philosophy of creativity - Music vs. Music Theory - Ignore the Gatekeepers!

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jam-s
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Post 23 Jul 2021

EdwardKiy wrote:
23 Jul 2021
But it's the same thing with languages. Why do we speak English here? Why not Swedish, French, Japanese, Russian, German or even Latin or Esperanto?
Because English speaking countries were strongly involved in colonialism and "winners" of WWII. If history went a little different at times (like during the colonialisation/occupation of the US) there might have been another worldwide lingua franca now.
But I think it's a great thing that we now have a common worldwide language ground as a means to have cultural dialogue. I don't think the selection for this is based on inherent properties of the language itself, but more on how it got spread due to historic events and then taught in schools.

To some extend this also applies to (western) music theory as well.
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EnochLight
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Post 23 Jul 2021

Moderator note: totally cool to discuss "philosophy of creativity - Music vs. Music Theory", etc, but please keep political hot topics out of this forum. Thanks!
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avasopht
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Post 23 Jul 2021

integerpoet wrote:
21 Jul 2021
Apart from excoriating gatekeeping…

I think the only question worth asking is whether knowing theory hurts creativity. Because otherwise the debate seems to be about a bunch of states and conditions which aren't mutually exclusive. Like, if you're curious, maybe learn enough theory to be able to decide whether it feels like more will help you. Then continue or don't.

It's possible to focus on a single topic and see what happens. My partner teaches theory at the university level. We're both super-busy, so we've only had time for her to teach me the first thing she teaches her students in the first course: simple meter. After that one lesson, I wrote a fun satisfying piece because the knowledge prompted me to try something other than 4:4. Your mileage may vary.

(By the way, most rack devices don't support "interesting" meters terribly well. Not shocking, given Reason's lineage, but during the struggle it might help to know you are not crazy.)
Good question. I'll see if this has been studied.

My personal experience is that the most creative people tend to just create.

Bach just created the elements and forms he used through meticulous exploration and his own internal (even if implicit) theory.

We all construct a theory, even when just listening. Our theories (models, systems and metrics) may be associative, discrete, analytical or seeking some aesthetic ideal, and may be explicitly defined or just intuited through experience and feeling.

This is what studies of perception and cognition of music seem to suggest.

I highly doubt any studies will show that learning classical music theory will harm creativity.

I suspect that any individual whose creativity is harmed by classical theory would be much more clueless without it and probably wouldn't have developed enough proficiency to make anything notable otherwise.

However, there is time investment, and it can act as a crutch that can give someone an excuse to stop searching or act as a judge that discourages them from drawing outside the lines (so maybe they'll only be creative in reproducing classical music).

I'll see what I can find.
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guitfnky
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Post 23 Jul 2021

avasopht wrote:
23 Jul 2021
integerpoet wrote:
21 Jul 2021
Apart from excoriating gatekeeping…

I think the only question worth asking is whether knowing theory hurts creativity. Because otherwise the debate seems to be about a bunch of states and conditions which aren't mutually exclusive. Like, if you're curious, maybe learn enough theory to be able to decide whether it feels like more will help you. Then continue or don't.

It's possible to focus on a single topic and see what happens. My partner teaches theory at the university level. We're both super-busy, so we've only had time for her to teach me the first thing she teaches her students in the first course: simple meter. After that one lesson, I wrote a fun satisfying piece because the knowledge prompted me to try something other than 4:4. Your mileage may vary.

(By the way, most rack devices don't support "interesting" meters terribly well. Not shocking, given Reason's lineage, but during the struggle it might help to know you are not crazy.)
Good question. I'll see if this has been studied.

My personal experience is that the most creative people tend to just create.

Bach just created the elements and forms he used through meticulous exploration and his own internal (even if implicit) theory.

We all construct a theory, even when just listening. Our theories (models, systems and metrics) may be associative, discrete, analytical or seeking some aesthetic ideal, and may be explicitly defined or just intuited through experience and feeling.

This is what studies of perception and cognition of music seem to suggest.

I highly doubt any studies will show that learning classical music theory will harm creativity.

I suspect that any individual whose creativity is harmed by classical theory would be much more clueless without it and probably wouldn't have developed enough proficiency to make anything notable otherwise.

