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Thread: Metaquestion: Why do you think posts to the theory sub-forum are so infrequent?

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    Default Metaquestion: Why do you think posts to the theory sub-forum are so infrequent?

    Curious about other's opinions on this.

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    Senior Member Kjetil Heggelund's Avatar
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    Maybe because it's not so entertaining Theory is serious business and not so fun for most people.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    I think a lot of people here who are trained in music theory just accept it as a body of "givens" and apply it to the Common Practice period. Why post about a body of knowledge that is unchanging and already fixed?

    I am still exploring music theory, and actually try to apply it creatively. Many times when I have an unorthodox idea, it is written off as nonsense. I think that "properly trained" academics have difficulty dealing with any idea which is out of the ordinary.

    Also, I notice there is little interest in tuning, temperament, and physics of music (acoustics).

    Why, are they thinking about dropping it?
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
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    I don't think they are dropping it.

    I guess we tell undergrads that common-practice harmony, voice leading and forms are given and fixed. This is not really true however. Recent theory journals are filled with examples of novel ideas about CP music.

    But CP harmony and voice leading are only a small part of the discipline. There are also Schenkerian theory, neo-Riemannian theory, atonal theory including set theory and group theory, transformation theory, et al.
    Last edited by drmdjones; May-11-2019 at 23:46.

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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    Actually this sub forum has been a little more active than I expected it would be. Its good I hope it stays, I've found some helpful and interesting information. Maybe it is less active because those who are seriously interested are more likely to get knowledge from a teacher or a book than from a message board? Not sure.

    I don't know too much about Schenkerian analysis, but from what I've read its use is limited to certain music and doesn't provide that much useful information, maybe I'm wrong?

    Wasn't it Schoenberg who complained that Schenkerian analysis skipped over all of his favorite parts of the Eroica? Charles Rosen said that Schenkerian analysis can't provide information like what makes a Mozart piece better than one by J.C. Bach, and analysis of both pieces will lead to essentially the same conclusion.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    MillionR's post implies a good suggestion for a thread on applying theory creatively, which might enliven the board a little more. After all, that is why theory is there from a composing pov. Ultimately though it is the composer's proclivities and fantasy that should be supported by theory and not dominated by it. Dry, formal CP can be off-putting and undue emphasis on its seeming intractability can be stifling. (it is still important to know though).

    I personally always look for ways of applying technique in order to find that one moment, the spark, that will ignite a section or a piece, or suggest new directions and a way forward. Tips on motivic development, chordal expansion, modes and so on might be fun...(for us geeks anyway..)
    Last edited by mikeh375; May-13-2019 at 08:36.

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    I think it's simply because people who know about musical theory and people who want to know are vastly outnumbered by people like me who just listen.

    I think the sub-forum is a great resource, though, and thanks to the people who do contribute.
    ~ Mollie ~
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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    MillionR's post implies a good suggestion for a thread on applying theory creatively, which might enliven the board a little more. After all, that is why theory is there from a composing pov. Ultimately though it is the composer's proclivities and fantasy that should be supported by theory and not dominated by it. Dry, formal CP can be off-putting and undue emphasis on its seeming intractability can be stifling. (it is still important to know though).

    I personally always look for ways of applying technique in order to find that one moment, the spark, that will ignite a section or a piece, or suggest new directions and a way forward. Tips on motivic development, chordal expansion, modes and so on might be fun...(for us geeks anyway..)
    I see music theory as a way of expanding one's conceptual horizons so that deeper, more solid understanding can be achieved. For instance, in my quest to understand atonality, I realized I had to understand tonality, so that a 'dialectic' could be set up, in which the two things mutually define each other. It does not further understanding to be "stuck in the box" of "given" concepts. Everything must be understood, and to do that, one must recognize essential qualities. To do that, one must have some method of comparison and identification.

    Application, and "doing," applied as 'given' ways of doing things, do not add to understanding if they are routines or activities without a base in true understanding. Also, many of the details of "the assumed" do not add to real understanding, because they are too particular and codified into "lingo" of specialists who usually have no interest in venturing into more generalized territory.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, as long as I can still breathe." ---Me

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ingélou View Post
    I think it's simply because people who know about musical theory and people who want to know are vastly outnumbered by people like me who just listen.

