What "Music Theory" REALLY Is... imho...

davidKOS

not posting these days
May 28, 2012
16,785
California
Good stuff. And you should be proud. Unfortunately, facts/history and guitar players do not mix well, been that way since there was an internet. I admire your gentle reliance on the facts, but the last utube somebody saw that they agree with will always win out over actual history. lolz

rct
Thanks, I try to support my ideas with actual facts whenever possible!

I took a Music Structure class in college taught by a professor who was definitely "old school".

Even the Treble/Bass Clefs and note stems had to be precisely drawn in order to get a passing score.

Every day as the students arrived he'd be playing some sort of Bach piece.

Although I would challenge him on his views of modern music (it was no secret that he despised practically everything composed in the 20th Century) we managed to find some mutual respect for each other, and I even think he might have warmed up a teensy`weensy bit to some of it...


`
Sometimes having an old curmudgeon as a teacher is a good thing!

'Although I would challenge him on his views of modern music (it was no secret that he despised practically everything composed in the 20th Century) we managed to find some mutual respect for each other, and I even think he might have warmed up a teensy`weensy bit to some of it..."

In college we had a few yes fans in our composition class, and a teacher that did NOT like pop and rock music.

We played "Close to the Edge" for him, and he admitted it was "good".
 

crankmeister

Most Honored Senior Member
Jul 9, 2020
5,647
USA
Sorry, I disagree.

Please explain where a well-thought out musical system of writing and composing music is "crippled by its own roots".

So far I've found the Western system of writing music to be quite useful and only limited by the user.
I think he means that what stands as “music theory” is usually “western music theory” and doesn’t encompass how other cultures approach music. It’s a “culture-bound syndrome” as the anthropologists say.

Not a problem, per se. But as the world continues to shrink, it’s limits are exposed more.
 

crankmeister

Most Honored Senior Member
Jul 9, 2020
5,647
USA
Theory vs Knowledge is kinda semantics, but kinda not.

I think it’s common parlance, at least in American pop culture, to license ourselves to dismiss or sidestep a topic/fact/school-of-thought by saying “that’s your theory ” or “that’s just a theory”.

Whereas nobody ever says “that just knowledge”. Despite our utmost postmodern attempts to relativize everything into facts and alternative facts, knowledge is understood to be matter-of-fact. Unfortunately, “theory” is a term we often use to undermine or attack another’s knowledge.

There’s also the great Epistemic divide of the modern era that shows up in music, too. Science is supposed to be the ultimate premise of Knowledge, and any theory that wants to present as knowledge presents itself as scientific. But there is such a thing as scientistic. And one of my favorite 20th century intellectuals, Aime Cesaire, talked about a poetic knowledge that lies in the gaps (and failures, I would add) of scientific knowledge. There’s plenty to be said about musical knowledge that is poetic rather than scientific.

That said, it’s on a case-by-case basis when it comes to who among us is proclaiming the virtues of poetic musical knowledge more out of the convenience of avoiding scientific musical knowledge.
 

davidKOS

not posting these days
May 28, 2012
16,785
California
Theory vs Knowledge is kinda semantics, but kinda not.

I think it’s common parlance, at least in American pop culture, to license ourselves to dismiss or sidestep a topic/fact/school-of-thought by saying “that’s your theory ” or “that’s just a theory”.
Good point.

Most people don't truly get the difference between an opinion, a hypothesis, and a theory.
 

stratology

Strat-Talker
Apr 8, 2007
367
Ireland
Theory vs Knowledge is kinda semantics, but kinda not.

I think it’s common parlance, at least in American pop culture, to license ourselves to dismiss or sidestep a topic/fact/school-of-thought by saying “that’s your theory ” or “that’s just a theory”.

Whereas nobody ever says “that just knowledge”. Despite our utmost postmodern attempts to relativize everything into facts and alternative facts, knowledge is understood to be matter-of-fact. Unfortunately, “theory” is a term we often use to undermine or attack another’s knowledge.

There’s also the great Epistemic divide of the modern era that shows up in music, too. Science is supposed to be the ultimate premise of Knowledge, and any theory that wants to present as knowledge presents itself as scientific. But there is such a thing as scientistic. And one of my favorite 20th century intellectuals, Aime Cesaire, talked about a poetic knowledge that lies in the gaps (and failures, I would add) of scientific knowledge. There’s plenty to be said about musical knowledge that is poetic rather than scientific.

