I have been told that these thoughts might better be discussed on a brand new thread (rather than under the topic of “Major and Minor Modes interchangeability”). On that thread it was suggested that there are, in essence, two methods of composition. One method was to write a melody and add accompanying chords; the second was to conceive of specific chord progressions first, and then overlay the melodic content.

 

I would suggest that there are basically an almost infinite number of ways to write music, rather than two essential methods.  Most of the ways I am thinking of may or may not be facilitated by the traditional straightjacket thinking about chord progressions, or even the traditional notion of a melody accompanied by chords. 

 

Since we live in the 21st century now, we need not rely primarily on the techniques of the 19th or even 20th century.   The use of computers to compose and create music is mainstream now, and we can avail ourselves of the basic kinds of software that exist.  There is a nice book called “Music Theory for Computer Musicians,” which can help, and which also teaches the basic concepts of melody, harmony and rhythms, as well as the various modes, in relation to the techniques that are applicable to most standard composer software.  Even so, such books may be too closely tied to a traditional outlook, which is terribly out of date.   It might be very crucial for younger composers (or for all composers), who are involved in study, to be very careful in avoiding the taint that might come from too much immersion in stultifying exercises.  I cannot praise highly enough James L. McHard’s “The Future of Modern Music:  A Philosophical Exploration” which awoke me from what I would call my musico-metaphysical “dogmatic slumber.”

 

There are unlimited numbers of ways to begin composing which can free one from stultification.   If the goal is actually to create something new, and to rise above the tired and outmoded musical idioms of our age and Western civilization, then our desire to innovate and be original can know no bounds.   One can do, if one likes, the very opposite of what is commonly recommended.   A composer can (rather than simply composing a melody) take a huge block of sound that appears interesting (a large number of notes) and dump them into a series of tracks, the way a sculptor puts a quantity of clay on a table.   Then the musician can take certain notes out, discover latent rhythms and harmonies that already exist in within the mathematical constructs that make up all music.  This is by no means a random procedure, any more than the movements of the hands of the sculptor are random, though chance discoveries may occur which would be less likely with a traditional approach.   There is an interaction between the composer and the material, the mass of sound, which has a kind of life of its own.  And this is simply one idea, pioneered by composers like Xenakis, Penderecki, Stockhausen and Ligeti. 

 

One can do the exact opposite of what I outline above, and just explore the infinitesimal harmonics and overtone universe surrounding one single note, as Scelsi has done, following Tibetan and South Asian models.  Melodic content and harmony can evolve and develop from that exploration.  If you play the piano, or have a computer interface with a keyboard, you can improvise, not simply with the harmonies and the melodies and the chord structures, but with a pitch bend setting, that gives you unprecedented freedom from traditional tonal constraints.  All your improvisations can be recorded on your sound file, and even if out of 20 minutes of improvisation, you get one “beautiful” melodic – harmonic  event that last a few seconds, you may achieve more than you could in the performance of dozens of “exercises.”  You edit out and destroy what you don’t like, and keep the remainder.

 

Knowledge of the basics of chord progressions and traditional harmony are not without their use.  It helps to be able to create a variety of scales—not just Western, but also Indian, Japanese, Javanese, Chinese, African—in order to be able to juxtapose a variety of sound textures that can have original harmonic characteristics.  But above all, I would say the act of composition has priority in and of itself, above the study.   And the study is done, as a means to an end, not as an end in itself, as the acquisition of series of set procedures and lists of rules that keep one in a very, very small domain of sound possibilities.  As a general rule, one could posit a system whereby for every ten hours of actual compositional activity, there is one hour of study, and even that study is done with an eye to altering the rule, deliberately breaking the rule, to see if one can produce something that is original, in accordance with a contemporary theory of “sound-based composition.”

