Music Composers Unite!
I often take forever to complete pieces, so my mission lately has been to find ways of being more methodical with my writing. I don't mean paint-by-numbers but just to not reinvent the wheel every time I sit down to write. In some regard, the painfully slow pace stems from insecurity emotional and creative. But I think there are holes in my theoretical knowledge as well that contribute to a lot of false starts and backtracking.
Which brings me to musical structure. In terms of structure, I pretty much play it by ear and almost never am able to decide on a structure pre-compositionally, as much as I have tried. I'm wondering what other people's approaches to structure are and if anyone can recommend some helpful concepts and/or resources on this topic.
For context, my pieces are generally pretty conservative in terms of structure. Most of my pieces usually have an ABA, ABAB'CA, or ABACA structure. I like to keep the material unpredictable, so I'll often have some major deviation in style or texture and have a lot of connective material. It's not that the end result is unbalanced. It's just that it takes so long, because I'm going mostly by intuition.
Sorry if all this is pretty vague. I guess what I'm looking for are "handles," as in concepts that can help me articulate and suss out a methodology for myself. This would also help me analyze my own pieces and the work of other composers more productively, I believe.
Thanks in advance for your ideas!
Wow, great observations everyone. To give some context to my struggles with MIDI, it would help for me to explain that I did go to music school a few years ago out of high aspirations to become a classical composer. My ultimate goal and pleasure is to hear my pieces played by live, classically trained musicians.
One of the most painful things though is to finally hear your piece performed live after months of composing, only to realize you've written music the performers don't find interesting or idiomatic to their instruments, that you've written voicings that are hard for that particular kind of ensemble to tune, that you've used the wrong articulations because you weren't experienced enough to realize when the MIDI performed them wrong, and so on and so forth. I begrudge no one else's preference to write to MIDI, as long as they are happy with the end product. All I can say is that from my experience, you can't actually learn how to orchestrate that way or compose something that other people can perform musically.
Musicians aren't just following instructions when they play a written piece. They're bringing years of training and their own personal aesthetic and interpretive sensibilities. Even if you mark up a score with copious articulations and phrase markings, the performing still has to decide how to shape the line on a note-to-note basis, use the right bow technique, adjust the tempo appropriately, etc. As a composer, if I don't show that I am intimate with at least the fundamentals of how their particular instruments work, all that training and experience of theirs will go to waste, and they will be spending more time struggling with how to navigate around my awkward writing, instead of using that time to fine-tune and shape the overall expression of the piece. It's sort of (though not exactly) like the relationship between a stagewright or screenwriter and actors. The writer must rely on the actors' dramatic expertise to truly translate what's on the page and bring what's in the writer's mind to life. By that token, the question of where ultimate authorship lies can be debatable, for it requires actual collaboration for the original vision to truly be realized.
I'm totally onboard with using MIDI and notation software to go to new places and for creating electronic music. But I guess, in the realm of orchestration, MIDI is a very dramatic compromise in the absence of the real thing. All that said, this is actually nothing new in the world of classical music. Brahms struggled with his reliance on the piano, and it's pretty clear in his orchestrations. Stravinsky relied on the piano as well, but his knowledge of the orchestra was obviously more astute, so his pieces do not sound pianistic at all. I think it's common for composers to be unsatisfied in any performance situation the more different it sounds from how they have been hearing it internally [or in MIDI mockups] as they were writing it. Sometimes it boils down to differences of opinion between the composer and the performers/conductor, as opposed to their respective levels of competence.
As far as the structure question and the question of theoretical knowledge in general, I think it's safe to say that the rule-breakers are usually the ones that know the rules best. Debussy had to know what a dominant-tonic cadence was to avoid using it. So, while I think it's true that rules don't make art, I do think rules facilitate art by synthesizing past trends. I think of how Philip Glass' main studies with Nadia Boulanger were in species counterpoint, yet his music is very revolutionary [some may disagree about it's quality] and bears little resembance to Baroque music. In that same vein, I forget who said it, but it's been said that "music theory is ear training is music theory." So, I would say, if you are talented enough to apprehend musical patterns with precision without knowing the name of the actual concept, then music theory is superfluous apart from its ability to help you communicate with other musicians. However, if you have a less perceptive ear as I do, theory can often help guide you to better aural recognition.
