Let the music play

Needaham45

Spaceman
I was not vilifying music theory--quite the contrary, while I feel that adhearing to and writing entirely based on music theory produces predictable, mathmatical, uninspired results, the knowledge of it while writing inspired music helps create a better final product. As I said, I started writing without great knowledge in it, then started writing almost strictly using the knowledge I gained from it, and have now returned to writing from inspiration, but with the knowledge I learned behind it and influencing the inspiration, thus making the music I'm writing now the best as compared to what I have written before. I believe that good music can not come strictly from not following the rules, or following the rules. There must be a balance of inspiration and thought with theory and practice.

No, I find nothing wrong with music theory. The problem is often it is taught as "this is what all the great composers were thinking. If you want to write great music, you better follow it too." And that I believe, is entirely wrong.

Also, it must be noted for clarification (though I'm sure not for you ace, as you already clearly know this) that the great composers of yesterday did not give thought to the theory of today. As you said, it is a way of teaching and describing what they did, but they were not actively thinking about it when they did it. Beethoven did not say "I'm going to use a neopolitan 6th chord", it was just common practice. Bach did not avoid parallel 5th or octaves when writing his chorales, it was just common practice at the time to do so. The theory of today describes the writing of yesterday, and therefore rarely has impact on the creative mind of the great composers of today (unless they are emulating an older style).
 

Maj.Striker

Swabbie
Banned
Music is something that can be as complex as quantum physics or as simple as 1+1, it's all in the perception. Sometimes some of the most powerful songs are extremely simple but yet the beauty of music is the depth that always remains. You can take a song and play it one way but if you change the timing just a little bit suddenly it turns from a decent song to an amazing song. Other songs you can't change at all or you'll lose its appeal. The great thing about music is you don't have to spend years and years of your life studying theories and similarities, etc and yet if you want to do that you absolutely can and will probably enjoy it even more!!! In other words, the construction worker with a jackhammer can whistle out a tune that can be as powerful as the Orchestra Maestro who spent years in music theory. Its a field for the amateurs and the professionals and they each enjoy it. It's all about creativity!
 

Needaham45

Spaceman
Absolutely--music can be enjoyed, created, and loved by everyone, and there is no one who has any authority over anyone else. Music is about art, expression, and communication, just because I know the inner workings of it and someone else may not does not make my opinion any more valid. Music is human and human experience, and therefore no one person's opinion can outway anothers.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
You call yourself an eye doctor? Well, I *have* eyes! I'm just as special!

We can all appreciate dogs, but we need to admit that someone who knows how dogs work and can generate beautiful new ones based on that information is pretty special. No amount of teen angst should be able to diminish that.
 

Needaham45

Spaceman
You misunderstand me. Everyone can equally appreciate and love music, and there is no one authority. Just because I have musical knowledge greater than someone who's never studied music does not mean my opinion of a certain work is any better or lesser than anyone else's. Music is designed as art for people--no one's opinion is "worth more" than anyone elses when judging a work.

Yes, my theoretical analysis may be better than someone who has never studied music, but that does not mean my feelings about the work are more valid. How it makes you feel and how it makes me feel are different, but as people that music is trying to impact, my feelings about it mean no more or less than yours. If one were to say they did, then that is to say people are not equally able to feel expression.

Also, if you are implying that I'm the one who has eyes talking to the doctor, trying to make myself more special than I am, I would like to note that I AM a musician and studying music formally. If anything by your example, I am the doctor, telling the patient they can appreicate the work of a good physician just was well as I can.
 

Maj.Striker

Swabbie
Banned
Bandit LOAF said:
You call yourself an eye doctor? Well, I *have* eyes! I'm just as special!

We can all appreciate dogs, but we need to admit that someone who knows how dogs work and can generate beautiful new ones based on that information is pretty special. No amount of teen angst should be able to diminish that.

Well I agree with you that there certainly are acknowledged experts in the field of music. However, my point was that I could create a song that is more appealing than an acknowledged "expert." He or she may know more about what makes their song or my song tick but as far as creativity is involved I could possibly create a better song. But that's all subjective there.
 

ace

Pepper's Keeper - Administrator
Wow, this is all strangely one-sided and formulaic.

