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capt_hook
08-25-2005, 01:51 AM
The last thing I got to in theory before the break between Summer and Fall semester was Late Romantic theory. I start the fall semester this Monday coming up and I'll be getting more 2oth century theory than I could wish for:) I have questions about 2oth century theory though...

I have been reading some of the basic elements and vocab of the early 2oth century composition and I noticed that a lot of the rules that were drilled into my mind for counterpoint and such has kind of been thrown out the window in early 2oth century compositions and on. I'm pretty sure that twelve-tone serialism does not follow the rules of the tonal system, not sure since I haven't gotten there yet, but it would make sense.

Does 2oth century theory brush aside a lot of the tonal rules (if not all)?

How do you think that 2oth century theory ties into film score compositions of the past and esp. the present?

Overall, do you think that many of the film composers today care about the traditional rules and functions of tonal harmony or is it kind of like "Rules? What rules and who cares if it sounds good" type attitude?

When I speak of "rules" and "functions" I mean all the pre- 2oth century counterpoint rules (parallels, dircts, unequal 5ths, normal resolution of dominant harmonies, augmented chords, etc.) I do realize that a lot of composers in the late classical and romantic era began to break out of a lot of these practices, even Bach broke many rules. Any info and discussion is appreciated. Thanks!

Skysaw
08-25-2005, 10:18 AM
I'm pretty sure that twelve-tone serialism does not follow the rules of the tonal system, not sure since I haven't gotten there yet, but it would make sense.

Tone row composition does more or less throw out all traditional rules of melody, harmony, and counterpoint, though not necessarily form, texture, or orchestration.

Does 2oth century theory brush aside a lot of the tonal rules (if not all)?

The 20th century saw a lot of fracturing of the rules of writing. You'll likely learn something about: Impressionism; Neo-Classicism; The Vienese School; Pan-Diatonicism; Minimalism; Stochastic, Aleatoric, and Heuristic music; and more.

How do you think that 2oth century theory ties into film score compositions of the past and esp. the present?

Many film composers write as if the 20th century never happened. Many embrace everything that has happened. My personal opinion is that the more you learn about and embrace, the better your music will be. There are many absolutely beautiful atonal film scores out there.

Overall, do you think that many of the film composers today care about the traditional rules and functions of tonal harmony or is it kind of like "Rules? What rules and who cares if it sounds good" type attitude?

"Sounding good" is a rule too. However, it NEVER hurts to know more. The more you know, the more experience you have to draw on, which means you can pull out of your head what you need to. If you don't immerse yourself in atonal music, you're going to have a rough time trying to "fake it" if you need that sound.

When I speak of "rules" and "functions" I mean all the pre- 2oth century counterpoint rules (parallels, dircts, unequal 5ths, normal resolution of dominant harmonies, augmented chords, etc.) I do realize that a lot of composers in the late classical and romantic era began to break out of a lot of these practices, even Bach broke many rules. Any info and discussion is appreciated. Thanks!

The 12-tone system had very strict rules, if one asked Schoenberg. His pupil Berg tended to break a lot of those rules. :D

In one sense, any set of rules can be viewed as arbitrary. One thing that many great composers did that was more important than breaking rules, was to create all together new ones, whether for many of their pieces, or just one work.

capt_hook
08-25-2005, 11:03 AM
Thank you for the info, very helpful in my search to make a little more sense out of all of this. As of now, I compose in a romantic/late romantic style on paper following the rules of that style for practice and enjoyment. For the movies, animations, and just general compositions on the keys, I follow as much as I can, but I go more for a sound or sonority.

I am the point now where I am beginning to blend more of the "rules" with (my ear) what I want it to sound like and it is a heck of a lot slower than just composing without paying any attention to any rules at all. I'll keep on moving forward and all of this will come together eventually, I'm patient:)

I guess it deals with the alpha and beta waves in the human brain. When you are in one state, you don't want to have to constantly keep going to book and notes, etc and then switch back over to the other state. The state that the composer is in when most creative needs to be maintatined and knowing the rules knee-jerk is essential to staying in that state. I mean all rules, not just counterpoint, but intervals, what all the 7th chords are composed of, altered chords, augmented chords and how the *usually* resolve, etc...

Sorry for going on a bit, but I guess this does tie into the rules of 2oth century, thank you for the info!

Fabio
08-27-2005, 03:52 AM
WOW!

It's a compelling thread: you will have my contribution soon. Let me go back to my better network... :D

Ciao

Fabio

capt_hook
08-27-2005, 04:31 AM
Hey Fabio!

I'm very interested to see what your take this subject will be. I'm actually kind of sad, I thought I'd have more responses and opinons than this. Oh well, I guess everyone is really busy which is cool b/c I know how it is to be bogged down with too many things to do:)

This is something that has been bothering me ever since I began serious music education and I guess it is one of those things that will just make sense to me one day all at once. In my course of learning music at a university level, I've been instructed on all the rules and language of music theory and composition.

OK, now, I've busted my butt on getting these rules down to the point of dreaming of them and I still have so much more to go. I study theory, I eat theory, I sleep theory, and the cylce starts over again each day!!!

