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Is Formal Training In Composition Necessary ?

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Well, talent and success are two different things. Our society and the world at large, generally speaking, is very "yang"-oriented......by that I mean, it is dominated by and most easily navigated by a certain kind of personality. Other people who are lacking in the traits our society tends to value, and usually in whom the personality has turned inward to a considerable degree, will of course have a much harder time dealing with the world and possibly be too afraid to act in it, and by virtue of this tendency be less successful.

I don't think this equates to the dominant type being more talented. Ease in moving about our world, a certain degree of which is a requisite for career success, and talent in various crafts, are two different things. Particularly in something where imagination and self-development are tantamount, like music, the profoundly inward-turned person possibly could have more "talent".

I'm sorry dude, you seem like a cool guy, but unfortunately what you have said is not true. There's no such thing as talent OR success in the process of composition.

As for the rest of you all...

Massive Facepalm.

The ignorance in this thread reeks like a decaying fish.

Formal training IS necessary in the composition of art music. Not my opinion, it is a fact. All of you who are saying that Holst and Martinu and them all learned without formal training are wrong. Most of those composers that TJS listed indeed learnt composition formally, perhaps not when they were 6, but before they wrote any of their "mature" works. Now you are asking... "Why is it a fact?". Simple - By reading books you will learn all the individual components that make up a piece of music. By listening to music, you will have some idea of the conventional arrangement of these components. However, this approach is inherently flawed because you aren't writing ANY original work at this point - you're just copying what you have heard. With formal lessons, however, you will learn exactly how to arrange these characteristics into a work of art with a certain convention, and you will also learn how to arrange them in your OWN meaningful way. Thus, becoming a composer of original work.

Stop. Just stop. Stop trying to cop out of learning by assuming you can create original and highly structured music without help. You can't. It doesn't matter who you know, or who you don't know. If your music is not an original and highly structured piece of music, nobody is going to play it. It's not even about WHAT you know... it's about learning the process of original composition - something that a book cannot teach you.

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There's no such thing as talent OR success in the process of composition.

Which is why everybody can pull a Beethoven/Mozart/Mahler/Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky/you-name-it. Just work hard enough.

Or maybe we should stop thinking about music as a nuclear-physics-type science instead of art.

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Why?

Because it is not. Perhaps someone would like it to be (so that it gets forbidden for the uninitiated and/or amateurs) - but there's much more to music than just "organized wave longitudes" achievable through an universal scientific method... :eyebrow:

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Quite possibly.

But even in science (as in music, and in virtually any human activity) there is a place for genius and talent. Or everyone would turn into Einstein after enough classes :toothygrin:.

(Study. As much as you can. But fear not the talented outsiders ;) )...

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Surely most of us can now have knowledge beyond what Newton was ever able to learn. But there were many dedicated scientists back in that century that just didn't happen to stumble on Newton's laws. I know big wasted talents, and also know stories of success through hard work. But couple together talent and hard work (Beethoven's way), and that most likely will be greatness.

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I should say that when I spoke of talent, I was using it as a synonym for ability, not about something that is necessarily inborn (though I'm sure the debate over this particular will rage on).

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Surely most of us can now have knowledge beyond what Newton was ever able to learn. But there were many dedicated scientists back in that century that just didn't happen to stumble on Newton's laws. I know big wasted talents, and also know stories of success through hard work. But couple together talent and hard work (Beethoven's way), and that most likely will be greatness.

Actually there were several dedicated scientists who did stumble onto some of Newton's discoveries at the same time as him and there were many bitter disputes between Newton and others about who deserved to be credited for them. The most famous is probably the one with Leibniz over who invented calculus or the one with Hooke over the inverse square law that is central to his law of universal gravitation. The point being that even if Newton was rightfully credited for these inventions, there were certainly scientists biting at his heels who would've published the same things anyway. Most innovations are made out of necessity rather than genius. Just because somebody is the first to come up with something doesn't mean that without them, nobody would ever come up with it.

On the subject of talent, I personally believe that the only true talent is the ability to delay gratification. I think some people have that and some just don't and it is difficult to develop it if you don't already have it. I believe that would explain why so many of the greatest achievers in history have been polymaths rather than just experts in one field. It is because their talent lies in their discipline and ability to learn, regardless of subject.

That's just my opinion though.

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I believe that would explain why so many of the greatest achievers in history have been polymaths rather than just experts in one field...

