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Topic: rules were made by analysis of masters???...is it true?

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  1. #1

    Question rules were made by analysis of masters???...is it true?

    We frequently discuss about rules.

    It easy to understand why: this is an open community so we are coming from incredibly different cultures, stories and curricula.

    Several people want to make music and find difficult to understand why we have boring rules to follow, even if everybody is fashinated by the objective fact that eductaed composers can quickly build wonderful music, but beginners are not able to. then beginners are anxious of learning some "quick trick" to improve, and get lost in the forrest of strange ununderstandable systems and methods...

    So the big fight about instinct, ear, and genious, against the study, the hard work, and the structured rule application begins.

    And EVERY TIME, somebody say that rules are just a postume work of boring theorist that try to understand what some spontaneous genious did instinctively following only the ear and good taste.

    I don't have any historical evidence of that, being the history of music showing the opposite (educated music, like medieval poliphony up to ars nova, begin to be based on mathematics and philosophy, before the "good taste" can select the best of it, and later academy and workshops were created were the composers were educated to very rigid "secrets of the art", and several of the most important composers of the past were also teaching and theoricians theirself).

    No one of the big artists of the past, from Jusquin up to Schoenberg, from Palestrina up to J.Williams were writing without a long academic training.

    They were just evolving and updating according creativity and taste of the time what they learned, building new bricks over the previous wall.

    Who can provide some serious litterature about "naturally born" educated music theory? please share it with me, I will be happy reading those studies and checking if they can convince me with evidence of the opposite.

    Thanks in advance to all the contributors...

  2. #2

    Re: rules were made by analysis of masters???...is it true?

    Nice article, good article, excellent article!!!!!! Nothing really good comes automatically. Just dive into it, as deep as you can go, rejecting everything else to avoid mediocrity. There is only one drawback. That is: getting too theoretical.

    In Holland we had two friends, Herman Krebbers and Theo Olof, both excellent, really superb, violinsts- prodigies maybe. Krebbers played with his soul and Olof with his brain. I adored Krebbers, he was making music and his friend was playing the music.

    Raymond

  3. #3

    Re: rules were made by analysis of masters???...is it true?

    I believe the reality is that the great composers USED "rules" when tehy composed. Those rules were more than likely "quantified" and set down "as rules" after the great composers had finished with them.

    But the fact is that the great composers did NOT just compose by ear, selecting what "sounds good" to them.

    Bach studied those who came before him, and understood how the rules of the past could be applied to the music he wanted to create.

    Likewise, Mozart studied (A LOT) the music of the past, and found ways of using those rules to bring even more greatness to his music.

    And it goes on, year after year, decade after decade, from one century to the next. The great composers ALL studied the music of those who came before. The great composers all became intimately acquainted with the rules of bygone eras. And the great composers all found ways that those rules were applicable to their own music.

    We might even add that some composers, once the rules had been well assimilated, discovered that what made their music "their own" was exactly how they broke away from the rules of the past. (One need only think of Strawinski's music)

    To ignore the rules and guidelines of music, to push them away and accuse them of being a factor in stifling creativity, is in my opinion, a serious error.

  4. #4

    Re: rules were made by analysis of masters???...is it true?

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    I believe the reality is that the great composers USED "rules" when tehy composed. Those rules were more than likely "quantified" and set down "as rules" after the great composers had finished with them.

    But the fact is that the great composers did NOT just compose by ear, selecting what "sounds good" to them.

    Bach studied those who came before him, and understood how the rules of the past could be applied to the music he wanted to create.
    I think you're absolutely right. But there is a distinction between studying the music of the past, and studyng the rule book. Bach studied Telemann till it came out of his ears, but he didn't study a rule book that claimed to summarise how to pastiche Telemann.

    The rules of theory books are a great way of developing discipline, training the inner-ear, and developing an instinct for what works. The problem comes when the theory books are then held up as some kind of canon, more important than the music they were distilled from, and teachers start to trust them more than their ears.

    Music history has shown that the truly great composers are those who have very extensive training, and then break every rule of their training. Often they are at odds with the establishment, who, by then, have canonised the language of the previous generation.
    David

  5. #5

    Re: rules were made by analysis of masters???...is it true?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pingu View Post
    I think you're absolutely right. But there is a distinction between studying the music of the past, and studyng the rule book. Bach studied Telemann till it came out of his ears, but he didn't study a rule book that claimed to summarise how to pastiche Telemann.