The same can be applied to musical structure. My desire to understand the "rules" is not driven out of a need to follow an abstract prescription set by the masters of the past. It's more a desire to connect what I intuitively and emotionally already understand about structure -- i.e. the kind of understanding even non-musicians have without necessarily being able to talk about it -- with actual concepts and words. So when I hear a piece of music, I can know more than just that it sounds incomplete and unsatisfying. Or I can diagnose such problems in my own pieces, maybe even avoid creating such problems in the first place.
I also think having a structure can also be another name for simply having a plan. I think this might be a boon to the very process of composing, by allowing the composer to contend with smaller parts of a larger task without worrying about losing overall coherence. Or [and I'm being a bit cheeky here] having a structure can be like having a business plan. It can help you stay on track, when you start to stray from your original goals, like beacons to let you know where you are within the pieces internal logic.
[Hope I'm not coming off as snarky or pompous. I'm sleep-deprived so I'm kind of just spewing my thoughts just to get them out.]
1. "All I can say is that from my experience, you can't actually learn how to orchestrate that way or compose something that other people can perform musically."
2. "The writer must rely on the actors' dramatic expertise to truly translate what's on the page and bring what's in the writer's mind to life."
Excellent points and observations. I agree with much of what you say. However, I think a different approach might be in order. The writer may not, and does not have to be "good actor." Nor does the director even have to be as good an actor as those he is directing. I have directed plays before. The trick is to use "rhetoric" and to CONVINCE the players, (actors), performers that you have A VISION of what all the elements (instruments and performers) can and will be able to do together. OR convince the conductor (unless you are conducting) that this is the case. If you are not an effective orator, or a persuasive speaker, able to explain what your vision is, it won't matter how well you "understand their instrument." Members of the forum who have actually conducted their own works can say whether that makes sense to them, since I am only making an analogy that comes from another "performing art."
Of course, as you say, one should really understand as much about all the instruments as possible. But no composer (or very, very few composers) can play all of them, or even most of them well. If you really do have a vision and a strong conviction about a particular work you have created, and if you can emphatically and convincingly express that conviction with a certain kind of rhetoric (and I am not speaking of the rhetoric of lies or deceptions, but the rhetoric which knows how to convince people to attain a reasonable aim), then it shouldn't matter that you do not know everything about the instrument(s) in question.
On the issue of structure,
3. "My desire to understand the "rules" is not driven out of a need to follow an abstract prescription set by the masters of the past. It's more a desire to connect what I intuitively and emotionally already understand about structure -- i.e. the kind of understanding even non-musicians have without necessarily being able to talk about it -- with actual concepts and words."
I think that makes perfect sense. The best use of any education (whether in the "rules" of music theory, or any aesthetic discipline) lies in making one able to gain a greater sense of deeper intuitive truths, I think. These truths cannot be wholly encompassed by the words or the rules, per se, because truth itself and beauty in Art are living and growing realities; but knowledge (of these rules and words and symbols used to describe them) can help one to uncover and express that reality.
So, I don't see you as rambling or "pompous" in your affirmations and thoughts. I think there are some very profound insights that merit careful consideration. Thanks for sharing them.
Gents, this is a top-notch discussion, with some very interesting insights.
I've always wondered about, when writing,'how much' articulation is necessary,
and how much should be left to the interpretation of the performer(s).
Considering the fact that you can't be at every rehearsal/performance
to personally elucidate your vision of the piece, and that competent performers
will have their own individual 'styles' to inevitibly shape the outcome, regardless.
I personally default to 'the simplist and cleanest' is the easiest and best.
This , to me is much like the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law, whereas
if the intent of the original conception is not conveyed, the interpretations can
be various and the essense of the intent, somewhat lost.
And then, on top of it all, is the individual listeners interpretation and the way
they perceive/receive it. RS
Bob , Yes, I agree and think we are on the same page. The point then is,
when is enough ... enough articulation. I'm sure we all have our favorite
performers and well as our favorite composers. Only the composer could
tell you which of the performances or recordings was the closest to his intent.
