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I have no good idea what could be meant be "understanding a piece".

Grasping the structure, the direction, the technique, the craftmanship, ...? What do you know about the Winterreise or the finale of Mahler #9, if you understood all these technical details? Let me call Mahler as a witness, who said: "“What is best in music is not to be found in the notes.”

Getting to know the piece and trying to relate the parts to the whole? I like this one. A whole and single parts and their relations to each other and to the whole. Maybe. But what kind of relation do you mean? Structural? Emotion-based?

Making out patterns and keeping track of what's going on? But how do you know, what's really going on? On which layer - the audible layer, the meta-layer of semantics, the meta-meta-layer of quotations, ...?

Do you think you understand Beethoven's fifth symphony? Or "Für Elise"?

Do you think Karajan understood Beethoven's fifth? And Harnoncourt? If "yes" for both, why does it sound so different when Karajan conducts it and when Harnoncourt conducts it?

I have no good idea what "understanding a piece" could mean.
While I was reading your post I was thinking, one way is you sit at the piano and you play some of your own note ideas,
..and then you play the inspiring notes that impressed you from a classical piece. You hear and feel the differences in effectiveness. A person curious about the fundamentals of music would want to know what the differences are (facts) and why there are such differences coming out of the physics and interacting with the human brain. We might only think about such a deep subject for a few seconds, but it makes it all very open-ended and never-ending. You can follow this pursuit for many decades.
 

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As you hinted at in your post about binaries, I don't think it's the case that you either "understand" (in a loose sense) something in its entirety or you don't understand it at all. There are degrees to which you can comprehend something. I don't have to figure out every minute detail that the composer intended in a piece before I can enjoy it. If that were the case, listening to music would be a hassle.

How do I know, what's really going on? I don't, & I don't have to. I just take & work with whatever the music gives me. Anyhow, I'm not asserting that my own definition of "understanding" is the most adequate. It's just what works for me.

This discussion brings to mind the very busy thread about objectivity & subjectivity. It really is important to have clear definitions (I admit I wasn't very clear in my initial post).
I would guess that 60 percent of CM fans are like you.
 

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"Some works have inexorable logic." A bold assertion indeed. And only an assertion. Leonard Meyer's analysis remains as valid today as when he formulated it. That is my assertion, but I suggest respectfully that you look up several articles and reviews of Meyer's work, including his NYTimes obit, and you see that, while dead, he is very much alive. Sort of like Bach.
You've told us you don't know what the logic is, but it's a bold assertion? No, it's what we strive to understand and put together at the very bottom of it. It's the mechanics of music and the evoking techniques. It's foreign to you, so you have your assumptions and very limited approximations (you can't possibly guess what it is because it's a very long explanation). Your assumptions make it worse. But this is all very understandable in any subject..

We really talk past each other. It's not surprising because musicians have indescribable experiences every day. How could they share them? What would be the common ground of experience? For me those flashes of appreciation come from the dead score, but of course a good, novel performance can work wonders, since music is such a big subject for our natural brains. As in other subjects we start with the reliable objective landscape.

I've come to believe that the saddest thing about music is that you have to study a lot if you want to know what Dr. Bast is trying to help us with. Years of exposure to all the rewarding feedbacks. It's probably the same long road with learning to appreciate the art and history of painting.
 

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More seems to be made of this than necessary, not least because the OP first quotes a thread from 2013 which talks about 'understanding' and 'liking', but then substitutes 'appreciating' for 'liking' in his query.

The original discussion he references seemed simple enough: is "understanding" music a necessary pre-requisite to "liking" (wrt serial music)? It seemed obvious to me that the question was about the extent to which we need to develop some familiarity with the unfamiliar before we can conclude that we "like" it, but that even if we did gain some familiarity, there's no guarantee that liking would follow. 'Liking' is a conscious, deliberate act: it requires a decision to be made. 'Understanding' and 'appreciating' (in the sense of getting to know) are processes that don't require a decision, though one might declare that one is beginning to appreciate (the virtues) of Ligeti's Etudes.