 

Even if one uses the traditional rules of chord progression as the basis of a composition, the software allows us a tremendous amount of freedom, with regard to systems of automation (which far from making a work sound mechanical, actually free the work up from boundedness and potential monotony).  In other words, the pitches can be bent on any instrument (call it portamento, if you like); tone glides can proceed as quickly and as slowly as one likes, within any individual melodic line, or as the broad harmony of a work—so that you have something much more dramatic and interesting than a standard modulation from major to minor, or from one key to another.   What I am discussing here is not, in any sense, “atonality” (a la Schoenberg, Webern or the young Boulez) but would better be termed an evolution of “polytonality.”  We can call it something more:  “multi-tonality” or “mega-tonality,” where the tonal quality of the work shifts into new and uncharted (and often delightful regions) which will always sound as new, or as familiar, as one likes—due to the extreme number of possibilities.

 

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Replies

  • Roger,

     

    You said,

     

    "I don't have the time or the inclination to listen to all the works

    ever written ..."

     

    How do you know that you don't have the time, or that you won't have the time in eternity to:

     

    1) Listen to all the works of every period, in all the Earth's history, and on every planet that has ever existed, and in all locations, divinely created or mortally inhabited, and,

     

    (2) How do you know that you may not be able, at some point, to appreciate almost instantaneously all the works of time ever created, from the stand point or perspective of some location outside of space and time?

     

    Or as John Cage might say, or perhaps as he has said,

     

    How do you know it is not the case that if we listen to one note properly, in full and complete consciousness, all the aesthetic secrets of music will be opened up to us, as the heavens and all of cosmic reality are revealed to the greatest of sages? 

  •    On and Ondib,   because I AM  RS......


      R ationally Sensible

      R easonably S ane

      R ealistically Sure

      I am also well grounded in practical consciousness

     and know which side of the bread to put my butter on.

     and tho' I love a creative imagination, I know the difference

     between a kook , a space cadet , a BSer and a visionary.

     Plain and simple.... it's that easy.  RS    (reprehensively  sardonic )
    Ondib Olmnilnlolm said:

    Roger,

     

    You said,

     

    "I don't have the time or the inclination to listen to all the works

    ever written ..."

     

    How do you know that you don't have the time, or that you won't have the time in eternity to:

     

    1) Listen to all the works of every period, in all the Earth's history, and on every planet that has ever existed, and in all locations, divinely created or mortally inhabited, and,

     

    (2) How do you know that you may not be able, at some point, to appreciate almost instantaneously all the works of time ever created, from the stand point or perspective of some location outside of space and time?

     

    Or as John Cage might say, or perhaps as he has said,

     

    How do you know it is not the case that if we listen to one note properly, in full and complete consciousness, all the aesthetic secrets of music will be opened up to us, as the heavens and all of cosmic reality are revealed to the greatest of sages? 

  • I thought RS meant

     

    Reassessing Schwitters,

     

    as in the Artist, Kurt Schwitters, the Dadaist/Surrealist.

     

    You said, RS

     

    “I am also well grounded in practical consciousness

     and know which side of the bread to put my butter on …”

     

    Well, don’t keep us in suspense.  Tell us which side.

     

    I don’t want you to think I am pulling your chain, or your leg, or the wool out from over the eyes of your sheep, llamas or other exotic fauna you may have in your home.  I actually thought you might agree that you had time (if you were sufficiently patient) to listen to all the music in the world.

     

    Just how well grounded are you practical consciousness? 

     

    Are you so practical that you don’t believe any of these statements ?

     

    “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

     

    “Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.”

    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

     

    “You are bound to see everything, hear everything, and know everything about art, well before eternity has run out.”

    ― Johamn Wolfgeng von Goethe

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • No sir, but some are 2nd cousins fathered by my uncle- Rally Sport

    Fredrick zinos said:

    I thought RS meant:

    Reasonably Secure

    or

    Ridiculously Sentimental

    or

    Robustly Senile

    or

    Relaxingly Sedentary

    or

    Raucously Symphonic

    or

    Retrogradingly Serialized

    or

    Reprehensibly Spasmodic

    or

     Relatively Salubrious

    or

    Repeated Section

    or

    Repeated Section

    or

    Revolting Secretion

     

  • from the Book of Notions   by Tso Tsume

    The conversion of Vision into Reality

    is a Matter of toil and perserverance

    To dream is only to wish it were so

    And magic the want of idle fools       RS


     
    Ondib Olmnilnlolm said:

    I thought RS meant

     

    Reassessing Schwitters,

     

    as in the Artist, Kurt Schwitters, the Dadaist/Surrealist.