MY MAIN PROBLEM: If I compose a piece for a movie in the "typical" Hollywood type soundtrack (Horner, Williams, Newton Howard, Goldsmith, etc.) and try to follow the rules that I have learned, the music will end up sounding like it is from the Classical or Late Romatic period, which is not what I want **BUT** I don't want to compose by just playing chords or a melody and then embellish it only by ear. I don't want to just say "I'll compose by ear and if it breaks rules, OH WELL!" I don' want to be rude, but IMHO, I think that is lazy.

Maybe a lot of the film composers of today write something first, melody, bass, percussion etc and then embellish it and then tweak to fit using rules of that style. I have a feeling though that a lot of the film composers today aren't checknig or even caring about any rules at all. The reason I feel this way is b/c the awesome Beethoven completed NINE symphonies in his ENTIRE life time, as far as orchestral works go, while Danny Elfman is knocking out about, what, 12-15 films PER YEAR if not more! Now, that is what I call fast. I do realize that many composers today have a "team" that orchestrate and such which makes the whole process faster, but still... I know there is a HUGE difference between Beethoven and Elfman, just an example. Thanks folks!

Poolman
08-27-2005, 05:05 AM
The thing about creating a rule ( or gradually agreeing on one, by practice and custom), is that any rule implies the statement “If you break it, then so-and-so will happen.” Some examples:

1) If you write consecutive octaves or fifths, then, temporarily at any rate, two parts have merged into one so you have lost one part.
2) If you let the leading note fall, then an expectation of the listener has been thwarted.
3) If you do not resolve a discord, then you will have treated it as a concord. Will the listener agree that it is concordant, i.e. satisfactory in itself?
4) If you repeat the same chord weak to strong, you will have shifted the metric accent.

And so on, for every rule in the book.

Now, one may desire these “forbidden” results; one may even seek to achieve these results; but the crux of the matter is that it is risky to break rules without regard for the consequences. A rule should be broken for a reason, not out of ignorance. If a higher artistic result (or at any rate a new valid concept) results, then any and all rules may be broken.

A constant consideration must be the audience. Since music is communication, listeners will judge and appreciate a piece of music according to the rules they have unconsciously learnt from all the music they have previously heard. They are probably even using different sets of rules for different periods or styles of music. A new musical about New York crime, with music in the style of Bach, complete with fugues, would be an infringement of the “rules” for writing musicals which audiences have unconsciously acquired.

It has often been said that such-and-such a composer is ahead of his time. Maybe: one could also argue that most audiences are behind theirs. Forging new musical styles and rules has always been a case of composers running ahead of their audiences and enticing them to catch up. If you want to be a true innovator, go ahead, make your own rules. If you want to guarantee a friendly audience, stick to the style you think most of them are familiar with. A problem every composer has to face is whereabouts between those extremes to pitch his style.

Terry Dwyer

dpc
08-27-2005, 09:10 AM
You will find that your subconscious has absorbed virtually everything you've been taught. Your conscious mind is what feels the need to brush up and refer to books etc. Don't worry about it because the more you write the less you will have to do this. You will also find that returning to books regularly is a great joy.

The rules we all talk about are based upon the sonic result. Parallelism sounds bad in most contexts (counterpoint being the antithesis of it.) However certain parrallesims sound wonderful (as in min 11th chords.) An adherence to rules over a period of time trains the ear as to what is strong or weak sounding. You hear lots of weakness in modern film because these fellows were never trained in composition and don't hear the problems.

The abandoning of traditional diatonic chord movement is a large factor in not sounding like old time Hollywood. Cm Ebm Gbm is as likely to be found as C F G.

Skysaw
08-27-2005, 12:29 PM
I don't want to just say "I'll compose by ear and if it breaks rules, OH WELL!" I don' want to be rude, but IMHO, I think that is lazy.
Assuming you know which rules you are breaking and why, it is not lazy. It is bold. The other side of that coin is "I'll compose by the rules, but if my ear wants to break a rule, I will break that rule."

The ear will always be more important than any set of rules.

PaulR
08-27-2005, 12:33 PM
[B]
Many film composers write as if the 20th century never happened. Many embrace everything that has happened. My personal opinion is that the more you learn about and embrace, the better your music will be. There are many absolutely beautiful atonal film scores out there.


So very true. Or - they basically copy.

Fabio
08-27-2005, 02:49 PM
Jamie and Terry are describing the core of the answer.

Rules are never the music, but just a tool to reach a result, or infringing it, to reach the opposite. The music is a mix that YOU decide, between
1)"sounding good",
2) "loved and understood by the people" and
3) "it's what I want to tell you".
Rules help you to reach frequently the first two targets, the last one is your creativity, and is the field of rule infringement or new rules creation.

Anyway remember:
- in the past a strong philosophic background was influencing the music composition, then the importance of rules was linked to the natural low respect, and rethoric or philosophic, aesthetic and sometime esotheric concepts were hidden under the harmony and counterpoint academic organization.

- the 20th century is the age of new and contradictory approach to the music: the mathematic and abstract new rules creation, and a new age of spontaneism coming from modal, jazz, ethnic, and pop culture. The incredible mix of this style is largely diffused by the new media (records, radio, television, cinema) and became day by day the "new multi-language" of people.

