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#1590390 - 01/04/11 12:49 PM Why do "rules" exist?
Derek Andrews Offline
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Registered: 01/04/11
Posts: 62
Loc: PA
Hi everyone. I'm new here. I'm calling myself BBB cause it stands for my three favorite styles, Baroque, Boogie and Blues, my personal three B's.

In preparation for further discussion, why do music theory rules exist? Is it that following the rules will simply make your music sound better? What does "better" actually mean? Who decided that they sound better, and why? (Better than what?)

I've answered these questions satisfactorily for myself and my own playing, but I was curious what others think. Particularly if there are any experienced, academic, etc. composers resident on this forum, or experienced self taught composers.

In another post, currawong wrote:

Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: btb
Besides being a sequence of the dreaded “consecutive fifths” (to be avoided like the plague in the best of posh Harmony circles).
Whether or not you use consecutive/parallel fifths has nothing to do with "poshness", but rather the style you're writing in. If you want to sound like most composers from the 18thC, you will tend to avoid them for the most part. Not because it's some arbitrary rule, but because it's an observation about what generally happens in the music written in that era.


So, to me, this does not answer the question of "why" did music from the 18th century sound the way it did. I have an answer, but I wanted to see what others thought, first.


Edited by BBB (01/04/11 01:15 PM)

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#1590417 - 01/04/11 01:31 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Johnny-Boy Offline
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Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
I think music theory is an attempt to make music intelligible. Though... I think music is mostly an emotional art, rather than an intellectual one.

"Besides being a sequence of the dreaded “consecutive fifths” (to be avoided like the plague in the best of posh Harmony circles)"

That's old school thinking. I love consecutive fifths. I use them regularly.

Best, John smile

P.S. I hope GS Monks doesn't see my reply. laugh
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#1590423 - 01/04/11 01:35 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Registered: 01/04/11
Posts: 62
Loc: PA
Yes, as do I. I have a particular interest in imitating Baroque music, though, and when I do that, I do avoid parallel fifths. What I'm interested in is why did anyone ever avoid parallel fifths? In the context of other styles, as you rightly point out, they sound great! WHY did Bach avoid them? WHY did Mozart avoid them? WHY did Beethoven avoid them? Can anyone answer this?

One answer I've heard is that it is easier for a group of singers to follow their part if you avoid hollow consonant parallel movement such as fifths. That makes sense, but obviously the old composers were not composing just for voices nor were they constantly thinking: " now if someone transcribed this keyboard piece I'm writing for voice, I really hope it'd be easy for SATB singers to figure out their part!" There must have been another, simpler reason. What was it?

A youtube video: Why Parallel Fifths are bad This guy explains it with the "difficult for singing" perspective, but this is not enough for me.

Note that I consider this "parallel fifths" business only one part of the mystery of "WHY" did the old composers write that way. There are other mysteries. Why avoid augmented seconds? Why avoid doubling the leading tone? Again, I do have answers for these that satisfy me, and help me with my own creation of music, but I'm not certain how similar my own answers might be to those with "traditional" background in 18th century theory/harmony/composition.


Edited by BBB (01/04/11 01:52 PM)

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#1590437 - 01/04/11 01:53 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Gyro Offline
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Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
The rules of harmony and music theory are similar to the rules of grammar in a language. A grammar textbook lists a few of the more common constructions in the language, but this barely scratches the surface of the language and the actual language is learned by using it in everyday situations. Similarly the rules in a music theory textbook are merely some of the more commonly-encountered constructions in music. Real music is infinitely more complex and is learned on the job, so to speak.


Edited by Gyro (01/04/11 01:54 PM)

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#1590442 - 01/04/11 01:58 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Registered: 01/04/11
Posts: 62
Loc: PA
That still doesn't answer the "why." Imagine you are J.S. Bach himself, sitting down at a clavichord to create a new french suite movement. He improvises, he writes. He makes choices between different sounds. We know, from looking at his scores, that he chose to avoid parallel fifths. Does anybody know why? Why did he like that sound better? Is there an origin for this reason? *edited to remove content that did not advance my point*

Both the answer I originally quoted, and the one immediately prior to this post, basically treat music written by the old composers the same way science treats evidence in an experiment. "This happens a certain amount of the time, so we formulate a theory based upon it." The difference of course is that human response to sound is a complex mix of objectivity and subjectivity, and sorting out exactly what decisions the old composers made were subjective and which were objective can help to answer this mysterious question of "why" did they make the choices they did?


Edited by BBB (01/04/11 02:03 PM)

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#1590446 - 01/04/11 02:03 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
david_a Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
Another opinion (translated into my own words) is that it stops your chord progression from being a chord progression, and turns it into just a weird sliding double melody - the second chord doesn't really sound like a new chord, because of the way you got there. Now, if you WANT a weird sliding double melody because that's your style, go ahead. In baroque- & classical-style music, and anything where you are paying attention to counterpoint & voice leading including a lot of pop styles, you never want parallel fifths because they really do sound bad in those contexts. In the wrong context, they make you sound like a sloppy/lazy writer, or one who doesn't understand what he's doing.

The majority of rules in music are not really rules so much as "a useful checklist to make sure your music will sound good". (and "sound good to whom?" is always a good question)
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#1590449 - 01/04/11 02:08 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: david_a]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Registered: 01/04/11
Posts: 62
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: david_a
In baroque- & classical-style music, and anything where you are paying attention to counterpoint & voice leading including a lot of pop styles, you never want parallel fifths because they really do sound bad in those contexts. In the wrong context, they make you sound like a sloppy/lazy writer, or one who doesn't understand what he's doing.


Why? I think pretty soon I'll try to explain my own answer, so I don't end up sounding like a child asking why ad infinitum just for the joy of confounding others.

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#1590458 - 01/04/11 02:17 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Exalted Wombat Offline
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Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 1203
Loc: London UK
Don't think "rules". Think "descriptions of what has been found to work reliably in a given style". You don't need to rebel against them. Use them where they're useful.

Note that if you discard one set of conventions you'd better have an alternative set ready - complete anarchy doesn't make attractive music.

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#1590459 - 01/04/11 02:20 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Exalted Wombat]
eweiss Offline
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Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: Exalted Wombat
Don't think "rules". Think "descriptions of what has been found to work reliably in a given style". You don't need to rebel against them. Use them where they're useful.

Note that if you discard one set of conventions you'd better have an alternative set ready - complete anarchy doesn't make attractive music.

Good answer! smile
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#1590465 - 01/04/11 02:23 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Registered: 01/04/11
Posts: 62
Loc: PA
Alright...here's my personal answer. I'm not trying to say I've found some amazing thing that nobody else has understood before, clearly a lot of people understand it intuitively, I've simply chosen to try to answer this question verbally.

I think the simple reason for the old harmonic "rules" is that they loved the sound of thirds, and diatonic scales. Why did they love these sounds? From experimentation with temperaments other than equal temperament (on my clavichord), I can easily understand why they were fascinated with thirds. They have a very sweet sound, and standing on their own, especially on an instrument such as the clavichord which can produce a vibrato, they produce more pleasure than other sounds (on their own). Now, this is partly subjective, but the truth is the older temperaments did produce purer sounding thirds so it would be understandable if they wanted to emphasize the sound of thirds in their composition.

I think if someone asked me, I will play one of three sounds for you: a major third, a fifth, or an octave, which would you choose? For me, I'd choose the major third. And, I think a lot of people would also. This is perhaps not the best or only reason to make choices in composition, but it is an understandable one. For me, this answers the "why" for much of the old music. After all, in Bach's time people were still experimenting with temperaments for which ones produced sounds that were interesting on their own. 19th century and later, we had nothing but the piano and equal temperament so we stopped thinking about how to build beautiful sounding scales---and this informed our composition less. We stopped thinking (as often) in terms of how sweet sounding thirds are (and found many other interesting, and definitely beautiful sounds...I'm not saying later music isn't good...not at all)

I feel similarly about diatonic movement, but less so than the sound of thirds.

Another "why" I've tried to answer for myself is why you only ever find 6-3 chords in parallel movement in baroque music. To my knowledge, you rarely find 6-4 chords in parallel movement. The way I understand this, for myself, is that a 6-3 chord is a sixth on top of a third---thus we are "emphasizing thirds" (a sixth is an inversion of a third). a 6-4 chord is a sixth on top of a fourth---so the fourth produces a similar hollow sound to a fifth, and doesn't sound quite as good. It "de emphasizes" thirds.

One more interesting thing---I don't think I fully understood this until I got a clavichord for myself and played a lot on it. It makes the sweetness of thirds much more noticable than on the piano. In fact, equal temperament now sounds a bit harsh to me, as the thirds are very wide.

Sorry if that was a bit rambling...but the main point I'm trying to make is that---when I got a clavichord, I had the startling experience of it practically "teaching" me why the old composers wrote the way they did. The sound of the instrument revealed it in a way the piano never did, for me. And, I wasn't sure if anyone else might find reading about this experience interesting, and felt it wouldn't hurt to share.


Edited by BBB (01/04/11 02:29 PM)

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#1590480 - 01/04/11 02:31 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
mrenaud Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/29/02
Posts: 1315
Loc: Switzerland
Originally Posted By: BBB
Yes, as do I. I have a particular interest in imitating Baroque music, though, and when I do that, I do avoid parallel fifths. What I'm interested in is why did anyone ever avoid parallel fifths? In the context of other styles, as you rightly point out, they sound great! WHY did Bach avoid them? WHY did Mozart avoid them? WHY did Beethoven avoid them? Can anyone answer this?


One explanation which I've read (and which makes a lot of sense to me) has to do with overtone structures. Voices moving in parallel fifths or octaves tend to sound like one composite voice where the second or third partial of the lower voice is reinforced by the upper voice, similar to organ registrations. So a consecutive fifth or octave within a four-part framework might create the impression as if one voice suddenly dropped out. For Bach or Mozart, that would have been undesirable.

If, however, timbre (and that's what you're creating when you're reinforcing partials in such a way) is more important than classical, "proper" voiceleading, parallel intervals can make for interesting sound combinations.
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#1590481 - 01/04/11 02:32 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Registered: 01/04/11
Posts: 62
Loc: PA
I forgot to mention another "why" I answered for myself. Why not double the leading tone? Why not double the third in some cases? The reason, I think, is that the third tells you the most about what chord you are playing. Octaves and fifths tell you less, so doubling those notes sounds a bit better. I'm not trained in theory, so I'm actually not sure which ones are considered "best," but this vague idea has informed how I voice chords while improvising, and I've definitely noticed that certain doublings sound "bad," especially on the clavichord.

*edit*, I've also heard the "drop out" idea, and I think that makes sense also, and is related to what I wrote in the above paragraph.

Another way I like to think of it is: "keep triads complete, and don't over emphasize the important tones." This seems to produce beautiful voice leading much of the time.

