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Topic: Composing process: the role of the rule...

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  1. #1

    Composing process: the role of the rule...

    I feel the need of a kind of apologizing:

    in previous posts started a topic in a still unclear way, so finally I did not the good service I was aiming to. But the discussion (as usual) was stimulating and intersting. So I propose to fix what was missing before, because that was the topic to start first. What's the purpose of the rule?

    I'm not so arrogant to say I've the only possible right answer, but I think lot of us find out that:

    - when we compose we follow a kind of process, that can be initiated by the need of doing it (you have an event, an order, a job...), the spontaneous inspiration, or a kind of research on your instrument provide you with an intersting idea (e.g. you are playing your keyboard improvisation, and get intrigued by a melodic or harmonic sequence, and start taking note of it and/or developing it).

    - the way we develope the idea (sometime even the way the idea is born) is based on some scheme: we have some formale scheme in mind, we just follow an existing one (a song, a sonata, a blues etc.).

    During both the processes (finding ideas and developing) we start facing our style, our formal attitude, and the final challenge...the lenght and refinement of the total work.

    That's why rules exist: before whatever academic method or school is collecting rules for didactic purpose, the composer is already using it, sourcing from the pool of existing, and creating some new one on demand, for the specific purpose of the work to do, or the personal style.

    The structure of the melodic variations, the harmonic sequence and elaboration, the counterpoint if any, the form and the lenght-fitting process...this is an architectural work.

    Rules are the elements that speed up the work, and support the creation and development of a piece of music out of an initial idea.

    You may have to fit the 4 minutes of a song, or the 10 minutes of a dance remix. You may have to fit the total lenght of a video cut, or the number of bars of a forme section.

    You may have to find the accompainement of your nice melody, or the countermelody.

    You may have to create an intersting melody over your wonderful chord sequence.

    You want to write the voices of a choir or string arrangement of the theme...

    Composers experience every time this kind of needs, and the method they follow, the expertise and knowledge they base the work on, is "rules".

    Finally the decision maker is your talent: you will always "select" between several possible solutions, the best one according your taste and aim.

    Great composers of the past wrote they were shocked by the "white paper sindrome", becose of the immense amount of options they were in front to start the composing, and a kind of embarass in deciding why doing in a way instead of another.

    They all reported that rules and form, were the way for going ahead: when they had not enough rules, they created new one, just to make the work "routed" to the final destination.

    SO WHY DO YOU FEAR RULES? AND WHY RULE SHOULD BE MANDATORY?

    Ok if you want to play soccer, you have to avoid taking the ball with your hands. But if you like it, just play rugby or basket.

    Or just create your own ball game: what's important is you have fun, and the people looking to you enjoy...

    NOW WRITE YOUR POINT AND ENJOY THE THREAD! Please....

  2. #2
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    Re: Composing process: the role of the rule...

    "Rules" has a negative connotation. Principles, Tools, Devices are probably better words and more to the point. If you have an egg you can fry, scramble, poach or whatever. You're not much of a cook if you don't have these abilities at your disposal. Same with a basic musical idea: what can you do with it? If most cooks study their craft so ought the musician.

    Composition is not unlike mixing or mastering: you want things to sound good - to work and go somewhere. Rules in music came when someone asked, "why does this sound good and why this bad?" In a very general sense they just concluded, "do this and don't do that."

  3. #3
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    Re: Composing process: the role of the rule...

    Quote Originally Posted by Fabio View Post

    SO WHY DO YOU FEAR RULES?
    I fear NOTHINGGGGGGG!!!

    Actually, I quite like the 'rule of thirds' - but that is a photography principle. And photography, with it's subsequent digital development in terms of photographic composition and digital darkroom techniques ect, have a lot in common with musical techniques.

    I prefer the word 'technique' to 'rules' actually.

  4. #4

    Re: Composing process: the role of the rule...

    I like "guidelines" instead of "rules".

    I don't use common-practice tonal harmony in my music. So most of the "no parallel 5ths" type of rules don't apply to my music.

