#1
Would you agree with this statement?

"Having a solid understanding of the fundamentals of melody and functional harmony leaves the rest up to interpretation?"

There seems to be so much information about how to analyze pieces of music and how to interpret it that there has to be a point where enough is enough. I am talking about things like Schenkerian analysis and graduate level type stuff.

What is wrong with one's own subjective analysis and understanding of a piece of music? It really all just boils down to the melody and how it is functioning even in complex piece of music.

So, in your opinion, when is enough?!
Last edited by Unreal T at Aug 28, 2014,
#2
I may be somewhat off here, as I'm not extensively educated in the more complex chordal movements and melodies.

Whenever a pop song comes on the radio, I can usually break that song down in 4 chords, 5 if Katy Perry is feeling artsy. The melody is easy to find relative to the chords in that case, and musical analyzation (aside from lyrics) pretty much stops after that.

However, when I listen to Jazz or even Classical/Orchestral, the chordal changes are a lot harder to follow. Likewise, finding where the melody is relative to the chord is a lot more difficult, then. In the case of Jazz, the chords and the melody seem to be almost nonsensical. I can make sense of it, but I don't really need to in order to enjoy the piece.

So, "when it's enough" for me is when the music is obviously, continually, and purposefully breaking the natural rules of the key/scale it is written in. I can listen to and analyze any complex Jazz piece and find how the melody is interacting with the chords and how the chords interact with the melody, but there are so many disjunct tones (non-musicians call them mistakes or mess ups) that it really isn't worth analyzing musically. However, it is someone's expression and art, and I would say that those chords and melodies reflect what that person is expressing and that may be analyzed.

Likewise, I can play utter garbage on my guitar, not transcribable to any notation, and still call it expression. And I have. But I don't analyze the musical quality itself.
#4
A musical analysis should present your own subjective observations and ideas about a piece of music supported with reasoned explanations and examples that support your ideas.

This should all be done in a way that is coherent, meaningful, and easily understood by the intended reader.

If you can achieve these principles then you have used just the right amount of analysis. If you do not achieve these principles then you are guilty of either over analysing or under analysing the piece of music.
Si
#5
I'm analysing a solo Guitar piece for my thesis at the moment. There is no melody or any sort of functional harmony. So I would say no, I don't agree.
In my own personal opinion, knowing the harmony and melody doesn't tell you anything about how the affects people. It's everything else that matters.
Last edited by GoldenGuitar at Aug 29, 2014,
#6
Quote by GoldenGuitar
I'm analysing a solo Guitar piece for my thesis at the moment. There is no melody or any sort of functional harmony. So I would say no, I don't agree.


It must be an atonal piece? Presently I have absolutely no interest in atonal music, maybe in the future.
#7
Quote by Unreal T
It must be an atonal piece? Presently I have absolutely no interest in atonal music, maybe in the future.

No actually it's technically not, it's Spectral. It's ironic you've mentioned this because the two types of music are complete opposites. Spectral music arose as a rejection of Serialism. Tristan Murail's Tellur. Look it up on Youtube if you want.
This work deals more with the transformation of sound/timbre. But their works for large ensembles do usually have syntheised timbre chords.
Last edited by GoldenGuitar at Aug 29, 2014,
#8
If you are saying what i think youre saying,no you cant skip the classics.Read the theories they arent bulls.
#9
If you are saying what I think you're saying, I came to that conclusion after studying much of the significant literature of the classics. Of course one has to consider the aesthetics and perspectives that was used to write the music. But yes, the more I look at this sort of music, the more I feel that this is the case. This is coming from a guy with a degree in "Classical Composition" (not that I believe that it gives me any merit).
Last edited by GoldenGuitar at Aug 29, 2014,
#11
Sorry my keyboard is screwed up, so it posted before I finished typing. That it's everything else that makes the music, not melody and harmony.
#12
Quote by Unreal T


What is wrong with one's own subjective analysis and understanding of a piece of music? It really all just boils down to the melody and how it is functioning even in complex piece of music.

So, in your opinion, when is enough?!


When you're not interested in learning new concepts.

My feeling is that the true purpose of theory is to help you learn new musical ideas. For example, imagine how hard it would be to figure out what a V-I was if nobody taught us the theoretical concept of scales and chords. If all you could do was listen to music, with no other knowledge (even basic chord names and shapes) how long would it take you?

I think a very long time. But with a little bit of theory knowledge, we can get the concept of a V-I, and then suddenly we can hear it all over the place. We recognize that a B7-E is, on a core level, the same thing as a D7-G.

I apply the same principle to more complex ideas. The purpose of theory is not the analysis in and of itself - it's to help you recognize a concept so that you can internalize it.

Therefore, it makes sense to stop learning theory when there aren't new things you want to learn.
#13
I personally think enough is enough when you've got some teenager who can't finish a song because he feels like he can't be "original" with only twelve notes, or is wracking his brains to figure out a chord progression no one in the history of music has ever seen before for his pop-punk song and then comes here to complain about it.

The amount of music theory I know is a drop in the ocean, especially compared to some of the people I see post here. I read what they have to say with great interest and admiration. And then I go back into my bedroom and write a "brain-dead" pop song with A, D, and E and enjoy it.

So yeah, it's too much when you feel like not having a double Doctorate in Jazzology is holding you back from writing music that you enjoy. There's nothing wrong with your song just because Michael Schenker can't masturbate to it.