After a quick googling, I found an explanation which confirms my own experience:

When to double tones...


Edited by BBB (01/04/11 02:35 PM)

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#1590488 - 01/04/11 02:40 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: mrenaud]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Registered: 01/04/11
Posts: 62
Loc: PA
Quote:
If, however, timbre (and that's what you're creating when you're reinforcing partials in such a way) is more important than classical, "proper" voiceleading, parallel intervals can make for interesting sound combinations.


This is interesting. The clavichord, the instrument which I'm claiming is helping me learn voice leading, has, I think, probably less "thick" timbre than other instruments. Thus, the hollowness of certain consonances stands out like a sore thumb. On the piano, a fifth sounds like a nice, thick, meaty sound. That said though, I do like to write music at the clavichord that follows none of these rules/guidelines--- But the "thirds sound really good!" idea seems to be the origin of all ideas which can make one's music sound baroque/classical. Works for me, anyway.


Edited by BBB (01/04/11 02:40 PM)

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#1590549 - 01/04/11 04:06 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
keystring Online   content
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I'm in the thick of learning theory on my own but using books and there's also someone looking at it with me. We talk about this a lot. Some of music theory seems to describe what naturally happens, like saying "If you open your hand when holding a glass, the glass will fall and probably shatter." Other theory seems to describe conventions in music that got developed but which probably use the characteristics of sound (the dropped glass) in some way. Some of the rules are artificial and unrealistic: they simplify things to protect us or until we have more sophisticated skills and if we don't know that we can get boxed in. I'm discovering that some of the rules I learned earlier actually get broken later on - it was just a step. Thanks a lot! The most hilarious is when an example by Bach is followed by the admonishment to not break the rules that Bach did when writing like Bach. confused

About thirds: I found a used book written in the 1960's that wants to get past what theory usually does, so they have us explore things and listen. A first exercise is to distribute the notes of a triad in lots of different ways and write down what it makes you feel. Doubling the third might make it more cheery, having it mostly in the treble might lighten the mood. It's subjective. So that gave some insight.

Doubling a leading note confuses the movement, I think. There is another cool thing which is the tritone in the Dom7 (B and F). It's an aug4 or dim5 which is unstable and loves to resolve. At the same time you have two notes that are a semitone from their neighbor (B is the tendency tone moving to C, F moves to E) and that instantly gives the impression of the key.

Maybe the answer is to keep exploring those things and listening for the effect they seem to have. Also, that the rules are just guidelines and might even be wrong for some things.

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#1590559 - 01/04/11 04:17 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: keystring]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Registered: 01/04/11
Posts: 62
Loc: PA
I agree that choosing what sounds are better to you personally is definitely a subjective process. I think what I was getting at was, from the 1300's or so onward to Bach's time, people were experimenting a lot with temperament. In other words, what sort of scales, consonances, etc. sound good on their own before we've written a lot of music using them? I think that once they discovered that you could add thirds into the mix along with consonant fifths and octaves, they got fascinated with how "sweet" these sound. For me, the only explanation I need for the "why" of most music up to the 19th century is simply that they were fascinated with and emphasized the sound of thirds. Thus, as you say, these are not rules but guidelines for effecting a certain sound....I just call it "emphasis of thirds."

What is interesting is that---the process of "emphasizing thirds" is, to a degree, objective, but must start with the subjective: "I really like thirds" in order to be objective. For me, this clarifies all those mysteries. Before I had these realizations I thought that there was a possibility that all that theory was arbitrary. Now I realize it is only arbitrary once you reach the earliest, simplest reason for it all: thirds.

*edit* I want to also clarify that the existence of consonances is an objective observation, that I don't think anyone can deny. If you're playing with a string and making it vibrate at different ratios, you're bound to "discover" octaves, fifths, and thirds. Without composing any music...just those tones are much more pleasing than many of the wavering, sour, beat-ridden intervals between. So really---it was objectivity that started it all, subjectivity that got all the composition going (I really like this interval, the third, that I objectively observed in nature), and then objectivity that produced all of the theory thereafter---and then finally subjectivity once again that tore it all down.

But it all started with objective observations of nature.

Now that we use nothing but equal temperament and muddy the clarity of harmony with the piano---we are less inclined to think in terms of how sweet various consonances are and are more inclined to think in terms of melody and rhythm----which I am not denegrating at all, as there is a whole lot of modern music that I enjoy very much. But it is really satisfying to finally understand "the big picture" of it all...which is why I felt compelled to share. There is of course a possibility I've got it all wrong, but the answers I've come up with are more than enough for my own private music making.

edit: brief synopsis of the history of music:

(Greek times up to the gregorian chant monk guys)
objective: Ah, I've found octaves, and fifths! Oh, and thirds! Wow, those sound pretty (okay, that last sentence was not objective, but they found the thirds objectively while studying vibrating strings and such)

(medieval times to renaissance)
subjective: I REALLY love thirds, I'm going to write a gigantic pile of music that over emphasize them.

(baroque, classical, early romantic)
objective: Oops, my music didn't have thirds in as many places as possible. What are some guidelines I can follow to keep my beloved thirds singing beautifully throughout my composition? (result: baroque and classical music theory)

(late romantic to modern)
subjective: Temperament? What are you talking about? My piano tuner handles that. Thirds? Those are pretty cool, but I also love thick clusters of tones that have a really rich, lustrous timbre. (result: late romantic and modern music)


Edited by BBB (01/04/11 04:45 PM)

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#1590603 - 01/04/11 05:22 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
david_a Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
I don't think the idea of preferring thirds over fifths holds much water. I would really like to see some kind of evidence and not just speculation, before I would even think it worthy of discussion.
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#1590618 - 01/04/11 05:52 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: david_a]
Johnny-Boy Offline
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Registered: 01/21/06
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Originally Posted By: david_a
I don't think the idea of preferring thirds over fifths holds much water. I would really like to see some kind of evidence and not just speculation, before I would even think it worthy of discussion.


I'm with you buckaroo! I think the interval of a 5th (or even a flatted 5th) is much more appealing than that candy- a%# 3rd.

John smile
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#1590632 - 01/04/11 06:06 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
keystring Online   content
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The history, when you get into it, is fascinating. There are so many twists and turns. I got my first foot in the door with "Music in the Western World: A History in Documents" which give snippets in time, including quotes from contemporaries. You see them enthusiastic, arguing, alarmed, outraged, intrigued at every point in history. They were upset when the chant had more than one voice because it was too carnal, upset when writing was invented because the mind would become lazy, upset at the strident violin, and we're still upset at new things today.

In regards to temperament, which is the tuning of the notes in the scale, we still use several temperaments today for instruments where the tuning can be controlled. This site does a good job of explaining several of them, and then showing when the musician might choose which in the fourth section. (go to "definition")
Violinmasterclass - intonation

Have you heard of the "barbershop fifth?" It uses the notes of the Dominant 7th, but tuned so purely that a fifth note is heard which isn't there, as though there were a fifth singer.


Edited by keystring (01/04/11 06:32 PM)

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#1590651 - 01/04/11 06:36 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Claude56 Offline
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Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 469
Rules of harmony don't actually exist universally but when you want to play a certain style of music that is within its own limits of playing then rules do exist, so harmony is a subjective matter.

There are no rules, and that's how geniuses came up with ideas, they didn't follow any standard conventions allowing them to do whatever they want. Sometimes composers would make up different scales allowing them to be original.

If you disregard any scales or music sounds you have heard before, and you experiment with the piano for a long time making up music without showing any influence, then you will eventually have a style that no one has ever heard before. Whether it would sound good or bad is a whole different story. When you do this, there are no rules and thus you are unlimited.


If you want to sound like Bach though, you must follow certain rules and limitations, or else you won't sound like him. You are limited at this stage.

Music is not always supposed to be good. Music is music and it is not necessarily good is sound and taste. Music today is becoming more and more diverse, and with such diversity there is diverse conventions, and it becomes harder to break those conventions and actually make good music. We've come to a point in history where our music will start to go bad and most people won't tolerate it anymore. We are coming to a point where we are finding music within the chromatics and the microtones, that is the serial techniques and chromatic scale and all the microtones, and within only those scales there isn't much good music, and the public today doesn't seem to care about microtonality and chromatic music.










Edited by Claude56 (01/04/11 06:50 PM)

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#1590654 - 01/04/11 06:41 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
keystring Online   content
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Rereading: Actually I have not heard of emphasizing thirds. Each of the three notes of a chord has a role. The third determines whether the chord is major or minor and without it this remains ambiguous. Sometimes the third comes in later on or resonates from what was played before, so that you hear it in your mind even though it isn't there. Sometimes the ambiguity helps you do what you want to do with the music.

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#1590668 - 01/04/11 07:00 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
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Registered: 08/17/10
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To understand the whys and wherefores of the rules you have to go back to the beginning. The rules of voice-leading exist for good reason, and some of those rules go back to plain chant, long before Harmony and Counterpoint existed.

You won't gain an understanding of the rules by examining Renaissance or Baroque music. You have to go back further, to when the rules were being formed.

I notice a post in this thread which does mention plain chant. Unfortunately, the post is incorrect. The formation of rules predates polyphony (before there were intervals). The first rules had to do with the movement of notes and notions of resolution, which predated Harmony. The rising leading-note, for example, was a rule of plain chant (single melodic line), as was the fourth falling to the third.

The notion of 4ths and 3rds in those days referred to scale degrees, not intervals.


Edited by gsmonks (01/04/11 07:07 PM)

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#1590735 - 01/04/11 08:42 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

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Some of this might be potentially confusing. I had to read this twice: "(before there were intervals)." Unless you play only one note, there are always intervals. But I think you mean that people weren't thinking in terms of intervals even melodically, but how they were going up and down some scale (which of course consists of intervals). Intervals are still there somehow, however. If the pentachord of the Greeks had different classes which involved distances of quartertones in one case, then the interval is "considered" - but maybe it is more something that is felt in the framework of that pentachord (?)

The only way I can only get at it personally is by exploring and going way back, and trying to be in the mindset of whatever period as much as that is possible.

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#1590804 - 01/04/11 10:53 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: david_a]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Registered: 01/04/11
Posts: 62
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: david_a
I don't think the idea of preferring thirds over fifths holds much water. I would really like to see some kind of evidence and not just speculation, before I would even think it worthy of discussion.


I may not have fully explained my posts. A lot of what I have said is admittedly my personal experience, not something I'd expect everyone to immediately accept at face value.

My experience went like this:
-started playing a kawaii upright piano back in 2000, learning various scales and basic improvisation

-began striving to learn a bit about theory, resulting mostly in failure due to being a terrible student and hating study of any kind

-met Ted Jones, a member of this forum and another forum, and he gave me some practical advice which for whatever reason was way more useful to me than any traditional teaching I had encountered

-I got a lot better at improvisation, particularly romantic improvisation with an emphasis on exploring my own harmonies. I found that without studying much theory, I tended towards traditional harmony without having received specific advice about it from Ted. Thus, there must be a reason why I gravitated in that direction. I must have liked something about the sound.

