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Old 9th June 2018, 05:07 AM   #121
calebprime
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Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
My music-theory reading-list.

on probation:

Twelve-Tone Tonality -- Perle -- certainly an overblown presentation that makes it hard to tell if it's valid or not. I intend to figure out whether I can use this, once and for all.

Music After the Fall -- Rutherford-Johnson. -- issues in music comp after 1989 -- so a lot of silly.


...
Harmony -- Piston

...
progress:


TTT is my current project. It may take an hour or it may take a month, but I'm going to figure this out.

I could make nothing of _Music After the Fall_. I couldn't bring myself to care about a single sentence. Direct to sidewalk.

The Piston book is not as interesting as I'd hoped -- considering the author really does have a unique ear for harmony.
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Old 9th June 2018, 06:30 AM   #122
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some first doubts:

1) 12EDO interval-sums really have no perceptual salience. They are not a "thing". They are an abstraction on top of an abstraction.

Because a constant sum here stands for equivalence by inversion, and motivic inversion (and harmonic inversion) can be made to be heard by stating it obviously in a piece, it has utility as an accounting method, as a way of keeping track of the use of inversion (by Bartok and Berg). Constant-sumness has no hearable value. It's not perceivable in itself. When Bartok has some wedge-shaped contrary-motion zeroing-in on a unison, it doesn't work because the intervals form a constant sum. That's an indirect byproduct. It works for nine other reasons.

2) A great many of his arrays are really, really ugly and boring. Sure, you can make them into music, but you can make nearly anything into music.

3) Computer brute-force with constraints blows these arrays away, immediately.

4) He's had a few students, but his work is barely a footnote in later theory summaries.

5) His music has some harmonic character, but nothing that I'm dying to imitate. I can do sweet-and-sour 12-tone myself, to my own satisfaction.


Initial verdict: not worth further study. Keep on the shelf. Keep worrying about whether you missed something.
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Old 9th June 2018, 07:44 AM   #123
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Straus summarizes Perle in _Twelve-Tone Music in America_ -- and adds to my confidence that I'm not missing anything.
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Old 15th June 2018, 04:31 AM   #124
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I'm going to concentrate on Dmitri Tymocyzko's _A Geometry of Music_. He's that rare critter, the mathematically savvy composer. This is really about as good a book as can be hoped for.

The rest of the books I'm going to treate as reference or sources of impressions and ideas.

Review to follow. That it often concerns geometrical displays as ways of visualizing things is maybe the least of its virtues.

Most important, a composer explains pertinent math in ordinary language with lots of examples, without madness or parochialism.

Jedrzejewski's _Mathematical Theory of Music_ is really a reference book by a mathematician. So it has none of the virtues of Tymocyzko's book.

I resent the unnecessary dig at Partch in the Jedrzejewski. A weird passage on consonance and dissonance typology is quote-mined to make Partch look like he's entirely insane. Plus, there's way too much Messiaen -- stuff that's included for no other reason than Messiaen mentioned it. (French parochialism -- calling an octotonic scale Mode 2 of Messiaen's Modes of Limited Transposition, for example.)

You ought to include what Partch got right -- the 43-note scales, the idea of extended Just Intonation.

If you have no insight into this, don't write about it. I've worked for many years designing, practicing and composing with this material, so I have some familiarity, some underlying understanding of what's important and what isn't, at least to a composer. I am frankly biased in favor of the composer's pov as opposed to the mathematician's, and wonder if the two perspectives are nearly irreconcilable.

There's no need in a concise book which has no value other than as a reference book to include things like this, this little dig.
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Old 29th June 2018, 09:15 AM   #125
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I've had maybe half a dozen times when the wrong person came to hear my music, not knowing what to expect. They were sometimes dismissive and angry or scornful because...the wrong reasons. I want to link those times up to some seemingly unrelated cases that are related by the larger theme of Missing the Point.

David and A. are a married couple in their early 40's. He's a freelance composer who waits tables in NYC and she writes for The Village Voice.

David has a successful gig writing some march music to be played at a Paul Taylor dance concert.

His wife A. later complains to me fairly bitterly: "We were at the backstage party at Paul Taylor and the composer my husband was no where to be seen! This was his moment!"

I should have said. No, that was your moment. His moment was when he wrote the music.

The moral of the story: For (many) musicians, it's really about the music.

Just as dogs who like to hunt, really like to hunt.

A lot of people don't get that.

Last edited by calebprime; 29th June 2018 at 09:18 AM.
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Old 2nd July 2018, 05:49 AM   #126
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What is basic honesty or legitimacy in the making and discussion of art?

I'd say that the standard I hold myself to is that I won't advocate for or discuss at any length art or techniques that are incomprehensible, unintelligible, not-doable, unhearable. It's not necessary to conduct psychoacoustic tests to determine what is clear enough, hearable enough, pleasant enough. That way lies the madness of self-estrangement. If one is honest with oneself, one only has to use one's own reactions and tastes. Do I like what I'm doing? (That is, do I like the result, if not the process? Different things.)

Everything I've posted about music theory over the years has more-or-less met the standard of being practical enough, clear enough, hearable enough, tasteful enough. Naturally it has been less clear than an academic text, but more opinionated -- which is valuable if taken with the necessary grain of interpretation. (Caleb thinks this because...)


To the handful of semi-belligerent reactions I've gotten over the years, I'd add the two posters in the 12-tone row thread I started. In both cases, I was disappointed because I do hope there will be someone to talk shop to, but there rarely is. ( Even when I taught at NEC for a few years, there wasn't much shop talk with other comp faculty. It's too personal and people are too busy, for starters.)

In both cases, we have people with some musical background telling me that the conversation is not for them. The musical background is key -- something about their background makes them think they might be interested, and they find that they're not.

To cut to the chase, I made a living for a little over a decade writing background music, mostly for science-documentary type material. Video scoring.

Scoring of this type is to autonomous composition as journalism is to creative writing. It can be excellent, it's a great way to learn some craft. But at some point, you just have to admit that scoring and the kind of composition you want to be heard as foreground music -- they are different things. Like many, scoring paid the bills for me. I wasn't bad, I wasn't the best in town, either.

If people want to discuss the craft of scoring for video, that's a conversation I might join.

But if I want to talk about something specific, it shouldn't be viewed as a stand-in for any and all conversations about music or even music composition.

The point is that what is a reasonable technique for music composition might not be a reasonable technique for scoring.

In all the years, out of approximately 1,500 cues, I managed to work 12-tone technique into 3 of them, or 1 in 500 pieces.

Last edited by calebprime; 2nd July 2018 at 06:00 AM.
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