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Thread: Best way of studying modern composition techniques?

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    Default Best way of studying modern composition techniques?

    My usual method is to grab a score of a work I want to understand and listen to, and study it, and occasionally plug it into Sibelius if I want to see what certain chord patterns are. This apparently isn't always possible with modern works, or can be fairly expensive. So what can I do?

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    since the music itself is working to create meaning and coherence without relying on the convention of function al harmony, each piece will solve that problem in its own way.

    The more you know about modern music theory, the better off you will be because you will just have more methods for analyzing the piece

    so I would say read some books about 20th century music theory and atonal music, and then study the score with those ideas in mind

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    http://www.fabermusic.com/ They sell scores, but also have uploaded marked scores, good enough for studying, if you don't want to buy.

    Good books for reference or inspiration.

    Straus - Introduction to post tonal theory

    Contemporary Harmony: Romanticism Through the Twelve-Tone Row - Ludmila Ulehla

    Miguel A. Roig-Francoli - Understanding Post-Tonal Music

    Materials and Techniques of Post Tonal Music - Kostka

    Techniques of the Contemporary Composer - David Cope

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    Are any theory books less than $100?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Manok View Post
    Are any theory books less than $100?
    Ulehla's book is 40 usd..

    Here is list of music theory journals, many of them have free articles.

    http://www.mtosmt.org/mto_links.html

    A good article that you may like:
    http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.14.....2.straus.html

    You can also register a free, but limited JSTOR account (something like 1 article every 3 weeks).

    Wikipedia is also great.

    You don't have to buy expensive books at all, many of these books are just introduction to this topic are not that informative - just mentioning certain techniques.

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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    I read books from Scribd and downloaded lots. For more detailed analyses on specific works, I’ve seen some impressive PhD thesis papers, that go into details far beyond any book. Reading theory is great, but I feel some of the written material is reinforcing the author’s view, and there are many elements that can’t captured in real works by analyses, when it comes to modern.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    Quote Originally Posted by BabyGiraffe View Post
    Ulehla's book is 40 usd..

    Here is list of music theory journals, many of them have free articles.

    http://www.mtosmt.org/mto_links.html

    A good article that you may like:
    http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.14.....2.straus.html

    You can also register a free, but limited JSTOR account (something like 1 article every 3 weeks).

    Wikipedia is also great.

    You don't have to buy expensive books at all, many of these books are just introduction to this topic are not that informative - just mentioning certain techniques.
    Without knowing terminology I’m still as lost as before. A google search or wiki search is as good as the question asked. ‘Modern classical music theory’ doesn’t provide any answers other than a bunch of posts on why we all hate it. That is my limit of knowledge on the theory side of modern music. I don’t hate it I love it enough to want to learn to write it convincingly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Manok View Post
    Without knowing terminology I’m still as lost as before. A google search or wiki search is as good as the question asked. ‘Modern classical music theory’ doesn’t provide any answers other than a bunch of posts on why we all hate it. That is my limit of knowledge on the theory side of modern music. I don’t hate it I love it enough to want to learn to write it convincingly.
    I suggest that you’re in a hard spot. Over the past 300 years, great composers who didn’t study music intensively, either with living masters or in conservatories, are few and far between. Yes, there are some exceptions, but they’re darned few.

    As far as terminology goes, you’ll have a very hard time learning biology if you don’t know the vocabulary of biology, or physics if you don’t understand the terminology in that field. Unless you’re drowning in talent, some solid and intensive formal education may be in order.
    Last edited by KenOC; Jan-21-2018 at 07:49.


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    So to learn the terms I either have to waste 10k on a degree I’ll never use or hope to find someone willing to impart a dictionary on me for $1000 a year? Surely there is someplace I can learn the terms I need. I’m sorry but I just can’t accept your answer. I just need the questions to ask. I’m tired of writing in my current style of music and want to modify it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Manok View Post
    So to learn the terms I either have to waste 10k on a degree I’ll never use or hope to find someone willing to impart a dictionary on me for $1000 a year? Surely there is someplace I can learn the terms I need. I’m sorry but I just can’t accept your answer. I just need the questions to ask. I’m tired of writing in my current style of music and want to modify it.
    Is there a good public or university library near you? These often have modern scores to loan or to study or copy on site. Same with the texts you seek. If not, it might be fruitful to work by ear, that is, try to reproduce the sound of a particular style from scratch. For example, take a particular movement you like, listen intensively, and then try to get the same or a similar effect just winging it, keeping the parts that sound successful and discarding the rest. Even if one doesn't get particularly close doing this, the results can still be interesting and useful.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Jan-21-2018 at 18:55.

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    What terminology?
    Just get one good modern orchestration book that covers most of the extended techniques that are so popular in post-tonal theory, learn the basic language that you are lacking from wikipedia and you are OK.

    Youtube course on harmony from classical to atonal:
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...BTVcpKCiOEqH_m

    Channel focused on teaching composing "modern" music theory:

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4U...N4Ycvzw/videos



    Check this free textbook - it goes from classical to 12 modern composition.
    http://openmusictheory.com/


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossa...al_terminology

    https://archive.org/details/formsofmusic000129mbp

    https://archive.org/details/harmonicmaterial00hans

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schenkerian_analysis

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catego...l_music_theory

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_and_mathematics

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    Hindemith's Craft of Musical Composition on Amazon used for $12 bucks American

    https://www.amazon.com/Craft-Musical...al+composition

    Alan Forte's Structure of Atonal Music used for $25
    https://www.amazon.com/Structure-Ato...rds=alan+forte

    Schoenberg's Fundamentals of Musical Composition paperback $6.75
    https://www.amazon.com/Fundamentals-...rds=schoenberg

    here's some serious books on the subject, and believe it or not, music theory books can be found dirt cheap on Amazon if you look around a bit.

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    I've studied and highly recommend Persichetti's Twentieth Century Harmony (there are examples on every page to put into music notation software for playback, and scores listed for study on each topic, as well as great exercises on each topic)
    https://www.amazon.com/Twentieth-Cen...G4FAZ1JN72H6DY

    and Leon Dallin's Techniques of Twentieth Century Composition
    https://www.amazon.com/Techniques-Tw...ds=leon+dallin

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    For a bird's eye view, I suggest "Other Harmony" by Tom Johnston. Not exhaustive, but a good, concise, quick way of seeing all the different possibilities in composing.



    I like The Persichetti book, as well. Also, if you can find it, Howard Hanson's book.

    http://a.co/5nfykte
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jan-22-2018 at 21:52.

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    If you know basic theory, you can study other composers’ practical use of harmony, etc. Take Bartok’s Mikrokosmos vol 4. He makes everything basic and easy to follow.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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