-Strove to try to improvise in the baroque style, resulting mostly in failure but increasingly small successes over the years. This may be due to lack of talent but probably also due to believing incorrectly that I would have to study music theory for years in order to do so.

-eventually got a digital piano. For whatever reason, I found my skill improved more than I expected, mainly in the romantic idiom. I continued to learn more intuitively during this time about traditional harmony, but still found the baroque sound to be a tough nut to crack.


Now, here's where I reach the point in my experience where for me, all the ideas I've put forth very much do "hold water." Whether or not they make sense to others doesn't matter to me...

I got a clavichord---and within a few short months a wide number of fragmented ideas I had collected over the 10 years I've been improvising all connected, and I suddenly found that improvising in the baroque style made perfect sense to me, and the reason it sounds the way it does makes perfect sense. The vast majority of this revelation is admittedly intuitive, so describing it in an over simplistic manner as I did as "thirds emphasis" is probably inadequate, but it is the best I could do in a single forum post.

I've still got my water. In other words, what I posted was not speculation, it was an attempt at explaining an intuitive revelation, or connection, that I had been striving to make, with my goal of learning to improvise in the baroque style.

I guess my hope was that if I shared these ideas, maybe someone else out there who was interested in this sort of music might get a switch flipped and it might help them. You never know...



Edited by BBB (01/04/11 11:05 PM)

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#1590862 - 01/05/11 02:01 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
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Originally Posted By: BBB

A youtube video: Why Parallel Fifths are bad This guy explains it with the "difficult for singing" perspective, but this is not enough for me..

His explanation seems off. The tenor is hard to sing with or without the other voices because of the voice leading. When the notes are rearranged the voice leading works, which makes all the voices easier to sing. It is voice leading and not parallels that make the first version harder to sing.

Also look how the tenor criss crosses above and below the bass. That also makes it hard to follow. If the bass didn't go down a sixth then the tenor wouldn't overlap.

If parallels were more difficult to sing, then how do you explain early music?

Like is this really an explanation about "why" parallel fifths are "bad"? (Btw, my main theory book makes a point of saying that they are not bad, just not how music was done during that period).

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#1590915 - 01/05/11 04:59 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: keystring]
gsmonks Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring
Some of this might be potentially confusing. I had to read this twice: "(before there were intervals)." Unless you play only one note, there are always intervals. But I think you mean that people weren't thinking in terms of intervals even melodically, but how they were going up and down some scale (which of course consists of intervals).Intervals are still there somehow, however.


There were no intervals at the time because there was no polyphony. Plain chant consisted of a single line of music. The overall scale was the Gamut, an 11-line stave that was the predecessor of the treble and bass clef + the C leger line.

Before you start thinking about secular music of the day, remember that we're talking about monks who were very strictly sequestered from the rest of society, and a very strict church code which banned any outside influence.

Also remember that all instruments were banned from this milieu, and that only the vox humanis (human voice) was allowed.

In terms of voice movement (which is where such terms came from), they weren't thinking in terms of intervals. Voices moved by step and by leap, not by interval.

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#1590918 - 01/05/11 05:10 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
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Over time plain chant composers introduced various types of tuning devices out of necessity, and various types of experimental instruments began being built, because theorists (this is before we began thinking of them as "composers") naturally wanted to explore the possibilities.

We're not talking about instruments like a lute, lyre or guitar, here. We're talking about something like a dulcimer with multiple moveable bridges, because the theorists were exploring Pythagorian ideas of modes, pitch and tuning, the latter of which resulted in Pythagoras' revolutionary discovery of the manner in which the modes belong to an overall system, prior to which it wasn't understood that there was an underlying structure to which all the Greek modes belonged.

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#1590925 - 01/05/11 05:35 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
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I should point out that the instruments I mention were made to study, not to play. They were instruments more in a scientific than a musical sense.

Also, theorists at the time were steeped in the mathematics of tuning and intonation, which in turn led directly to their developoment of polyphony, and the invention of "just" intonation.

In many ways they knew far more about music than most musicians living today. People today just bash and thrash around on ready-made instruments. The theorists we're talking about here made those instruments possible, and knew all the ins and outs of how the music played on them came to be.

The entire study of how the rules came to be entails a huge body of knowledge accumulated over a period of over two-thousand years. Those who have studied the subject are really the only ones qualified to answer your question. Otherwise, all you're getting is the opinions of students and laymen.

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#1591013 - 01/05/11 09:53 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Originally Posted By: gsmonks


Also, theorists at the time were steeped in the mathematics of tuning and intonation, which in turn led directly to their developoment of polyphony, and the invention of "just" intonation.

In many ways they knew far more about music than most musicians living today. People today just bash and thrash around on ready-made instruments. The theorists we're talking about here made those instruments possible, and knew all the ins and outs of how the music played on them came to be.

The entire study of how the rules came to be entails a huge body of knowledge accumulated over a period of over two-thousand years. Those who have studied the subject are really the only ones qualified to answer your question. Otherwise, all you're getting is the opinions of students and laymen.


This is also interesting. I feel I didn't truly start to understand what I put forth in the original post til I got a clavichord---partially because as a clavichord player one is generally encouraged to learn how to tune it oneself, there are no clavichord tuners in town. There are some very good sources/books by modern clavichord/harpsichord makers. The one I have, "Clavichord Tuning and Maintenance," by british clavichord maker Peter Bavington, has an excellent explanation of temperament, tuning, techniques, and tuning schemes. I'm no expert on this material yet, but have done enough experimentation and reading to understand what he's talking about. I could be wrong about this, but I'm not so certain that most of these guys were "steeped in mathematics," I think it is more likely they were "steeped in sound." I mean I'm sure some did study it mathematically, but in terms of practical musicianship I think more of them thought purely in terms of sound. That's how this book treats temperament, and it makes it a very approachable subject.

I find that as I am studying tuning as well as playing the clavichord, my awareness of the sweetness of various concords is heightened. An equal temperament major third is wide, and actually kind of harsh compared to the softer, more consonant thirds found in some of the older temperaments. The clear sound of the clavichord makes this more noticeable than the piano.

A lot of the old tunings were based on getting certain numbers of keys to have sweet or acceptable sounding thirds in them, I think this was the goal. In fact, in meantone temperament, the purity of fifths is sacrificed to the most tolerably impure level in order to get at sweeter thirds.

So while it is tempting to view the 2000 years of development and long succession of geniuses with obsequious deference, I choose to view it as a source of practical ideas for modern, private music making that pays homage to an older style. I choose to try to find simple ideas from which I can derive personal explanations for how/why they made the sounds they did, rather than acquiring an encyclopedic knowledge of all the theoretical split hairs that came after all those old geniuses died.

I also choose not to restrict myself entirely to what they did in the past...I just felt, for myself, that it was an important musical "rite of passage" to understand how baroque music works. Now I am free to use it or not use it as I please---I won't avoid it simply because I don't understand it, now. I'm sure for many others this is not even an interesting thing to pursue and it is quite sufficient to simply explore making one's own sounds, but for whatever reason it was definitely important to me.

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#1591072 - 01/05/11 11:17 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
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Clarichords and harpsichords (real ones- not modern ones with fixed bridges) are an excellent example. I recall back in university how many piano majors were horrified when they saw their workings for the first time. Kind of like the expressions on the faces of people in gym class when told to run a bunch of extra laps.

Ah, no, they knew their math, and left behind plenty of treatises as proof. It's the same when you build and do major repairs on brass instruments (which I do). There is plenty of math involved. A lot of things are repetetive, and in those cases you do develop shortcuts, but when a specialty item comes your way, you hve to know what you're doing. And every instrument builder/repairer has a few horror stories under his belt caused by assuming he knew what he was doing.

The genius thing is a myth. It was the culture of the times that produced the interests involved. What has been lost, unfortunately, is the genuine understanding of what makes music work. This is an age of bashers and thrashers who for the most part don't know anything about the workings of music.

Some good examples of this are found in this thread. There is the prevailing assumption, for example, that the rules were arrived at arbitrarily, or simply as a matter of convention. Assumptions like this are the direct result of a lack of knowledge.

Certainly, you are free to pick and choose from the detritus of the past. Each successive generation has done so, and has also looked to other cultures. Learn about citar tunings, apply that to the clavichord, and you'll literally hear chords that don't exist in the world of equal temperament, some of which are absolutely gorgeous.

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#1591079 - 01/05/11 11:30 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
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About parallels "wrong", I found the passage in my theory book:

Quote:
This parallel movement produces what is called parallel or consecutive 5ths and 8ves, which are a particular style featured belonging to medieval times. Many people are under the impresion that to write consecutive 5ths or 8ves is wrong. This is a false impression created by many theorists; to write consecutive 5ths or 8ves is to write in the style of the medieval period. Such interval combinations, however, are not characteristic of the common practice period, and should be avoided when writing in this harmonic style.**


BBB, did you have a chance to listen to the links that I posted? These explain the different temperaments and how they are chosen by violinists, when, and why, but also lets us hear.


**Materials of Western Music, W. Andrews, M. Sclater, p. 64

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#1591132 - 01/05/11 12:53 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Originally Posted By: gsmonks
Some good examples of this are found in this thread. There is the prevailing assumption, for example, that the rules were arrived at arbitrarily, or simply as a matter of convention. Assumptions like this are the direct result of a lack of knowledge.


I think it must be a mix, don't you? I think it is pretty clear that concord intervals are really "there" in nature. That's something we can observe objectively; it is a fact. To go from there and start tempering the concords to get at more playable keys or to sacrifice certain sounds for the sake of others is where subjectivity comes in. After that, if you want to continue emphasizing certain sounds, there will probably be objective guidelines for producing that emphasis (common practice era theory).

Rhythm on the other hand, as I brought up in another thread, seems more arbitrary to me. Can anyone come up with an objective reason why notated baroque music would predominantly follow certain conventions of meter? I can't think of one. So I'm willing to bet that the reasons for the way the old music sounded is a complex mix of things. Thirds exist. They liked thirds (and sixths, and tenths and etc.), and found objective rules to emphasize them. They decided they liked even rhythm better, but as far as I can tell this was more like an arbitrary choice than an objective reason.

*edit* the only reason I can think of was that it is easy to notate even rhythms, and takes more thought and effort to notate uneven rhythms. I know some older "fantasias" were written with only suggestive note values, and no barlines..so I guess that is the closest we ever came to notating free rhythm pieces. Probably the only true way for recording music with complex rhythm is to record it. I'm not certain how far I will personally go with rhythm in the context of baroque, but I find it an interesting personal discovery that this is orthogonal to the baroque sound and can be incorporated or not incorporated, yet still sound baroque (to me, personally).


