Page 1 of 4
#1
Hello MT,

It has come to my attention that there is a part of the website where you get angry about theory being important and wonder why people are so ignorant about it. So what else to do but question whether it is needed at all?

It would appear to me that traditional theory and notation have ceased to be useful to the modern musician. Technology has made it such that music can be produced and reproduced in so many forms that any attempt to consider rules as even remotely universally applicable seems ridiculous.

Pour example, one of my professors created a piece in which his holiday photos were mapped onto transparent spheres and then stills of these spheres were fed into a Max patch he'd created to transfer these images into sound phenomena. To attempt to make meaningful guidelines of composition in this piece would be a nonsense. In fact in many cases, such as this, the composition choices made do not consider the musical outcome whatsoever.

Theoretical systems of considering or notating harmony, rhythm, timbre etc are not viable ways of analyzing much of the modern world's music. Seeing as these systems are now defunct at the borders of sound, why would anyone hold vehement positions about their use in the middle ground? To remember their relevance to musics of the past and to consider them when recreating these styles is important, however the notion that the modern musician should have them as their primary source of musical knowledge is to encourage regressive musical practice.
#3
I want to disagree with you because you're so unpleasant, but I'm finding it difficult.

Quote by WlllT08
It would appear to me that traditional theory and notation have ceased to be useful to the modern musician.

For the modernist musician yes, but not necessarily the modern musician. The big problem with your general premise is you assume everyone has the same tastes as you, which isn't the case. People like RIM and people like music that isn't necessarily progressive, that doesn't make their tastes or their creations irrelevant.

I do think that a large reason for the focus on traditional theory on academia has more to do with, "this is what we've always done" than "this is a valid thing to be focusing on." That said, traditional theory is still musical knowledge and knowledge is never harmful to creativity. I don't feel any worse off for knowing traditional theory, even though I almost never implement it in my own music. I'm sure it has some influence on my writing, like any musical knowledge or experience I have would, but I also don't think that's a bad thing.
Quote by WillT08
Technology has made it such that music can be produced and reproduced in so many forms that any attempt to consider rules as even remotely universally applicable seems ridiculous.

Music can be created that defies definition by traditional theory or even 20th century musical concepts. That doesn't mean it has to be or always is. There is far more music created that can be analyzed with traditional concepts than can't. Now, you can argue why that is, but you can't argue that it's true.


Is your issue really with theory, or the fact that people aren't making music as progressive as you wish they were or think they should?
#4
This entire thread can be answered on all sides with a bit of misanthropy.
You might could use some double modals.
#5
If via theory was the only way it could be done, then music would be a science. But it isn't, therefore music is an art.
Quote by AlanHB
It's the same as all other harmony. Surround yourself with skulls and candles if it helps.
#6
It depends entirely on what kind of music you're making.

If you're making dubstep that has a ton of wobbles and stuff, well then you probably won't benefit that much from traditional theory since dubstep (and other similar electronic genres) is based more on timbre than pitch. But even then if there's a melody, chances are that it can be easily explained with the same traditional theory.

Traditional theory will stay relevant for a long long time. No matter what kind of music it is, you're going to find melodies/harmonies/whatever that "follow the rules" of traditional theory. An exception is of course atonal music that does its best to avoid it.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Jul 6, 2014,
#7
calling it irrelevent is wrong. Firstly, I take it that we arent talking about musicians of 1 genre and of popular status (not pop music) cuz that would be close minded. With that said, the subject of traditional theory is so developed that people use it without even knowing it. Ive heard people say "I dont need music theory" then he'll go play a C, Aminor, F, G chord progression noodle with the A minor scale over it and he'll time to time play the Emajor chord cuz "It gives that kind of tense sound to it". And everything he did comes under the traditional guideline. Now yes'modern' music makes it irrelevant? Well maybe for some, but i know a few synth and music softwares programmers and they ALWAYS have someone well versed in Music theory or at the very least, learn the basics themselves cuz they have to make half the sound of the musician sound right. oscillators and arpeggators make use of a lot of Music theory in the background. Hell, even the taboo autotune revolves around the use of scales.