     

    You said, RS

     

    “I am also well grounded in practical consciousness

     and know which side of the bread to put my butter on …”

     

    Well, don’t keep us in suspense.  Tell us which side.

     

    I don’t want you to think I am pulling your chain, or your leg, or the wool out from over the eyes of your sheep, llamas or other exotic fauna you may have in your home.  I actually thought you might agree that you had time (if you were sufficiently patient) to listen to all the music in the world.

     

    Just how well grounded are you practical consciousness? 

     

    Are you so practical that you don’t believe any of these statements ?

     

    “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

     

    “Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.”

    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

     

    “You are bound to see everything, hear everything, and know everything about art, well before eternity has run out.”

    ― Johamn Wolfgeng von Goethe

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Thanks, Stephen. Besides how much one enjoys a bit of music, which is dependent on all the factors you mention (and, I'd bet, there's a few more), a completely different consideration would be its purpose (if it has one), and how well it's fulfilled that purpose.

    I stepped out of this "discussion" a few pages back after I felt I would only be repeating myself in form or another, as well as not gaining any more insight from the OP of this topic.

    I'll add in a link to a very "good" bit of music, IMO, played on one "instrument". It doesn't get more primitive than this. I think playing this music would be a true joy, as well as listening to it:

    Water Drumming by Baka Pygmies

    I'm going back to my tonal harmony studies now. Maybe I'll listen to some more of this real water music while I do. :o)

    Stephen Lines said:

    Well said Janet - judging how good a piece of music is can simply come down to what psychological effects there are as a result of listening to it...and of course those psychological effects will affect one's physiology in terms of the mix and quantities of disparate chemicals that are produced within the listeners brain...and these will produce levels of happiness and/or satisfaction at one end of the scale and sadness and frustration at the other, any of which will affect one's judgement of the issue. (I recall you saying in an earlier post that if a composition makes you tap your foot then it satisfies you, or words to that effect...and I agree there's something in that as foot tapping can be an outward manifestation of pleasure or frustration depending on how you feel). What chemical mix is produced will depend on the starting point i.e. what was it immediately prior to listening (or, in other words, what was one's mood at the outset). Of course, one's determination of what's good or bad will alter over time - if on balance a particular piece gives pleasure as opposed to displeasure then one's view overall will be positive and vice versa. Expand this to cover the listening population overall and some form of consensus may be reached as to the grading of individual compositions or of a composer's complete output.

    Whatever comes to be considered 'the best' (composition/composer) will only ever be a generality subject to change over time.
     
    Janet Spangenberg said:

    "Good" music to me can even change depending on my mood. What I enjoyed an hour ago might be boring tomorrow.  

  •  

    Janet, I am gaining insight from almost every contribution made to this thread, and from none more than your recent post sharing the link to the Pygmy Water Drumming.  Thanks for posting that.  Your open-mindedness on what constitutes good music is quite inspiring and helps to further the discussion.  I think, Janet, there is some misunderstanding about the point I am trying to make and your post helps broaden the discussion. It runs in tandem with efforts I am trying to make to clarify my advocacy of the widest spectrum of sound being made available to the composer.

     

    Janet, you said,

     

    “I'll add in a link to a very "good" bit of music, IMO, played on one "instrument".  …  It doesn't get more primitive than this.”

     

    I am not sure if the music you link to could be called “primitive” in all senses of the word, and I am not even sure what primitive means exactly, when judging music this kind of music.  We might ask:  Do Pygmies think it is “primitive?”  If the Pygmy water music is “primitive,” does that mean it is primitive in its own cultural context?  Is there other Pygmy music that is more “advanced,” in one way or another? I also don’t know what it  means to say the music is ‘played on one "instrument".’  I have trouble deciding whether water itself is one instrument or several.  Furthermore, in the recording, I am hearing voices, water, and something striking the water.  So one might say, there are a number of instruments here, especially if there are several voices (of children and adults), and several streams, pools, or columns of water being used, and one or more objects hitting the water.  I think it is very complex.  [If we talk about primitive music, I think we might have to say Gregorian chants are to be viewed as primitive, in their own historical context, since they are monophonic as compared with later Baroque polyphonic music, and they use only voice, whereas Baroque music uses instruments and voice.] 