Edited by BBB (01/05/11 01:10 PM)

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#1591133 - 01/05/11 12:57 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: keystring]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring
About parallels "wrong", I found the passage in my theory book:

Quote:
This parallel movement produces what is called parallel or consecutive 5ths and 8ves, which are a particular style featured belonging to medieval times. Many people are under the impresion that to write consecutive 5ths or 8ves is wrong. This is a false impression created by many theorists; to write consecutive 5ths or 8ves is to write in the style of the medieval period. Such interval combinations, however, are not characteristic of the common practice period, and should be avoided when writing in this harmonic style.**


BBB, did you have a chance to listen to the links that I posted? These explain the different temperaments and how they are chosen by violinists, when, and why, but also lets us hear.


**Materials of Western Music, W. Andrews, M. Sclater, p. 64

I haven't had a chance to check that out yet, but I may at some point, thanks for the link. I can't imagine learning to play in different temperaments by ear with a fretless instrument, that there is anyone out there that can do that truly amazes me! It's enough for me to painstakingly tune my clavichord and then forget about it for a few months while I enjoy it in fresh tuning. Cool thing is, this instrument lets me get away with vibratos despite not forcing me to have an exceedingly precise "real time tuning" ear.

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#1591164 - 01/05/11 01:33 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
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Well, there is a musical feel side to it. I was an adult violin student but had to break off my studies. I couldn't relate to the technical mathematical kind of explanation, but I could relate to it otherwise. I had movable do solfege as a kid, and you get that movement up and down the scale or mode that gsmonks was talking about. You are also singing Ti (^7) closer than a half step to Do, and Mi Fa (^3 ^4) are closer than a half step. This enhances the feeling of the movement of tendency tones and the sense of being in that key. I never knew I was doing that because it seemed so natural. This is something happening in melodic line.

The other intonation is for harmony, for example when you play doublestops = 2 notes sounding together. You don't think mathematically: you listen for a sweet sound where it clicks together.

Then there are these musical effects that you reach for, which is in one of the other masterclass lessons in that clip. Math can only get you that far.

I understand that wind players have to do another kind of listening because of the physics of their instrument. So maybe every type of instrument gives us different kinds of insights.

Btw, the clavichord sounds like a cool instrument from what you have described.

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#1591190 - 01/05/11 02:01 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: keystring]
Derek Andrews Offline
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keystring: I enjoyed that last post. I wonder if singers have to think about intonation in a similar way to violin players? My sister encountered challenges while singing with a band. She received pressure to have everything autotuned, but turned it down and preferred to deal with the acoustic challenge of singing with a variety of instruments. The keyboard of course is tuned in equal temperament, but I'm not sure how guitars work. I *think* they would be in equal temperament, but I feel like I've read that they sometimes don't quite mesh with keyboards either. I'm not even sure what the autotuner does, maybe it puts everything into mathematically perfect intervals no matter what key something is being played in, producing an unrealistically perfect harmony. It'd be interesting to find out what autotuning really does: equal temperament, or absolutely pure concords wherever possible?

gsmonk: I didn't mean to imply I thought that composers/musicians of the past never used math to study temperament, of course they did, I only meant to suggest that perhaps not every single one of them bothered with it and they learned a practical, sound based way of tempering scales. That this is possible and approachable today suggests to me that it was possible and approachable in the past. I of course could be wrong, I'm still a n00b to the world of non equal temperament.

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#1591191 - 01/05/11 02:02 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
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The subject of rhythm is another biggie, BBB. The foreword of Walter Piston's Counterpoint brought it to my attention back in the early 70's. I can't recall his exact words off-hand, but suffice it to sayt that rhythm is "the road not taken" in classical music. As has been pointed out, there are oodles of examples, but zero explanations. You can purchase books on all types of rhythms from around the world, but no treatise exists on how it works.

I've been working on such a treatise for the past thirty years or so, but I'm afraid it's doomed to remain a work in progress, because the scientific area of the study of rhythm is still in its infancy.

This is not to say that I didn't make some headway. Beyond the notation, I was able to take some inferences in terms of perception and pursue them to varying degrees.

One thing I found is that musicians tend not to have figured out how to make rhythm evolve or progress within a given piece of music. We all know the Darius-Milhaud-type of example of advising young composers to travel the world, so seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. Or was that Captain Kirk? Anyway, we all know examples of musicians who have followed like advice, such as Dave Brubeck and Sting.

Their downfall, however, is that, although they came across interesting things, they were never able to decipher their workings to the point where they could come up with their own constructs, nor could they make their rhythms, new and/or old, progress or evolve.

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#1591197 - 01/05/11 02:14 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
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By the way, BBB, you have to remember that the early singers and composers (of the kind of music we're talking about) worked within a closed, highly regimented system. These guys were singing rigidly controlled religious music. They experienced nothing like the freedom of being able to noodle around in their free time. Every waking hour of every day was a stylised, formalised, structured affair. The notions we have of personal rights and freedoms would have been completely alien to their way of seeing the world and their place in it.

BTW- I think you mean "newb" or "newbie". A noob is something else altogether.

This is an example of how modern urban dictionaries define the term:

<<II. Defining 'Noob'

<<Contrary to the belief of many, a noob/n00b and a newbie/newb are not the same thing. Newbs are those who are new to some task* and are very beginner at it, possibly a little overconfident about it, but they are willing to learn and fix their errors to move out of that stage. n00bs, on the other hand, know little and have no will to learn any more. They expect people to do the work for them and then expect to get praised about it, and make up a unique species of their own. It is the latter we will study in this guide so that the reader is prepared to encounter them in the wil...>>

From urbandictionary.com

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#1591215 - 01/05/11 02:41 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
david_a Offline
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Originally Posted By: BBB
Originally Posted By: david_a
I don't think the idea of preferring thirds over fifths holds much water. I would really like to see some kind of evidence and not just speculation, before I would even think it worthy of discussion.


I may not have fully explained my posts. A lot of what I have said is admittedly my personal experience, not something I'd expect everyone to immediately accept at face value.

My experience went like this:
-started playing a kawaii upright piano back in 2000, learning various scales and basic improvisation

-began striving to learn a bit about theory, resulting mostly in failure due to being a terrible student and hating study of any kind

-met Ted Jones, a member of this forum and another forum, and he gave me some practical advice which for whatever reason was way more useful to me than any traditional teaching I had encountered

-I got a lot better at improvisation, particularly romantic improvisation with an emphasis on exploring my own harmonies. I found that without studying much theory, I tended towards traditional harmony without having received specific advice about it from Ted. Thus, there must be a reason why I gravitated in that direction. I must have liked something about the sound.

-Strove to try to improvise in the baroque style, resulting mostly in failure but increasingly small successes over the years. This may be due to lack of talent but probably also due to believing incorrectly that I would have to study music theory for years in order to do so.

-eventually got a digital piano. For whatever reason, I found my skill improved more than I expected, mainly in the romantic idiom. I continued to learn more intuitively during this time about traditional harmony, but still found the baroque sound to be a tough nut to crack.


Now, here's where I reach the point in my experience where for me, all the ideas I've put forth very much do "hold water." Whether or not they make sense to others doesn't matter to me...

I got a clavichord---and within a few short months a wide number of fragmented ideas I had collected over the 10 years I've been improvising all connected, and I suddenly found that improvising in the baroque style made perfect sense to me, and the reason it sounds the way it does makes perfect sense. The vast majority of this revelation is admittedly intuitive, so describing it in an over simplistic manner as I did as "thirds emphasis" is probably inadequate, but it is the best I could do in a single forum post.

I've still got my water. In other words, what I posted was not speculation, it was an attempt at explaining an intuitive revelation, or connection, that I had been striving to make, with my goal of learning to improvise in the baroque style.

I guess my hope was that if I shared these ideas, maybe someone else out there who was interested in this sort of music might get a switch flipped and it might help them. You never know...

Let me translate what I wrote earlier: I think you're completely on the wrong track with the thirds thing. I think this particular intuitive revelation is just a plain old mistake. But if you can show some written evidence, I'm happy to be proved wrong.
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#1591223 - 01/05/11 02:57 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: david_a]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Originally Posted By: david_a
Originally Posted By: BBB
Originally Posted By: david_a
I don't think the idea of preferring thirds over fifths holds much water. I would really like to see some kind of evidence and not just speculation, before I would even think it worthy of discussion.


I may not have fully explained my posts. A lot of what I have said is admittedly my personal experience, not something I'd expect everyone to immediately accept at face value.

My experience went like this:
-started playing a kawaii upright piano back in 2000, learning various scales and basic improvisation

-began striving to learn a bit about theory, resulting mostly in failure due to being a terrible student and hating study of any kind

-met Ted Jones, a member of this forum and another forum, and he gave me some practical advice which for whatever reason was way more useful to me than any traditional teaching I had encountered

-I got a lot better at improvisation, particularly romantic improvisation with an emphasis on exploring my own harmonies. I found that without studying much theory, I tended towards traditional harmony without having received specific advice about it from Ted. Thus, there must be a reason why I gravitated in that direction. I must have liked something about the sound.

-Strove to try to improvise in the baroque style, resulting mostly in failure but increasingly small successes over the years. This may be due to lack of talent but probably also due to believing incorrectly that I would have to study music theory for years in order to do so.

-eventually got a digital piano. For whatever reason, I found my skill improved more than I expected, mainly in the romantic idiom. I continued to learn more intuitively during this time about traditional harmony, but still found the baroque sound to be a tough nut to crack.


Now, here's where I reach the point in my experience where for me, all the ideas I've put forth very much do "hold water." Whether or not they make sense to others doesn't matter to me...

I got a clavichord---and within a few short months a wide number of fragmented ideas I had collected over the 10 years I've been improvising all connected, and I suddenly found that improvising in the baroque style made perfect sense to me, and the reason it sounds the way it does makes perfect sense. The vast majority of this revelation is admittedly intuitive, so describing it in an over simplistic manner as I did as "thirds emphasis" is probably inadequate, but it is the best I could do in a single forum post.

I've still got my water. In other words, what I posted was not speculation, it was an attempt at explaining an intuitive revelation, or connection, that I had been striving to make, with my goal of learning to improvise in the baroque style.

I guess my hope was that if I shared these ideas, maybe someone else out there who was interested in this sort of music might get a switch flipped and it might help them. You never know...

Let me translate what I wrote earlier: I think you're completely on the wrong track with the thirds thing. I think this particular intuitive revelation is just a plain old mistake. But if you can show some written evidence, I'm happy to be proved wrong.