Tho' some listeners might prefer the less close version simply because of
their individual tastes. So I guess my point here is, what's to be gained by
extra-ordinary articulation by the composer, realistically, and is the simplist
the best? RS
Recently I composed a piano piece in G minor, and I struggled (and still am struggling!) with how to convey my intentions and how much to convey. Playing the notes as-written results in a very dry performance, but to play it with the feeling I intended would require so much marking up that it would be hard for anyone other than myself to interpret. Not to mention, even the exact way I play it changes depending on my mood in the first place, so all the meticulous markings may not account for variations even within my own intent!
One of the difficulties is the tempo markings. It should be trivial, in theory, since I could just choose a bpm and write that on the page and be done with it. However, following any bpm strictly merely results in a dry performance. So I decided I should try to convey my intent -- after all, indications such as "allegro" or "adagio" were originally as much stylistic indications as they were tempo markings; it wasn't until modern times when they acquired textbook bpm ranges. (And ironically enough, interpreting some of the classics such as Bach or Mozart according to strict textbook bpms would totally not fit the original intent of the piece, so at the end of the day, even textbook bpm ranges are subject to interpretation.) The first section of the coda in my G minor piece has the mood of an adagio, but the actual interpretation could range anywhere from 45 bpm to 90bpm (or maybe even 100bpm might not be out of the question), depending on how the preceding passages went. Textbook bpm ranges are of no help, because even my own interpretation of this passage varies wildly in tempo each time I play it!
Eventually, I decided that it's more important to convey the intended mood of the piece rather than any specific interpretation parameters like a prescribed bpm. Let the performer decide how to physically realize that intention. I haven't fully worked out how my intents will be conveyed, but so far, I've decided to leave off bpm markings (except perhaps at the very start to give a rough idea of the bpm range that might be considered suitable), and describe the intended mood instead, like "festively", "dramatically slow and heavy", etc..
But the bottom line is, I decided that I needed to trust the performer and give him the room for interpretation, instead of, figuratively speaking, towering over him like a tyrant dictating his every musical gesture. At the end of the day, I think it's important to realize that music has as much to do with interpretation as it has to do with the composer's vision. It's a delicate balance between them.
Yeah, as Samuel Adler puts it in his book The Study of Orchestration, when it comes to writing parts for the orchestra, "To err is human, but to forgive is not our policy." Sad, but that's just the way it is.
Michael Lee Moore said:
One of the most painful things though is to finally hear your piece performed live after months of composing, only to realize you've written music the performers don't find interesting or idiomatic to their instruments, that you've written voicings that are hard for that particular kind of ensemble to tune, that you've used the wrong articulations because you weren't experienced enough to realize when the MIDI performed them wrong, and so on and so forth. I begrudge no one else's preference to write to MIDI, as long as they are happy with the end product. All I can say is that from my experience, you can't actually learn how to orchestrate that way or compose something that other people can perform musically.[...]
Bob, that is actually a very interesting topic.
Back in the old days of the great composers, they didn't have the technology to record any single performance as the "official" interpretation of a work, and indeed, much of the performance "culture", I don't know what's the right term for that, that grew up around music was geared towards achieving better reproducibility -- the move from merely writing a figured bass to notating every note explicitly, expanding music notation to include more precise note articulations, the conventions that developed amongst performers in an ensemble to keep in sync and in tune, etc.. Nevertheless, the composers themselves wrote while keeping in mind the variability in performance; I read somewhere (not sure how accurate this is) that Beethoven originally embraced bpm markings after the metronome was invented, but later on dropped bpm markings in his pieces after discovering that his own tempo changes from day to day.
Today, however, we have the technology to record and replay performances exactly. And indeed, much of modern pop music comes in the form of prerecorded tracks that serve as the "official" version of that song / piece, or at least a fixed reference point, whereas in the old days it was the score that served as the landmark upon which any interpretation should be based. This is especially so in recent years when digital technology advanced to the point you can produce realistic-sounding (or sometimes deliberately non-realistic sounding!) music without it ever being performed live. Some even regard the electronic production as "the" music; there may not even be a written score, in the traditional sense, that would allow any performer to reproduce that music -- it may have special effects hand-edited into the audio file after the initial synthesizer production, that are nevertheless an integral part of the work.
So it would seem to me that the perception of what is "music" has somewhat shifted. You could either work in the traditional way -- with a score or some other representation of the music that's open to interpretation, or you could regard the production itself as part of the act of composition, with a single final result in the form of an "official" audio file that leaves no room for interpretation, or that is difficult to "interpret" in the traditional sense because it has precise effects / editing applied to it that are integral parts of the work, but are not easily reproduced other than just copying the file to begin with. On the flip side, you also have jazz, which is, by nature, very much a matter of on-the-spot improvisation, and therefore almost completely open to interpretation.
