Schenkerian Theory

I have always been skeptical about Schenker's urlinie.  It seems as though you can fudge the data to get any line you want (3-2-1, 5-4-3-2-1).  One of my old proffesors told me, with a far away look in his eye, that he used to think the same as I do until he started composing and noticed long term melodic goals in his own work.

 

The question I have is if any of you use large scale melodic goals in your compositions.  I don't believe I ever have, but maybe that is just because I am not a master composer.   I doubt Schenkerian theory mirrors any psychological reality for listeners, and if there is also none for composers, then the only people for whom it is "real" are certain analysts...

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  • Hm... I'm still on my Sonata Form thingy... its become my personal "NY Times crossword puzzle", as it were, LMAO

    what is a "melodic" goal? I make a melody, I add some extra lines to dress up the room like curtains and carpeting... I try some motive manipulation trix to keep things as fresh as i can, but... I guess I'm a "hack" because I have no real goal in mind... i wanna make SOMEthing, and I wnt it to sound good, or I try somethign else...

    are those numbers representations of notes in a scale? in the melody line? or are they chord changes? (wait, that would be harmonic goal, not a melodic goal?)

    let me Wikipedia this, but, this better not be Musical Calculus III... I'm only in algebra II, LMAO.....

    I go look at some stuff sometimes, but it degenerates into the whole harmonic analysis thingy... I can barely follow some of it...
  • okay... I read the basic page... I "refused" to click-out on the other terms... I follow the BASIC gist of it...

    First off... let me say, on the surface this might seem neat to me. I have come to realize I like what we call "tonal music". i was never sure EXACTLY what it was, but, if beethoven and mozart and such made "tonal" pieces? Oh, okay... then i like it. They are the masters. When I HEAR beethoven... like the 5th... its awe inspiring. If this is "tonal", then... tonal music is wonderful.

    In my mind, you have to WATCH these music experts though... with a WARY eye... you follow something blindly, next thing you know, your expert is saying things like "Finally! We have gotten PAST tonal music...thank GOD, you know? We can finally GROW....". and they play a passage, or recommend listening to a piece... you go and hear it, and... "its not Beethoven". I mean, it'll usually be COOL, but... the hairs on the nape of my neck often dont stand up for it for some reason...

    Before i was into music, i sat in on a few music classes... (just curious...) and the guy went thru a bunch of "whatever" he was talking about, I called it musical calculus, i dont know what he was lecturing about, LMAO... and I remember him lecturing "so, you see... this piece is fundamentally flawed... But, we can fix beethoven's childish mistake here... and here... like this..."

    and at that point, I started eyeing this guy VERY suspiciously... he's going to FIX the masters work? *shrugs* he later offered som of HIS stuff, as proof of examples for the class to study... it was slow drones, half and whole notes... a couple quarter notes... you know, "total boring crap". THIS guy is gong to lecture on how to "fix" beethoven's piece?

    Now this Schenker guy... from what i read, I like it fro the very outset, perhaps... he's seeking to find a way to "prove" the superiority o the great german composers. Like Beethoven and Mozart? "prove" tonal music is superior to the more "modern" composers? Who are COOL and all, but, they dont make the hair on the back of my neck stand up? (I mean neck hairs stand up literally... a shiver...)

    hey... this cant be all bad, eh? i LIKE the way THIS guy thinks...

    a quick read... and I'm struck by a few things... I am always looking for "patterns" I like to hear... some I reach for more often than others. I do sometimes try to take a short melody, separate it, make somethign else "force" inbetween it... I'm just noodling around, finding myself sets of,what? tricks,guidelines...

    Question: did this Shenker cat make his OWN famous tonal sonata pieces? Does it make him compose like Beethoven or Mozart? Why in the *&^% didn't Beethoven or Mozart write a freakin' manual? LMAO... (now THAT would be helpful... eh?) Beethoven himself said "any man of average intelligence can do exactly what I do"...and the masters tended to hand their "skill set" down from master to pupil...