Your professor is a good example off experimentation and innovation. Yes one shouldnt try to explain it (although an expert in music theory would disect it in a matter of minutes), but thats the beauty of music. Its an art form.
#8
If there is no theory to it then how can your professor discuss it with you in any meaningful way? Theory grows as the realms of music expand. That is all.
Si
#9
You do realize that this software that turned images into sound was coded with at least a basic knowledge of music theory, right? And while I do see some degree of legitimacy in in this type of self generating music... you're kidding yourself if you think it's ever going to replace actual composers. No. Technology does not negate the need to understand music.

And yes, all modern music, arguably excluding a negligible amount of noise or microtonal based music, can be analyzed and explained by discussing harmony, rhythm, timbre, or so forth. These things didn't stop being relevant just because we've created new genres and instruments. Our knowledge of music theory developed over the last few centuries is still, and always will be relevant, for as long as music has rhythm and is based on the 12 tone system.

And no, knowing your music theory is never regressive for you as a musician. This is nonsense that is only heard from people who are too lazy to learn the theory, or people who think that they've learned the basics but have never actually managed to apply it, and all of your favorite musicians who claim to have not learned their music theory? 1) They would be even better and more creative if they had learned it. And 2) Whether they realize it or not, they're subconsciously learning theory every time they write music. Just in a slower manner.
#10
@jazzrockfeel

There isn't much I'd like to reply to, more take what you said other than that I believe that this caveat

For the modernist musician yes, but not necessarily the modern musician
would support the idea that the fetishization of traditional theory is regressive, or at least stagnative.

If there is no theory to it then how can your professor discuss it with you in any meaningful way? Theory grows as the realms of music expand. That is all.
We didn't discuss the sound at all, it wasn't the point of the piece. If we had it would have been little more than "those purple swirling dots made a texture i liked more than the blue swirling dots. white made more high frequency content".

Though you've said that theory grows with the growth of music, could you point me to these new systems? Unless you should like to make the case that the field of acoustics is actually just 'theory', which would be a sorry, sorry sight.

You do realize that this software that turned images into sound was coded with at least a basic knowledge of music theory, right?
I couldn't agree less. If you have ever used Max you'd understand that it's foundation is acoustics.

And yes, all modern music, arguably excluding a negligible amount of noise or microtonal based music, can be analyzed and explained by discussing harmony, rhythm, timbre, or so forth.
The point is that a lot of music made today doesn't even consider these things, and so discussing it with reference to them is meaningless as it describes nothing of what the listener experiences. That theory can explain lots of music that is in the safe middle of music does not make it any less stagnative or regressive to consider when composing new music.

This is nonsense that is only heard from people who are too lazy to learn the theory
Or those with no interest in applying it, as I'm trying to explain. I'm sure I'll get 10 people tell me "you have to know the rules to break them". However I would argue that sound production is now so far removed from traditional theory that one is able to occupy a creative space such that the 'rules' of theory are outside of their reality. That is to say, imagine a Venn diagram of two circles, one of which represents those whose music is made either with or with the explicit motivation to break conventional theory; it is my contention that another circle exists in which music is made without reference to these ideas at all and that there can be no overlap such that theory is meaningless and inapplicable within this second circle.
#11
Traditional theory can always be adapted to encompass what is being analysed. Process-specific systems of notation etc. can be created to understand what is going on by anyone who wants to deconstruct a piece, even if the intended point was to ignore theoretical concepts.

However, the majority of music still being made is "popular" in sound, structure and harmony, and therefore traditional theory can and probably will always be used as a means to explain.
#12
will, music theory describes why things sound the way they sound. So for this example:

Quote by willT08
Pour example, one of my professors created a piece in which his holiday photos were mapped onto transparent spheres and then stills of these spheres were fed into a Max patch he'd created to transfer these images into sound phenomena. To attempt to make meaningful guidelines of composition in this piece would be a nonsense. In fact in many cases, such as this, the composition choices made do not consider the musical outcome whatsoever.