'Liking' seems to have acquired a negative connotation in some discussions here (not just in this thread), as if it is a trivialising of the act of fully appreciating and understanding, reaching the lofty heights of deep aesthetic comprehension.

Me, I'm happy that when I say I 'like' a piece, I mean that I have decided that the various responses I have had to it - emotional, intellectual etc - are sufficient to make me want to repeat the experience, to buy the work, stream it...whatever. There may be degrees of liking, as in "I quite like a bit of Mozart, but not enough to splash out on a complete set of symphonies", but the word has its place in the lexicon of musical appreciation and enjoyment (there's another vilified word).

I just don't see the need for the philosophising. Plain English will do.
This is such a good place to discuss these particulars. Where else?
It can be curiously unpleasant if your view of music has long been very different from that of a nerdy analyzer.

But again this is the same in any technical subject. However, we know that there's a spiritual feeling in and about music, which is dulled in other subjects. It's an interesting phenomenon.
 

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I don't see the need for philosophising in this particular instance. I don't routinely object to nerdy analysing. :)
In what subjects do you feel there's a need for philosophising, just so I can understand you.

Philosophy is the love of wisdom so if we put personal limits on it we're easily misunderstood.
 

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To be compelled to dive into a piece, and to see its inner workings note by note, and analyze how it functions is just another form of love.
When you put it that way it's even sadder, a missed opportunity when we don't find this form of love.

Of course maybe it's only in our minds, fbjim. As a proudly rational person I have to hold that out as an explanation (for all this crosstalk).

added: My wife's an Art Therapist (ATR) so that very much influences my 'philosophy'.
 

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If I'm trying to communicate something, it's that while questioning and even playing with these conventions can be an interesting topic of discussion, I also think it's a reasonable assumption that the audience for a work is going to have familiarity with those conventions, even if it's via culturally-learned immersion, intuition, actual technical learning, or whatever. More to your point, I think, breaking these conventions is something which only has significance because those conventions exist in the first place - you can not cheat if there are no rules.

I don't think I've ever read an analysis of any given film, for instance, which assumes that we start from absolute zero base principles and explains that film is generally accepted to be a narrative medium, in chronological order, and about two hours or so long. It may be an interesting topic (one which I'm certain has been covered in endless papers and writings) to see how the framework of orchestral music allows for a sort of narrative concept like "inexorable logic" to exist in an abstract form, but I don't think it's necessary to start from square zero to do so.
Not to disagree with you, but starting from most basic square one is what fascinates me. How do the first notes set the key, if they do. What comes next and what comprises the most interesting ideas as they hopefully relate back somewhere. The actual notes are right there to mull over.
You know the logic of note combinations transitioned artistically, impressively and the power of it all because of the effective figurations. It's difficult to put the power and the effects of these notes combinations into words for non-musicians so we use the terms of music theory. The terms might be a problem.
Here's a clip from a book I poured over when I was young and realized that it would be interesting to see each LvB sonata put into words.
Font Number Event Monochrome
 

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I think some recent posts have converged on the idea that the term inexorable logic was being used in different ways. I believe all of us agree that there is a logic to musical compositions and that those who can analyze music likely would be able to follow or discover that logic.
Some people (many people) assume that musicians are looking at every note, identifying it in their mind and then playing it. It would be like seeing a sentence and identifying every letter in your mind with its name, or however.

The 'look' of the patterns in each key repeat and repeat, so we see them as a familiar landscape. As you glance around the room you probably don't name the objects. It's that effortless, because familiar patterns.

Sorry, this is how difficult it is to share an overview of such an instinctual (unconscious, but curiously rewarding experience) activity. There aren't any helpful analogies, because it's like no other, and that's why we love it..
 

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Clearly not a tempest in a teapot if you find it worthy of comment.;) I have a notion that words have meanings--maybe more than one--and that one should pin down one's intended meaning when one uses a charged adjective like Inexorable. When we write ocelot or tube, we have a fairly unambiguous picture in our minds. I do anyway.
This is a logic which apparently can't be understood and shared across the divide. I don't think that non-musicians could guess what it is. It's the same modes of behavior in other fields, especially in meteorology since people live with it every day, and don't know what they don't know. Likewise, music is every day too.
 

