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DO'NT BOTHER LEARNING HOW TO COMPOSE

What do jimi Hendrix charlie Parker john lennon john Coltrain bob Marley and duke Ellington have incommon? they where all self taught or at least not taught in insitutions,infact most of the important and infuencial musicians of modern music, where self taught, and l beleive this is one of the keys to their greatness,most people who study how to compose loose some degree of creativity because of there studies.the primory reason for this is the blocking of the subconscious creative process by rote learning.Creativity and inspiration are largely the resolt of the subconscious when we study how to make music we train the mind to think and analyse while we create this conscious dialog blocks the subconscious flow,the well trained composer is generaly full of good craftmanship but lacks spontainaty and originality,but what of the great composers most of who where well trained in composition, l beleive they would have been even better if they had less compositional training.so why do we value training, titles and degrees so much? simply because humans are materialist we value the tangible over the intangible ,yet l beleive the most important element in music( and life) is what is unknown and undefinible. creativity can not to measured out or controlled ,it just is. that is the reason for its great value to we human being who are normally burdened with to many material concerns.
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Comment by Stephen Lines on July 1, 2015 at 5:15pm

Daryl - I don't know about 'don't bother learning how to compose' but I do know about 'why bother to write correct English'. In your little diatribe above I managed to count 27 errors in Grammar, spelling and punctuation (including the title which should read 'Don't bother learning etc....'. The apostrophe should replace the 'o' in the word 'not' i.e. do not = don't).

I hope I'm not being ill-mannered in pointing this out (if you happen to be dyslexic please accept my apologies). The point I'm making is that reading badly written prose is like listening to badly written music...the main message is lost because the reader/listener keeps stumbling over poor technique which is due to poor learning on behalf of the writer.

The point you make about your list of musicians (to which you could add Gershwin) is taken - I tend to agree that some institutionalised learning can stifle talent - but if the student is truly talented he/she will succeed despite poor teaching.

I suspect that behind your comments lies an element of frustration because you have not had the privilege of enjoying a formal education in music - but believe you me, if you want to make serious music you need formal education in what makes music great.

Comment by B Gray on March 11, 2012 at 5:12pm

The Beatles, especially Paul, were very aware of this, and is why they had George Henry Martin, a graduate from Guildhall School of Music and Drama, arrange the string parts of Eleanor Rigby.

Yes and I know the musician who did the arrangements for another Beatles piece -- he is a traditionally schooled composer/pianist/conductor.  One of the "highly trained" and respected for it by the Beatles.

I once sang in a pops type program with a person who - at the time - was a fairly well known pop recording artist.  Back stage she said to me -- "I envy you."  I was very surprised and asked why.  She said, "You can read music and understand harmony. I only know it by ear."

Comment by Tyler Hughes on March 11, 2012 at 2:08pm

I think we have a case of misinformation. An amateur would interpret counterpoint and harmony studies as rules, but a true scholar of music would know that those are not rules. They are trends, traits, and features of music of a certain era. And any composer in school right now would know better to, and only use them as tools. you don't have to use them but you can if you want. I know that is the case with me having learned counterpoint, orchestration, and harmony. 

I also feel that you don't know enough about what is going on in music today. To say its comatose just shows that are you not listening to new music, or are not aware of new music. Their are TONS of new music out there being performed and being heard all over. You just have to listen and seek it out; ISCM World music days which is almost 2 weeks of nothing but new music from all over the world, New music ensembles everywhere now, new music concerts and new works being premiered just to name a few. Hell even I have work being performed on an up coming concert and I will see a premier of a new work played by my local orchestra. So new music and classical music is VERY MUCH ALIVE and KICKING. 

I also feel that you are comparing apples to oranges. Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Parker, john lennon. and bob Marley were all great musician and rock stars, and of course they didn't have formal training. But they didn't need it either, none of them are per say composers. They were singer/songwriters who for the most part played and performed the music they wrote. They never wrote a symphony, a concerto, a piece for choir, a piece for a chamber ensemble or anything outside of their band or musical group. None of them ever had to write for a musician other than themselves or get in front a orchestra of 50+ musicians and get them to play together. But we do. We learn how to do all those things and more, things that Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Parker, John Lennon. and Bob Marley never had to do. The Beatles, especially Paul, were very aware of this, and is why they had George Henry Martin, a graduate from Guildhall School of Music and Drama, arrange the string parts of Eleanor Rigby. 