It doesn't matter if the sounds that came out were completely random, or if the composer/machine was actively thinking of music theory at the time it was created, music theory simply describes why it sounds the way it does.

In this case, I'm confident that you could still emulate the composition choices of the computer program once you analyse enough pieces, and that you definitely could explain the resulting pieces using music theory.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#13
Quote by MapOfYourHead
Traditional theory can always be adapted to encompass what is being analysed. Process-specific systems of notation etc. can be created to understand what is going on by anyone who wants to deconstruct a piece, even if the intended point was to ignore theoretical concepts.

if people do that it offers nothing meaningful and is pointless as a means of discussing the piece
will, music theory describes why things sound the way they sound.
no, that's acoustics

EDIT: That you all want to explain pieces that have no relationship with theory using traditional theory shows how regressive a practice it is
Last edited by willT08 at Jul 7, 2014,
#14
^^^ You can analyse everything using music theory. What you learn is why the note sounded the way it did. You can use this knowledge to then replicate the sound if you like.

Mate you don't have to use music theory if you don't want to. However it's unlikely that you'll find many people taking your side in this sub-forum.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#15
Quote by willT08


To remember their relevance to musics of the past and to consider them when recreating these styles is important, however the notion that the modern musician should have them as their primary source of musical knowledge is to encourage regressive musical practice.



Maybe you can help clarify your position a little, because I'm having a bit of trouble grasping what you are referring to exactly. Apart from music derived from spheres, what are you talking about when referring to a "modern musician" ??? Is it Dubstep ? Sampled based compositions etc., EDM, Hip Hop, all of that, none of that?
#16
Quote by AlanHB
^^^ You can analyse everything using music theory.
But the question is whether it still provides meaningful results to do so given the music that is created nowadays.
What you learn is why the note sounded the way it did.
Nah you do that with fourier transform analysis

Mate you don't have to use music theory if you don't want to. However it's unlikely that you'll find many people taking your side in this sub-forum.

one day, one day

EDIT: ^ I'm talking about music made by people running around in quake 3 shooting things
#17
^I personally see no point in applying traditional theory to a generated piece of music, as the generation process itself would be the analysis in my eyes. But, if someone wishes to analyse it using traditional concepts, they will easily find a way to.

Regardless, the point stands that the role of theory is and will be relevant for the foreseeable future when discussing the VAST majority of music made today.

It has come to my attention that there is a part of the website where you get angry about theory being important and wonder why people are so ignorant about it


The only time I see anger in MT is when a person’s fails to understand that traditional music theory can quite easily answer their question, but they themselves are ignorant about the solution.
#18
Will, we obviously have different definitions of "music theory".

Perhaps we would better understand your argument if you supplied some examples of songs that "have no relationship with theory".

Music theory can be used to analyse Quake 3 guns and stuff but lets be realistic - this is not commonly known as music, and there's little benefit from analysing it from a music theory angle (nor any reason to).
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#19
Quote by willT08


EDIT: ^ I'm talking about music made by people running around in quake 3 shooting things


So you're actually just wasting everyone's time here...
#20
Quote by willT08
Nah you do that with fourier transform analysis

Are you denser than lead?
^^The above is a Cryptic Metaphor^^


"To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity." Everything is made up and the facts don't matter.


MUSIC THEORY LINK
#21
^Game sound affects can still be analysed using tradtional music theory, anything from the real world can be analysed and recreated. That pew pew from your gun, the jingle of coins in your pocket, the super mario coin sound...
#22
Quote by AlanHB
Will, we obviously have different definitions of "music theory".

Perhaps we would better understand your argument if you supplied some examples of songs that "have no relationship with theory".