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How would you know this is a logic that can't be "understood and shared across the divide" when no attempt at doing so has even been made? I cringe at the assumption that everyone who questions and is skeptical of certain, often bombastic and exaggerated, claims simply don't possess the knowledge necessary to understand and thus agree with them.
So you don't agree either. What's the opposite of inexorable?
 

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I'm confused: I don't agree with what? I was merely pointing out that I don't think anyone in this thread has really tried to demonstrate this "inexorable logic" they mention.

I guess the opposite of inexorable in this context would be something like complete freedom, anarchy, and chance in music. I don't know of any music that's completely free, where every note appears with no context or connection to anything before it. Even aleatory music and genres like free jazz simply leave some things up to chance and/or remove certain guiding principles for improvisation.
Demonstrate or describe what musicians get out of music in terms of what a non-musician experiences while just listening? That would be a big challenge. I can blather on about how I wonder about the rightness of one constellation of notes following another, and the music theory description of that logic (which I'm very interested in). Change one note and there would be diminishment... from Amadeus. It's so fascinating, bordering on the mysterious.

Tell us how you would describe what a musician senses as inexorable. Maybe we're so far apart. In reality, maybe we delude ourselves about this, but it doesn't matter when the rewards are so great (regardless of the complex mechanisms going on in our experiences). Not that music theory is mysterious, no, it's our rock and a reliable foundation. But for experienced people, when it becomes so much greater than its individual parts then it borders on the mysterious. Art is artifice, after all.
 

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The most recent posts by Luchesi and dissident can be waved aside easily as what they believe are short coups de grace and are indicative of the growing poverty of their positions (if they can be so humored). Luchesi retreats into his usual arcane "professionalism", wondering yet again why or how anybody who is not a trained or professional musician can conceivably have a legitimate relationship to CM--a variant of Milton Babbittry.

dissident has retreated again into revealing psychobabble and supercilious disdain. It seems a habit.

EdwardBast retreats into telling us all that "any dictionary" will tell us what the term "inexorable logic" can cover regarding music. This is meant to be enlightening. A squid's ink cloud sort of tells others roughly, vaguely, where the squid is, but its actual location remains literally shrouded in mystery. I despair of getting a clear exposition.

None of the above attitudes, in my opinion, do classical music any good at all.
I'd have to discuss it with you at the piano. You need convincing examples. I don't think construction or form are helpful in understanding this.

Can we change C to C6 and not change the effect on the listener? Add a sustained fourth, how does that deviate from the composer's original intent? Does it work? No? Well, it depends upon what you want to express (but it definitely changes it for the listener).
 

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It's nice that not only do you speak for EB but you are able to speak for everyone with a "modicum of musical knowledge." The music world is lucky to have you as their ambassador and representative, truly.
It's just a fact. We enjoy the theory, we use the theory in all musical activity. Can we write a few paragraphs and catch everyone up to what a working musician has learned and has enjoyed analyzing endlessly and enough of what he has objectively experienced? I hardly think so, but if anyone wants to get started we can all chip in.
I think it would be a nice new thread, and musicians who haven't seen this thread might contribute. That eventuality might be convincing to people on the edge of belief.
Putting the experience of music into words for someone else, everyone knows how difficult that is! The words limp around and fall short, and then there's fault finding with the WORDs (usually remarkably irrelevant to the point).

I think you need live, responsive examples and a thought-out curriculum in order to open a window into musical analysis. There's a lot to it, you won't get bored.
 

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No, it's not a fact until you've polled a representative sample size of musicologists to see what they think. I'm guessing a great many of them--at least the more rational ones--will ask exactly what's meant by "inexorable logic" the same way SM and I have.