True in most sciences, at least before the the heyday of specialization starting about the 30s.

Not as true in music, though :thumbsup: ...

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True in most sciences, at least before the the heyday of specialization starting about the 30s.

Not as true in music, though :thumbsup: ...

Admittedly I'm struggling to find many examples of composer polymaths but I could point out Charles Ives who was also an excellent businessman who started his own successful company and apparently made some important and respected innovations in insurance (don't ask me what these were though, I know nothing about insurance!). I could also point out Elliott Carter who taught Mathematics at university level as well as music. Iannis Xenakis was an excellent architect before he was a composer. I could mention Nietzsche who was actually also a composer as well as a philosopher, though his compositions are overlooked these days in favour of his more significant philosophical contributions. Vincenzo Galilei, father of Galileo Galilei, made contributions to the physics and acoustics side of music as well as being a composer.

I'm sure there are a lot more but these are just the ones off the top of my head.

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You forgot Mendelssohn, Wagner and Borodin (one of my favorites BTW) :thumbsup: . And J. J. Rousseau (with a story similar to Nietzsche). Heck, even Messiaen!

But the guys widely regarded as the top achievers in music (Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Verdi, Puccini, Stravinsky, Sibelius, Rachmaninov, Bartok, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Lutoslawski, Penderecki, et al) don't quite fit the polymath bill.

Nice argument, though.

(And well... if I ever manage leave a significant mark in music, I could end up alongside the polymath team :cool: - being a constitutional lawyer and political scientist rather than a professional musician).

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Funny how almost all the top achievers (whatever the hell that means) in music apparently are romantic composers.

Of which Bach, Prokofiev, Bartok and Lutoslawski are shining examples. As are Vivaldi, Mozart, Haydn, Stravinsky and Messiaen :P .

Should be noted that Ives, Carter, and Xenakis are usually considered in academic circles to be among the greatest of their respective generations.

Never said the opposite - just that those three were already discussed in the previous post.

...usually considered in academic circles to be among the greatest of their respective generations.

Which is just another wording for being regarded among the top achievers in music (whatever the hell that means :thumbsup: )... only that not as widely (yet).

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I definitely think Ives, Carter, Wagner, Mendelssohn and Messiaen are all a lot more deserving of being in any kind of musical "top achiever's" list than Puccini, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev or Penderecki. I mean, it is all subjective really but for me the second group were all over-sentimental romanticists at points in time when romanticism was irrelevant, apart from Chopin who I just find to be a really poor composer anyway.

Whole schools of musical thought have been developed through Wagner, Ives, Carter and Messiaen. You can't really ignore that.

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... the second group were all over-sentimental...

(or over-successful? :thumbsup: )

... at points in time when romanticism was irrelevant...

What is relevant then :hmmm:? And according to who? (if I dared to pull a reverse-Boulez and said atonalism and serialism are irrelevant for our times, I'd got a few pounds of stones thrown at me :horrified: )...

Whole schools of musical thought have been developed through Wagner, Ives, Carter and Messiaen. You can't really ignore that.

Nor I'm pretending to. I just had already mentioned them (as you had as well) when referring to top musical achievers who could be described as polymaths (while I then added a list of those who couldn't).

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Funny how almost all the top achievers (whatever the hell that means) in music apparently are romantic composers.

Should be noted that Ives, Carter, and Xenakis are usually considered in academic circles to be among the greatest of their respective generations.

What do you base this on?

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Nor I'm pretending to. I just had already mentioned them (as you had as well) when referring to top musical achievers who could be described as polymaths (while I then added a list of those who couldn't).

Yes, you mentioned them then said...

But the guys widely regarded as the top achievers in music (Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Verdi, Puccini, Stravinsky, Sibelius, Rachmaninov, Bartok, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Lutoslawski, Penderecki, et al) don't quite fit the polymath bill.

...implying that you don't believe them to belong amongst the top achievers.

What is relevant then :hmmm:? And according to who? (if I dared to pull a reverse-Boulez and said atonalism and serialism are irrelevant for our times, I'd got a few pounds of stones thrown at me :horrified: )...

Yes, serialism is irrelevant for exactly the same reasons that romanticism is irrelevant. They have both been done over and over and when they were done originally, they were contemporary so there is authenticity to the music. To write like that now would just be pastiche and I don't believe pastiche has ever been relevant. It is the musical equivalent of writing a novel in ye olde English, you just wouldn't do it.