Music theory can be used to analyse Quake 3 guns and stuff but lets be realistic - this is not commonly known as music, and there's little benefit from analysing it from a music theory angle (nor any reason to).

Nah it's a modded version of quake where the guns actually make nice sounds haha

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHKXjf8tl4E

edit: so all of you define music theory as 'acoustics'

lol
Last edited by willT08 at Jul 7, 2014,
#24
Hey I totally want to recreate that but...wait there's no analytical system in place to understand what's going on...oh wait, there totally is.
#25
Quote by MapOfYourHead
Hey I totally want to recreate that but...wait there's no analytical system in place to understand what's going on...oh wait, there totally is.

that you don't see this as an odd thing to say i feel backs up what i'm saying about people that fetishize theory
#26
Quote by willT08
sound phenomena
<> music

"Theory", as generally described here, applies only to certain subsets of sound phenomena.
#27
Quote by Jehannum
<> music

"Theory", as generally described here, applies only to certain subsets of sound phenomena.

Exactly

And it is useless to describe much of what is created at the borders of sound today and will continue to become less and less powerful in describing sound as we move forward.

That's all there is to it folks
#28
Quote by willT08
that you don't see this as an odd thing to say i feel backs up what i'm saying about people that fetishize theory


People with knowledge tend to "fetishize" knowledge over ignorance...it's difficult to convince them that their knowledge is obsolete or useless when all you're offering up is a quake video and sphere sounds to support your "argument".
Last edited by reverb66 at Jul 7, 2014,
#29
I'm not fetishising it, I'm making an objective statement that those descending boops can be understood using traditional music theory. Let's say you hear those sounds and want to use them for something else but don't have the original source material or knowledge of how they were made, what would you do?

You load up a boop capable vst with some sort of portamento function, stick in your notes that you found through basic interval theory, alter the sound waves so they sound similar...that is if you want to use the exact notes..maybe you don't but you still understand what is going on musically speaking, and can even vocalise or write down what is going on so that others can understand.
Last edited by MapOfYourHead at Jul 7, 2014,
#30
To completely miss the point in favour of talking about intervals is quite what I'm talking about
#31
Quote by Jehannum
sound phenomena <> music

arguable but the general consensus is the opposite
Quote by Jehannum
"Theory", as generally described here, applies only to certain subsets of sound phenomena.

the argument is that those subsets are mostly obsolete

I'm mostly with will here.

All of you saying "oh the definition of what theory describes can be expanded" are kind of missing the point, which is that the current popular music theory is fetishised and that alone perpetuates its use.

Example: you could analyse that quake business with traditional theory, but it would be dumb. Forget about the actual notes for a minute and think about the rhythm. You could determine the exact pattern of notes and transcribe it, but that'd be a poor representation of what the piece actually means. I'd like to argue that the transcribed part of music is that part that corresponds with human decision, which in this case definitely isn't the resulting pattern, but rather the starting positions and velocities of the balls and the shape of the room.

Obviously this is a kind of extreme example and most popular music can make use of traditional theory to a much greater extent, but I still don't feel it's enough to merit its perpetuation.
Last edited by captainsnazz at Jul 7, 2014,
#32
Quote by willT08

I couldn't agree less. If you have ever used Max you'd understand that it's foundation is acoustics.

Actually Max's foundation is data flow processing. MSP's foundation is acoustics.


And, maybe I've missed it, but how do you define theory? I don't even know how I define theory, so I'm curious to see. Like for that Quake piece (which was cooler than I thought it would be) obviously using common practice theory is worthless, but I don't think setting about analyzing it with the concepts of rhythm and pitch intact would be entirely fruitless in describing what we hear. Would that be 'applying theory' to it?
#33
Is this thread some sort of Strawman Argument performance art ????? Well done!
Last edited by reverb66 at Jul 7, 2014,
#34
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
Actually Max's foundation is data flow processing. MSP's foundation is acoustics.

omg shush
#35
Quote by willT08
Nah you do that with fourier transform analysis


Fourier transform analysis simply breaks down a complex sound into sine and cosine waves. What someone does with this knowledge is really up to them. I wouldn't call it music theory, maybe sound theory. But ironically sound over time is music.
#37
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
Actually Max's foundation is data flow processing. MSP's foundation is acoustics.