However, there is time investment, and it can act as a crutch that can give someone an excuse to stop searching or act as a judge that discourages them from drawing outside the lines (so maybe they'll only be creative in reproducing classical music).

I'll see what I can find.
this is great. you’ve pretty much hit the mark, in my view. musical creativity is a function of exploration, more than of understanding some arbitrary set of rules in order to know how to break them.

even the most creative people who know tons of theory are putting that exploratory mindset ahead of the theory. they understand why those explorations work (or don’t) within a theoretical framework, but for them, it doesn’t stop them from trying new things.

I know some people (myself, for example) tend to trust “experts” too willingly, and for the short period of time I was trying to learn theory, that translated into overthinking things and making choices based on what (little) I knew of theory, instead of just laying it all out and seeing what sounded good. of course that can be explained by an insufficient understanding of theory, but more to the point, I’d realized that theory isn’t necessary for exploration. I know what sounds good to me, and I can screw around long enough to find some pretty interesting things.

you could easily lump me into that “intuited through experience and feeling” category. :)
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EnochLight
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Post 23 Jul 2021

Moderator note: Just did some housekeeping in this thread, in case people are wondering where their posts are. Final warning: keep political hot topics out of the forums, please. I’ve issued a formal warning and will begin banning if it starts again.

Thanks!
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Jagwah
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Post 25 Jul 2021

@OP - Great thread.

In the video you said people with no knowledge can listen to music and feel the emotion therefore those people could write music with no knowledge. I will have to disagree and make a few points but I will also have a flipside to it all.

I only ever learnt a small amount of theory, it was enough to carry me a really long way. I guess I understand the basic principles. Also as I work with a collab partner with great knowledge I am constantly shown new things to do with theory - and they give me what I feel like is a bigger palette to work with. As I learn these things and now consider your argument, I must say I know these new techniques are things I would never have come to on my own. It's one thing to write a line of melody, but would one realize they can add to that a counter melody and there are tried and true ways to do it? This brings me to endless rhetorical questions of the same nature. Would one ever realize that there are certain notes within any twelve note scale that are way more dominant, when used they hit stronger and with more harmony than all the other notes, therefore these notes can be used in certain places, places where the music is being emphasized (3rd, 5th etc)? Would one ever come to the conclusion that starting and ending all of your phrases on the root note allows transitions to be super smooth and just feel right.... every time? Would one even be able to work within a scale at all - could their ears be so good they just happen to be writing within a certain scale and stay there, even using chords? How could one come to the conclusion that multiple notes played together sound good, and then be able to repeat that process with more and more all joined together (chord progression)?

A different point I want to make is that the biggest teacher of music is music itself, through the ages by all musicians known to us (thank you torrent downloads for this resource I could never attain so easily on my own). However this is not to say this is all one needs, see next point.

In my opinion, to write music that relates to any listener as enjoyable and harmonious and translates as actual music the human brain can just engage in there are a few components combined that are necessary. First being a basic understanding of traditional western music theory as we know it. There are many fundamentals there that I can only imagine would take endless years of trial and error otherwise, fundamentals that are like cement when building a brick house. These are like a basic framework of music that need to be there if relating to the listener is your intention. The second component is that great teacher I spoke of - music itself and all of it, this will provide you with endless examples of breaking the rules and wild creativity and shock and horror and pleasantness that all work within this basic theoretical framework (as mentioned earlier you need rules to break rules.) The third component is story / narrative / lyricism. All art should be capable of telling a story. When an artist creates a piece of art and puts his heart and soul in it and tells a story from his childhood - there is an emotion created there in that piece that can be interpreted by any human brain, not that they will interpret the exact story or even anything about it - but that emotion will be translated though the piece and the recipient will feel / sense it. This is why someone who speaks a different language can interpret the emotion in a song from another country imo. See the attached image - The Scream - it's just ink on a canvas and a simple picture but I am sure you sense the emotion there, and I'm certain the painter (Edvard Munch) was trying to express it. Also listen to 'Night on bare mountain' and close your eyes and try imagine some type of scene, like a mouse being chased by a horrible monster, there is so much emotion being expressed there.