Comment by B Gray on March 10, 2012 at 11:44pm

classical music haves been near comatosa for the last 100 years, this is because the emphsis on technique divorced from emotion is a musical dead end

Hardly.  First not comatose and 2nd not because of "divorced from emotion" unless you've been listening to a very different set of 20th & 21st century pieces.  But that is really another thread and not on topic to this discussion.

Comment by daryl sprake on March 10, 2012 at 11:37pm

 I think that if Paul, for instance, had learned music ‘properly’—not just the

piano, but correct notation for writing and reading music, all the harmony and counterpoint that I

had to go through, and techniques of orchestration—it might well have inhibited him. He thought

so too.  Once you start being taught things, your mind is channelled in a particular way. Paul didn’t

have that channelling, so he had freedom, and could think of things that I would have considered

outrageous. I could admire them, but my musical training would have prevented me from thinking

of them myself. I think, too, that the ability to write good tunes often comes when someone is not

fettered by the rules and regulations of harmony and counterpoint. GEORGE MARTIN PRODUCER OF THE BEATLES lt is not mere coincidence that the great creative achievments of the last 100 year in blues jazz and rock music where made by untrained musicians while the area of trained musicians,classical music haves been near comatosa for the last 100 years, this is because the emphsis on technique divorced from emotion is a musical dead end.

Comment by Matthew Pelandini on March 10, 2012 at 3:12pm

Your outlook on "taught compositions" might be a little skewed.  Speaking from the standpoint of somewone who as many years of University training in composition, I can tell you definitively, unmistakably, and without question, that I am a MUCH better composer because of it.  

I think you are looking at time spent in a university environment the wrong way.  I look at it is a place that has given me the time, expertise, guidance, and facility to both fully understand and explore my own creative impulses.  I think that someone who might be looking at a university education as experience through theoretical constructs would agree with your assertions.  I felt constrained after my first two years of music theory, for example.  It wasn't until I fully appreciated that by understanding the boundaries, you are more equipped to go beyond them, that I could fully appreciate my musical education. 

Comment by B Gray on March 8, 2012 at 9:10am

So if you are saying that to become an original composer you don't have to go to University provided you do the work yourself then I'd mostly agree with you.

I completely agree with that. 

Study and more study is productive but whether or not it has to come from a formal university education -- I would certainly agree it does not.  My own composition teacher, a master of composing who received recognition as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and who was performed by many of the major US symphonies, was self taught in composition.  However he played in a major US orchestra his entire career -- to support his family.  He lived and breathed music all his life.  He was self-tutored when he was young because it was the 1930's depression era and he had no money for university.  He had to get to work earning a living -- in music.  He used to say his teachers were Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven and he had an encyclopedic memory of scores. But he most certainly did study and was very self disciplined about it.

We would sit at a lesson and he would suddenly make reference a musical idea by pulling the score(s) down from his shelf and pointing to the exact measure. 

So I know it is quite possible to be self-educated, or more exactly, not university educated, and do very well as a composer.

Inspiration by itself doesn't go very far. ( That may not have been implied by your comment but necessary to say).

Comment by James Semple on March 8, 2012 at 4:28am

Daryl, while I agree that I have met composers from a conservatory background who felt constrained by their training, all of the people you have given as examples studied extensively by listening to existing music. Don't forget that much of conservatory training isn't about making amazing composers, it's about creating amazing orchestral musicians and orchestrators. Also (as with any walk of life) there is a large amount of prejudice and fashion involved so lecturers will try to push upcoming composers into their preferred styles of music.

 

So if you are saying that to become an original composer you don't have to go to University provided you do the work yourself then I'd mostly agree with you. Never forget that many of these people were either helped or directly taught by people who had studied the formal way though. There is a similar situation with film composers who use formally trained orchestrators when it comes to the actual difficult bit of 'writing music that actually works with a live orchestra'.

 

Of course the title is a little contentious as you really are meaning "don't study composition at University but learn it yourself."

Comment by B Gray on March 7, 2012 at 2:19pm

Sound's more limiting than freeing to me.  Some tools need extensive study -- could be done by self training -- but self-training can be the long and hard way to get information.

Comment by Tyler Hughes on March 7, 2012 at 7:39am

Im curious to know how you think composition is taught.

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