     

    I am not sure how we would frame a conversation about the alleged “primitiveness” of Pygmy water music compared with Handel’s water music.  Such a comparison might not make sense.  But the fact that you bring this music to our attention, in the context of this discussion, is extremely important.  I think it is important, because what Pygmy culture and what “Western culture” may have to offer each other (and the world), in the way of a synthesis, could be a great deal more than what either can offer the world alone.

     

     

    What I am advocating is a forward movement in musical evolution that begins to transcend narrow cultural limits.  (I am not simply advocating for “more instruments” as opposed to “less instruments,” which is a very minor distinction within the larger scheme of the sound universe).  What I would like to see, and what I am arguing in favor of, is a musical universe (or a sound multiverse) that allows as normal the natural fusion of sounds from diverse cultures, traditions and previously separated national milieus.  For instance, Western orchestral music combined with the Pygmy Water Music (or some other genre of music previously considered “foreign” or primitive).  Alan Hovhaness, for instance, wrote, “And God Created Great Whales” for Orchestra and taped whale sounds.  Stockhausen, in “Hymnen,” combines various sounds and signals taken from all parts of the world, to create a sound tapestry which reflects the cultural diversity of the entire globe, with an emphasis on National Anthems the world over.  Without entering into a discussion about the merits or demerits of either work, I am suggesting that the wider availability of a greater variety of sounds, does now, and will even more so in future, help us enlarge out vision of what constitutes music.  I am speaking in favor of a world of enhanced sound dimensions, where we see the possibilities for musical works being created with reference to an almost infinite diversity of sound resources.  This includes not simply a larger multiplicity of instruments, but also wider cultural purview, which allows for African, Chinese, Indian (or any other musical means and modes) to become allowable or even common within the current Western framework.

     

  • I don’t believe I have any misunderstanding in this thread. It’s been rather predictable.
    The definition of “primitive” I used here refers to using the most primary (essential) elements needed to create music.

    Ondib Olmnilnlolm said:

     

    Janet, I am gaining insight from almost every contribution made to this thread, and from none more than your recent post sharing the link to the Pygmy Water Drumming.  Thanks for posting that.  Your open-mindedness on what constitutes good music is quite inspiring and helps to further the discussion.  I think, Janet, there is some misunderstanding about the point I am trying to make and your post helps broaden the discussion. It runs in tandem with efforts I am trying to make to clarify my advocacy of the widest spectrum of sound being made available to the composer.

     

    Janet, you said,

     

    “I'll add in a link to a very "good" bit of music, IMO, played on one "instrument".  …  It doesn't get more primitive than this.”

     

    I am not sure if the music you link to could be called “primitive” in all senses of the word, and I am not even sure what primitive means exactly, when judging music this kind of music.

    The Discussion of Major and Minor Modes—Are we in danger of restricting our vision of what constitu…
          I have been told that these thoughts might better be discussed on a brand new thread (rather than under the topic of “Major and Minor Modes in…
  • Hello Janet, and Hello Roger (my message here is mainly response to, and in praise of things you two have said so far on this thread)

     

    You said, Janet,

     

    “I don’t believe I have any misunderstanding in this thread. It’s been rather predictable.”

     

    So you are clearly stating you don’t believe you misunderstand the thread. I fully agree.  You seem to understand the essential purpose of this thread as well as anyone, or better than any one else who has discussed it.  In my last post, I was saying that it was precisely your discussion of (and  your posting of the link to) the Pygmy Water Drumming that has helped to elucidate the meaning of the thread, and its main purpose.   I hope you don’t think anyone is saying you are a person who has a poor understanding of what is being said.  I am saying the exact opposite. [Don’t feel you have to reply to any of this, because much of what I have to say is merely an affirmation of your contribution, and an elaboration of parts of it, rather than an argument, as such, to be responded to].