I don't understand how you can claim this is a mistake when I've clearly stated that it has helped me learn to create my own baroque music. Alright, well maybe it is a mistake and makes no sense at all. Mistake or not, it helped me learn something about baroque music. This wasn't idle discussion or speculation on my part; it was an attempt to explain something which HAS WORKED for me. I didn't expect it to immediately work for others...the process of creating music is an intensely personal enterprise and nobody can be expected to pick up "someone else's" intuition from a few forum posts.

I think the only thing for which we can provide hard scientific evidence is the existence of concords and discords. Beyond that, a personal set of intuitive guidelines, such as my idea of basing everything on thirds and their inversions, cannot be "wrong" if it works for me personally. If it ends up informing or helping someone else, then great...if not...nobody has been harmed by it. so I'm afraid I can't provide "evidence" as I didn't state something for which I need to provide evidence. The only thing I could provide as evidence would be "before" and "after" recordings of myself making an attempt at creating my own baroque music. The problem there is that, I may perceive an improvement, others may perceive all kinds of flaws that I'm not really interested in hearing about, because both the "before" and "after" attempts I may post gave me pleasure when I created them, and do today. That's all I'm after...taking pleasure in personal music making.

*edit* I'll admit in some of my posts I may have made it sound like the old composers must have had some sort of similar simple "emphasize thirds and their inversions" principle that guided them. Perhaps this is where I am wrong; though I still don't see how "right or wrong" applies here, since they very well may have been doing exactly what I described, but never bothered to verbalize it as I have chosen to do for myself. In other words, maybe it was simply taken for granted for years that certain sounds should be emphasized, because of how new and beautiful all those sounds were. Now that post modernism has torn everything down, I find it of personal importance that I discover a good reason "why" the old music sounded the way it did without taking it for granted. What I have described satisfies this, for me.


Edited by BBB (01/05/11 03:09 PM)

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#1591594 - 01/06/11 01:54 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: gsmonks

There were no intervals at the time because there was no polyphony. Plain chant consisted of a single line of music.

How are you defining interval? If I sing the pitch C and then sing the pitch D, then I have moved up a step, which is an interval or distance between two notes. I think that you are saying that there were no harmonic intervals, meaning that one voice sings C, while another sings D, so that we hear C and D at the same time. That is what I tried to clarify the first time round.

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#1591603 - 01/06/11 02:26 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
david_a Offline
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Originally Posted By: BBB

*edit* I'll admit in some of my posts I may have made it sound like the old composers must have had some sort of similar simple "emphasize thirds and their inversions" principle that guided them.
This was exactly where I misunderstood you, and is exactly what I think there is no evidence for.

I have heard quite a bit of music in neo-baroque styles, and some of it I have liked as music; but I have never found any of it even remotely convincing, as baroque music.

But if what you're saying is that you have found a satisfying theory that fits your own neo-baroque music, separate from real baroque music (criteria number one for "real baroque" being that its composer's musical education was completed in the 17th or early 18th century), then that makes perfect sense.
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#1591633 - 01/06/11 04:50 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: keystring]
gsmonks Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: gsmonks

There were no intervals at the time because there was no polyphony. Plain chant consisted of a single line of music.

How are you defining interval? If I sing the pitch C and then sing the pitch D, then I have moved up a step, which is an interval or distance between two notes. I think that you are saying that there were no harmonic intervals, meaning that one voice sings C, while another sings D, so that we hear C and D at the same time. That is what I tried to clarify the first time round.


An interval is the distance between two notes. During the plain chant era there were descriptions of how notes moved, which was by step or by leap. The distance between notes wasn't a consideration.

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#1591636 - 01/06/11 05:00 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: david_a]
gsmonks Offline
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Originally Posted By: david_a
Originally Posted By: BBB

*edit* I'll admit in some of my posts I may have made it sound like the old composers must have had some sort of similar simple "emphasize thirds and their inversions" principle that guided them.
This was exactly where I misunderstood you, and is exactly what I think there is no evidence for.


That's incorrect, David. The pre-and post-Palestrina era is the very embodiment of such evidence. The ideal at the time was to achieve perfect sonority (which is why the nomenclature of the day was full of such affectations as the term "perfection", referring to perfect octaves, fourths, fifths, and because of "just" intonation, thirds and sixths).

Fourths and fifths were deemed dissonant at the time, whereas unisons, thirds and sixths were given preferential treatment.

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#1591733 - 01/06/11 09:25 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: david_a]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Originally Posted By: david_a
Originally Posted By: BBB

*edit* I'll admit in some of my posts I may have made it sound like the old composers must have had some sort of similar simple "emphasize thirds and their inversions" principle that guided them.
This was exactly where I misunderstood you, and is exactly what I think there is no evidence for.

I have heard quite a bit of music in neo-baroque styles, and some of it I have liked as music; but I have never found any of it even remotely convincing, as baroque music.

But if what you're saying is that you have found a satisfying theory that fits your own neo-baroque music, separate from real baroque music (criteria number one for "real baroque" being that its composer's musical education was completed in the 17th or early 18th century), then that makes perfect sense.


Well I can't really argue with that as I'm not 340+ years old! =)

So you've never heard any modern composer, well known or not well known, anywhere in the world, compose convincing baroque music? I'm certain I've heard some talented amateurs compose very good baroque music. They aren't going to sound exactly like bach nor should they. But it's definitely baroque.

Also, while I can't learn directly from a living "real" baroque composer, they certainly left behind a gigantic pile of music for me and other like minded amateurs to learn from. So you're right, my process may end up totally different from the way they really did things back then...but why would I want it to be exactly the same?

So, since Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and so forth are all dead, does that mean my father is not a "real" boogie woogie player because he didn't learn to play in the same era?


Edited by BBB (01/06/11 09:29 AM)

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#1591741 - 01/06/11 09:31 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Originally Posted By: gsmonks
Originally Posted By: david_a
Originally Posted By: BBB

*edit* I'll admit in some of my posts I may have made it sound like the old composers must have had some sort of similar simple "emphasize thirds and their inversions" principle that guided them.
This was exactly where I misunderstood you, and is exactly what I think there is no evidence for.


That's incorrect, David. The pre-and post-Palestrina era is the very embodiment of such evidence. The ideal at the time was to achieve perfect sonority (which is why the nomenclature of the day was full of such affectations as the term "perfection", referring to perfect octaves, fourths, fifths, and because of "just" intonation, thirds and sixths).

Fourths and fifths were deemed dissonant at the time, whereas unisons, thirds and sixths were given preferential treatment.


Yes, when I initially just said "thirds," I really meant "thirds and their inversions." So thirds, sixths, tenths and their even wider equivalents.

Also, my original post is an over simplification. I think it is clear that the baroque composers enjoyed dissonance as well, but they, perhaps subjectively, decided to always treat dissonance as something that "arouses the passions" and consonance as something that "calms them." (I recall reading a similar statement in CPE Bach's True Art of playing Keyboard Instruments). This is where the objective "finding consonant intervals in nature" starts to blur into the subjective. I think if I were to imagine myself as someone experimenting with musical intervals back then, I'd probably find consonant intervals more pleasing than dissonant ones *at first*. I might, because of religion or what not, believe that the consonant intervals were placed there by God. I might derive more pleasure from them as a result of all of these things. Then, I might proceed to consider dissonance as something that I would want to always tend dowards consonance. To me, all this seems like a natural, human reaction to initial discovery of sounds in nature. Today of course, we can let dissonances stand on their own and be interesting entities in and of themselves. But back then, they kept that "initial reaction" to consonance and dissonance as a guiding principle for their composition.

To me, that "initial reaction" seems to be one that I share. I love the sound of dissonance resolving into consonance (or proceeding from consonance to dissonance and then anticipating resolution at some point), it gives me a lot of pleasure. More so than compositions which are based entirely on standing, non functional dissonant intervals. Or compositions that simply ignore the interplay between consonance and dissonance. Sometimes there are composers which, while composing, do not pay attention to this, but still produce an interplay between consonance and dissonance that I enjoy.

It took me a long time to finally arrive there after listening very broadly, and indeed sometimes enjoying a lot of the weird modern stuff. I think the furthest I can still go and enjoy it is late scriabin...when you get up to schoenberg and all the rest I don't understand it. I like to improvise it sometimes, that can be fun, but as music I don't value it.


Edited by BBB (01/06/11 09:46 AM)

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#1591781 - 01/06/11 10:14 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: gsmonks

An interval is the distance between two notes. During the plain chant era there were descriptions of how notes moved, which was by step or by leap. The distance between notes wasn't a consideration.

Are you defining intervals as the distance between two notes that are sung at the same time, i.e. harmonic intervals?

If there are two stones which are 2 feet apart, and if I stand on those two stones at the same time, then my feet are 2 feet apart. If I hop from the first stone to the second stone, then I have hopped 2 feet. The 2 feet refers to that distance, and that distance doesn't change. That is how I understand interval and how it's taught over here.

When the music was sung in plain chant, they sang along the gamut, and the notes of that gamut were spaced a certain distance from each other. They sang one note, and then the next note, and by doing so they traveled a given distance, which I understand to be the movement of an interval. When you write of step or leap, I have always understood that to also involve a certain distance that is being traveled. In a modern major scale, when you move from Do to Mi, then you have skipped Re, but there is also a distance from Do to Mi which you have traveled.

When I read that there were no intervals, then I read that to mean that there was no distance between two notes even melodically, and that made no sense, and precisely why I got stuck on that sentence. But if you say there were no *harmonic intervals*, because no two notes were ever sung at the same time, then that does make sense.

We are taught to think of harmonic and melodic interval, then do you consider that to be a misteaching? This is the point where I am stuck with your explanation. It DOES make sense if you are thinking of interval as only concerning when two notes are produced at the same time.


Edited by keystring (01/06/11 10:43 AM)

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#1591931 - 01/06/11 01:12 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
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Yes, Keystring, I was referring to harmonic intervals.

The monks would rise at the crack of dawn for Matins, sing plain chant for a while from little books containing 4-stave scores, go do their morning chores while a few of their number prepared some gruel, had breakfast, then went out working. They didn't think anything about the music, as it was a devotional matter like prayer.

Matins was part of the Liturgy, and during such events the public would enter the abbey. The monks were hidden from sight by curtains and/or a heavy latticework.

The harmonic/melodic aspects of music are indeed taught in a muddled way today. I've been quite taken aback at how poorly these subjects are taught in most modern universities.

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#1591939 - 01/06/11 01:18 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
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BBB, the difference between Palestrina's and Bach's counterpoint is dissonance. Palestrina and his contemporaries used none, Bach's is full of 4ths, 5ths, diatonic 7ths, accented passing notes, pedals at various intervals, suspensions and appoggiaturas. The beauty of the sound of Baroque music is produced through the liberal use of dissonance, just as the etherially sublime sound of Palestrina's music is produced by the utter lack of dissonance.