    I think the sub-forum is a great resource, though, and thanks to the people who do contribute.
    Often the simplest explanation is the right one.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I think a lot of people here who are trained in music theory just accept it as a body of "givens" and apply it to the Common Practice period. Why post about a body of knowledge that is unchanging and already fixed?

    I am still exploring music theory, and actually try to apply it creatively. Many times when I have an unorthodox idea, it is written off as nonsense. I think that "properly trained" academics have difficulty dealing with any idea which is out of the ordinary.
    The best reason for posting about an established body of knowledge is that not everyone possesses that knowledge.

    The quotation marks around "properly trained" save you from an unfair generalization. I see nothing about being properly trained in common practice harmony to keep anyone from dealing with other kinds of harmony and systems of analysis. That doesn't mean that any unorthodox idea that comes along must be found worthy of consideration.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I think a lot of people here who are trained in music theory just accept it as a body of "givens" and apply it to the Common Practice period. Why post about a body of knowledge that is unchanging and already fixed?
    Theory is not primarily a body of knowledge. It is in large part a set of tools and methodologies to facilitate understanding of actual music. It is a means of gathering knowledge, not a static body of knowledge.

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I am still exploring music theory, and actually try to apply it creatively. Many times when I have an unorthodox idea, it is written off as nonsense. I think that "properly trained" academics have difficulty dealing with any idea which is out of the ordinary.
    Difficulty? Has it occurred to you that well-trained theorists might just be good at identifying nonsense and that it is easy for them? Just a thought.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    I saw obfuscation occurring on the Baroque "chord progressions" thread, where the figured bass method of Bach was being used to obscure what might have been a clarification. That was not "exposing nonsense," but was a deliberate obfuscation. If one possesses specialized knowledge in an area, it shouldn't be used as a bludgeon against those who are seeking an obvious truth.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, as long as I can still breathe." ---Me

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Deliberate obfuscators who bludgeon with specialized knowledge the seekers of obvious truths are scrofulous scoundrels. Not even interminable and ubiquitous accusation, insinuation, complaint and self-aggrandizement can undo the atrocities they perpetrate.

    Hold the miscreants in contempt! Impeach them! Vote in 2020!
    Last edited by Woodduck; May-14-2019 at 00:10.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    "Scrofulous"...had to look that up Wooduck - It's now my word of the day...

    Edward, you forgot to mention that theory can also be used to compose with....
    Last edited by mikeh375; May-15-2019 at 09:32.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I see music theory as a way of expanding one's conceptual horizons so that deeper, more solid understanding can be achieved. For instance, in my quest to understand atonality, I realized I had to understand tonality, so that a 'dialectic' could be set up, in which the two things mutually define each other. It does not further understanding to be "stuck in the box" of "given" concepts. Everything must be understood, and to do that, one must recognize essential qualities. To do that, one must have some method of comparison and identification.

    Application, and "doing," applied as 'given' ways of doing things, do not add to understanding if they are routines or activities without a base in true understanding. Also, many of the details of "the assumed" do not add to real understanding, because they are too particular and codified into "lingo" of specialists who usually have no interest in venturing into more generalized territory.
    You know MR, when I was at my alma mater, there was a fellow student composer who admitted to me that he didn't know much about CP at all and yet, was writing dense atonal pieces (he wasn't the only one btw). This was actively encouraged by the establishment whose ramparts where seemingly impervious to any incursion or indeed influence by traditional techniques and especially to the benefits they impart to a composers development.
    They would not let a budding instrumentalist anywhere near the building unless all scales and arppeggios where mastered at wild speeds, because they would be unable to play concert repertoire. This begs the question as to why they would let composers in who think they know how to handle notes and create cogent music in atonality without any of the valuable learning and insight one gets from studying traditional technique from the 'bottom up'.
    I do get that to be 'new' means breaking with the past, but encouraging a composer to 'fly' without wings so to speak, is only possible for the truly gifted.

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