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Old 9th June 2018, 05:07 AM   #121
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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.

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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.

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Old 17th September 2018, 03:25 AM   #127
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I had another accidental blindfold test with Cecil Taylor where he came out sounding better than I thought. It was, again, fairly early Cecil Taylor, from a compilation titled something like "1958-1962".

I stumbled on this track. Who is that? It sounds like someone who has absorbed a lot of Cecil Taylor but can really play! It *is* Cecil Taylor! No, it's someone younger! I look up the playlist, and yes, who else could it be.

And then, at the 3-minute mark, the inevitable fatigue.

Here he didn't sound like Monk at all. And if he didn't sound great, at least he sounded good for a while.

So Taylor again was a little better than I thought, but I still dislke what sounds like the trackless wastes of most of his improvs.

I think both that the whole approach is misguided/impossible and that Taylor was a problematic example of it. But two experiences with his early music -- blindfolded and expecting nothing -- make me have a little more respect than I had before.

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Old 19th September 2018, 09:26 PM   #128
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Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
I had another accidental blindfold test with Cecil Taylor where he came out sounding better than I thought. It was, again, fairly early Cecil Taylor, from a compilation titled something like "1958-1962".

I stumbled on this track. Who is that? It sounds like someone who has absorbed a lot of Cecil Taylor but can really play! It *is* Cecil Taylor! No, it's someone younger! I look up the playlist, and yes, who else could it be.

And then, at the 3-minute mark, the inevitable fatigue.

Here he didn't sound like Monk at all. And if he didn't sound great, at least he sounded good for a while.

So Taylor again was a little better than I thought, but I still dislke what sounds like the trackless wastes of most of his improvs.

I think both that the whole approach is misguided/impossible and that Taylor was a problematic example of it. But two experiences with his early music -- blindfolded and expecting nothing -- make me have a little more respect than I had before.
Interesting. I used to try to like him because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. That was a struggle. Then some years went by and I ended up liking him without really trying much at all. Funny how that works.

Was the stuff you heard in the blindfold test solo piano or was it an ensemble?

ETA: Your post makes me wonder what an "accidental blindfold test" is all about.
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Old 21st September 2018, 03:48 AM   #129
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Oh, "blindfold test" was just my too-dramatic way of describing listening to the radio without knowing what you're hearing. You have a moment when you are listening without the expectations you'd have if you were prepared.

Taylor might have been be good (sometimes?) despite the well-meaning advocacy of critics. Maybe he took off into the musical wilderness and never made any progress. I keep listening, off and on.

Lately I've been checking out the "radio stations" on Pandora -- really just playlists of music that is somewhat related to some starting-point -- Aimee Mann radio, Bartok radio. My problem is that I almost always want to downvote anyone but the one artist. If you want to hear Bartok, it doesn't mean you want to hear Stravinsky. If you want to hear Aimee Mann, it doesn't mean you want to hear Fiona Apple or somebody. The Cecil Taylor list plays jazz musicians who are deemed "avant garde" -- and sound nothing like Taylor. Anthony Braxton, Sun Ra -- nothing to do with Taylor. I guess that neither what critics say nor the way playlists seem to group musicians together makes much sense to me. Taylor was, for better or worse, one of a kind.
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Old 14th December 2018, 06:09 AM   #130
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Taylor makes a good list of contrasts with Ornette Coleman. I ran across the book __Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman__ by Stephen Rush in the Berklee bookstore yesterday. This book -- if not causing my head to explode -- at least is causing severe cerebral edema.

On the one hand, the book is full of transcriptions, with comments. That alone makes it substantial and useful. On the other hand, it paints this rosy picture of Harmolodics as essentially the same spirit as civil rights. It's a "can't we all get along" "let a hundred flowers bloom" sort of thing. The first part of the book, even worse, contains transcripts of nonsensical conversations the author has with Ornette Coleman.