     

    Now, it certainly is true that different participants in the thread, you and I included, all have different interpretations of the various aspects of the content of the discussion, but we would not be human if that were not the case.  What was extremely significant, I thought, was the light that your contribution shed on the broader point. You helped make it closer to being crystal clear.

     

    You spoke about some aspects of the thread being “rather predictable,” and if that’s the case, I think that is a tribute to your ability to predict more than anything else.   There were interesting things said here that I could not have predicted, and that other members of the thread did not predict, or could not have predicted.  (Of course, we can’t know that, unless we consult actual written statements about what people might have predicted beforehand, were they so inclined to write anything down at all).  I will list a few aspects of the thread, which I think might not have been predicted, or might not have been predictable, by at least some members of the forum, in which case some of what has been said might be useful expanding our understanding of the nature of sound and music.

     

    I doubt if anyone could have predicted, for instance that you would say what you did about Pygmy Water Drumming.  If I seem to overemphasize this point, it is because I genuinely do think this is a very significant issue. It is significant to me, personally.  I am extremely interested in African music, and the notion of fusing African music with Western orchestral sounds.  [I might post a link, to something I wrote a few years ago, in which I use solo African singing in the middle of a piece which would otherwise appear entirely Western—it’s called Variations on a Theme by Same Bruce, a composer and performer I know.  In another work, I intertwine Mozartian piano and orchestral rhythms and complex African Kalimba].  

     

    Photo of a Kalimba

    http://kalimbamagic.com/newsletters/newsletter4.08/newsletter4.08_a...

     

     

     

    Of course, my own personal interests may really beside the point in this discussion. We are talking generally about music, the historical development of music—and the sound variety, harmonic variety and diversity of timbres, cultural elements and modes that can be expressed or used in one (or more) pieces of music.

     

    I believe we can all think of precedents for these fusions of different cultural strands from different musical traditions.  I invite people to suggest examples, either from the modern era, or a more distant period of time. One of Bach’s innovations, for instance, was his deliberate blending of Germanic and Italian thematic material and methodology, in a unique and unprecedented way.  I would speculate that such amalgamations of elements from diverse cultures that were in proximity, but still very distant from one another—in terms of history, language and culture—could not have been so easy. The distinctions between French, Italian and Spanish Baroque music (on the one hand) and German and English Baroque music, on the other, were quite recognizable to the people of that day and time.  In our day, we face the prospect of fusion and integration of the most diverse traditions, which is coming about only piecemeal and very gradually.  Jazz, of course, represents the most successful product of blending of African musical strands and Western musical ideas, so far.  But the actual fusion of such diverse forms of expression as Pygmy Water Drumming or Singers in the Kenyan bush with Western orchestral sounds writ large, is something rare that may soon become a natural part of the development of universal musical languages.

     

    Now you say, Janet, ‘The definition of “primitive” I used here refers to using the most primary (essential) elements needed to create music.’  Perhaps I was mistaken to emphasize the fact that definitions of “primitive” are subject to vigorous vetting and even dismissal amongst many anthropologists and students of culture.  That was not my main point, really.     I think what I could not predict, and what others in this discussion probably could not predict (that you would bring up water drumming) has many important implications. To me, the very idea of the fusion any kind of music that actually uses the real sound of water—or the striking of water, as part of the substance of the music itself—is virtually unheard of in Western Music (from 1600-1945); so much so that the very notion is not only unprecedented, and unpredictable, but almost inconceivable.  Perhaps there are some examples in so-called Musique Concrète, where sounds of water are mixed in with sounds of other types; but I don’t know where we can find something remotely resembling what I mentioned before (in works like those of Stockhausen or Hovhanness), where actual sounds of water and sounds of the orchestra are mixed together in a new synthesis.  We could speak of Debussy’s music as being of the “essence of water,” metaphorically of course.  But to use actual water, in a recording, or a live performance, or in a synthesized, quasi-orchestral Western musical composition is something I am unaware of.   If anyone could have predicted, such an occurrence, or has successfully predicted, or knows about any such synthesis, I would love to all hear about it.