    You sometimes hear some music critic type... they will sneeringly write.. "oh great... yet ANOTHER tonal, boring, Beethoven ripoff. How trite... I thought we got OVER tonal music a hundred years ago *rolls eyes dramatically* "

    I'm not sure WHAT to think... I guess if I even ever "succeed" in making a "big sounding" sonana piece... someone will say "oh wonderful, yet another hack learned how to rip off Beethoven,like the world needed another of THESE *sniff* "

    This Schenker guy is in line with the whole idea of a "sonata form" in general. SOmeone told me once that sonata form is just the way WE look back and view and classify many great works... beethoven just did what he did... he didnt have a pamphlet of sonata form. I know the sonata form template is D@MNED useful to me though... it keeps me moving forward. If this schenker guy proves useful in advancing me towards the sonata piece, cool...if not, he's not going to get read by me though... I have a single, clear cut purpose. MAKE a big sounding sonata piece. yes, my aim is to mercilessly crib and rip off the german masters "sound" as best I can manage...LMAO.

    I gotta get over this development part though... this is going to be tough... LMAO.

    Does Schenker have a chapter entitled "here's the formula for making a basic whirling tornado sound during development?", 'cos THAT would be d@mned interesting to me right now... On the surface, he's studying the "proper" masters, and supporting tonal. I like that...
  • The only text like that I've ever heard of of is Thomas Attwood's "Theorie und Kompositionsstudien bei Mozart". Written about mozart teaching attwood by attwood or something of that nature, i've never gotten around to researching it though to see exactly what it is

    Sean E Duvall said:
    Question: did this Shenker cat make his OWN famous tonal sonata pieces? Does it make him compose like Beethoven or Mozart? Why in the *&^% didn't Beethoven or Mozart write a freakin' manual? LMAO... (now THAT would be helpful... eh?) Beethoven himself said "any man of average intelligence can do exactly what I do"...and the masters tended to hand their "skill set" down from master to pupil...
    Schenkerian Theory
    I have always been skeptical about Schenker's urlinie.  It seems as though you can fudge the data to get any line you want (3-2-1, 5-4-3-2-1).  One o…
  • Quote:" Thomas Attwood's "Theorie und Kompositionsstudien bei Mozart"

    Hmmm... what little german i can read, thet says "Theory and Composition-studying by Mozart" ? (or similar)
  • If you want to have goosebumps while listening to "atonal" music, then have a listen to Schoenberg's violin concerto interpreted by Hilary Hahn.

    Sean E Duvall said:
    okay... I read the basic page... I "refused" to click-out on the other terms... I follow the BASIC gist of it...

    First off... let me say, on the surface this might seem neat to me. I have come to realize I like what we call "tonal music". i was never sure EXACTLY what it was, but, if beethoven and mozart and such made "tonal" pieces? Oh, okay... then i like it. They are the masters. When I HEAR beethoven... like the 5th... its awe inspiring. If this is "tonal", then... tonal music is wonderful.

    In my mind, you have to WATCH these music experts though... with a WARY eye... you follow something blindly, next thing you know, your expert is saying things like "Finally! We have gotten PAST tonal music...thank GOD, you know? We can finally GROW....". and they play a passage, or recommend listening to a piece... you go and hear it, and... "its not Beethoven". I mean, it'll usually be COOL, but... the hairs on the nape of my neck often dont stand up for it for some reason...

    Before i was into music, i sat in on a few music classes... (just curious...) and the guy went thru a bunch of "whatever" he was talking about, I called it musical calculus, i dont know what he was lecturing about, LMAO... and I remember him lecturing "so, you see... this piece is fundamentally flawed... But, we can fix beethoven's childish mistake here... and here... like this..."

    and at that point, I started eyeing this guy VERY suspiciously... he's going to FIX the masters work? *shrugs* he later offered som of HIS stuff, as proof of examples for the class to study... it was slow drones, half and whole notes... a couple quarter notes... you know, "total boring crap". THIS guy is gong to lecture on how to "fix" beethoven's piece?

    Now this Schenker guy... from what i read, I like it fro the very outset, perhaps... he's seeking to find a way to "prove" the superiority o the great german composers. Like Beethoven and Mozart? "prove" tonal music is superior to the more "modern" composers? Who are COOL and all, but, they dont make the hair on the back of my neck stand up? (I mean neck hairs stand up literally... a shiver...)

    hey... this cant be all bad, eh? i LIKE the way THIS guy thinks...

    a quick read... and I'm struck by a few things... I am always looking for "patterns" I like to hear... some I reach for more often than others. I do sometimes try to take a short melody, separate it, make somethign else "force" inbetween it... I'm just noodling around, finding myself sets of,what? tricks,guidelines...

