it contrasts it? They may be--should be--different, but nonetheless still related. If two composers were to collaborate on a symphony one couldn't write a 2nd subject without knowing what the first subject was (or vice versa).
     
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  19. Pantonal

    Pantonal Active Member

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    Isn't that like saying I'm related to you because we're not related?
     
  20. DoctorGuitar007

    DoctorGuitar007 Member

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    I don't think so. You and I are not related (other than having some shared interests, based on us both being on this forum), so if we were characters in a play, it is as if the author has randomly pulled our personalities, beliefs, characters, etc. out of a hat. We are not related: the attributes assigned to you have no impact on those assigned to me; just as with you and I in real life. If we were put together on a stage for two hours and told to talk it might be dramatic or it might be boring; we might agree on everything, disagree to the point of fighting, or just ignore each other. If I left the stage and someone else took my place, you'd still be the same. That's "not related".
    If I was a playright though, I wouldn't be choosing my character's attributes randomly. Even if my two characters are completely different, they would still be related; designed to sometimes contrast, sometimes compliment. If I fundamentally decided to chage one of my characters after the first draft, I'd almost certainly have to change the other as a consequence. They are related, even if fundamentally different.
    And two characters stuck on a stage together having a discussion or argument = sonata form.
     

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