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#1591947 - 01/06/11 01:27 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Originally Posted By: gsmonks
BBB, the difference between Palestrina's and Bach's counterpoint is dissonance. Palestrina and his contemporaries used none, Bach's is full of 4ths, 5ths, diatonic 7ths, accented passing notes, pedals at various intervals, suspensions and appoggiaturas. The beauty of the sound of Baroque music is produced through the liberal use of dissonance, just as the etherially sublime sound of Palestrina's music is produced by the utter lack of dissonance.


Because of this thread I actually listened to a bit of Palestrina today on youtube, I had never done so before. This is certainly a learning experience. Wouldn't you agree, however, that even with the liberal use of dissonance in Bach's time, there was still this strong tendency towards things aligning in triads, or moving in parallel thirds and sixths etc. In other words---the baroque composers found more creative ways to accentuate the satisfaction of aligning on thirds (triads) with dissonance. It wasn't until much later that dissonant chords began standing on their own for longer and longer periods, until they were no longer functional chords.

From what little I listened to of Palestrina, it sounds like he does use dissonance, but resolves it much more quickly than one often hears in later music. The effect is much smoother. I'm also fascinated by the intonation of human voices singing this kind of music, it is really gorgeous.

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#1591962 - 01/06/11 01:47 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: gsmonks
Yes, Keystring, I was referring to harmonic intervals.

That clears everything for me. Thanks. smile

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#1591969 - 01/06/11 01:55 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
david_a Offline
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Originally Posted By: gsmonks
Originally Posted By: david_a
Originally Posted By: BBB

*edit* I'll admit in some of my posts I may have made it sound like the old composers must have had some sort of similar simple "emphasize thirds and their inversions" principle that guided them.
This was exactly where I misunderstood you, and is exactly what I think there is no evidence for.


That's incorrect, David. The pre-and post-Palestrina era is the very embodiment of such evidence. The ideal at the time was to achieve perfect sonority (which is why the nomenclature of the day was full of such affectations as the term "perfection", referring to perfect octaves, fourths, fifths, and because of "just" intonation, thirds and sixths).

Fourths and fifths were deemed dissonant at the time, whereas unisons, thirds and sixths were given preferential treatment.
OK, thanks! What are some historical source readings for this?
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#1591977 - 01/06/11 02:04 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
david_a Offline
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Originally Posted By: BBB
Originally Posted By: david_a
Originally Posted By: BBB

*edit* I'll admit in some of my posts I may have made it sound like the old composers must have had some sort of similar simple "emphasize thirds and their inversions" principle that guided them.
This was exactly where I misunderstood you, and is exactly what I think there is no evidence for.

I have heard quite a bit of music in neo-baroque styles, and some of it I have liked as music; but I have never found any of it even remotely convincing, as baroque music.

But if what you're saying is that you have found a satisfying theory that fits your own neo-baroque music, separate from real baroque music (criteria number one for "real baroque" being that its composer's musical education was completed in the 17th or early 18th century), then that makes perfect sense.


Well I can't really argue with that as I'm not 340+ years old! =)

So you've never heard any modern composer, well known or not well known, anywhere in the world, compose convincing baroque music? I'm certain I've heard some talented amateurs compose very good baroque music. They aren't going to sound exactly like bach nor should they. But it's definitely baroque.

Also, while I can't learn directly from a living "real" baroque composer, they certainly left behind a gigantic pile of music for me and other like minded amateurs to learn from. So you're right, my process may end up totally different from the way they really did things back then...but why would I want it to be exactly the same?

So, since Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and so forth are all dead, does that mean my father is not a "real" boogie woogie player because he didn't learn to play in the same era?
Regarding "real baroque": My point is that we modern people can't un-hear Mozart, Mahler, the Beatles, and Boulez. Everything we make is influenced by our environment, and by what has come before us.


Regarding your father: Player vs. composer is an important distinction. Your father's boogie woogie style, in his own compositions, is a little different from theirs (I expect), even if he plays Pete Johnson's music just the way Johnson himself did. Imagine the huge difference there could be in new boogie woogie music two hundred years from now! (Though there might be less difference because that style is not so convoluted & complex as baroque.)
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#1592027 - 01/06/11 03:41 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
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The best thing to do, David, is find a book or two on Palestrina that goes into his music in detail. I studied his music in university well over thirty years ago, and the only material we had to work with was notes taken in class and the music itself.

This looks like it might be promising:

http://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Sixteenth-Century-Counterpoint-Palestrinas/dp/1880157071

BBB, that's exactly it- Bach counterpoint assimilated Palestrina's counterpoint. That's what is meant by the term "classical" music. The basis of the Western Classical musical tradition is the underlying classicism, which continues unbroken from its earliest origins to the present day. The classicism in question follows the rules of taxonomy, and has its analogue in Western thought. Like DNA, nothing simply pops into being. Everything is contingent upon the existing state of the form. In a very literal sense, Western classical music evolves over time.

Classical music is like art and ballet and the English language. They are forms built by assimilation, through which a line (tradition) is drawn. A few forms came together at the beginning, a revelation like Pythagoras' realisation that all the modes were part of a single system took place (the realisation of the underlying classicism), and the process of assimilation and evolution continued on from there. Newer forms were assimilated after being fitted into the scheme of things, the way a taxonomist fits a newly discovered life-form into the Tree of Life.


Edited by gsmonks (01/06/11 03:44 PM)

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#1594296 - 01/09/11 10:17 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
Steve Chandler Offline
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This isn't directly related to this discussion but covers many points and some most here have never thought of. Composer John Winsor has made his book Breaking the Sound Barrier available for public consumption. I have found much of what he has to say enlightening and instructive. He covers the development of music theory and composition from pre-organum to the present. I highly recommend reading it for anyone with an interest in composition. Don't expect to get through it in a day.

http://www.john-winsor.com/

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#1594420 - 01/10/11 03:10 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
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Ok, I might be a bit off, since I don't have tons of time to read every reply (soooo sorry about that), but...

"Rules" in theory/harmony/counterpoint/etc are there for the simplest of reasons: Some people analized what the composers of the past were doing and broke them down to rules. If you want to 'copy' that style then you have to follow the rules. If not, by all means do whatever you please.

It's simple as that. (and the parallel fifths in the Ravel concerto in G sound OH SO AMAZING, btw...).

As far as aesthetics are concerned, I'm not exactly sure on what to say: Yes, aesthetics can be taught (and have been taught for so many years, regardless if we're talking about composers or performers). And yes, personal filters play a hugely important role in what our output is. The question of why something sounds good has to do with our own ears (who else knows how WE listen to things?), with our own taste in music (our parents were putting Marilyn Manson when we were young and now that's all we can hear), our training (our piano teacher was a b * i * tz...) and so on.

Universal rules do seem to be somewhere in there, at least based on western music. The minute, though, you step outside the western modes and styles, you enter a world of microtuning, weird time signatures (traditional songs in Greece have 7/8, 9/8, 23/8 (!!!) and 15/16 (!!!!!) as time signatures for example and the same applies for most of Balcan). Is anyone capable of putting THAT down to universal rules?
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#1594509 - 01/10/11 08:40 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Steve Chandler]
gsmonks Offline
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Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler
This isn't directly related to this discussion but covers many points and some most here have never thought of. Composer John Winsor has made his book Breaking the Sound Barrier available for public consumption. I have found much of what he has to say enlightening and instructive. He covers the development of music theory and composition from pre-organum to the present. I highly recommend reading it for anyone with an interest in composition. Don't expect to get through it in a day.

http://www.john-winsor.com/


Thanks for the link! I shall certainly read it!

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#1594513 - 01/10/11 08:47 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Nikolas]
gsmonks Offline
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Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Ok, I might be a bit off, since I don't have tons of time to read every reply (soooo sorry about that), but... "Rules" in theory/harmony/counterpoint/etc are there for the simplest of reasons: Some people analized what the composers of the past were doing and broke them down to rules.


You really should have read what came before, Nikolas, because that's dead wrong. The rules were there from the beginning, and evolved right along with the music. In fact, in many cases they were there before the music- that the music evolved out of the rules. For example, Pythagoras unified the modes (what few there were), which in the process created new modes, which later were studied in terms of possibilities, in keeping with the underlying classicism of the day, before people actually began using them.

Likewise, the rules of voice-leading came from plain-chant, before there was polyphony (multi-voice writing).

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#1594766 - 01/10/11 03:12 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
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Originally Posted By: gsmonks
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Ok, I might be a bit off, since I don't have tons of time to read every reply (soooo sorry about that), but... "Rules" in theory/harmony/counterpoint/etc are there for the simplest of reasons: Some people analized what the composers of the past were doing and broke them down to rules.


You really should have read what came before, Nikolas, because that's dead wrong. The rules were there from the beginning, and evolved right along with the music. In fact, in many cases they were there before the music- that the music evolved out of the rules. For example, Pythagoras unified the modes (what few there were), which in the process created new modes, which later were studied in terms of possibilities, in keeping with the underlying classicism of the day, before people actually began using them.

Likewise, the rules of voice-leading came from plain-chant, before there was polyphony (multi-voice writing).
I'm sorry but I deadly dissagree!

First of I find that not reading the entire thread has little to do with me being wrong or not, or with what I said. I just mentioned that to make sure that if I was repeating what someone else said there was this simple reason.

Other than that I don't write tonal music and I hardly use any 'rules' (parallel fifths and the such), or voice leading as you might know it. Of course everything evolves in time and of course everyone works with some kind of 'rules' (otherwise we would be talking about million monkeys hitting the keys of the piano), but it remains that the rules mentioned by BBB seemed to go towards aesthetic rules of the past, which are there for the specific aesthetics and not in general...

Quote:
Likewise, the rules of voice-leading came from plain-chant, before there was polyphony (multi-voice writing).
So in this example... If I disregard the 'rules' of voice leading I'll either:
a. End up in something awful (highly doubt that).
b. End up in a different aesthetic that the rules lead me to.
c. don't know/don't care.

The rules ARE there to produce a somewhat defined aesthetic result! Unless we are talking about some other kind of rules, in which case I do appologize... wink
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#1594869 - 01/10/11 05:14 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Nikolas]
gsmonks Offline
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Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Originally Posted By: gsmonks
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Ok, I might be a bit off, since I don't have tons of time to read every reply (soooo sorry about that), but... "Rules" in theory/harmony/counterpoint/etc are there for the simplest of reasons: Some people analized what the composers of the past were doing and broke them down to rules.


You really should have read what came before, Nikolas, because that's dead wrong. The rules were there from the beginning, and evolved right along with the music. In fact, in many cases they were there before the music- that the music evolved out of the rules. For example, Pythagoras unified the modes (what few there were), which in the process created new modes, which later were studied in terms of possibilities, in keeping with the underlying classicism of the day, before people actually began using them.

Likewise, the rules of voice-leading came from plain-chant, before there was polyphony (multi-voice writing).
I'm sorry but I deadly dissagree!