Which approach constitutes "real music"? It seems open to interpretation. :-P
I agree with H.S. Tech when he says,
‘So it would seem to me that the perception of what is "music" has somewhat shifted. You could either work in the traditional way -- with a score or some other representation of the music that's open to interpretation, or you could regard the production itself as part of the act of composition, with a single final result in the form of an "official" audio file that leaves no room for interpretation, or that is difficult to "interpret" in the traditional sense because it has precise effects / editing applied to it that are integral parts of the work, but are not easily reproduced other than just copying the file to begin with …’
“Gents, this is a top-notch discussion, with some very interesting insights. I've always wondered about, when writing,'how much' articulation is necessary, and how much should be left to the interpretation of the performer(s).”
I say NOTHING should be left to the interpretation of the performer … or EVERYTHING should. If you write a sequence of quarter notes or 1/19th notes, won’t the performer try in good conscience to play it as specified? In actual fact, even if you stood over the performer with a hatchet, trying to coerce him to articulate the passage “properly,” he will still interpret. It’s in the nature of human beings always to “interpret.” How can you prevent human beings from interpreting?
‘Considering the fact that you can't be at every rehearsal/performance to personally elucidate your vision of the piece, and that competent performers will have their own individual 'styles' to inevitably shape the outcome, regardless. I personally default to 'the simplest and cleanest' is the easiest and best.’
I don’t see how the second statement follows from the first. Yes, you supposedly cannot be present at every performance, unless (like Stockhausen) you are a composer that controls the electronic parameters of the piece at each performance, while conducting the live performers using traditional instruments. In theory, one can be present at every performance. But assuming that one cannot, how does the next sentence follow logically? The “simplest and cleanest’ is the easiest and best. [Easiest and “best” are not synonyms].
No. If the simplest and cleanest is best, then you are going to want more quarter notes and fewer eighth, sixteenth and 1/32nd notes. Forget the 1/19th note and variable durations. Simpler means fewer key shifts, no polytonality, no pantonality or microtonality. If the simplest is best, then let every piece be Pop Goes the Weasel, and make it in the Key of C, each time. Keep it simple. Always 4/4 time, and nothing in 9/8 or changing time signatures.
“Make it clean.” Put an oboe in, but not an English horn, because that will dirty up the sound? No. It’s “best” to use only a clarinet, with no piccolos, no flutes, no oboes, no English horns and no bassoons. [Or: Use only one instrument—that’s the “simplest” way. And use the “cleanest” one, whatever that may be. Perhaps the flute is the cleanest instrument, because it’s easier to wash and to keep shiny than the others].
“This, to me is much like the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law, whereas if the intent of the original conception is not conveyed, the interpretations can be various and the essence of the intent, somewhat lost.”
Interpretations, particularly of the great works, are always “various.” Have you ever heard a version of Le Sacre du Printemps that was the same as another? (The fact that E. Power Biggs and Virgil Fox will interpret a Bach organ work in vastly different ways has already been noted).
As Percy Shelley observed, the Great Artist is the great legislator, and his pronouncements determine the course of moral history and the nature of the LAW itself. That may seem a bit overblown to many. And yet … this is something akin to what Debussy meant when he said it is great works of art that “make rules” and not rules that create art. So consider what Igor Stravinsky did when he wrote Le Sacre du Printemps, and attended the premiere in Paris in 1913. Whether the cause was the nature of the score he wrote, or Nijinsky’s choreography for the ballet, or both, the result was a huge riot. Stravinsky really could have been killed, and he barely escaped out of the lavatory window. My own theory is that Stravinsky was afraid for the rest of his life of what he had created, and for a good reason: what he created in that monumental work was something that cannot be encompassed by rules, by analysis, by aesthetic judgment or by generalizations about performance and the relationship between the composer and the performer. From that point onwards, Stravinsky said he did not even know how he created The Rite of Spring, what procedure he used or why it turned out as it did. It was as if he were possessed by the very spirit of the Divine Muse, that worked her will on him to produce the most revolutionary piece in the whole of modern music history. He also ceased to be a “revolutionary” musician, in the truly radical sense that he had been, and became, for the most part, a “neo-classicist,” writing in fairly tight and controlled ways, with familiar materials and familiar methods, with a few innovations or “modernist” methods here and there.