Beethoven most definitely did say to himself, "I'm going to use a Neopolitan 6th chord", he just didn't have any internal conflict about it first. Although I can't think off hand of any of his pieces that have Neopolitan 6th chord in them, I think the point is that Beethoven didn't invent them and therefore consciously chose to use them.

That's the entire point of Music Theory: Every subsequent composer didn't reinvent music. They had a collection of knowledge, and a language to comprehend it, so that they could spend their time on advancing music instead of rediscovering things that already work.

Yeah, of course construction workers and grandmothers can make music. They're still going to build on the hundreds of years of tonal western music to do it and the quality of their music will still be dependent on their understanding of Music Theory be it a general unconscious understanding or not.
 

Maj.Striker

Swabbie
Banned
I agree with that. I'm just saying that someone who has absolutely no understanding of music whatsoever can still invent a melody simply by whistling it out. They don't need to know that "Ok, I'm going from C major chord to a C minor here." So...in a long roundabout way I'm just saying, whether or not the construction worker is aware of the established structure of the experts before him he can still create music melodies. He may not be able to read music or play any instrument but he can whistle, hum or sing a song he invented.
 

Needaham45

Spaceman
I strongly disagree about Beethoveen ace. I do not think Beethoven or any great composer really conciously thinks thinks like "I'm going to use a Neopolitan 6th chord to extend the candence to 5 and create tension." I believe it's more of this is what I'm hearing, this is what I want to write, I'm going to write it. But one of my points all long was what you said when you said "the quality of their music will still be dependent on their understanding of Music Theory be it a general unconscious understanding or not."

Often the knowledge of the rules can be drawn from, but often I find that it tends to be in more of a subconcious way than through concious thought. For a basic example, I look back at my music before I knew anything really about theory and I find V=>I cadences all over them. Did I know what I was doing? Did I know anything about theory? No, but they still ended up there. Now when I write, I write from what I hear, but often I find what I learned in theory naturally creeping in, possibly because I'm more aware of it now, but also because I know theoretically what I'm hearing and how to write it (and the music I'm writing now is the best I've ever written). Theory makes the whole writing process easier, and perhaps can open doors, but writing from what you hear, and letting the math guide it rather than the reverse I find always produces better results. Perhaps that's just my experience though.
 

ace

Pepper's Keeper - Administrator
Needaham45 said:
I strongly disagree about Beethoveen ace. I do not think Beethoven or any great composer really conciously thinks thinks like "I'm going to use a Neopolitan 6th chord to extend the candence to 5 and create tension." I believe it's more of this is what I'm hearing, this is what I want to write, I'm going to write it.
I really don't understand what you're trying to say. When Beethoven was composing, and was "hearing" what he wanted to write, he knew exactly what it meant according to theory. If he wanted to create something that sounds like a Neopolitan 6th chord to create an exciting cadence, he consciously wrote a Neopolitan 6th chord and he probably really did put it in first inversion. I'm sure that when he first heard a Neopolitan 6th chord someone said, "Hey Beethoven, that's called a Neopolitan 6th chord". I think you're underestimating the amount of profession and conscious thought composers had put into their art. Beethoven didn't just take walks in the Viennese woods all day long, he studied other people's music using the tools of Music Theory.

I also don't see this great disconnect between what a person hears and what it means according to theory. How else did these people articulate their thoughts?
 

Needaham45

Spaceman
What I'm saying is the music was inspired, not derived. He didn't do it because it was the thing to do, and he didn't consciously say he was going to do it, he did it because that's what inspiration led him to do, not because that's what theory led him to do. His writing wasn't a theory exercise where he deliberately used the latest and greatest in music theory for the reason that it was the latest and greatest, it was inspiration where he wrote what came into his head, and it was later classified by theoreticians.

Also, ace, do you use Sibelius? Been a long time since you've seen/heard some of my writing and I was wondering if you'd be interested in taking a look. I'd like to know what you have to say.
 

Needaham45

Spaceman
ChrisReid said:
Ha, I have autographed ace Hyphen One music CDs and you don't.

??? I'm sorry... I don't see the point of that comment. Care to explain? Was there something wrong with me asking a fellow composer to look at some writing of mine, or am I just missing something?
 