And, maybe I've missed it, but how do you define theory? I don't even know how I define theory, so I'm curious to see. Like for that Quake piece (which was cooler than I thought it would be) obviously using common practice theory is worthless, but I don't think setting about analyzing it with the concepts of rhythm and pitch intact would be entirely fruitless in describing what we hear. Would that be 'applying theory' to it?

I'm not sure how I define theory either but I see a real distinction between studying harmonic and rhythmic relationships and say, determining the reverberant characterisitics of a room - either of which could (and have been) the focuses of a piece.

In any case I don't think one could call the entire field of acoustics 'music theory'.

edit: i know this isn't a very good answer haha
#39
Quote by willT08
edit: so all of you define music theory as 'acoustics'

tldr: Only if you're defining the entire field of 'acoustics' as music.

Quote by willT08


We didn't discuss the sound at all, it wasn't the point of the piece. If we had it would have been little more than "those purple swirling dots made a texture i liked more than the blue swirling dots. white made more high frequency content".

Though you've said that theory grows with the growth of music, could you point me to these new systems? Unless you should like to make the case that the field of acoustics is actually just 'theory', which would be a sorry, sorry sight.
Well that begs the question: Is any experiment in the field of acoustics to be considered music? If so then music theory includes everything in the field of acoustics. Which, I agree, is absurd so perhaps we shouldn't describe an acoustic experiment as music simply because it uses sound. However if you want to qualify something as music then music theory is right there.

So regarding your professors experiment: Is it music? If so what makes it music and not just a sonic experiment in the field of acoustics? As soon as you answer these questions you begin to develop a theory about music.

Music theory is the observation and discussion of music. It is limited to music so does not include the entire field of acoustics but it does include all music.

If you draw a venn diagram with one circle representing music and another representing music theory then you will have both circles occupying the same space or one slightly inside the other with both expanding at the same rate.

But I guess you're talking about "traditional western tonal music theory". Which in effect is essentially nothing more than marking the bounds of music theory at a set point while allowing the bounds of music to continue beyond that point. You are creating a divergence between music and what you define as music theory and then saying music theory is useless/ineffective because of the arbitrary divergence that you just created.

Why stop there?

We could define music theory as ending at modal chants (before we even had an agreed codified system of musical notation, equal temperament tuning, or tonal harmonic function) and saying traditional music theory is irrelevant because it doesn't help us understand most of the music over the past 300 years.

Alternatively you could define the realms of music theory to include only atonal music theory or limit it only to tonal music in the western culture and ignore other musical systems from around the world as outside the realms of music theory.

However you do it, picking an arbitrary point and insisting music theory stops there but music continues beyond that point requires some pretty specific definitions regarding music and music theory. By specifying those definitions all you are doing is saying "hey the music theory that defines that type of music over there doesn't define this other type of music over here and those limits make it redundant".

And even if we agree with your arbitrary definitions of music theory in order to create a separation between the existing tradition of western music and the future for music that you envisage, do you really think that people will stop singing and enjoying songs and melodies based on a simple pentatonic scale because "technology can make weird sounds"?
Si
#40
Quote by 20Tigers

So regarding your professors experiment: Is it music? If so what makes it music and not just a sonic experiment in the field of acoustics? .
I don't see the distinction

And somewhat regrettably the rest of your post is based on the assumption that these are different things. The crux of the whole argument is that there aren't meaningful languages to describe sound pieces that I and many others would consider music.

At the very least we agree that 'acoustics' is not a good definition for music theory? Taking that, depending on how you define music you might better see how it isn't a good way to discuss a lot of what is made today. So, how do you lot define music?
Page 1 of 4