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Thread: Is it essential to read music to be a genuine musician?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Elaryad's Avatar
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    Question Is it essential to read music to be a genuine musician?

    I found this article on http://www.medici.tv/#/magazine/archive/news/2008-08 and it increased my curiosity because recently I was discussing this subject on another forum and people had very different (sometimes opposite )opinions. Please read the article:


    «Is it essential to read music to be a genuine musician?
    August 12, 2008 3:00 PM


    Can you learn a language without knowing its alphabet and grammar? It is now possible to gain an A grade in GCSE music without being able to read or write music. According to BBC Music Magazine, it has even been years already that the examination boards (including Oxford and Cambridge) gave no more than 20 per cent of its total marks to being able to read sheet music. Compositions submitted to be graduated require no scores and can be only recorded. No sheet music anymore for any performing exam too. During these last days, many musicians have criticized what they consider as a dumbing-down. What would have think Luciano Pavarotti who admitted in 1997 he could not read a score? And what would say Sir Paul McCartney, unable to read at sight a semiquavel on sheet music?

    Among the crusaders, cellist Julian Lloyd Weber, the brother of composer and successful musicals (Jesus-Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera…) Andrew Lloyd Weber, estimates that educational change ridiculous “You have got to learn to walk before you can run. This is the basics of learning music”, he said to The Independent. He also estimates that GCSE music “move to make things easier” is pure demagogy.

    The opposition to such an evolution found a far more surprising spokesman: Damon Albarn, lead singer of BritPop band Blur, co-founder of Gorillaz and creator of The Good, The Bad & The Queen project when he says: “I think anyone interested in music should be forced to learn how to read and write it”. And he recalls that he was classically trained and refers to his own experience: “I used to write for small orchestras when I was 15. I sold my soul to the devil and became a pop star and forgot about it, but in the past few years I have got back into orchestration after an almost 20-year hiatus. I’m so slow now…” But it is not his remaining ability in reading music – it is like the bicycle, you never forget – that lead him to write a whole opera Monkey that has been staged in great opera houses and even at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden this late July?»


    Do you think that we are gradually turning over an abandon of some practices considered the basic structure of music apprenticeship: to read and to write music? As I understood, there are educational institutions and individual (self-taught) musicians that only rely on technique and performance.
    I'm curious to read your opinions.
    Are sheets becoming outdated? Think about the tabs on guitar/bass playing.

    If you had already discussed this subject, I'm sorry, didn't find it.
    QuietGuy likes this.

  2. #2
    Senior Member some guy's Avatar
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    No.

    (Hahaha. The system told me my message was too short. Well, now it's not.)
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    Yes.


    .......................................
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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    I'm puzzled at how it could be necessary... musicianship is about making music. And, if it's necessary to read music to be a musician, then you're degrading all these people in India and such areas who obviously play music, make music, yet you regard it as not being musical just because the player can't read it?

    No, it seems blatantly obvious to me that one can be a musician without reading a note of music.
    You get a frog in your throat, you sound hoarse.

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    Member kiwipolish's Avatar
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    It is rude to read your score whilst playing your instrument.

    At least that's the story reported to me by a violinist friend who went on holiday to a remote part of Greece (30 years ago). She befriended some local old violinists (who knew how to play their local folklore, but knew nothing about Mozart or Beethoven) and invited them to a chamber music concert. It's the first time these musicians went to such a performance. Their comment was: "It was very nice. But these classical musicians are so rude! Whilst their play on stage, they read books!!!"

    It's not necessary to read music in order to be a musician. Music is a gift which can certainly be worked on, but it is a gift, and can come in a variety of forms.

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    Senior Member Elaryad's Avatar
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    And about performing? Do you think soloists will start performing by ear? Or with alternative musical notation?
    I think the answer to the main question is no, but there's always a "but".
    A genuine musician doesn't need to read/write music. But it's that the same with classical music performers? And about sharing ideas without a codified language, how can we do it? By recording? Or do you think that for classical music (only) the methods of learning will remain... classical?
    YsayeOp.27#6 please explain me your "Yes".

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    essential? no.
    it sure does help to expand one's arsenal of musical tools, though.

    dj
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    Member fox_druid's Avatar
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    I think it could be necessary for greater development, as it provides better means for analyzing (theme, structure harmony, etc)

    Western classical music have grown rapidly since the 11th century because of the development of musical notation done by monks and with the great help of Church authority, as music was heavily influenced by Church till the baroque era. Before the invention of music notation, which is the era of Phytagoras and his contemporary till Pope Gregory I and his gregorian chant, there were only very slight progress on music.

  9. #9
    Andante
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    We all learn to speak before we learn the grammar [if ever].
    Being able to read music does not mean you will be even a poor musician. What is a musician??? Has the meaning changed?
    I agree that if you are taking a course in music then reading must be included.
    What would you call a trumpeter who is an absolute master at playing but can not read. My reply of course to the OP is NO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elaryad View Post
    And about performing? Do you think soloists will start performing by ear? Or with alternative musical notation?
    I think the answer to the main question is no, but there's always a "but".
    A genuine musician doesn't need to read/write music. But it's that the same with classical music performers? And about sharing ideas without a codified language, how can we do it? By recording? Or do you think that for classical music (only) the methods of learning will remain... classical?
    YsayeOp.27#6 please explain me your "Yes".
    I said "yes" having western classical music in mind, but I recognize that in other musical styles it may not be necessary.

    Reading scores is the only way to access to western classical music, as a performer. Playing by ear is not an option for serious musicians. In fact, using a score is the only way in which you won't be "contaminated" by the personal imprints the recording/concert you listen to may have.

    If you learn a Rubinstein Chopin nocturne by ear... are you learning THE nocturne, or Rubinstein's approach to the piece?

    How do you plan to play an Intermezzo by Brahms just by ear? Do you guys think a Ligeti Etude can by successfully played if it's learned just by listening to it?
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    Yes it is essential for an overwhelming majority of Classical Music. Maybe not popular or folk music, but even then, if you want accuracy, some sort of notation would be needed.
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    Senior Member marval's Avatar
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    I think yes, I know some musicians play without but, surely being able to read music helps. I can't read music, I found it very difficult, I can hear a piece of music and pick out the tune, but that isn't the same as reading a score and being able to play a full piece.

    Margaret

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    Senior Member Mark Harwood's Avatar
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    If you could not read words, would you be unable to compose and speak fine poetry?

    The decline in the level of demand in national Music examinations goes much further than by-passing proper notation. If anyone wishes to be shocked, they may care to take a look at some recent Scottish Standard/Intermediate/Higher/Advanced Higher papers.
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    "Music is a social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is."
    - Malcolm Arnold.

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    Senior Member David C Coleman's Avatar
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    I reckon that if you're gifted enough to perform and even compose without reading a note of music, then go for it!. You can play or perform your composition in front of an electronic recorder of some description and it gets the public circulation.
    I think that musical score was invented, in the first place, as a form of recording the composition before the days of tapes, videos and the rest.

  15. #15
    Andante
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    Yes DCC without the written score we would not have the beautiful music that we all enjoy today, plus the fact that it would be just about impossible to have an Orchestra of 90+ playing a sym, improvised music is a different matter altogether.
    btw is Indian music written??

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