    The rules of theory books are a great way of developing discipline, training the inner-ear, and developing an instinct for what works. The problem comes when the theory books are then held up as some kind of canon, more important than the music they were distilled from, and teachers start to trust them more than their ears.

    Music history has shown that the truly great composers are those who have very extensive training, and then break every rule of their training. Often they are at odds with the establishment, who, by then, have canonised the language of the previous generation.
    I have yet to see any theory book that is a "rule book for making pastiche".

    And I have yet to follow any composition course that claims that the rules of the past need to be followed verbatim, come hell or high water.

    I would rather say that the rules of theory books are a means of understanding what worked for which context and in what era, and why it worked in that context and in that era.

    And, in my opinion, anyone who sedately sits and follows the rules of a bygone era without ever questioning them or how or why they might apply - or not - to what they are creating, is a very poor excuse for a composer.

  6. #6

    Re: rules were made by analysis of masters???...is it true?

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    I have yet to see any theory book that is a "rule book for making pastiche".
    You're kidding!? I don't think I've ever picked up a book on harmony or counterpoint where the preface didn't say something to that effect. Sometimes it's put very intelligently, and the author will point out that learning to work within restrictions is just a starting point. But sometimes they're written by theorists who have never composed - those who have simply learnt harmony themselves, then passed it on in a book of their own, with slightly more emphasis on the necessity for following the rules.

    And I have yet to follow any composition course that claims that the rules of the past need to be followed verbatim, come hell or high water.
    No, and perhaps I phrased that slightly too strongly. But music history is full of educators who have stagnated. Take, for instance, Berlioz' teachers. Without him there would be no Debussy, Ravel or Messiaen - yet he was actually thrown out of the conservatoire for refusing to follow the rules given in his composition classes (at least if we can believe his own account, and I realise he was given to whining). Anyone with half an ear can tell that his music works, but his teachers wanted him to sound more like a clone of them.

    Brahms was another interesting case. He can hardly have been unaware that Beethoven's later language was only developed by breaking a long way free of previous rules, and under heavy criticism from the establishment. And, since he absolutely adored Beethoven, you might have thought he would admire similar experimentation in others. Yet he firmly resisted progress. Despite clearly having enormous gifts himself he kept his language within the confines of Beethoven's, and he vehemently attacked Wagner, Bruckner and Mahler for pushing things on.

    I would rather say that the rules of theory books are a means of understanding what worked for which context and in what era, and why it worked in that context and in that era.
    I'm right with you on that one - but I still say there are many, many educators who misunderstand this. And many composers who hope that sheer craft will substitute for imagination, and thus pay far too much respect to the rules.
    And, in my opinion, anyone who sedately sits and follows the rules of a bygone era without ever questioning them or how or why they might apply - or not - to what they are creating, is a very poor excuse for a composer.
    You won't find me disagreeing there either - but there are many of them.
    David

  7. #7

    Re: rules were made by analysis of masters???...is it true?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fabio View Post
    And EVERY TIME, somebody say that rules are just a postume work of boring theorist that try to understand what some spontaneous genious did instinctively following only the ear and good taste.
    I realise this is a reference to my post in the parallel 5ths thread, so let me just qualify that. I wouldn't, for a second, claim that any composer suddenly develops their own aesthetic, in a vaccuum. Almost every composer I can think of has undergone very intensive training, usually through a series of pastiching exercises which have developed their ear. Up until the time of Mozart any musician who was formally trained would be taught the species of counterpoint by singing in a choir, and being required to improvise against a given cantus firmus. But the great composers are those who recognised this training as merely a way to develop craft - not as a set of rules. They are those who use their ears, and, when something works, they write it. Theory lags behind those composers, in that the theory books are an attempt to explain why their music works - whilst the composers themselves could simply feel that it did.