The-Scream.jpg


When you truly understand how to apply lyricism to musical instruments and not just vocals (thanks Benedict Roff-Marsh on Youtube), and couple that with fundamental music theory and a healthy passionate relationship with all of music itself (listen to lots of it and enjoy it) - then you are ready to call yourself a songwriter who can write music that any listener can feel the emotion in and relate to it as actual music. Also when you really stick to that idea of narrative you will never be stuck in any kind of loop like many of us have talked about a lot before imo.

I do not believe these theoretical rules limit ones creativity at all. You can follow the rules and not follow them whenever you want. I was writing a piece that had a really odd feel to it, and landing on the root note felt off and it felt better on another note so I just went with it even though I was writing in a particular scale. When I shared it with my friend he was a bit blown away as it had a very complex feel to it, yet I just broke that rule there because it felt right for the piece. I didn't let the rules dictate what I did at all, and I used them when it suited (most of the time).

So the flipside. There has been great points made for and against this in this thread (good ol' Reason peeps :) ) Someone mentioned that music came before music theory and that brings me to my flipside point. While I am of the opinion that theory and narrative and passion are essential, people have existed for many many thousands (?) of years before this theory thing was even thought of and I'm sure in that time many a sick party went on, lots of group drumming events, even ones that they tripped out to and drank blood infused with adrenaline and who knows what else. The rhythm in those drums would have been insane, psychedelic even, and it would have been passed on from generation to generation. Then there would be tribes who sang beautiful tribal songs, singing that harmonized in a beautiful and magical way yet there were no rules or fundamental ideas - but probably a certain emotion. I wonder if some of us went camping one night, and we truly let go of the fundamental ideas of music, and tried coming up with our own chants and drums and singing I bet we could do some pretty cool things just like our ancestors did.

^^ That brings me to my final point that reinforces my original opinion. Living in this day and age everyone in the western world is very used to hearing and knowing music created with traditional music theory and have likely heard no other types of music or have any desire to, so your best bet is to learn some of it if your intention is for people in the western world to listen to and potentially enjoy your music.
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Jagwah
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Post 30 Jul 2021

Sorry I know I was late to the party I was reading through the entire thread bit by bit over many days / weeks and wanted to give my two cents : D

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avasopht
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Post 30 Jul 2021

Jagwah wrote:
30 Jul 2021
Sorry I know I was late to the party I was reading through the entire thread bit by bit over many days / weeks and wanted to give my two cents : D
I've been meaning to respond to your message.

You brought some interesting points to the discussion.
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visheshl
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Post 30 Jul 2021

See as far as I can see....learning the very very basics is good, for example what is a scale, a major and minor scale, major chord, minor chord, that's it.
That's all that's essential.
I've seen people fumbling in the dark because they have no understanding of these very basics. They know how they want it to sound in their heads, but they keep pressing keys on the keyboard randomly, and if at all they're successful in finding the right chord, it takes an unusually long time for them to do so.
However i have also observed that once you've known how the structure, the chord patterns etc must flow according to the theory, it's very difficult to bring experimental atonality to the music, for example a lot of hip hop or house music has chords which don't necessarily tie into a particular scale, but the music sure sounds good.
So once you know your majors and minors theory it's very difficult to stray away from them and use a random combination of notes purely based on how it hits the listener emotionally instead of a chord that fits into the scale.

Of course it all depends on the genre of music one wants to produce. Some genres are theory based, others are not.

Of you want to compose a symphony you better know the theory, but in my opinion I'm hindered by theory while trying to make club music.
For example, using a sub bass in club music one would typically experiment with notes which makes the subwoofer vibrate how one needs it to, it could be a note in the scale or outside the scale...it all depends on how it sounds and makes the crowd feel. While I cannot use notes outside the scale because of conditioning

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Jagwah
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Post 30 Jul 2021

avasopht wrote:
30 Jul 2021
Jagwah wrote:
30 Jul 2021
Sorry I know I was late to the party I was reading through the entire thread bit by bit over many days / weeks and wanted to give my two cents : D
I've been meaning to respond to your message.

You brought some interesting points to the discussion.
Cheers for that ;)

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