Now, some "divergent thinker" artist-types are surprisingly articulate. Jerry Garcia, for example. Coleman, on the other hand, sounds like a schizophrenic off his medications in this book. And I'm not trying to be unkind. Another player I esteem highly, Pat Martino, is a less extreme example of someone who can play but whose thinking is...odd. Martino may have his reasons having to do with brain surgery for an aneurism.

As a believer in basic rationality helping not hurting the artistic process, this is sort of appalling to me. But in Ornette Coleman's case, we have the triumph of Doing over Talking.

It's sort of appalling that Coleman, in the book, is still preoccupied with the apparent paradoxes of....get this...transposition. Yes.

Coleman was given the opportunity to write an orchestral piece, Skies of America. The parts are written without regard for transposition. This means massive parallel chords in fifths. Why? Because you have common transpositions to F and Bb from C, also Eb. Eb-Bb-F-C is a stack of fifths. The orchestra is playing unison lines but as "fifth" or "fourth" chords.

A stack of fifths or fourths is a beautiful, mysterious-sounding chord. Coleman got a lot of stacks of fifths moving around in his Skies of America. In fact, in a sort of raw primitive way, he ended up with a piece with a more beautiful sound than many a 12-tone modernist piece. But it's clear that he didn't really know what he was doing. Quite different from his usual work.

---------

You could make the case that free jazz is really the most elitist music there is in some ways. The only people who can claim to be successful free-jazz players are monsters with absolute pitch, the best of the best. Jarrett, Metheny, Charlie Haden, Coleman. Heck, even Garcia and Lesh had some degree of absolute pitch.

Without absolute pitch or telepathy, collective "free" improv is pretty much impossible and doesn't happen. What happens instead: repetition, noodling, anarchy, screaming, reversion to blues or modal playing.

maybe more later.

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Old 14th December 2018, 06:34 AM   #131
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Please, more later.

Enviado desde mi Mi A1 mediante Tapatalk
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Old 14th December 2018, 07:58 AM   #132
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What Dani said. (Well, except for the tapatalk espanol.)

For future reference -- I haven't yet listened:

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Old 14th December 2018, 09:10 AM   #133
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Some of Debussy's Etudes step really deep into atonality. Sometimes it doesn't even feel like atonality and just a whole new dimension of harmony. I remember the first time I heard Mitsuko Uchida playing them, I felt that I was hearing music composed by an extraterrestrial being.
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Old 14th December 2018, 09:37 AM   #134
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Debussy is great!

worship him!
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Old 10th January 2019, 06:00 AM   #135
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Three little riffs that could be developed further: Schoenberg's comment on Slonimsky, Harbison on classical music "in the moment", Coltrane's harmonics as something resembling feedback.


On the back of Slonimsky's Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns is a blurb by Schoenberg that seems sort of hautily dismissive:

Quote:
I looked through your whole book and was very interested to find that you have in all probability organized every possible succession of tones. This is an admirable feat of mental gymnastics. But as a composer, I must believe in inspiration rather than in mechanics.
This reveals that Schoenberg, far from being a mathematically-inspired composer or a careful watchmaker, was a composer who wrote only when feeling the heat of inspiration. He was rather impatient with systems and with slow working-out. He understood himself to be a master who could work quickly and intuitively when he grasped the big design. There had to be a method, a purpose, and perhaps even a place in the world of music at the time, but once that was clear to him it was only a matter of working out the details.

For all his inventor's streak, Schoenberg was an expressive composer in the grand manner, not someone who was satisfied to have constructed something just for the sake of trying something out. Tone-series and even principles of design would have little intrinsic interest for him. This would tend to have a bad effect on all but the best students. Best not to try to be like the master.
A gem like the Thesaurus will be dismissed by people for all kinds of reasons, including the perverse reasons of a few geniuses and the more common complacency of the hacks. Schoenberg's comment isn't quite as egotistical as it first seems. Or rather, it is, but he was right -- the row doesn't mean much by itself. It requires a whole musical and social context to give it meaning.