    Question: did this Shenker cat make his OWN famous tonal sonata pieces? Does it make him compose like Beethoven or Mozart? Why in the *&^% didn't Beethoven or Mozart write a freakin' manual? LMAO... (now THAT would be helpful... eh?) Beethoven himself said "any man of average intelligence can do exactly what I do"...and the masters tended to hand their "skill set" down from master to pupil...

    You sometimes hear some music critic type... they will sneeringly write.. "oh great... yet ANOTHER tonal, boring, Beethoven ripoff. How trite... I thought we got OVER tonal music a hundred years ago *rolls eyes dramatically* "

    I'm not sure WHAT to think... I guess if I even ever "succeed" in making a "big sounding" sonana piece... someone will say "oh wonderful, yet another hack learned how to rip off Beethoven,like the world needed another of THESE *sniff* "

    This Schenker guy is in line with the whole idea of a "sonata form" in general. SOmeone told me once that sonata form is just the way WE look back and view and classify many great works... beethoven just did what he did... he didnt have a pamphlet of sonata form. I know the sonata form template is D@MNED useful to me though... it keeps me moving forward. If this schenker guy proves useful in advancing me towards the sonata piece, cool...if not, he's not going to get read by me though... I have a single, clear cut purpose. MAKE a big sounding sonata piece. yes, my aim is to mercilessly crib and rip off the german masters "sound" as best I can manage...LMAO.

    I gotta get over this development part though... this is going to be tough... LMAO.

    Does Schenker have a chapter entitled "here's the formula for making a basic whirling tornado sound during development?", 'cos THAT would be d@mned interesting to me right now... On the surface, he's studying the "proper" masters, and supporting tonal. I like that...
    Schenkerian Theory
    I have always been skeptical about Schenker's urlinie.  It seems as though you can fudge the data to get any line you want (3-2-1, 5-4-3-2-1).  One o…
  • According to me old prof, David Huron (who gives me a "thanks" in his book "Sweet Anticipation"... just threw that in there to prove my awesomeness), chills happen as a result of:

    (what follows is a post by another person "The Hamsetr King" on another board)

    There's a great book I'm reading right now called Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Anticipation by David Huron that addresses this and many other neurological effects.

    The sensation you're experiencing is called frisson. It seems to be an aborted fear response. When music is processed by the brain it travels simultaneously through different neurological pathways and many of the effects that music produces are triggered by how these different pathways overlap and interact.

    Your body's fast-track response to ANYTHING unexpected is fear. If you don't know what something is, the safest thing to do is to treat it like it's dangerous. So within a few milliseconds of an unexpected stimulus, your fight or flight response starts to ramp up.

    But there are also slower neural pathways that are more discerning. They take time to analyze the stimulus to determine if the reflexive fast-track response was justified. If it wasn't, they abort it.

    Laughter, awe, and chills are all different variations of the same neurological cascade. Laughter and awe seem to be modified fear-based breathing changes -- panting for the former and gasping for the latter. Chills are a remnant of the piloerection response. It's the same physical response that cats use when they puff up when confronted by a threat. Because the defensive display is also used to help retain heat in cold weather, it's perceived as a temperature change when it's really not.

    Of course, humans don't have enough hair for piloerection to do much good either as a threat display or a way of retaining heat. But we still feel the hair stand up on the back of our necks when we're scared and get goosebumps when we're cold.

    Musical frissons seem to be correlated with (1) loud passages, and (2) passages that contain some violation of expectation, like an abrupt modulation.



    I don't know, I often get shivers listening to music when it makes me realize something about life in some way, some sad inescapable pattern, or something beautiful that is suddenly revealed...maybe the suddeness of the revelation is frightening in some way?

    But Sean, the problem I have with Schenker is that if he can't find his urlinie in your music it is worthless. "If it's not Scottish (German) it's crap!!" This causes him to boo-hoo Debussy and Ravel among other composers who probably also give you the chills.