-Contemporary composers then are able to use one or more languages when and if it's necessary. A good movie-music composer is able to write heroic and romance symphonic music (late romantic and jazzy or marching) as trilling atonal sequences of hard dissonances and convulse rhythms. The "reason" to do that will be the scoring of the image and story of course, but the mix is creating a wonderful contamination, where more modal, polytonal and jazz rules are used, instead of romantic harmony.

- The modern didactic of the composition study is in fact moving from the "rules" learning to the "style" analysis: you must learn the language elements (rules) to make your music sound baroque, romantic, classic or contemporary. Then you will mix it all together to find your balance, or to forge your style and language, or symply to satisfy the audience, as Terry correctly say.

Fabio
08-27-2005, 03:10 PM
...

MY MAIN PROBLEM: If I compose a piece for a movie in the "typical" Hollywood type soundtrack (Horner, Williams, Newton Howard, Goldsmith, etc.) and try to follow the rules that I have learned, the music will end up sounding like it is from the Classical or Late Romatic period, which is not what I want **BUT** I don't want to compose by just playing chords or a melody and then embellish it only by ear. I don't want to just say "I'll compose by ear and if it breaks rules, OH WELL!" I don' want to be rude, but IMHO, I think that is lazy.

It's because you must think different: if you use a modal and jazzy harmony, and a pop melody, but a large and rich romantic orchestration, what happens? and if you forget the balance and write short rythmic decorations around a unison big melody? this is the style...



Maybe a lot of the film composers of today write something first, melody, bass, percussion etc and then embellish it and then tweak to fit using rules of that style. I have a feeling though that a lot of the film composers today aren't checknig or even caring about any rules at all. The reason I feel this way is b/c the awesome Beethoven completed NINE symphonies in his ENTIRE life time, as far as orchestral works go, while Danny Elfman is knocking out about, what, 12-15 films PER YEAR if not more! Now, that is what I call fast. I do realize that many composers today have a "team" that orchestrate and such which makes the whole process faster, but still... I know there is a HUGE difference between Beethoven and Elfman, just an example. Thanks folks!

The knowledge of the language make you effective. You quickly find out what you need to tell the story, instead of try and try slowly improvisating and experimenting frustrating ways...

I suspect that a masterpiece is not easy to write under the pressure of 13 soundtracks per year, this is professionalism, not art, but...

...sometime inspiration follow the less believable roads...Bach was writing an enormous number of pieces, as Mozart did, to gain money to live. His talent was so high that even if under pressure, his music is almost good, sometime excellent or incredible.

chet reinhardt
08-27-2005, 06:26 PM
Fabio, I have a few questions about your very interesting comments regarding the past when "a strong philosophic background was influencing the music composition"

You said that "then the importance of rules was linked to the natural low respect"

Is there a typo in that sentence? Did you mean "natural law" instead of "natural low"? I can see where with an integrated philosophical system compositional rules could be linked to ideas of natural (or divine) law and compositional methods and practices considered to have universal and religious significance. I am thinking about the long domination of "Gregorian" chant and the churchs' attitude toward polyphony and instrumental music and the way that played out in the case of for example Palestrina who as I understand it tried to construct a functional compromise with respect to these tendencies. (By the way, in the celebratory piece you composed for your marriage I heard, among other wonderful things, echos of Palestrina.)

"and rethoric or philosophic, aesthetic and sometime esotheric concepts were hidden under the harmony and counterpoint academic organization."

Reminds me of theories regarding Bachs' use numerological concepts in the construction of the Goldberg Variations. I would be interested in other examples. and in general in an expansion of your fascinating ideas on this subject.

Best wishes

Chet

jesshmusic
08-27-2005, 07:23 PM
Keep in mind, that one of John Williams' secrets, is that he often writes well out of the bounds of tonality. I recommend listening to his legit music. Violin Concerto, Flute Concerto, Cello music. If it is not entirely atonal, large portions of it are.

This is the secret. Aaron Copland changed film music forever with the music for The Red Pony. He wrote the first score that didn't sound like something Tchaikovsky wrote. As composers we need all the tools in the world. I suggest studying 12-tone, Pitch Set, Bartok scores, Stravinsky Scores, Shostakovich scores, Copland scores (especially late ones on the more atonal side). Learn to integrate this with your own techinques. Because, why would anyone want to write like Mozart when Mozart already did it just fine?

dpc
08-28-2005, 02:03 AM
I suggest studying 12-tone, Pitch Set, Bartok scores, Stravinsky Scores, Shostakovich scores, Copland scores (especially late ones on the more atonal side). Learn to integrate this with your own techinques. Because, why would anyone want to write like Mozart when Mozart already did it just fine?

Actually all those guys are still pretty tonal with the exception of Stravinsky's last period. I think you mean non traditional or non diatonic harmony (as Mozart's music is traditional and diatonic - although used with incredible wizardry.) The composers you mentioned used things like modal writing (Shostakovitch and Bartok) as well as pan diatonic (Copeland) among other devices. But the triad still rules the day and indeed tonal centers that are treated as such.