Bob Porter says,
“There is no substitute for knowing the instruments you are writing for. You don’t have to know how to play them, but you at least have to know what they are capable of. How well they blend with other instruments throughout their ranges.”
Or might it be the case that you have convince the player, or compose a passage that will force the instrument to go beyond its capabilities and beyond it’s standard range?
“Many student composers write a low F# for the trumpet to play. It is, after all, on the range chart. But it is the lowest note the instrument is constructed to play. Even in the hands of a professional the note does not have the best characteristic trumpet sound, and is better off given to a lower brass instrument.”
Why is it better to give that note to the French horn or Trombone? Maybe you want that tentative, uneasy sound that the trumpet makes at the lower frequency. I occasionally like the sound that a “trumpet” makes when played within the accustomed register of a tube (which you can do on computer software), and like the sound the bassoon makes when it reaches the highest registers that are standard for the clarinet (again, you can do this with the software). Make the instrument go higher then its accustomed limit, either artificially or by taxing the instrument beyond its “failsafe” point. Make it squeak. Isn’t this one of the characteristics of modern music? We see things more broadly; we flout the ordinary limits imposed upon us by tradition and by the past.
“And, no, software is not a primary tool to learn orchestration. Listening to music, studying scores, knowing the instruments you are writhing for, are more important.
I would totally expect the music I write to sound different when a live group plays it. This has been my experience. It usually sounds much better. There are things that need to be adjusted, but this is true of any group playing most any piece.”
Here I will take position slightly different than one I have taken before. ALL methods of producing, recording, and representing music can be beneficial for learning the art of orchestration, and all other aspects of composition. The more you use and the more you combine, probably the better. A score has limitations, since it does not easily or precisely represent timbre, note velocity or duration (if one goes at all beyond standard usage). Pioneered by Mahler, Debussy, Stravinsky, and later by Colon Nancarrow, the piano roll has shown itself to have the advantages of preserving the composers’ intentions better that the score, in many respects (and of course the composer software “piano roll” has even more advantages—future versions will far more greatly exceed our current expectations). Just because the current MIDI is so primitive, and software verisimilitude does not proceed quite as fast as we would like, that does not mean software is not already a primary tool for learning orchestration through production. The younger generation is doing this already, whether you want them to or not. It may soon be the case (if it is not already) that the composer would do well to consider the proper means and methods that are needed in order to compose FOR the software, perhaps even as an end in and of itself. This is already being done commercially for films and TV, though we are at a primitive stage, admittedly (and I am not vouching for the commercial results I have heard so far). But this sector of music performance is likely to grow, as the software and programs improve.
“I have used Sibelius since v4. When I had v6, I started a piece for orchestra, that I lost interest in before completing it. I just couldn’t get the sound I wanted.”
Based on what I have heard, in terms of the products so far, I have grave hesitations about the sound of “Sibelius” software, and I find Logic Pro much more congenial and convincing, with regard to most instruments and most sounds, in general. Still: Any hesitations we may have had in the past may be swept away even as we are speaking, or in just a few years. There is no doubt that in our lifetime, very sophisticated ears will not be able to tell the difference between a “real” clarinet playing over the radio, and a “synthesized” clarinet. People won’t be able to distinguish between a recording of a “live orchestra” on youtube (or played over the internet) or a synthetic orchestra playing on youtube (or over the internet).
Now I am NOT arguing here that this will make the performer obsolete. There will always be room for the performer, the composer for live instruments, for the composer of music for synthetic reproduction, and even the “synthetic” composer” (like Iamus)-- the “computer composer” that writes for live orchestra (as Iamus does)-- and there will probably be room in future for the “computer composer” that writes for synthetic orchestras. All these things may co-exist harmoniously, along with other kinds of musical production, composition and performance that we cannot even yet imagine.
It may be true : “the idea that the composer has control over their piece once it leaves their desk, is unrealistic.”
I really do think a genuine piece of music (or artwork) has a life of its own. Books, plays, philosophical works, historical tomes and musical compositions have their own lives and existences that may run off in many directions beyond the original intention of the author or artist. The authors of Biblical verses, Socratic dialogues, Greek and Elizabethan plays, various constitutions and political-philosophical works could not imagine the uses to which their creations would have been put in the present day. The same is true, with regard to the meaning and interpretations of the musical classics.