First of I find that not reading the entire thread has little to do with me being wrong or not, or with what I said. I just mentioned that to make sure that if I was repeating what someone else said there was this simple reason.

Other than that I don't write tonal music and I hardly use any 'rules' (parallel fifths and the such), or voice leading as you might know it. Of course everything evolves in time and of course everyone works with some kind of 'rules' (otherwise we would be talking about million monkeys hitting the keys of the piano), but it remains that the rules mentioned by BBB seemed to go towards aesthetic rules of the past, which are there for the specific aesthetics and not in general...

Quote:
Likewise, the rules of voice-leading came from plain-chant, before there was polyphony (multi-voice writing).
So in this example... If I disregard the 'rules' of voice leading I'll either:
a. End up in something awful (highly doubt that).
b. End up in a different aesthetic that the rules lead me to.
c. don't know/don't care.

The rules ARE there to produce a somewhat defined aesthetic result! Unless we are talking about some other kind of rules, in which case I do appologize... wink


Nikolas, you should really go back and read. Your comments are incorrect, and sticking to your guns and not making a single attempt to listen to the facts is only serving to derail this thread.

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#1594875 - 01/10/11 05:27 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Nikolas]
Steve Chandler Offline
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The rules as they are taught now are intended to apply toward common practice tonality. Since this style of composition is generally frowned upon in academic circles it is not what's taught in college composition classes. The reality is parallel fifths have a very strong and particular sound. They tend to be be noticeable, therefore inadvertent use is a mistake that will be noticed. However, if you use them deliberately then indulge the sound by making them obvious.

Of course I haven't always taken this advice in my own music as there are ways to disguise parallel fifths (in a rich harmonic environment with lots of 7ths, 9ths etc, they tend to get lost). It's a bit like disguising ginger with garlic. My point is you should always be thinking about what you're doing and know why you're doing it.

To use a painting metaphor, a common thing done now is mixing media, a bit of watercolor here, some acrylic there, some charcoal elsewhere. It's easy to do such mixed media badly, the challenge is to make it look like it all belongs together. One concept might be a picture that starts as a charcoal sketch on one side and progresses through watercolors to full on oil paint by the other side. It's an obvious concept, that expresses evolution and it has probably already been done many times, but it's a concept that's supported by the technique. And that's really the bottom line. It's one thing to break the rules, but in so doing to you accomplish something expressive? If the answer is yes then what's the problem?

There will always be idiot critics like the one who complained that Cesar Franck used an English Horn in his Symphony and everyone knows an English Horn doesn't belong in a symphony. It's funny, because history has judged that symphony rather well. It's one of the more popular in the orchestral repertoire.

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#1594943 - 01/10/11 07:39 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
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Parallel 5ths are an exceptional example. Composers stopped using them when they fell out of fashion, which is one issue attached to them. Their second major issue is that, when it comes to rules of voice-leading, they are best avoided in contrapuntal writing, which is where they were originally excluded.

As a convention they fell out of favour because to the generation of composers immediately following the era of parallel harmonies, they sounded old-fashioned.

As a rule in voice-leading, primarily in counterpoint, they were avoided because parallel movement of that type interferes with the independence of the individual voice to which that movement belongs.

In contrapuntal terms, parallelism of any kind detracts from individual melody. This is not a bad thing when intended in an harmonic context, because many composers use an "organ-stop" technique when writing for full orchestra, whereby parts move in parallel, using instruments and voicings to create false harmonics. Bartok and Ravel were masters of the technique. There are examples to be heard in both Concerto For Orchestra and Bolero.

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#1594963 - 01/10/11 08:11 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
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Steve, the teaching of the rules today tends to vary with both the institution and the intended application. Students are taught one way if they're studying only modern music, and another way entirely if their area of study is, say, the origins of Western music. You're exactly right- it is frowned upon in academic circles, and for good reason. Students with a background in the modern approach spend a lot of time having to unlearn the beliefs of those who haven't studied what came before and who in many cases don't consider it important.

The thing is, it is important if you're a composer, because a more thorough and comprehensive understanding of past areas of discipline makes for a better composer, primarily because it makes both your ear and your comprehension more astute.

Rules are tools, and really knowing and understanding your tools allows you to get a lot more out of them. Bach's counterpoint might be out of date today, as is Palestrina's, but knowing how they work is very helpful when it comes to working on a project of your own. Any guy who used to work on muscle cars in the 60's can tell you that such knowledge is immensely helpful when it comes to working on cars, period, as opposed to working on a brand-new car, never having done as much as an oil-change before. Yes, there are new things to be learned, but that body of knowledge from the past provides both a solid framework to build upon, and the instinct and intuition to carry things further.

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#1595084 - 01/11/11 12:39 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
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Originally Posted By: gsmonks
Nikolas, you should really go back and read. Your comments are incorrect, and sticking to your guns and not making a single attempt to listen to the facts is only serving to derail this thread.
I will in due time and when time allows it (which should be today), but in the meantime, I find your posts quite funny in fact.

You claim that in this very thread there's facts... Posted by who and where and how? What if I told you that I've been studying music for sooooo long that I do have my own "facts" to believe in? Unless we are talking about something different I find that your persistent claim that I'm simply wrong (and more over that in this thread are facts to which I'd have to fully agree for some reason?!?!?!... in music aesthetics? Facts?) to be entering the realm of annoying.

Or even better, how about you attempt to answer to my own questions, instead of claiming I'm wrong simply because I did not read the entire thread! I mean really... If I was you I'd attempt to state a few 'facts' to myself in order to bring the thread back to its rails. wink How about that!?!?


Edited by Nikolas (01/11/11 12:42 AM)
Edit Reason: spelling...
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#1595103 - 01/11/11 01:34 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Nikolas]
Nikolas Online   content
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gsmonks: I read the thread. Here's my understanding:

1. There isn't a single shread of evidence in this thread, to be taken as 'facts'. So your persistance in this seems a bit off at best.
2. Keystring already mentioned what I did with this quote from a book he owns in page 4 (or 3?) of this thread. Common practice avoided parallel movement because of clashing with the current common practice aesthetics pretty much. It's not so hardcore in my opinion, but it does boil down to historic and aesthetic reasons rather than some kind of universal rules.
3. What I did find quit funny, which is pretty much the same as my lost post, was your tendency to claim that someone is 'wrong', or 'dead wrong', or 'making a mistake'. heh...

________________________________

To get back to the thread, in order not to derail it with personal chit chat with gsmonks.

I find that when you start mentioning the word "rules" you are already entering a grey (or is it gray?) area.

I, personally (<-WOW! a personal opinion... not a fact... what do you know), have doubts that classical composers were going 'by the book', or with the handbook next to them in order to avoid making any 'wrongdoings'. On the contrary they did devise some of the rules (otherwise you're not much of a composer. I mean either make your own set of rules, or at least evolve some existing ones), kept some of the older, went by practice (ouch... the soprano CANNOT sing that high... let's lower that high E, or get a coloratoura sopraon (?)), and by avoiding what was already there.

It's a combination of all.

a. To sound good.
b. To avoid difficult stuff for performers.
c. To avoid entering different aesthetics.
d. To follow on what other composers did.

Until rather recent times, the aim was to sound good, or at least acceptable. This explains "a". Until the 20th century, the aime was also to facilitate performers. Until Ives (who didn't give a rats... tail about perfomers, or other notable composers who disregarded alltogehter performers), people did want their music to be possible to be performed live. In that sense Ives was trully ahead of his time by 90some years! This explains "b". "c" seems to be self explanatory. I'm also attempting to come up with something somewhat new, rather than imitate the old. And this includes knowing the work of the previous composers and finding ways to using new tools, or changing the existing. "d" is also self explanatory: Depending on with which teacher you sit with, this is the kind of lessons you'll learn (awful translation of a greek saying).
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#1595129 - 01/11/11 04:21 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Dara Online   blank
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Registered: 06/18/09
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I enjoyed reading your posting Nikolas.
And just when it got to the end, and read your last sentence.... it was funny to hear you say, "awful translation of a greek saying"

I just started reading a few nights ago, "Zorba the Greek", and enjoying it. Would love to read it in the original language as there is such wonderful humour and spirit in the telling of this story.

The word "rules" can have a very rigid connotation to it, as in very controlled and predictable.

I don't believe composers need to know all rules throughout western music tradition to observe, perceive and develop new pattern and orginization of compositional practices, whichever musical genre that may be in.

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#1595131 - 01/11/11 04:38 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Nikolas Online   content
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Thank you Dara!

I was in a hurry, but hope that the saying makes sense... And, yes, Zorba the Greek is an excellent book. Too bad that the film was certainly not up to par with the book itself! (which seems to be the case for 95% of all films taken from books).

And, as I already said, I think that "rules" is such a strong word which brings in mind negative things and rigid control! That is not to say that one should disregard common practice, history or anything similar, but really... that there are other ways to do thing and the idea of 'right' and 'wrong' is simply misleading! smile
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#1595142 - 01/11/11 05:02 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Dara Online   blank
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Yes, I understood the saying. For myself, I take "teacher" in a very broad way, often not recognized consciously, at any one time.

I haven't seen the film.... certainly books are entirely another matter, though often brilliant films have proceeded from inspiration taken from books and writing.

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#1595266 - 01/11/11 10:40 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
gsmonks Offline
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***Deleted by moderator***


Edited by BB Player (01/11/11 02:55 PM)
Edit Reason: Personal attacks deleted

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#1595300 - 01/11/11 11:29 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
keystring Online   content
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This thread is interesting to a lot of us. I request that it remain on topic -- meaning musical considerations instead of attempts to prevent others from presenting their point of view, or undermining them. It is one thing to counter someone's factual statements with other factual statements. It is quite another to write that a person doesn't what they are talking about, and go on about that person's stated lack of knowledge. It is not enjoyable reading for the rest of us. You had some interesting things to say about music, gsmonks. I would be quite interested in reading more such information. Thank you.

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#1595386 - 01/11/11 02:18 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: gsmonks]
Nikolas Online   content
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** Post deleted due to deletion of the above post **


Edited by Nikolas (01/11/11 06:44 PM)
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#1595413 - 01/11/11 02:59 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
BB Player Offline


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Let me suggest that some of the posters have a look at the forum rules, in particular:
Quote:
Discuss what has been said, not the person who said it. Feel free to disagree, even strongly, with something someone has said but note that they're as entitled to their opinion as you are and just because they don't share your opinion doesn't mean they're wrong or deserving of abuse.
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#1595547 - 01/11/11 06:33 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Derek Andrews Offline
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I really think it is as simple as the following:

-thirds, sixths, tenths, etc. exist in nature. Those are definitely not arbitrary.

-whether or not we really enjoy the sound of these particular intervals is subjective.