2 cents anyway

jesshmusic
08-28-2005, 09:31 AM
Not all the time. I have played Copland pieces that are flat out atonal. I didn't mean to say they were strictly atonal, but they are not writing common practice harmony. Bartok frequently didn't use standard triads. Sometimes the harmony was tone clusters or only two notes a major second apart. Stravinsky definately did not use many standard triads in his ballets.
As for Shostakovich, listen to his first symphony. He says it's in a key, but it is so marvelously chromatic as to be very near atonal (but not quite). I think we must break ranks with the standard triad. Everyone who is serious about composing needs to grab Hindemith's book on composition. He wrote beautiful music without relying on the standard triad. His quartal harmony system proves very interesting and fun to compose with.

As for Copland, I do recommend everyone trying to find recordings of his later, more avante garde music. The fact that the listening public neglected this music seems awful to me.

Here is my recommended listening for 20th century stuff:

#1........Bartok, String Quartets 1-6.... Bathe in these. To me, these are the greatest works for string quartet since Beethoven. They are so amazing.
#2........Schoenberg, Pierrot Luinaire.... Ah.... warped but beautiful.
#3........Bartok, The Miraculous Mandarin.... Very fun piece
#4........Barber, Piano Concerto.... Definately NOT Adagio for Strings.
#5........Schoenberg, Survivor from Warsaw.... VERY moving.
#6........John Williams, Violin Concerto
#7........Hindemith, Mathis de Maler
#8........Varese, Arcana

Fabio
08-28-2005, 09:37 AM
Fabio, I have a few questions about your very interesting comments regarding the past when "a strong philosophic background was influencing the music composition"

You said that "then the importance of rules was linked to the natural low respect"

Is there a typo in that sentence? Did you mean "natural law" instead of "natural low"?

Yes of course, sorry. It's "LAW"! :o



I can see where with an integrated philosophical system compositional rules could be linked to ideas of natural (or divine) law and compositional methods and practices considered to have universal and religious significance. I am thinking about the long domination of "Gregorian" chant and the churchs' attitude toward polyphony and instrumental music and the way that played out in the case of for example Palestrina who as I understand it tried to construct a functional compromise with respect to these tendencies. (By the way, in the celebratory piece you composed for your marriage I heard, among other wonderful things, echos of Palestrina.)


Yes you are right. But the first and main natural law is the Pitagorean vision of sound as rational mathematic proportion, first scientific analysis of harmonics, and then of the harmony rules.
From a theological and philosophical point of view, some erudites linked also the harmony of sounds to the harmony of the sky and planets (harmony of spheres), as the harmony of the nature (the "aurea sectio" is a mathematic proportion found in nature and used as base for formal structure along centuries by artists and composers, willing or inconscious)



"and rethoric or philosophic, aesthetic and sometime esotheric concepts were hidden under the harmony and counterpoint academic organization."

Reminds me of theories regarding Bachs' use numerological concepts in the construction of the Goldberg Variations. I would be interested in other examples. and in general in an expansion of your fascinating ideas on this subject.


Yes Bachs numbers are an example.
From the beginning (early XIII century), the counterpoint was an intellectual exercise, linked to theological or esotheric concepts. Bach as you say, was member of a mathematic/theologic society. Mozart wrote using massonic symbology, even if his music seems to be so natural and spontaneous. Behetoven used musical symbols in several compositions...and we are not to Wagner, Debussy, Bartok, Skriabin yet, and so on.

The use of rules was then in the beginning the "art secret, coming from nature knowledge and divine law". Then it became a way to keep intellectual and rich the musical writing.

The freedom was always possible. Why for centuries people prefer to follow rules? I think that the answer is easy: after the first traumatic shock of studying composition, when rules are enemies, ready to fill your work with "errors", rules became friendly tools to write well and quickly, and you will love it so much, that you will create some new rules your self to use in your works!!!


:cool:

chet reinhardt
08-28-2005, 02:59 PM
Fabio

Thanks for reminding me that the origins go back to Pythagoras. It would be interesting to look for correspondences and analogies between developments in mathematics and developments in music. The names of some of the types of numbers give some indication that attitudes towards them parallelled attitudes towards increasing dissonance, chromaticism, and atonality in music: natural numbers, real numbers, irrationaly numbers, imaginary numbers, transfinite cardinals, and the like. By the way, (and I hope this will be taken as the gentle allusion to the quirks and ironies of life that it is intended to be) set theory (which of course is used in the construction of pitch set theory) can be viewed as the common practice harmony of mathematics.

"From the beginning (early XIII century), the counterpoint was an intellectual exercise, linked to theological or esotheric concepts. Bach as you say, was member of a mathematic/theologic society."

Interesting. I will have to follow that up.

"Mozart wrote using massonic symbology, even if his music seems to be so natural and spontaneous."

My wife and I just finished listening to a series of lectures by Robert Greenberg of San Francisco Performances on The Magic Flute (from The Teaching Company's course on Mozart's Operas) that focused on the use of masonic imagry in the libretto. Next to nothing was said about the musical structure of the piece (I was a bit disappointed) but we enjoyed the talks greatly.

"Behetoven used musical symbols in several compositions...and we are not to Wagner, Debussy, Bartok, Skriabin yet, and so on."

Has anyone written about such things from an intellectual history perspective either with respect to individual composers or with respect to the evolution of such use over time? Or are the relevant details scattered through works devoted to other topics? In my "spare time" (that was a joke of humor!) I would be interested in looking into this a bit deeper.