“You may have a chance if you are also the conductor of a hand picked group. I see many scores that are so over marked that the composer must think musician are too stupid to play within the spirit of what the composer has written.”
That can simply be a stylistic method. We see it in drama and in musical performance. Shakespeare’s plays have almost no stage directions, and sometimes people complain that Heinrick Ibsen’s and Anton Chehkov’s have too many. Bach’s scores are lightly marked, whereas Mahler’s are marked quite heavily, by comparison. It’s an aspect of modernism, and the “cult of the artist,” for the artist to have more control than he did in previous eras. But it is somewhat, if not entirely illusory; because a director or a conductor can do what he wants with a play or musical work, and it will be hard to stop him.
Mr.O., In your zeal to shred what I posted and the point I was attempting to
highlight, you seem to have overlooked the fact that I was talking about
ARTICULATION . Not the notes, not the choices of instruments, and not
the color of the dress the pianist might wear at a debut performance.
In this light, simplest may be best-and the best may be the simplest.
The cleanest, here, means the fewest 'adornments' attached to a score
so as to make it the least cluttered with nuance notations and yet still
convey the texture and color of the piece.
How many decorations and ornaments do you need to put on a
pine tree for someone to realize it might be Christmas, and play
a carol rather than a march? I sure hope this makes it clearer for you. RS
Just wanted to say again how I really appreciate this forum and the comments on this thread. At some point though, I realized that if I commented on everything I wanted to, I wouldn't have any time left over for actual composition, so I've refrained from my impulse to post the last couple days. But yeah, I feel pretty supported here and look forward to more conversations on more topics in the future. You'll probably see me post here whenever I come to another creative roadblock.
Roger, my (admittedly not very educated) thought to your question is that you should mark as little as you can to clearly convey your intentions, but no less. Or, if I were in your shoes, I'd try to work the music such that the minimally marked version is the best version.
Sometimes, overmarking may be a symptom of a deeper underlying issue, perhaps a sign that the music itself is a little weak and therefore relies heavily on special articulations to hold its weight. If the music is strong in itself, it would sound good even if you left out all articulations, but any added articulations would make it even better. In this case, the best amount of marking would be such that the highlights of the already-strong music would come forth even better. To put it another way, strongly-written music would be so compelling that any competent player would immediately understand how to articulate it in a beautiful way, even if such is not explicitly indicated in the score. At least, such is my eventual goal in composition -- to learn how to write music that's "essentially strong", so that even in the hands of novice performers it will still sound good. (Of course, in the hands of professional it should sound excellent.)
I think there is so much to be said about this. One not only has to consider that "novice" players might be playing one's work, but also that the players may be extremely well-trained but simply lack rehearsal time and/or are not accustomed to playing the style of music written. Musicians and ensembles that specialize in modern classical -- by that I mean roughly Schoenberg through the contemporary avant-garde -- they love detailed articulations. They are even accustomed to composers who make up their own notation and will totally nerd out to it. However, my experience is that musicians who mostly play music pre-Schoenberg cannot nor want to navigate that amount of detail and tend to play such pieces with a groan-worthy amount of difficulty or simply apply a traditional aesthetic that doesn't work for the piece. I'm generalizing from my experience, so this might not be true for everyone.
The thing is, if you're John Adams or someone more established like that, people will naturally invest more effort into working on every detail. But if you're just some schmo with little performance history or have limited rehearsal time, it seems like the practical thing to do is write music as you described, i.e music that has a fighting chance of being played correctly the first or second run-through without the composer present. Ultimately, if the articulations save rehearsal time, they are worth it. If there's any possibility they will leave the players scratching their heads, even if the articulations would in fact be helpful, it's really shortchanging the rehearsal process by taking away time they could be using to just internalize the notes and rhythms. Alternatively, there's a lot of verbal information that can serve as clues for how things should be articulated, namely expression and tempo text. Even the title can say a lot if it makes reference to a familiar traditional form directly or indirectly.
Oy, I said I wasn't going to post for awhile, but I lied. Just thought I'd respond to your last comment, H.S., as this topic has been churning in my mind lately.