     

    I could never have predicted that Roger would say he “had neither the time nor the inclination to listen listen to all the pieces of music that exist” or have existed.  The point did sort of lead us down a blind alley.   But more important to me were Roger’s observations, especially those made in response to my question about the range of allowable sound choices in our mainstream culture.

     

    He said, “of course not,” in answer to the question about whether he would like to live in the sound world of limited range, where only certain types of diatonic music were allowed, and added, “but there is probably someone out there that would choose that limited range. Who knows?”  On the question of the wider sound universe, he says, “On the one hand I am free to listen to anything and everything I am aware of, if I choose. On the other hand, if most of what I can afford to listen to is programmed by a commercial radio station then I am certainly limited to their playlist.”  Well, this is the big problem, isn’t it?  One is tempted NOT to speak about our limited sound choices, since there is so much more available on the internet than was ever available before.  But I am talking about what is culturally acceptable, and widely allowed and known about. Just from my own experience, living in Colombia, in the Republic of Turkey, in Sri Lanka and China, I was made aware of the extent to which many other cultures have an awareness of Western traditions. Knowledge of these traditions is widely disseminated through their mainstream media. and through cultural events.   Yet, in the US, while we do have, on some of our university campuses, many outstanding attempts to foster “multicultural” awareness (which is still, perhaps even more so now, a kind of dirty word in the US)—most of the US appears unaware of “what’s outside.” If that were not the case, we might have much less hatred or distrust of immigrant “communities of color” whether Islamic, Indian, Latin American (especially Mexican), Caribbean (Haitian), and other minorities.  I am, even with the internet, not as able to access a great deal in Indian culture, Chinese musical culture, and Japanese and African culture that might be otherwise available if our own culture were not so closed, myopic, circumscribed and quasi- (if not wholly) xenophobic, in practice.  This is true, even if the US thinks of itself in theory as composed of many cultures.  Musically, it’s still almost 19th century white-Anglo Saxon (even having disdain for “French” culture), and it is far from open to the East and Southern portions of the globe, as those regions are perforce “open to us,” due to the history of colonialism, and contemporary neo-colonialism.   So in musical terms, this means—in the United State—99 percent of what is “in the air” is Western diatonicism, the same kinds of tired chord progressions and major and minor modes being used all too frequently, by the musicians promoted by the mainstream stations.

     

    Roger said, and I emphatically agree, “I am always amazed that with so much music available, most stations have their top 40 to 100- be it country, pop, rock or classical. It gets boring.”  Not only can it get “boring,” if one is driving in the car, for instance, a long distance, but it is troubling that in an “information age,” with so many types of mass media outlets available, that those who own them deliberately decide to use them SOLELY for their own personal profit, and for propaganda purposes, culturally, socially, politically and economically.  And it has nothing to do with “what attracts listeners.”  Think of the song “Bush knocked down the towers,” by Eminem and Mos Def.  I don’t think you will hear that on mainstream AM or FM radio, or on network TV, in spite of its popularity in many circles.  There are allowable kinds of music, and non-allowable kinds of music, for reasons that are political, social and cultural.    

     

    Bush Knocked down the Twin Towers (911) - Immortal Technique https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bdr_2IAJWU

     

    The “consumption” of music, like the consumption of ideology, is only theoretically wide. Broadly, you can listen to and hear analyses framed in democratic and republican ideological terms, but rarely outside that narrow range of thought; while in music, you can hear certain types of lyrics and sounds within a narrow range of harmonic diversity, and very rarely outside that range.

     

  •  O....   FYI    every time you delete and repost, it shows up in others mailboxes

    you... but rarely outside the narrow range of thought.... and music range.....

    Do you  factor into your thinking the idea that a whole lot of people are NOT thinkers

    and prefer their safe established 'bubbles' and are content to have this repetition, and

    might actually look forward to it? Your enthusiasum for broader horizons is not universal.

    ps- and your post are still too long and wordy        RS

This reply was deleted.