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OK, perhaps I ommitted to add "most of the"... (since we had already mentioned the polymath team).

Yes, serialism is irrelevant for exactly the same reasons that romanticism is irrelevant. They have both been done over and over and when they were done originally, they were contemporary so there is authenticity to the music. To write like that now would just be pastiche and I don't believe pastiche has ever been relevant. It is the musical equivalent of writing a novel in ye olde English, you just wouldn't do it.

Alas, Jane Austen is still more relevant than Stephenie Meyer :P .

Still don't know what is relevant and according to whom.

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OK, perhaps I ommitted to add "most of the"... (since we had already mentioned the polymath team).

Alas, Jane Austen is still more relevant than Stephenie Meyer :P .

Still don't know what is relevant and according to whom.

Jane Austen is relevant but if somebody was to write a novel in the style of Jane Austen today, it would almost certainly be irrelevant.

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Jane Austen is relevant but if somebody was to write a novel in the style of Jane Austen today, it would almost certainly be irrelevant.

Tell that to the writers :thumbsup: .

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Tell that to the writers :thumbsup: .

I would do but nobody is currently writing in the style of Jane Austen, probably because it would be irrelevant!

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I would do but nobody is currently writing in the style of Jane Austen, probably because it would be irrelevant!

Really... Current best-sellers owe nothing to her.

And I still keep wondering about who and how decide what is "not relevant" (or any other empty, academy-sounding term to demean what one doesn't like) :P . Perhaps we should just keep quoting Boulez.

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Really... Current best-sellers owe nothing to her.

And I still keep wondering about who and how decide what is "not relevant" (or any other empty, academy-sounding term to demean what one doesn't like) :P . Perhaps we should just keep quoting Boulez.

Current best-selling authors are influenced by Jane Austen, they don't write stylistically similar to Jane Austen. There is a big difference.

I didn't realise that "relevant" was an academy-sounding term and I didn't say I disliked any composers other than Chopin. I haven't actually quoted Boulez once so maybe what you mean is that we should start quoting Boulez?

I think you want to continue to believe that there is some closed circle of elitists in the towers of educational institutions practicing this crazy "contemporary music" and looking down on everyone else. I suppose that is one way to look at it but I see it differently. I see a group of people who actually have an open mind, respect for those who have gone before and a hatred of ignorance, who realise that we are standing on shoulders of giants and can therefore progress beyond them and become giants ourselves rather than simply admire the view by copying them.

We had a Mozart, he was fantastic! Why would we need somebody to write in the style of Mozart? Surely nobody can do Mozart better than Mozart?

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Experience, literature, reality, etc.

I don't agree that the romantic era is so much more popular than the others, so I was just wondering if you had any actual data to support your claim.

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Current best-selling authors are influenced by Jane Austen, they don't write stylistically similar to Jane Austen. There is a big difference.

Let's make a thread on the numerous re-tellings of Pride and Prejudice or Emma :cool:...

I haven't actually quoted Boulez once so maybe what you mean is that we should start quoting Boulez?

Boulez though he had the authority to say who and what was relevant in composition. I'm just asking for the fourth time who and how can anyone possibly decide that.

I see a group of people who actually have an open mind ...

... as continuously shown by their penchant for deeming past and current competing styles outdated, overdone or irrelevant :P .

... respect for those who have gone before...

... as long as their beloved styles don't ever dare to stage a comeback :horrified: ...

... and a hatred of ignorance...

... as represented by freethinking composers, performers and audiences not following their path or bounded by what they deem fashionable or relevant :P .

We had a Mozart, he was fantastic! Why would we need somebody to write in the style of Mozart? Surely nobody can do Mozart better than Mozart?

Yeah. We had a Shakespeare too, he was fantastic as wel! Why would we need somebody else to write plays in English? Surely nobody could write plays in English better than Shakespeare, so why bother?

Because there's always something else to say with these same words and this same language.

Still waiting for someone to explain what is relevant now. And for how long.

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I would say not necessarily.. the result how acceptable the composition will be will determine if it is. Sometimes, composers without formal training are able to create well accepted and successful songs.

___________________________________________

These blogs keep the fire of music burning in me:

http://www.scarysquids.com/

http://www.audiomasteringman.com/

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