    A good example is Sonata form, or Sonata Principle, or whatever you want to call it. All the way from Vivaldi to Beethoven composers had been able to feel that a journey from one key to another, and back, was a way to structure a piece. This principle was very loose, and there were thousands of variants on it. Then, after Beethoven's death, Czerny attempted to codify the whole notion, so that he could give his students exercises. His model was quite categorical - an exposition of two themes, one in the tonic and one in a related key; a development; then a recapitulation where both themes remain in the tonic. This model has now become so entrenched that people forget to question where it came from, and some actually assume that composers such as Beethoven were writing to the model. I've actually read analyses of Beethoven sonatas where the analyst suggests that Beethoven was daringly 'breaking the rules' of sonata form by having only a single theme, or starting his recapitulation in the subdominant.
    I don't have any historical evidence of that, being the history of music showing the opposite (educated music, like medieval poliphony up to ars nova, begin to be based on mathematics and philosophy, before the "good taste" can select the best of it, and later academy and workshops were created were the composers were educated to very rigid "secrets of the art", and several of the most important composers of the past were also teaching and theoricians theirself).
    OK I don't claim to be a big expert on medieval music, but it seems to me that claiming that it was based on mathematics is something of a simplification. That's like saying that Debussy is based on maths, purely because he embeds golden sections in his structures. Certainly there is an involvement of maths, but you would hardly say that the maths generates the music. Similarly in Ars Nova, and other early polyphony, it strikes me that the involvement of maths is just a way of playing games within an already formed musical language. There were already rules regarding vertical harmonies, and voice leading - rules which had been formed by aural preference. The maths was about composers then placing 'fun' restrictions on themselves. For instance devising an isorhythmic piece, using a Color and Talea meant working things out really carefully, so that vertical harmonies would be acceptable throughout. Writing a fully fledged prolation canon would be even more of a conundrum. But the point is that you couldn't just randomly devise music by a purely mathematical model.

    I'd be quite happy to be re-educated on this one though.

    No one of the big artists of the past, from Jusquin up to Schoenberg, from Palestrina up to J.Williams were writing without a long academic training.
    Couldn't agree more - although, out of interest, Schoenberg was completely self-taught.
    David

  8. #8

    Re: rules were made by analysis of masters???...is it true?

    Ermmm.... ummm... hmmmm... I'm not sure it really matters.

    If you are a composer, there's no right or wrong way to compose. If you want to read some books on theory, or take a course, or get a Ph.D., or study the "masters", that's fine. If you don't want to, that's fine too.

    How did Mozart, Bach, Beethoven do it? Why does that matter? Is the point of composing to be as famous as them? Do you think that when they were alive they had any idea what would become of their work? What the status of their work may be in a couple more hundred years?

    Likewise, when you listen to music, do you say to yourself "ah, this piece had years of studying behind it, therefore I enjoy it"?

    EDIT: Instead of thinking chicken-and-egg with rules and music, I think they are psychologically the same thing. We can do with them as we please.

    EDIT 2: And whether or not you want to study "academically", listening to other people's music is going to affect your internal "musical psychology" no matter what. You can never truly write without "rules" ... they are a part of you.
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  9. #9

    Re: rules were made by analysis of masters???...is it true?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pingu View Post
    The rules of theory books are a great way of developing discipline, training the inner-ear, and developing an instinct for what works. The problem comes when the theory books are then held up as some kind of canon, more important than the music they were distilled from, and teachers start to trust them more than their ears.
    This is right. "The rules" are there to provide a structure to build on and "learn the ropes." Usually in the third or fourth year of theory classes "the rules" are dismantled and one is free to explore, but has learned the language and how to communicate efficiently.

    Reading Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery mentions this process:

    "Spend ten years observing bamboos, become a bamboo yourself, then forget everything and paint.”

    and

    “The sword master is as unself-conscious as the beginner. The nonchalance [‘laessigkeit’ - ‘naiveté?’ ‘laxity?’] which he gave up at the beginning of his instruction he wins back again at the end as an indestructible characteristic.”

    So...learn the rules well so that you can break them and have true free expression. A good lesson and one of lessons in Stravinsky's Poetics of Music.

    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  10. #10

    Re: rules were made by analysis of masters???...is it true?

    I'm not sure I understand the notion (which seems to pop up all the time) of "learning the rules so you can break the rules" ... if there's a difference between a rule-educated artist purposefully breaking the rules and a rule-ignorant beginner simply ignoring them, then the rule-educated rule-breaker must be breaking the rules within the confines of other rules...

    The notion seems to be used to justify learning the rules even if you don't choose to use them, rather than just approving rule ignorance. But when a rule is broken in a piece of art, do you have to know whether or not the artist knew about the rule before giving value to the art? (Would you judge any art only within the context of what you thought the artist knew and did not?)

    The notion is kind of poetic but makes little sense. It's like saying "You must first learn to speak before you can truly say nothing."

    Can you really even break a rule without following another (perhaps unwritten) one? How then is the breaking of a rule really worth anything by itself?

    It's like we can say "You don't have to follow the rules" but we can't say "You don't have to learn the rules" ... why not?
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

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