"The use of rules was then in the beginning the "art secret, coming from nature knowledge and divine law". Then it became a way to keep intellectual and rich the musical writing."

What is the source of your quote? The author has an interesting intellectual flavor.

"The freedom was always possible. Why for centuries people prefer to follow rules? I think that the answer is easy: after the first traumatic shock of studying composition, when rules are enemies, ready to fill your work with "errors", rules became friendly tools to write well and quickly, and you will love it so much, that you will create some new rules your self to use in your works!!!"

Just so. And of course the development of new rules also serves the cult of originality that is also a characteristic of the enterprise.

I confess that I've resisted aspects of the 20th century rules because in part music has been a refuge for me from the rigors of formal analysis, a place where within the comfortable borders of mostly modal jazz I could let my intuition have free play, or in listenning to compositions with a similar (to me anyway) melodic sophistication (Bach and Mozart in particular). But gradually my other habits of mind have been manifesting themselves in my approach to music. It will be interesting to see how things develop.

Best wishes

Chet

dpc
08-28-2005, 03:11 PM
Not all the time. I have played Copland pieces that are flat out atonal. I didn't mean to say they were strictly atonal, but they are not writing common practice harmony. Bartok frequently didn't use standard triads. Sometimes the harmony was tone clusters or only two notes a major second apart. Stravinsky definately did not use many standard triads in his ballets.
As for Shostakovich, listen to his first symphony. He says it's in a key, but it is so marvelously chromatic as to be very near atonal (but not quite). I think we must break ranks with the standard triad.


Yes you're right about the Copeland forgot about his piano variations which are very out and atonal.

Bartok as I said is very modal and can be highly countrapuntal as in his Music for Strg's Perc and Celeste. Even with his seconds and tritones etc Bartok is not an atonalist but far more polytonal and such.

Shostakovitch's 1st Symph., first movement is very chromatic but the first triad appears in measure 6. (As I said the use is not traditional but the nature is tonal rather than atonal. Chromaticism is a term directly related to diatonic harmony. Atonal music is not chromatic because it has no basis in diatonic harmony.) The slow movement is very tonal though it shifts a lot. I can hum all the tunes which is not the case with a strict atonal work. He does have a very interesting approach which is constant shifting of modes: he may begin a phrase in C and finish in Ab or even sequence through a number of keys.

When I think atonal I think Webern, Schoenberg and even Berg with his hybrid
approach. Also the other serialists.

Not commenting on the music because all these guys are great and I like your list. Just going for clarity of definition. :)

chet reinhardt
08-28-2005, 03:21 PM
Prince

You make many interesting points. I will only be refering to a few of them since I have been procrastinating with respect to one of my current projects (I have a recalcitrant new system that is insisting on sharing IRQs between its video adapter and its cardbus interface which of course is where my Indigo IO would plug in).

"As I understand it most "rules" were "created" after the fact, by theorist studying already written compositions. Bach didn't have a book that said never use parallel 5ths, he just didn't use them cause he didn't like the way they sounded to his ears. Fux's book wasn't written till Back was in his 40's, long after he had already developed."

This raises the interesting issue of Bach's mental representations, cognitive structures, thought forms and how they evolved. The Artificial Intelligence folks (I think it was Doug Lenat that originated the concept but I'm not certain) talk about the difference between interpretted and compiled knowledge. Interpretted knowledge is explicit like rules written out in a book. Compiled knowledge is unconscious and efficient. The fact that Bach did not write out his "rules" does not mean that he didn't have any. Of course this raises the interesting question of what sort of form these rules might take. This is a large subject. And the question of how such "rules" (if we allow the use of the term to cover such mental representations) evolve is also a large topic. There is an interesting book called Paradigms and Barriers (I don't remember the authors name) that looks at such things in an interesting manner. Only one of many but particularly interesting regarding the question of why some innovations in intellectual structure are adopted quickly and why some are resisted.

Regarding the reasons for compositional choices, I've heard convincing to me anyway analysis (that Fabio confirms) that Bach drew upon numerology in the construction of the Goldberg Variations.

Anyway, it is an interesting topic that has many nuances, certainly many more than I can cover in this brief note before I get back to sorting out IRQ conflicts.

Best wishes

Chet

falcon1
08-28-2005, 03:59 PM
As I understand it most "rules" were "created" after the fact, by theorist studying already written compositions. Bach didn't have a book that said never use parallel 5ths, he just didn't use them cause he didn't like the way they sounded to his ears. Fux's book wasn't written till Back was in his 40's, long after he had already developed.

This is wrong! Bach had lessons (at least) from his brother (Johann Christoph), which got his education from Johann Pachelbel. J.S. Bach also sung in the school choir, were he of course got some musical education as well.
It's also worth to mention that Fux was not the first to write book on counterpoint, there are other books which are older. For example:

Zarlino's, Le istitutioni harmoniche (1558)
Vincenzo Galilei, della musica antica et della moderna (1581) ("birth" of what we call "free" counterpoint). and Contrapunti, 2vv (1584)

There are other books as well, so Bach had without doubt good background in theory of the time! And also, Bach studied music by other composers all his life!