Needaham45

Spaceman
Sorry for the double post but I just realized this thread is the perfect place to ask this--I can't believe I didn't ask before now.

Although I doubt it, is there anyone out there who's a Sinfonian? I'm Lambda Mu #348!
 

Needaham45

Spaceman
Oh LeHah... it's not THAT bad :p

But speaking of topic shift, this started out as discussion of music software, and look where it ended up. Anyway, a question asking about other members of the national music fraternity I belong to isn't so terrible in a music thread... Besides, there was no way where this was going was going to end well.
 

Edx

Spaceman
Heres the thing, I think you are both right.

I started making music about 5 years ago. I had a few music classes when I was in school, but you were forced to take them and I screwed around and didnt learn much of anything. Basically, I knew nothing. Nevertheless I bought a keyboard and just started trying to make nice sounding "shapes" with my fingers, you know, chords. :rolleyes: Using free "pad" atmosphic synth sounds and making interesting ambiences and stuff like that. Anyways, I would record some stuff and unsurprisigly it would sound pretty dreadful. But I got better, I went on forums and listened to other peoples stuff, picked up little tips here and there, my keyboard playing also improved. I started listening to music in a different way trying to take in more of the details so I could make my own music better.

I used the think if I only got more expensive sound libraries my music would get better, I really didnt want to learn theory if I could help it. Some people say that better sounds dont make you a better composer. I disagree, but not for the reasons I used to think. Yes better sound libraries will not necessarily make you a better composer they will just make bad compositions sound better, however, they can HELP you become a better composer especially if you are composing "by ear". The reason is that you feel much more inspired with better sounds and the instruments sound more real which can enable you to see possibilities you didnt think of before. A classically trained composer might just be happy to hear his compositions, but he doesnt NEED to hear them to know how to use woodwinds or Trumpets for example. However, a composer that does things by ear if your trumpet sounds or woodwind sounds arent very good you just might not use them at all. Not even so much because you dont like the sound in your sampled music, but the main reason being you dont understand how you are meant to use them as everything you try sounds bad and you wouldnt know if you were using them correctly anyway. You kind of understand in you head what you want to do, but dont understand how to translate that.

What I disagree with Ace about is him implying someone shouldnt really bother with any of this technology until you can read and write music. If I had to do that I would have never started doing music at all!! And theres just no reason why you cant do both at the same time. And theres absolutely no reason to put someone off getting into this because they cant read or write music, or havent learnt music theory.

Thats not to say they shouldnt be told the truth. That when you first start out in this way you will likely have a hard time of it, and very likely suck for a while and become frustrated, unless you happen to be quite brilliant. And if that makes someone give up, fine. You dont have the drive. But I think if you really want to make music you will be drawn to music theory naturally, to find out yourself how to make things better.

Music is art, it is not scientific. Music theory attempts to explain why we humans like certian tones and rhythems and why and how they work. We know what chord progressions can create an errie feel, we also know what instruments work well together. If you choose not to learn the theory, you will find yourself in a constant state of confusion because you wont know why your favourite piece of music sounds the way it does. I know many and good composers that started off learning by ear and they all say the same thing.

Nothing is set in stone of course, you can just throw out all the rules and do whatever you want, right? Who cares? Its art not science? Yes. That is true. But most of the time you are trying to emulate something. Wether thats your favourite rock band, DJ or film composer. And if you want to write or perform music like they do you really need to learn HOW they do it. What Im trying to explain is that those that compose by ear will naturally want to learn orchestration and music theory. Learning it by yourself by ear is possible, but so much harder because you have to figure out this stuff by yourself. Its much harder to innovate if you are constantly fumbling around not knowing what you are doing, and if something does happen to sound nice you still dont really have a goood idea why.

But to bring this long ass post back to the point, I think if someone is really interested in doing this they should go for it. It is possible to get great results for a while doing things by ear but in my view unless you eventually get your head in a book, as it were, theres only so far you can go. But the fact remains also that just because you know music theory doesnt mean you will be a good composer or make good music. I have known people with degrees that make really awfull music, seriously. Talent, ideas and inspiration is what matters here. Learning music theory simply gives you the tools to help you realise your ideas to the best of your ability. Thats why people should learn music theory.

Ed
 
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