Who needs such a thing? Take a relatively short work, or even a section from a work, and demonstrate using whatever means necessary. Video yourself at a keyboard discussing, take screen shots of the score and just write about it--that's just two ideas. The problem is that this endeavor can't even get off the ground until someone defines exactly what they mean by "inexorable logic," which nobody has even done.

I think all of this is a lovely idea. Despite my lack of formal music education I have picked up enough theory over the years to follow along with most analysis, even if it takes me longer because I lack the ear training that some professionals do. Video examples might be the best way to go, and such things are easy to provide in this day and age when everyone has smart phones and can create free YouTube accounts.
Well, teach it then. I'll help you. Others might help.
 

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I think it is important to point out that this site is Talk Classical and not Julliard or Curtis. Here people talk about CM (and other musics) on an informal basis where--it is hoped and maybe expected--that members consider themselves in a community of enthusiasts for classical music, sharing what information they choose and certainly their enthusiasm for their composers and works.

It is in this setting that it is difficult to justify an overt attitude of easy condescension on the part of the more trained music "professionals" in the site over the probably larger group of those here for the comradeship and opportunity for "Taste Exchanging" among, for our purposes, equals, just as we are equals under the law, in the voting booth, and, yes, in the validity of our tastes. Under these suppositions it would be important to post with some clarity and perhaps necessary context about things being the result of "inexorable logic" which everybody is supposed to accept without question.
Well, I've learned a lot. About people, about this issue, about non-musicians' desires to understand and what the barriers are, about trying to communicate online across the divide, the natural urge to put a musical score into the exact and helpful words. It plays out just as it does in other 'everyday' subjects which humans make specific erroneous assumptions about. We've all seen it. And they've been doing it for so long in their lives that they've convinced themselves.
I do it with video games (I know very little, and no actual experience). And others I won't list, and make me look bad.. lol
Why is it in our nature to worry about the awareness of others? I also worry about the youngsters so that motivates me.
 

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(italics in the above are mine) Luchesi it seems to me that you have insights into the above discussion and others like it, along with more patience that I have. A brief comment: on The Weather Thread where a certain Luchesi is the meteorologist, I've learned that measuring and studying high altitude wind streams is key to weather forecasting now. Whereas when my meteorologist father began, they used surface and occasional low-altitude measurements. Your posts have helped me to understand both today's forecasts and my father's career better.

The following has nothing to do with the idea of a music analysis thread but I think it is relevant. I could be wrong but to my knowledge there isn't anyone posting regularly on Talk Classical with special expertise in music aesthetics, philosophy of music, or music criticism, yet there are thousands of posts in these areas. These are rich areas with hundreds of years of preceding thought and knowledge. But it seems that people want to go for the big general questions without any Luchesi (meteorology) or Bast (music theory) to take them beyond the starting gate.
Thanks. I like helping, and I know SM does too.

I've seen some rare kids pick up a healthy fixation for these subjects from the basic fundamentals like I did when I was their age. These three subjects are all around us every day and the basic facts are very interesting. ‘Much better than spending hours chatting and texting (so ‘rewarding’ to primates like us) and gazing vacantly at someone else's story on a flickering screen (instead of being creative themselves). (I’m being harsh, but this unexpected outcome upsets me.)

Music, how does it come from the physics? how do slight changes in the chords etc. etc. affect the human brain. I was originally interested in how some kids can play so effortlessly. What is the logical view they’re using for the required short cuts (for their fast and accurate ten fingers)? How do they do it?

Meteorology, why is one day clear and sunny and the next day raining cats and dogs? What are the theories about the tilt of the planet and the slowing rotation rate. How did these phenomena result in the weather we see every day, in this epoch.

Botany, what are the groupings of plants and where did the groups come from. I am interested in weeds and rare and endemic plants and saving them, but that's an outgrowth of my interest in their natural history.
Others will have other ‘outgrowths’ from these 3 studies of everyday topics we’re familiar with. It's very inexpensive for kids to pursue these, and they can last a lifetime. There’s so much to them.

Added; the three personal discoveries from study which helped me so much were;
the rise and acceptance of dissonance
planetary waves
and plant succession
 
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