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Topic: Five books on Composition by Composers

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  1. #1

    Five books on Composition by Composers

    I have posted my paper (which may be edited soon. First draft) about five significant books written by composers concerning either composition in general or their own style.

    I think a lot of the material in these books will give valueable insight to composers. The books examined are:
    The Schillinger System of Musical Composition by Joseph Schillinger
    The Technique of My Musical Language by Olivier Messiaen
    The Craft of Musical Composition by Paul Hindemith
    Genesis of a Music by Harry Partch
    New Musical Resources by Henry Cowell (composer of "The Banshee")

    Feel free to peruse this paper and post your thoughts and opinions here. The section on the Schillinger is particularly long, and although I don't pretend to fully understand it, I think I give a fairly in-depth synopsis of it. The Schillinger should be of particular interest to the film composers here. For years his theory of "Semantics" in music was a big influence on film composers.

    http://fupduckonline.com/comp-thesis/Main-Paper.pdf

    ** Some of the theories in these books can be controversial, let's try to keep the conversation civil, but spirited.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

  2. #2

    Re: Five books on Composition by Composers

    Well the first three are interesting right off the top. You're not into old school traditional stuff huh?
    Sincerely,


    Jonathan
    www.hollandaudio.com

  3. #3

    Re: Five books on Composition by Composers

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnnyP
    Well the first three are interesting right off the top. You're not into old school traditional stuff huh?
    Believe it or not, the Schillinger System and the Hindemith books apply equally well to writing in older genres if the composer chooses. It takes a much less "Music Theory" and a more "Composition" approach. They also are able to explain a LOT of what is happening in western music from a more scientific approach. For example, if one wants to know why the tonic/dominant relationship is so profound, they need only look at the natural overtone series. If the fundamental is a low C (C2), the pitches above it in the overtone series are C3 and G3... the dominant.

    The Schillinger System can actually be useful in any genre and jazz composers have found just as much use for it as classical.

    Thanks for checking it out and hopefully getting the ball rolling.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

  4. #4

    Re: Five books on Composition by Composers

    No one can think of anything to say about Mr. Schillinger, Hindemith, Messiaen, Cowell, or Partch?

    Come on now. You know you want to.


    Don't make me graph your melodies. I'll do it.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

  5. #5

    Re: Five books on Composition by Composers

    If anyone was following the "Writing Music without alienating the audience" thread, I have a more in depth outline of Hindemith in here. Also I outline, in great detail, the Schillinger System of Music Composition.

    Check it out.

    Discuss.

    lol
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

  6. #6
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    Re: Five books on Composition by Composers

    Cool Jess. Thanks for the info.

    I did a stylistic analysis of PH's symphonic metamorphosis on Von Weber's Chinese theme (exact title wording and most of the details of the work are long forgotten) while enrolled in a music history course. Fun stuff, Hindemith.

    As for the others, I only know Cowell, and do enjoy him. I'll have a dig through your stuff. It's high time I learned something new about composition-been in a rather extended reading/listening lull.

    Thanks again.

    p.s. Didn't Schenker first point out the relationships between the overtone series and the organization of the tonal system? Doesn't he deserve a nod here, or does the fact that he's a theorist and not a composer disqualify...?

  7. #7

    Re: Five books on Composition by Composers

    Quote Originally Posted by belbin
    p.s. Didn't Schenker first point out the relationships between the overtone series and the organization of the tonal system? Doesn't he deserve a nod here, or does the fact that he's a theorist and not a composer disqualify...?
    Hehe. Actually a lot of composers bump heads with theorists, but that is not why he doesn't get a nod in my paper. It is soley because his theories are soley for performers (he was himself a fantastic performer). I think he is right, and so many composers who publish their theories often prominently mention the overtone series.

    Cowell's "The Banshee" was the first avante garde piece I ever heard and it did blow me away. I would never write anything like that (mostly because piano strings hurt!), but I thought it was very fun.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

  8. #8

    Re: Five books on Composition by Composers

    Quote Originally Posted by belbin
    Cool Jess. Thanks for the info.

    I did a stylistic analysis of PH's symphonic metamorphosis on Von Weber's Chinese theme (exact title wording and most of the details of the work are long forgotten) while enrolled in a music history course. Fun stuff, Hindemith.

    As for the others, I only know Cowell, and do enjoy him. I'll have a dig through your stuff. It's high time I learned something new about composition-been in a rather extended reading/listening lull.

    Thanks again.

    p.s. Didn't Schenker first point out the relationships between the overtone series and the organization of the tonal system? Doesn't he deserve a nod here, or does the fact that he's a theorist and not a composer disqualify...?
    Oh... and one other thing... I believe Pythagoras was the first to talk about the overtone series in relation to music, although there was no such thing as tonal music then!

    If you really want to get a new perspective on music in general, you should listen to some Harry Partch.. or even better check out a video of one of his productions. Very cool stuff.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

  9. #9
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    Re: Five books on Composition by Composers

    Quote Originally Posted by jesshmusic
    Oh... and one other thing... I believe Pythagoras was the first to talk about the overtone series in relation to music, although there was no such thing as tonal music then!
    I sometimes like to read archaic books – I have about half of the Prout collection. He begins his harmony book by using ratios from the overtone series to create a lot of different versions of 13th chords built on the tonic. He then does the same thing with the dominant. Anyway, several boring pages later he comes up with the scales, all the diatonic chords, etc., all based on the overtones generated from the tonic note and, using ratios, brings up general importance (i.e., dominant, subdominant). He referrs to Helmholtz’s theories constantly. He justifies everything in tonality by the overtone series. This book was written in the 1880s. When Schenker was most likely a student.

    Another interesting part of the book is how much time he spends on 9th, 11th and 13th chords. Actually a big portion. Over 30 years later, Schoenberg claims in his Harmony book that before him no other book treated 9th, 11th and 13th chords as harmonic events but as non-harmonic tones. Prout also talks about chords with 2 “generators” – an early indication of the bi-tonality to come?

    I wouldn’t take Prout as a primary source of study (I’ve read a few reviews that call his Counterpoint books the best written) but they are a great secondary source as long as you can get by the archaic language and the references to Tchaikovsky as latest in modern music.

    Just an interesting aside…..

    BTW - I looked up most of your books on Amazon. For now I'll stick with Hindemith - when I could find the others, they were a bit expensive..... I guess it helps living at/close to a university with a good music library! Boston is just a little too far for me to drive down to check out a library book....
    Trent P. McDonald

  10. #10

    Re: Five books on Composition by Composers

    I will read this paper when I get a chance. Right now too busy. I have both of the schillinger books and struggled my way through the first section on rythmn. I want to study all of it. Its hard to read and from what I understand, many people who have tried to learn his theories using those two books have apparantly not been getting it right, and the only hope of getting it right is to connect with someone that actually studied in one of the Schillinger houses or directly under someone that studied in one of the schillinger houses, or if you have access to other materials that will help in understanding the true meaning. At any rate, I am aways fascinated with all of these different perspectives...it expands the mind.

    Some others to check out

    The "Equal Interval System" and "Lydian Chromatic Concept".

    -steve
    "Music is a manifestation of the human spirit similar to a language. If we do not want such things to remain dead treasures, we must do our utmost to make the greatest number of people understand their secrets" -- Zoltan Kodaly

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