Fabio
08-28-2005, 04:03 PM
As I understand it most "rules" were "created" after the fact, by theorist studying already written compositions. Bach didn't have a book that said never use parallel 5ths, he just didn't use them cause he didn't like the way they sounded to his ears. Fux's book wasn't written till Back was in his 40's, long after he had already developed.

Tom

Prince, you are right about rules coming from practice. But be carefull, practice is developing and innovation of old rules, not simply free genius creativity.

For instance what you say about Bach and Fux is not really correct:

- Fux has not created rules, but only collected and selected rules, and created a way to learn it. A lot of theorists did it before and after Fux.

- Bach learned a very complex set of rules (from his teachers, from imitation of previous works, and yes, from books) compulsory for all composers of his age, and parallel 5th were already banned by previous teachers, starting from late XV century!

The innovation is to be able of manipulating existing theory, enlarging it to unexpected good results: Bach wrote dissonances and part motions forbidden in his age, but so good sounding that you can't refuse to like it. And Bach was one of the strong developer of the modern harmony based not on natural diatonic scales but on 12 tempered equal tunes (e.g. see the Well Tempered Clavier two volumes structure for understand), to be free of using all 12 keys, major and minor.

You are anyway right on all the rest, IMO.

Fabio
08-28-2005, 04:05 PM
Hey Falcon! You and me have a strange common practice... :D

It seems a joint action...you beat me on time! :D :D

Fabio
08-28-2005, 04:28 PM
Chet,

about Bach's work symbolism, I've mainly Italian links, sorry.

But you will find interesting this site on Bach's works analysis:

Bach's fugues and canons (http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~tas3/bachindex.html)

About Mozart I remember a lot of fragments from lessons and conferences or articles on Musicology books and magazines. The main area of work was the "form": for instance the use of "sonata" form, developed as an evolution of the rethoric of the fugue, was linked to "male" and "female" as "strong" and "weak", or right and wrong (good and evil) contrast and synthesis concepts hidden under the bi-thematism. And mathematic structures were hidden under the number of measures of episodes, and the position of important events (as the far modulations, or the main theme recall, and so on).
Sometime this hidden set of rules was so deep inside the author, that you may suspect it was sometime rational, sometime inconscious.

About modern composers esotherism, I don't know a single source (as an essay on the matter). But I'm certain you may find a lot of informations with a good internet research, before moving to books.

a sample:
Scriabin (http://users.unimi.it/~gpiana/dm4/dm4scrlt.htm)


P.S. the author of the quote was...me. But it's a summary of existing descriptions: see works citated by Falcon for instance, inside you find this philosophy, and it survive for centuries, starting to be corrupted by rationalism after Illuminism (late XVIII century).

musical.matthew
08-28-2005, 04:32 PM
I think we must break ranks with the standard triad.

This seems like a quite outdated view to me. What we need to break ranks with is any rules whatsoever whether those rules are inclusive or exclusive. The triad is still a perfectly good and musical sound. There are many others as well and you mention many of them, but that doesn't mean we should throw out the triad. Use it when you want to, don't when you don't. The important thing is to know what options are available and what effect they have. At that point you should write using whatever options you like...

Matthew

Fabio
08-28-2005, 04:40 PM
This seems like a quite outdated view to me. What we need to break ranks with is any rules whatsoever whether those rules are inclusive or exclusive. The triad is still a perfectly good and musical sound. There are many others as well and you mention many of them, but that doesn't mean we should throw out the triad. Use it when you want to, don't when you don't. The important thing is to know what options are available and what effect they have. At that point you should write using whatever options you like...

Matthew

Nice vision, Matthew, I fully agree.

My vision is that today we are good composers in several ways (being original or being successful, but better both), and the way to increase our possibility of being successful is to build a strong and deep set of musical elements (call it language or style) to mix and use "when and if" it's necessary to your "tale".

To reject something must have a good reason, and this reason will be not universal, but probably personal and temporary: this is modern music IMHO.

Fabio
08-28-2005, 05:01 PM
I studied an interesting method of analysis of the "harmonic groups" (all sounds playing contemporarly, being chords or not doesn't matter), based on the "reduction" technic:
you may keep only different sounds (unisons and octaves are considered repetitions) and transpose all in the same octave. Then you try to reduce the space between sounds, to the lowest interval possible between the lowest and the highest sounds (a 3rd instead of a 6th, a 4th instead of a 5th, etc.), moving the lowest sound to C, and writing the numeric matrix resulting from semitones numeration 1 (C) to 12 (B).

In this way every possible type of chord has his own matrix, disregarding if it's a simple triad or a large cluster.

Somebody knows it? May you help me to find the first creator of this technic?
I don't remember the source, but I learned it from Italians researcher creating modules for mathematic analysis of music, using computer software algorithms and statistics.

It's anyway also a good way to understand the rooth of chords, and select or create set of harmonic rules (e.g. similar matrix have similar sound, different matrix would be more caracterized).