    By large-scale melodic goals, I mean basing one section around one pitch and then the next around another. Not harmonic, ,like one section is in A the next in E, but, for example, you take the main melody of the piece...let's say E-D#-C-C#-A is your melody and you reflect that in the form of the piece (the first section is "about" the note E, the next "about" D#, so on). I have done such tricks with harmony, but not melody. Anybody else?
  • yes thats correct

    Sean E Duvall said:
    Quote:" Thomas Attwood's "Theorie und Kompositionsstudien bei Mozart"

    Hmmm... what little german i can read, thet says "Theory and Composition-studying by Mozart" ? (or similar)
    Schenkerian Theory
    I have always been skeptical about Schenker's urlinie.  It seems as though you can fudge the data to get any line you want (3-2-1, 5-4-3-2-1).  One o…
  • This thread made me laugh. Schenker is a real joy-boy. I did not pay close attention, but Schenkerianess was next to godliness at Queens College, CUNY, where I did some time. It takes about 5 minutes to get the idea: "The first movement is about the note 'E'"... [ha, ha! I had a history professor who enlightened us with this (crap)] (At the time, I thought he was smart - now I see that he was indeed a dud.)
    Yes, and from there it goes on to a delightful abstraction, which can elucidate or consternate. or both.

    The great thing about S. is that he makes us pay attention to what's going on. We are forced to chart the course of a composition. If we did not use his method, we would use another concoction.

    I was initially attracted to S. - and then, lightly repelled. It's alright to look at Classical period music as being about a pitch and what will be done with it, but this fails to explain emotional impact, almost completely. A very typical "male" thing. The Moonlight Sonata may be nothing more than a small C# adventure, but Schenker has no chart for measuring how well the world esteems the first movement, centuries later.

    That said, I am always aware of my pitch-range. Register - the "germ" of the work (idee fixe, or otherwise). Movements are better if they correlate - the methods are numerous (rhythmically, tonally, time-wise...).

    Problem with theorists is they always get a little fusty around the edges. Take what works for your dissecting of others' compostions from Schenker, and leave his negative judgments that are not helpful in the book where you found them. The point of it all is to become a better listener, not a better composer.

    About chills: not sure I subscribe to a one-chill-fits-all approach. While louder music is a reasonable generalization, there is much room for patriotic chills at the singing of a national anthem; the singing of a song like "Amazing Grace" at a funeral (where chills replace tears); and for me, the climax of "Scheherazade," Rimsky-Korsakoff, which is loud, chromatic and a marvel of orchestration. Those chills feel so good! peace
  • Excellent thoughts Sylvester. The only contention I have is that being better listeners can also make us better composers, but I have no idea why I'm being contentious. I suppose as somebody with a strong background in music theory and a wannabee composer, I often try to make practical use of all the academic broo-ha-ha spinning about in my head in hopes of becoming an "isbee" composer. The best ideas I took from Schenker, compositionally, are the notion of the interruption of a melodic pattern creating a desire in the listener for that pattern to be fulfilled, and how completing the pattern too quickly leads to short, unsatisfying compositions. Like sex in a way...so if I could set up expectations for the completion of some perceivable pattern and not give the end of said pattern until, well, the end, the listener would eargasm exactly when, and only when, I wanted her to. My music is not that studly yet.
  • Interrupting a pattern, to cause the listener to seek to have that pattern resumed, fulfilled. Eh?

    This might create... anticipation... then resolution...

    These tidbits seem wonderful... thanks, guys.
    I appreciate this stuff... really, i do.

    SO... in my rank newb way... lets say i am modulating 1-5-1-4 all thru in a piece, its a little "big" sounding...... i could (should...) stop suddenly, say, at the 1-5 STOP... and just maybe, I dunno... sit in chord of 5, kind of parked on the side opf the road... and introduce a light violin, novel material perhaps in 5... then I can DIVE back to finish the bigger 1-4, which is what the listener is XPECTING, without realizing it... and then resume the 1514... on paper, this makes sense... I was wondering where the constant little "changeups" came from i hear so much...

    Also, I can see where somethign like this applies easily to writing pop or rock lines too... heck, if I am going to cut to the relative for a 8 measure bridge, might as well interrupt the modulation sequence, then resume it where I left off when I pop BACK into the meat of the song... cool...

    "Ah, yang grass-hopper... when you can modulate from a to z in a half a beat... only then, will you be ready to leave the nest."

    LMAO

    again, thanks guys. i treasure this...
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