-taken on their own, the sound of concords is very much on the borderline of being inherently pleasant compared to discords. However, like strong coffee or spicy food, once you gain a taste for discords they can stand on their own.

-it is understandable that people who were first studying musical intervals would want to exaggerate concords. There are fewer of them, and thus their discoverers must have felt they were extra special.

-since they wanted to exaggerate certain concords, they can then proceed to objectively develop rules to aid in this pursuit.

Therefore, there are no universal rules, but understandable objective reasons for why rules were developed to effect certain ends.

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#1595548 - 01/11/11 06:35 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
sudoplatov Offline
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Think of the "rules" somewhat like physics "laws." They are observed "regularities" taken from the practice of those acknowledged to be "good composers."

That's sort of a non-philosophical version. There may (but I don't think so) a psysiological reason behind the rules. Other cultures have other rules.

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#1595621 - 01/11/11 08:48 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: BB Player]
gsmonks Offline
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Originally Posted By: BB Player
Let me suggest that some of the posters have a look at the forum rules, in particular:
Quote:
Discuss what has been said, not the person who said it. Feel free to disagree, even strongly, with something someone has said but note that they're as entitled to their opinion as you are and just because they don't share your opinion doesn't mean they're wrong or deserving of abuse.


There's a world of difference between expressing an opinion and expressing a belief. The latter tend to have an absolute lack of respect for facts, and even less for academics who have earned it.

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#1595705 - 01/12/11 12:03 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
sudoplatov Offline
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I've read some good comments on doubling somewhere (probably from several places.) One reason that the leading tone isn't doubled (CPP of course), is that the leading tone nearly always progresses to the tonic (unless it's part of an arpegiation or a descending scale passage.) Thus one get parallel octaves (which sounds like a voice drops out.) Note that consecutive octaves (and fifths) are avoided between voices, not instruments. One may double in octaves (or fifths like Ravel or organ builders did) for texture or color.

The third in minor chords is often doubled. This doesn't seem to cause much of a problem. In major chords, doubling the third is avoided for a couple of reasons. If the chord is a dominant (or even a secondary dominant), the leading tone (even a secondary leading tone) would be doubled.

In other cases, a major chord with a doubled third tends to sound like a Neapolitan Sixth.

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#1595930 - 01/12/11 09:55 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: sudoplatov]
Mirior Offline
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Registered: 06/23/10
Posts: 68
To Nikolas:

The impression I got from reading the entire thread leads me to believe that you're answering the wrong question. The main question, as I understand it, isn't "why do rules exist? full stop", but "why do rules exist in the way that they do?" To say "because the original masters used them" answers the first question, but not the second, which I think is closer to what BBB is trying to get at.

What are the theoretical underpinnings of the rules? We know they're taught because Bach et al. used them, but why did Bach et al. use them?

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#1595953 - 01/12/11 10:29 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Mirior]
Steve Chandler Offline
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Originally Posted By: Mirior

What are the theoretical underpinnings of the rules? We know they're taught because Bach et al. used them, but why did Bach et al. use them?

This question has been addressed, but the problem is there isn't a definitive answer. I've never seen a study that addressed the issue from a theoretical point of view.

To review, parallel fifths and octaves do yield a perceived reduction in polyphony in contrapuntal music. Add to that they have a distinctive sound which is heard as old fashioned or inelegant. As far as I'm concerned those are the principal answers. Thus 20th century and later composers used them as special seasoning in their music. Given their pungent quality this seems to me an appropriate use, which means if you're composing a fugue you should think twice before using parallel fifths.


Edited by Steve Chandler (01/12/11 10:31 AM)

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#1595955 - 01/12/11 10:32 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Mirior]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Mirior
We know they're taught because Bach et al. used them, but why did Bach et al. use them?


One of my theory books has a small section with short excerpts from Bach and analysis of what he did. This is followed by exercises with short excerpts of the melody portions of some of Bach's chorales stripped of the other notes, which we are to harmonize. The instructions warn that we should not break the taught rules which Bach broke in the examples.

So, *did* Bach use those rules? Or did Bach start out with particular aims in music whereby he ended up doing those things which we see as patterns and turn into rules? (This isn't rhetorical, by the way).

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#1595966 - 01/12/11 10:42 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Nikolas Online   content
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Mirior: I see what you mean, but in the end it boils down to this:

You either take a rule from the past (ancient (?)) times and evolve it, or you create a new rule. In the end there can be no other alternative really! What is/was acceptable by the society, of whatever time, always plays an important factor in the creation of the artists, either by following the general aesthetic rules, or clashing with them, but there's always a reference.

If one wants to think/believe/know (whichever is true, I don't care or mind) that some of the rules were there from the very start (which start, btw? I'm really asking, cause it seems to me very hard to pin point the exact beginning of music historically and start there) by all means I'll partially agree. There is a subjective reason for why (for example) an A-Bb interval sounds dissonant, yet an A-C sounds consonant. It's the relationship of the frequencies, the position in the harmonic series, etc, which helps this take place. There appears (to me, and again call it an opinion, a belief, a whatever) to be a less subjective (universal?) reason for the use of tritone (ban it at first, then find ways to have control over its resolution, etc). So the use changed all together throughout time, but the initial spark was there.

Once you look further in the time sequence, most "rules" can be taken back to previous ones.

Of course the subjective part of anything should be examined against other civilizations (Indian, Greek, Chinese), in order to see what "rules" are carried from one to another. Otherwise you can't really speak about a universal rule, can you?
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#1595967 - 01/12/11 10:43 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
Derek Andrews Offline
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Posts: 62
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I feel like this thread has already found good answers to the question, but there are a number of people here who don't like the idea that the answer may be as ridiculously simple as:

"
composers of early music enjoyed the sound of thirds, sixths, tenths, etc. more than anything else."

If you look at any of the traditional harmonic rules, they are always about making the arrangement of intervals align such that thirds, sixths, tenths sound as uniform and full as possible. Dissonance is used only to "arouse the passions" before resting on these concords.

This is of course an oversimplification---you could also add that they enjoyed "diatonic movement" as well. Also, they enjoyed fairly uniform rhythm. I think uniformity, purity, etc. was one of their goals, and thirds were a convenient way to express that goal in harmony.

Today of course we have gained a taste for discords standing alongside concords as equals. So we find in blues music a piece ending on a roaring dominant 7th chord, without resolving, but it sounds like a strong, convincing ending. The idea of universal rules is laughable I think, but the idea of rules to help one attain the goal of "uniformity of thirds all over the place" is not laughable and is completely understandable, since the early composers were tinkering with scales and were probably really fascinated with the concords they found.


Edited by BBB (01/12/11 10:46 AM)

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#1597899 - 01/15/11 08:53 AM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
soulshaker Offline
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Registered: 01/05/11
Posts: 26
I don't know specifics about sixths sevenths whatevers, but I think in different times, different "moods" of music appealed to the masses. Rules pertaining to that style/mood = the language of music/emotion.

If playing a certain way, and using certain succession of notes produces specific emotional responses in humans, then it's a fact that there are rules/structure in music.

Unfortunately, most pianists get caught up in the whole "It's MY interpretation!!!" thing, which is why I'm convinced there are so many pieces that have never been properly communicated by any musician. If you play properly it's relatively few things that can be left to interpretation... </rant>

This study might be interesting:
study
"To draw clear conclusions about music universals, however, it is necessary to address music listeners who are completely culturally isolated from one another. Here, we employed a research paradigm to investigate the recognition of musical emotion in two groups: Mafa listeners naive to Western music and a group of Western listeners naive to Mafa music."

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#1598250 - 01/15/11 08:11 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
pjang23 Offline
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Registered: 02/22/10
Posts: 106
The preference for parallel 3rds (as opposed to parallel 5ths and 8ves) has to do with the overtone series.

A very non-rigorous explanation:
When you play any single note, you also hear the note an octave above it and a perfect fifth above it (perfect twelfth actually) as "overtones". Thus, when you play C, you also hear (less audibly) the C that is an octave above and the G that is a perfect twelfth above.

Thus, the upper note of an octave or a perfect fifth in some sense "duplicates" the bottom note, and in four-part writing or in counterpoint, it would simply be a waste of a voice to write them parallel. The major and minor 3rd are also heard as overtones, but they are even less audible than the perfect fifth/octave and therefore have less duplication.

As for why major/minor thirds, perfect fifths, and perfect octaves sound good, consider their frequency ratios:
Perfect Octave is exactly 2:1
Perfect Fifth is approximately 3:2
Perfect Fourth is approximately 4:3
Major 3rd is approximately 5:4
Minor 3rd is approximately 6:5

Very roughly speaking, they sound good because their sound waves combine nicely. If you juxtapose the sound waves (think of them as sine waves) of the two notes of these intervals, they eventually "start over" together after a small number of cycles.

For example, if you juxtapose the sound waves of an octave, you have the higher note with double the frequency of the lower note. Thus, they "start over" together after two full cycles of the higher note's sound wave. (Graph sin(x) and sin(2x) together)

If you juxtapose the sound waves of a perfect fifth, you have the higher note with 3/2 times the frequency of the lower note. Thus they "start over" together after three full cycles of the higher note's sound wave.

On the other hand, a tritone has a frequency ratio of sqrt(2):1, where sqrt(2) means square root of 2.

Thus, when you juxtapose the sound waves of the two notes of a tritone, they never recombine, and thus sound dissonant to our ears.
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#1598641 - 01/16/11 01:42 PM Re: Why do "rules" exist? [Re: Derek Andrews]
goodkeys Offline
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Registered: 08/15/10
Posts: 70
I haven't gone through the whole thread, so sorry if this has already been mentioned:

I've been taught that parallel fifht, and parallel octaves too, should be avoided in a polyphonic setting because it becomes very difficult to tell two voices (not only singers, but any instrument) apart if they are moving in parallel octaves or fifht. The voices are loosing their individuality which is to be avoided, especially in contrapuntal writing. This seems perfectly reasonable to me and it also explains why octave-runs in piano pieces and doublings in orchestrations etc. are ok. It's simply because these are not individual parts in the musical setting (it also explains why parallels between inner voices are less bad. It's between the inner voices are of lesser importance than the outer voices). An example: When orchestrating a four part chorale, then there shouldn't bee any parallel octaves or fifth between those four parts. If this is true, then you can double each part with as many instruments as you see fit. So maybe you let the first violins play the main part and double it an octave higher by the flutes to make it more prominent. These are not parallel octaves because it's one part (played by different instruments at the same time).

Why not to double a leading tone: This is because the leading tone should resolve upwards. If the leading tone is doubled, then two voices need to resolve upwards which leads to a parallel unison between two voices (bad!) or it results in one voice jumping down from the leading tone, which also should be avoided.

Running through my post it seems like very basal theory of harmony knowledge to me. So apologies if everybody already knew


Edited by goodkeys (01/16/11 01:42 PM)

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