Starting from this method, I developed my own way to write the harmonic structure of atonal works, using numeric relations to keep "free sounds" under control, quickly obtaining the requested effect of variety and density modulation.

jesshmusic
08-28-2005, 05:39 PM
Sounds like Allen Forte's book on Pitch Set Theory.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0300021208/qid=1125268728/sr=8-2/ref=pd_bbs_2/104-7877185-7645557?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

dpc
08-28-2005, 05:54 PM
This seems like a quite outdated view to me. What we need to break ranks with is any rules whatsoever whether those rules are inclusive or exclusive. Matthew

I suppose this could be done by someone who develops a language where the language itself is the rules i.e. ruled by the conception of the composer.

Rules are not unlike laws however. An architect can not abandon certain laws or rules such as gravity (law) or rules (structure must support under gravity.)

When one is writing with traditional harmony and doesn't observe fundamental rules of construction the structure is weak and collapses to the discerning ear. If the composer is talented and untrained he still may create a solid structure (as an amateur builds a good doorway that stands up.) Analysis after the fact will show that these rules were observed in both the music and doorway whether or not they were taught or followed.

So it depends on what one is building. I hear dreadful uniformed writing by major film composers these days. They should study these rules and weed out these weaknesses. So rules are not inherently bad, it depends on many factors whether they apply or not.

Remember, Schoenberg taught Bach to his illustrious students (Webern, Berg et. al.) for this very reason: sound musical construction based on certain musical principles, laws, and rules.

Fabio
08-28-2005, 06:03 PM
Sounds like Allen Forte's book on Pitch Set Theory.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0300021208/qid=1125268728/sr=8-2/ref=pd_bbs_2/104-7877185-7645557?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

YES!
I was certain you should understand and remember: it was a computer-aided Italian study, based on some Forte's method concepts.

Thank you Jess!

I will suggest some basic technic with samples, if I will have time to do it... :(

Bruce A. Richardson
08-28-2005, 06:43 PM
I agree with so many of the viewpoints here. They are well thought out and stated.

I guess I would like to add a simple unifying statement.

Late 19th and early 20th century music had already strained traditional harmonic relationships to the breaking point. One could argue that chromaticism completely destroyed key relationships, at least as far as early 20th century western art music was concerned.

Since that time, we have mainly been searching for ways to either "put it back together again" in the work of the "Neo-pick-your-era" artists, or for ways to break the rules of musical expression down into smaller pieces.

One aspect of 20th century music which became overwhelmingly important was the rhythmic--previous art music was so concentrated upon harmonic considerations that rhythm was all but static as far as its ongoing development.

But in toto, what you'll find in 20th century (and beyond) art is a tendency to reflect the world around us. Entropy is ultimately working its disintgegrating force upon every aspect of our lives. So it goes with art. Every "rule" of previous generations is shattered into a hundred little bits. All of these are now organized according to the same rules, but in a layered, simultaneous fashion.

I am very much in agreement with Fabio's assessment that we do not have "rules" so much today as we have "styles," and the critical thing for a composer is to know the rule sets that create the sound of a style we want to use in our work.

Ultimately, this is why some music we hear today sounds "naive" to trained ears. People are attempting in many cases to create music of a certain style, but are either ignoring or mis-using the rules of the style.

When stylistic rules are broken purposefully, this usually results in interesting work. But when they are broken in ignorance, the work tends to sound amateurish. Even if the listener cannot determine exactly what is wrong, sometimes even unsophisticated ears are so accustomed to hearing WELL-written music that they subconsciously are aware of badly written music.

Ultimately, though, rules are NEVER something to be bound by in art. They are tools, to be used in service to ideas.

dpc
08-28-2005, 07:47 PM
I second the above which is what I was trying to say but was not entirely successful.

There were notable exceptions to the statement above about rhythm as in the case of Beethoven (The most syncopated of all European composers - (Igor Stravinsky) and Mozart's later symphonies. Even Handel did some stunning rhythmic things. But for the most part in the modern sense, rhythm was quite tame and was not so much a target of invention. The rhythmic offsets of polyphonic voices in even the simplest Bach keyboard music is a wonder of genius but this is a different rhythm than what is being talked about above (I think.)

jesshmusic
08-28-2005, 09:26 PM
I have heard that Joseph Schillinger has some wonderful things to say about rhythm in his monumental tomes on Music composition.

capt_hook
08-28-2005, 10:02 PM
There is some really wonderful information here and it will take a me a bit to absorb all of it. I'm very excited though b/c all of the info is really aiding in my understanding of my questions. I'll repsond soon!

dpc
08-28-2005, 11:10 PM
Incidently it should be noted that Beethoven was a rules freak. In fact he would often give himself a problem to solve by breaking them in a big hurry and then showing: see... I didn't really break them... For example starting a piece in C major when the piece was actually in E major! Sure enough he justified this by showing that C was the Neapolitan of B or a type of V of V. But the audiences were astonished by this radical-ness. We forget that people had a far better sense of pitch back then and while expecting to hear E major were jolted by the very distant C.

Also in the rules of form he was extremely conscientious and justified the breaking of every rule through musical means. There are pieces where he is in the wrong key for an entire section and on the very last note he returns to where he belongs (according to the rules.) All the while to the listener it's just great music that seems to gush with abandonment of slavish formalism.

Rules to Beethoven where something to be dominated and infused with life so they virtually disappear into the music as with a beautiful piece of furniture that is pure function yet pure art (or a Stradivarius.)

