Jump to content
Philipp Sobecki

What Would You Like To Learn?

Recommended Posts

Hey!

 

In the last few semesters of studying music theory and composition, I've noticed that many topics one can read about are only beneficial for very few people, because the topics are so special. For example: Late Scriabin's harmony, Algorhythmic approaches for writing Palestrina canon, Glenn Gould's style of play, and so on.

 

While I love some of these books, I don't see many other people actually needing them, because, come on, how many musicians are deeply intrigued by Scriabin's late harmony? Or how many composers really need (or want) to be able to write a Palestrina canon (aside from music theory studies)?

 

I'm thinking about topics which maybe could be relevant for more musicians than just a few. So I'd like to hear what you would like to learn, if you had a wish or two. Just for brainstorming. 

 

I'll start: I'd like to learn more efficient strategies for my own composing. I imagine reductional theories (like Schenker or Lerdahl's Generative Theory of Tonal Music) which can be not only filled with basic harmony and counterpoint like Schenker, but with whatever goals I can have in a composition. After that, I'd like to know some strategies to elaborate these goals. This has more to do with creativity and psychology than with music theory.

 

Now you :)

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is there anything in music that can be called truly necessary? No, it's not necessary to be able to write a Palestrina canon if your definition of necessity is relevance; the parameters that govern Palestrina counterpoint conform to an aesthetic design that died quite a long time ago. However, it is a noble study and isn't really about the music itself. I actually think strict canonic writing usually results in the most beautiful music because it is so highly self-referential and metaphorical, but the real reason one would want to study a constraining contrapuntal style is to learn how to devise and organize material in such a way so that it conforms to an original plan - it is great practice for any composer and hugely beneficial to developing a keen insight. Especially when you get into the more hardcore canonic writing à la Bach - canons with contrary or mirrored motion, with augmentation or diminution, with invertible counterpoint, all of which can be turned into double or triple canons. One of my proudest accomplishments is a two-part canon at the tenth in contrary motion that is also closed (loops back into itself). If you haven't tried doing that yourself, you don't know how difficult it is. Basically what it means is that if the comes comes (heh) in two bars later, the last two bars of the canon and the first two will be intimately linked. Which means that when writing the last two bars of the canon in the dux, you need to write counterpoint that is pleasing (or legal, if you want) in all of these situations:

a) as it is written, in counterpoint with the previous two bars of the same voice (in contrary motion a tenth lower)
b) in counterpoint with the first two bars of the dux, when it appears in the comes when the canon is repeated

c) when the voices have been inverted at the tenth in the last two bars

d) when the voice have been inverted at the tenth in the first two bars

 

I think it's fun music, not to toot my own horn or anything, but the real reason I wrote it (apart from it serving a practical real-life purpose) is basically to say that I could. It's not like it's a superhuman feat or anything, Bach would have done something like this as warm up (even though he curiously only wrote one canon at the tenth that I know of, the one from the Art of Fugue), but it was fairly challenging and very rewarding. The result of this and many other such canonic explorations are that I am better at visualizing how things fit together and being able to create something meaningful out of very constraining parameters, which as Stravinsky says is necessary so that liberty doesn't devolve into license. Basically what he means is that individual expression is best attained through the lens of a disciplined style, because it makes the outlines of your message crisp. It's just like the processes we use to communicate ideas in speech - you use grammar to reflect more nuanced concepts in the things you are "actually" saying. If you want to make a powerful statement, you structure the flow of words (usually subconsciously) so that they form an easily intelligible arc, with clearly defined contours so that their relationship can be automatically perceived by anyone familiar with the particular idiom. That's only if you really only care about the actual thing being expressed. There are also plenty of things you can express primarily using structure. Be careful not to misinterpret me here, it's not as if there are actually two distinct elements - "material" and "structure", they are really the same thing. Anyway, I just wanted to contradict the notion that studying Palestrina canonic writing is only useful in a theoretical context (whatever that means). I think anything that serious composers have considered worth studying is worth a close look - it doesn't matter if you do not want to emulate it exactly.

 

As for me, I would like to learn everything. At the moment I am most interested in practicing my hearing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

like my signature says it. rhythm is the drawing and harmony the colors. thinking of harmony when composing music is like thinking of some interesting color combinations when coloring ..(what? ..nothing!) in a painting. ("kids, today you will color nothing, and i want you to think of some interesting colors for this") this produces crazy - weird - original i'll admit it results but mostly non relevant for the human listener.

 

so i'd like to learn something practical about rhythm ..before i finish my own theory attempts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gylfi: I agree with all the positive things you say, but I don't see enough synergy to other composer-related topics to make renaissance-canon (not free counterpoint, but canon) not exotic. [/OT]

 

Can you elaborate the hearing and rhythm aspects?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I continue to work ear training and sight reading skills daily, since those are some of the most useful skills for professional singers.  But the style of ear training exercises where you listen and write out what you hear are probably only useful for ethnomusicographers writing down the music of small cultural groups for study by the wider world.  When actually sight reading, you constantly work to push your eyes ahead in the score, while performing something you read a second or two ago.  When taking dictation from something you are listening to, you can't push your ears ahead, you have to be working behind time.  Writing down what just happened, while paying attention to what is currently happening so you can write it down next.  It uses your brain in a very different way.  I'm not sure the amount of time spent on those exercises is worthwhile.  Better to keep throwing, say, 30 minutes of new music at students every day and asking them to sight read through, slowly for beginners, and up to tempo for more experienced students, which is a completely accurate exercise for the real life skill they need, particularly if they can listen to the correct part at the same time, at the speed of their choosing to confirm that they are getting it or not.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...