All MO, of course. There are times when I'd like to be able to write more complex music but I don't beat myself up because I can't.
#14
Quote by CarsonStevens

All MO, of course. There are times when I'd like to be able to write more complex music but I don't beat myself up because I can't.

I do beat myself up and practice

AND THERE CAN NEVER BE ENOUGH THEORY/ANALYSIS
#15
No such thing as too much knowledge, as long as you control the knowledge, and not the other way around (the same concept applies if you only know very basic theory aswell). It's supposed describe and understand what's happening, not to be some kind of rulebook.
#16
analysis paralysis.

once you hit those train tracks, you've gone too far.
Anfangen ist leicht, Beharren eine Kunst.
#17
My counter-question is:

What purpose does music analysis serve?
it's all just coming back
it's all coming back

it's all coming back to me
#18
Quote by Baby Joel
My counter-question is:

What purpose does music analysis serve?

You learn patterns that others have used and the sounds that are associated with them. You hear something really cool and analyze it. Well, congratulations, you can use the same "trick" in your own music now if you want to. Of course not as copy-paste, but you know what I mean.

You can learn 500 songs, but you aren't going to pick up much information from them unless you're also doing some kind of analysis.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Aug 31, 2014,
#19
Yeah, this is really funny as I read the OP.

As a scientific minded kiddo, I used to think that analysis had to be absolutely objective and if it was subjective, it would be completely wrong.

Now I realise that analysis is actually an almost purely subjective item in music theory. It is the little things you see that makes your analysis. There is no general view on music. Everybody hears it in their own, unique way.
#20
^Yes but then you point to objective observations to support your subjective opinions.

The mechanics of the music (for example chords sharing tones, specific voice leading, cadences used etc) are either there or they aren't. This aspect of it is NOT subjective and is a big part of analysis.

The subjective part of it is how important you think a certain aspect of the music is, whether or not you think it works, what piece of music you like enough to analyse in the first place, or what part of a piece of music inspires you.

For example if you described the opening bars of Stairway to Heaven as containing contrary motion between the bass and melody you would be correct. If you described the bass line in those same bars as moving diatonically you would be incorrect. Both of these statements would be part of a musical analysis and neither is dependant on your subjective view. They are objective statements.


So musical analysis and music theory are not even almost purely subjective. There are some analytical statements one could make that are just wrong. And most people do hear music in the same way. The fact that every human culture in the world divides the musical spectrum into octaves, places a premium on the perfect fifth, or has folk songs that use the pentatonic scale shows that people do hear music in the same way. They just develop different specific tastes.

Preference for certain musical styles or techniques are subjective. The mechanics of a musical passage are objective, the effect is often universal.

For example the truck drivers gear change as heard in Michael Jackson's song Man In the Mirror. In the final coda the key shifts up a half step on the word "change". The precise mechanics of this musical technique is objective. Everything repeats the same in a relative sense but is played a half step higher. The effect of this is that it gives the song a lift. This lift is a matter of perception but it is pretty much a universal thing that everyone can hear. Whether you like it or not - that is purely subjective.
Si
#21
Quote by Elintasokas
You learn patterns that others have used and the sounds that are associated with them. You hear something really cool and analyze it. Well, congratulations, you can use the same "trick" in your own music now if you want to. Of course not as copy-paste, but you know what I mean.

You can learn 500 songs, but you aren't going to pick up much information from them unless you're also doing some kind of analysis.
In this case I can understand it, although it's not necessarily a practice that I use when I approach music. Like, I can at least see the value of theory as a way to identify the similarities between different passages of music, and why you like that music.

I read the OP in more of just a listening sense, not necessarily compositional sense. And from a listening sense at least, I don't see any value of theory. I mean, I enjoy listening to Ludovico Einaudi every now and then, and I can tell that theoretically, his music is pretty simple. That doesn't have any affect on how much I appreciate the music though.

I think when music appreciation becomes based off theory complexity, the listener is missing the point of music.
it's all just coming back
it's all coming back

it's all coming back to me
#22
^I agree.

Though sometimes seeing the theoretical simplicity of a great piece of music can make you appreciate it that much more.

It's like - Wow it's soo great and it's sooo simple and obvious, yet totally original and fresh.
Si
#24
Quote by Baby Joel
Like, I can at least see the value of theory as a way to identify the similarities between different passages of music, and why you like that music.

That exactly is the value to me. I learn to compose the kind of music I also like to listen to. Of course there are many different things I like in music and combining them kind of forms my own style.

If you analyze songs you like, there's just way less trial & error because you know how to get the feel/sound you want to.

But I don't only analyze the music that is my absolute favorite. For example, I play/analyze some classical piano music, even though I wouldn't really listen to it a lot. I still believe I can learn something from every style.

And yes, I agree that complex music isn't necessarily good. Some of my favorite music is relatively simple.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Aug 31, 2014,
#26
Analysis is simply the name for a set of tools or processes to reveal some kind of pattern, correlation or meaning. This definition is fairly universal in any field, whether it's in a scientific or artistic/creative context.

The question "how much analysis is too much?" is like asking someone which drill you should buy. How big is the job? Will your usage/experience warrant the expense (in this case time) of a more powerful tool? Or will a less efficient/accurate one do?