As usual the discussion about composition "deviate" to rules, in a kind of war "classical rules" vs. "freedom".
My personal opinion is that every mature composer has solved this issue and understood the real nature of rules and study.
I'm very sorry, because a lot of young intelligent and talented potential composers still find the matter a source of polemics, doubts, critics to the method and so on.
I would like to help with the contribution of my colleagues, to fix some little concept issues:
- everybody is more or less confident with the concept of "style", because the recognition of caracteristic elements, it's quite instinctive.
- to recognize a "style" everybody, conscious or instinctively separate little elements of the musical language: the basics and most recognized are rythm, melody and "sound"
- rythm is made by accent and durations, it's possible analyzing it with mathematic and timeline tools. But if you make a mathematic and timeline description of a rythm, you make a "rythmic rule". What follow the rule is inside your style, what doesn't is something different.
- harmony and melody are based on contemporary or sequencial tunes, they have a relative position measured in intervals. Again it's possible to describe a "harmony and melody" rule, selecting chords and sequences of your style.
- "sound" is created by the instruments and the playing technic. Again you may describe the set of instruments, and the playing technic to use for obtaining your desired effect. It's the Orchestration rule of your style.
Doesn't matter if you are analyzing Afro music, or Mozart, Heavy Rock or Jazz, Cuban or Fusion or Chinese folk music: the way to describe, select and recognize one music is always the same.
The study of composition is based on learning the technics and the tools to organize and analyze the musical elements.
The reason to start with the late romantic european style, with citation of renaissance, baroque and classical music (the evil parallel fifth and octave, the evil II-V-I rules etc. etc.) is just because we live in occidental countries, where the music has centuries of history based on it, and after the approach to the great masterpiece of the past, the young composer may quickly move to atonal, modal, stocastic music, with a fine and deep understanding of all aesthetic rules.
But you may study only Jazz or only Rock, or only ancient music if you want: you will develop a more "vertical" or specific knowledge, and you will be only focused on YOUR style of music, but maybe you save time and avoid frustrating long study of styles you are not intersted in.
Please people, reconciliate with "rules". They are your tools, not your enemies! A good mechanic technician can't hate the screwdriver. It's just easier to screw up with it, than without...
Contributions and comments are wellcome!