Frank Lloyd Wright's father made him listen to Beethoven as he considered him The greatest architect of all...

joaz
08-28-2005, 11:12 PM
Why for centuries people prefer to follow rules? I think that the answer is easy: after the first traumatic shock of studying composition, when rules are enemies, ready to fill your work with "errors", rules became friendly tools to write well and quickly, and you will love it so much, that you will create some new rules your self to use in your works!!!


:cool:
I agree with you Fabio.I also make my own rules for pieces.But I do not call it a rule. I call it a game.(The British love inventing Games)Somehow the word "game" sounds less confining than "rule",but it is the same thing.A mere psychological trick,to put me in a more childlike creative frame of mind. :)
regards

chet reinhardt
08-28-2005, 11:22 PM
Fabio

A few somewhat related observations on various topics:

I repeat my assertion: the mind of the author of that quote has an interesting intellectual flavor.

I looked at the Scriabin link and it certainly looks interesting. More thoughts when I've had a chance to examine it more closely.

Regarding the intellectual tradition you are alluding to one of my earlier introductions to it was The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative (1979) by Frank Kermode. It discusses the inner hidden secret sacred side of an art--literature in the case of Kermode, music in the case we have been discussing--in an interesting if sometimes somewhat obsucre way. I suppose his ideas about the literary cannon and change (which I haven't read but which I have seen refered to and described) might have interesting analogies to the musical cannon (in the sense of established body of works deemed worthy of being studied and emulated).

Reading your comments with respect to constructing your own theory was interesting. I constructed for myself an axiomatic theory of tonal harmony as I use see it. I've also been considering how to extend it to include various varieties of non-tonal harmony by generalizing my theory.

And on the subject of rhythm, one of my influences has been east Indian music (ragas, talas, and such) which is quite rhythmically and melodically sophisticated (and non-harmonic.)

Best wishes

Chet

musical.matthew
08-29-2005, 06:53 AM
I suppose this could be done by someone who develops a language where the language itself is the rules i.e. ruled by the conception of the composer.

Rules are not unlike laws however. An architect can not abandon certain laws or rules such as gravity (law) or rules (structure must support under gravity.)

When one is writing with traditional harmony and doesn't observe fundamental rules of construction the structure is weak and collapses to the discerning ear. If the composer is talented and untrained he still may create a solid structure (as an amateur builds a good doorway that stands up.) Analysis after the fact will show that these rules were observed in both the music and doorway whether or not they were taught or followed.

So it depends on what one is building. I hear dreadful uniformed writing by major film composers these days. They should study these rules and weed out these weaknesses. So rules are not inherently bad, it depends on many factors whether they apply or not.

Remember, Schoenberg taught Bach to his illustrious students (Webern, Berg et. al.) for this very reason: sound musical construction based on certain musical principles, laws, and rules.

I absolutely agree. As I said, the important thing is to know what is available and what effect you're after. You shuold fully understand the rules before throwing them out (sometimes). What I meant is that we need to get to a place where we're not limited by rules anymore. That doesn't mean the rules never apply, but that they only apply in some contexts when we're after the effect they produce. At other times in other contexts to acheive other effects we must throw them out...

Matthew

dvincent
08-29-2005, 10:24 AM
Rules, rules, rules....

20th century icon, Edgard-Varèse, said it best. "Anyone who does not make his own rules is an a-s-s." :D

newmewzikboy
08-29-2005, 10:29 AM
Allen Forte's book is outdated, and most concepts of musical understanding has been disproved through controlled experimentation.

However, if it interested you, there are better books out there that take Forte's principles to the extreme

musical.matthew
08-29-2005, 11:48 AM
I am very much in agreement with Fabio's assessment that we do not have "rules" so much today as we have "styles," and the critical thing for a composer is to know the rule sets that create the sound of a style we want to use in our work.

Bruce, you've really hit the nail on the head here. And in this context there really is no right or wrong, better or worse style, just various styles. Some are more similar than others, some have been done more than others in the past, but beyond that they're all just styles. The important thing is to decide what style you want to write in and why...

dpc
08-29-2005, 12:39 PM
Rules, rules, rules....

20th century icon, Edgard-Varèse, said it best. "Anyone who does not make his own rules is an a-s-s." :D

Yes, unless you want to sound like Varese's Arcana as Goldsmith did with Planet of the Apes.

Rule #1. Use lots of percussion.

Rule #2. Use lots of Brass stacks in non triadic relationship.

Rule #3. Follow these rules and others if you want this sound.

Any rule that says: avoid rules is silly to me because it's a limitation i.e. a hard and fast rule never to be avoided. How do you tell people: always follow this rule: never follow any rules.

People come to this forum asking how to get started with making their own music and are presented with certain rules:

1. Get a good sample library

2. A good platform (MAC, PC)

3. Software: Gigastudio, Kontakt 2

A good rule is that not all rules are bad. Be judicious about it.

dvincent
08-29-2005, 03:48 PM
A good rule is that not all rules are bad. Be judicious about it.

Exactly! ;)

capt_hook
08-29-2005, 04:01 PM
Geez! I'm on a break here at school and I decided to come back to the forum to read some more of this awesome stuff you are all laying down. I can't thank you all enough for this great info!