That said, it’s on a case-by-case basis when it comes to who among us is proclaiming the virtues of poetic musical knowledge more out of the convenience of avoiding scientific musical knowledge.

A lot of the misunderstanding comes from confusing the terms 'theory' and 'hypothesis'.

A hypothesis is just an idea that may or may not be proven. A scientific theory describes something that is observable, measurable, reproducible, and has the same results every time.

So the 'theory' of Newtonian mechanics is a good enough representation of reality to build millions of cars based on its principles each year. Nothing 'hypothetical' about that - and it's not an 'opinion', that is exclusive to the world view of an individual person.
 
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davidKOS

not posting these days
May 28, 2012
16,785
California
I think he means that what stands as “music theory” is usually “western music theory” and doesn’t encompass how other cultures approach music. It’s a “culture-bound syndrome” as the anthropologists say.

Not a problem, per se. But as the world continues to shrink, it’s limits are exposed more.
That's one reason I've been a student of ethnomusicology since the 70's.

I've enjoyed the studied Greek, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Indian, Afghan, Central Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Klezmer, Afro-Caribbean, Brazilian, North African, Italian, and many other styles of music.

Certain theory concepts are not related to any particular culture, like the harmonic series, the consonance of 5ths, tension and release, etc.

Certain things are unique to one or more cultures, such as the maqam system used in various forms from Morocco to Azerbaijan.

One can learn much from studying the music of all cultures.
 

BuddyHollywood

Strat-O-Master
Jul 22, 2011
940
Venice, CA
I recall Music Fundamentals was an intro level course when I was in college, followed by Music Theory I and II, along with ear training courses, etc. The fundamentals course assumed a certain degree of skill with our instrument (classical guitar in my program) and focused on nuts and bolts like key signatures, reading music in bass and treble clef, intervals, the circle of fifths, chord structure, and the major/minor scales and modes. It was a prerequisite to theory courses and other courses in the music program. Subsequent theory courses built on those fundamentals and focused heavily on how to analyze classical pieces of music.

I think you're onto something in that when we talk about "theory" or a poster asks about learning "theory" they really mean the above fundamentals and not so much the techniques used to analyze music from particular genres and eras, especially classical, baroque music, etc. I suppose the fundamentals are a subset of basic theory but it can help to be specific.

Also, I agree the "rules" are made to be broken. Music theory is descriptive not prescriptive. It helps a musician understand their craft but isn't intended to limit creativity.
I really appreciate how you expanded my general statement with your first hand experience and knowledge and made it more precise and specific. I especially love, "Music theory is descriptive not prescriptive. It helps a musician understand their craft but isn't intended to limit creativity." Yes!
 

stratology

Strat-Talker
Apr 8, 2007
367
Ireland
(it was no secret that he despised practically everything composed in the 20th Century)


Two sides to this: there's taste in music - everyone has his/her own taste, they are all different, all is good.


The other side - and this may be a bitter pill for some to swallow - there is no intrinsic 'value' in music, in the sense that any piece of music can be objectively better than any other piece of music.

If someone claims that European Classical music is 'better' than, say, African music (or vice versa), this is nothing but a representation of their limited world view and understanding:

'African music has less value, because they don't even have figured bass'.
'European classical music has less value, because you can't even dance to it. Seriously, WTF??"

Two equally idiotic - and, of course, purely hypothetical - opinions...
 

davidKOS

not posting these days
May 28, 2012
16,785
California
Two sides to this: there's taste in music - everyone has his/her own taste, they are all different, all is good.


The other side - and this may be a bitter pill for some to swallow - there is no intrinsic 'value' in music, in the sense that any piece of music can be objectively better than any other piece of music.

If someone claims that European Classical music is 'better' than, say, African music (or vice versa), this is nothing but a representation of their limited world view and understanding:

'African music has less value, because they don't even have figured bass'.
'European classical music has less value, because you can't even dance to it. Seriously, WTF??"

Two equally idiotic - and, of course, purely hypothetical - opinions...
Louis Armstrong was supposed to have said that there were only 2 kinds of music, good and bad.


"
6. "There's only two ways to sum up music; either it's good or it's bad. If it's good you don't mess about it, you just enjoy it."

- Louis Armstrong."


"There is two kinds of music, the good, and the bad. I play the good kind."
 

Scott Baxendale

Most Honored Senior Member
Gold Supporting Member
May 20, 2020
5,153
Athens Ga
And in New Orleans, birthplace of jazz, many of the first generation of jazz players were Sicilians or the children of Sicilians.