    I've established a sort of "catalogue" of rules and devices that I utilize in my own music. And most of the time, I spend a great deal of energy finding ways of expanding and surpassing those rules and devices, means of achieving my ends by either going beyond the guidelines I've established or circumventing them completely.

  5. #5
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    Re: Composing process: the role of the rule...

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    I like "guidelines" instead of "rules".
    Yes indeed. Guidelines.

    I was sitting in a hospital waiting area this morning (nothing serious) and two oldish guys were talking. The one doing most of the talking told the other that his doctor asked him if he had any hereditary heart conditions in the family. He said no. The doc asked him what his parents died of. He said his father died at 72 of cancer and his mother died when she was 94. The doc said that was ok then.

    He got home and told his wife how it all went - and she said to him - wait a minute - you don't know what your parents died of and indeed any of your family - because you didn't know them.

    He was obviously adopted from birth and regarded them, his surrogate parents quite rightly, as his natural parents from habit.

    Moral of this true story as I see it - the doctor showed good guidelines in his questions - but at the same time - displayed poor technique.

  6. #6

    Re: Composing process: the role of the rule...

    Moral of the story, the doctor followed the rules and was led astray by a dishonest patient. (as Doctor Gregory House likes to say: "patients lie")

    The patient, while "right" to consider his adoptive parents "real parents" was nonetheless an idiot not to consider that his doctor was asking him about his birth parents.

  7. #7
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    Re: Composing process: the role of the rule...

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    Moral of the story, the doctor followed the rules and was led astray by a dishonest patient. (as Doctor Gregory House likes to say: "patients lie")

    The patient, while "right" to consider his adoptive parents "real parents" was nonetheless an idiot not to consider that his doctor was asking him about his birth parents.
    Ahhemm, yes indeed. But let's face it - this is the NHS - and according to Americans recently on the news - we in the Uk are all extremely lucky to be alive.







  8. #8

    Re: Composing process: the role of the rule...

    Some might say that the "rules" are a tool, for handling the material, much like any other artisan might use tools to mold their primary material into its final forum.

    I tend to think of the rules as PART of those primary materials.

    Rules might include such elements as formal layout, or developmental processes, or devices that alter the basic musical material in some form or fashion.

    For example, "fugue" is basically a series of rules and guidelines that help in laying out a contrapuntal work. I view those rules as part of my basic material.

    How I use, or discard, certain rules affects the final outcome of any piece of music upon which I embark.

    Certain rules remain always in place.. for example, the stricture against using parallel octaves (particularly in outer voices) is one that I try to firmly apply. I understand the reasoning behind it, and find that it still applies to my music, despite it not being based upon the same harmony as that of the era in which that particular rule was codified.

  9. #9

    Thumbs up Re: Composing process: the role of the rule...

    A big LOL...


    just the need of changing the word "rule" shows how much psycology and subjective point are out there...

    very well stated by the way: rules in music are tools, guidelines, techniques.

    I don't think that a part from being rejected in a Conservatorio examination or being not accepted in an old svants academy, it exist any other consequence of "breaking rules".

    But for sure we know that the consequence of "simply ignoring rules and techniques" is an exausting effort for very little result: it can drive to frustration beginners or naive "composers by ear".

    When some intellectual method is adopted, we have quick and effective work.

    When the intellectual method meet instinct and talent...we have masterpieces.

  10. #10
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    Re: Composing process: the role of the rule...

    [/QUOTE]When the intellectual method meet instinct and talent...we have masterpieces.[/QUOTE]

    Quite so - I can only imagine.

    When you guys are writing music - I, for instance, don't write much music and have very little interest in doing that these days - I would strongly suggest you forget about guidelines, rules and technique.

    These thoughts when writing must surely have a constraining effect on what should really be free flowing ideas.

    If you don't have technique or whatever you want to call it down to a tee by now, ergo, so you don't even have to think about it - and indeed shouldn't be thinking about it - your compositions will reflect that and be wooden and two dimensional I would guess.

    If I'm sitting at a harpsichord playing the Italian Concerto by Bach - the last thing I want in my head are thoughts about technique and guidelines. These things should just be automatic and work as a sort of background computer program.

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