---------------

I've never been a huge fan of John Harbison's music, but he said something interesting in a Globe interview last week. It was something to the effect that classical music can and should be something for the moment, for the daily activity of making music here and now because you're alive, not because it will satisfy some Eternal Standard. I've embellished his comment. It comes as a good correction to my thinking. Because of the way I've worked -- making recordings that are the final product -- I've tended to think of my music as consisting of fixed objects that have their (trivial, unimportant) place in music history. Maybe it's better to think rather that they are just the records of what I was doing at the time, and to proceed that way in the future.


---------------

Coltrane

It's odd to think that at one time, Coltrane's influence loomed no larger than other jazz players, and so someone could write a serious scholarly article attempting to discuss Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, and Ornette Coleman as if they were all part of one thing, the same thing. Gunther Schuller seemed more approving about Ornette Coleman's approach than he did about Coltrane's.

The way it turned out: Almost everyone wanted to sound like Coltrane. About half a dozen people tried to play like Ornette. Braxton and Taylor remained art-school musicians.

I despair at trying to explain the layered complexities of Coltrane's tonal approach. The subject I want to mention briefly is that part of Coltrane's still-tonal playing, that part of his solos, where he begins to go "out" -- to use pitches outside the normal scales.

The idea is that he adds harmonics to various kinds of chromatic or scale-embellishment. A harmonic of a note is some multiple of that note's frequency: It is distant in melodic space but adjacent in harmonic space.

This kind of overtone-jumping usually occurs in the most heated passages and was something he aspired to. It was something impossible, like playing his complete scales on a tune that Miles called at twice the original tempo. Attempting to play the impossible was an integral part of his whole approach to music.

It is formally and sonically not too far from guitar feedback. I think it's no accident that Coltrane was trying to harnass the power of something like the sound of feedback at a time when feedback on the electric guitar was just starting to happen.

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Old 10th January 2019, 09:55 AM   #136
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One more. There are many absurdities created by the streaming process which is so well-suited to contemporary music but not so good for classical. For instance, how Pandora will play one brief random movement out of The Rite of Spring as if it were an independent song. Then if I "liked" it, it will continue to play only that snippet, as if the entire rest of the composition doesn't exist.

Yesterday's absurdity was Apple music. The orchestral music of Debussy was praised, for having almost anticipated the glorious orchestral music of...Meredith Monk. I'm not kidding.

That's taking politically-motivated ignorant do-gooder hipsterism to new levels. And I think Meredith Monk is great. She is not a master of sumptuous orchestral effects not heard since I dunno, Dutilleux or somebody. She's not primarily an orchestral composer at all.

The person who wrote that was young, dumb, and full of cum.

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Old 10th January 2019, 09:13 PM   #137
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Ok sorry to get all mundane here, but about those harmonics... Some time ago we discussed a jarringly sour note in a David Sanchez solo. You thought he may have reached for the harmonic and missed it. I actually think that missing the harmonic became a thing players now do on purpose. Unfortunately.
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Old 11th January 2019, 05:36 AM   #138
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Originally Posted by varwoche View Post
Ok sorry to get all mundane here, but about those harmonics... Some time ago we discussed a jarringly sour note in a David Sanchez solo. You thought he may have reached for the harmonic and missed it. I actually think that missing the harmonic became a thing players now do on purpose. Unfortunately.
I'd like to hear that, if can you find it.

For Coltrane, the period I'm talking about is around '62, '63. Impressions. Entire lines verge on jumping harmonics, sometimes, with that burning tone. I haven't found a perfect example yet. Maybe it's one of the four takes of Impressions.
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Old 11th January 2019, 09:13 AM   #139
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WTF that was in 2012!?! I thought it was a year or two ago. The link is dead, long live the link:

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3:35 or so

I think I'm derailing you here though.

On a long drive yesterday, I listened to A Love Supreme start to finish for the gazillionth time. Never a sour moment.

The piano player in Sanchez' band -- er er forget his name and I have to run -- is a monster.
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