They brought music education, a style of marching bands, and march forms, all of which blended with the African-American and French and Spanish influences to create jazz.

And Italians have played jazz in Italy for years!


' in the early 20th century it was jazz that seduced many Italian music lovers. Loud, brash and syncopated, it was an imported passion that came from across the Atlantic; it was first performed by visiting American troupes and returning emigrants. Eventually Italians began creating their own jazz. "


"On that date, a combo from New Orleans called the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, featuring Nick LaRocca on cornet, walked into a Victor recording studio in New York and cut the first commercial jazz recording. Side A featured a tune called “Dixieland Jass Band One-Step;” the B side was “Livery Stable Blues.”"

first jazz recordings were made by a band with Sicilian-Americans.

"There are two categories of jazz bands: those that are mostly black, which perform in the hotels, restaurants, dance halls and social clubs; and those, often Italian, that play in the cinemas, in variety shows and in those numerous theaters "

I'm rather proud of being a New Orleans born Sicilian-American jazz musician.



"Decades later, when the brand new French Opera House opened in New Orleans in the 1850s, the call again went out to Italian musicians. Local business leaders didn't need to look very far, however, as the city of New Orleans already had a bustling Italian population, which had taken root in the 1850s. Living and working side-by-side by another oppressed group, African Americans, the Italians shared their own distinctive forms of music, which encompassed folk and classical traditions. The sons of these early immigrants, many of whom were hired to play at the French Opera House, would go on to become familiar names in the popularization of jazz: Nick LaRocca, Leon Roppolo, Arnold Loiacano, Joe "Sharkey" Bonanno and, of course, the gifted musician and performer Louis Prima."

Louis Prima!
I always thought it was African Americans who created jazz, not the Italians who copied it. Just like Elvis.
 

davidKOS

not posting these days
May 28, 2012
16,785
California
I always thought it was African Americans who created jazz, not the Italians who copied it. Just like Elvis.
That's a fairly common oversimplification.

Of course there would be no jazz without African Americans - but they didn't develop jazz alone.

The New Orleans ethnic gumbo that gave birth to jazz was VERY much African American - but there were French, Spanish, Italian (Sicilian), Croats, Irish, Germans and others involved in the creation of a truly American music.
 
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simoncroft

Still playing. Still learning!
Silver Member
May 30, 2013
19,286
SE England
The old Italian method was to have everyone learn to sing - including singing solfege and reading music - before you got to touch an instrument.


"children in the Neapolitan conservatories were required to practice Italian solfeggio for 3 years, which enabled them to learn music theory, singing, playing, improvisation, and melodic composition. This became the basis of a rule that disallowed anyone from learning to play an instrument until they had learned Italian solfeggio sufficiently."

Well, my girl, you've done your three years of solfeggio and it's time for us to allocate you to a musical instrument. Another three years of hard study later...














3.2 Conn-Selmer Girl_Tuba.jpg

"Non mi sono mai sentito così tradito in tutta la mia vita". :(
 

AxemanVR

I appreciate, therefore I am...
Silver Member
Feb 8, 2014
5,840
Minnesota USA
That's a fairly common oversimplification.

Of course there would be no jazz without African Americans - but they didn't develop jazz alone.

The New Orleans ethnic gumbo that gave birth to jazz was VERY much African American - but there were French, Spanish, Italian (Sicilian), Croats, Irish, Germans and others involved in the creation of a truly American music.

Everything related to music is an evolution and no single person, no matter how talented, can claim to have done it all on their own.

If one were to look at the most memorable music throughout the ages as "inventions" (non-Bach related of course), well, then someone like the Scott Joplin sure came up with a doozy when he syncopated his way through the "Maple Leaf Rag".

No doubt the idea didn't just appear out of thin air for him, and his inspiration was surely the result of generations before him, as well other contemporaries of his time.

While whatever it was that sparked his brilliance may be difficult to fully quantify, the influence he has had on countless generations after him is unquestionable...






`
 
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crankmeister

Most Honored Senior Member
Jul 9, 2020
5,647
USA
That's a fairly common oversimplification.

Of course there would be no jazz without African Americans - but they didn't develop jazz alone.

The New Orleans ethnic gumbo that gave birth to jazz was VERY much African American - but there were French, Spanish, Italian (Sicilian), Croats, Irish, Germans and others involved in the creation of a truly American music.
I thought jazz came out of Harlem and the American northeast. Maybe that’s just the kinda jazz I listen to.
 


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