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On the Study of Music
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To all you music students.........on the dreaded subject of music theory...Oh my!                                         

MUSIC THEORY:................  Music theory should be and can be great FUN!   First of all, music theory is NOT a set of rules that cannot be broken.  The "rules" so to speak have been studied and broken all through history...that's why music from the varioius periods in history sounds different.  All the major composers studied music theory and composition at various conservatories of music and/or privately, the younger composers from the older masters, often for years!  Music theory really is nothing more than defining how composers of different periods tended to write, a historical description ..yes, tended, because even within any given period composers sounded different from each other.....each had a recognizable characteristic way of writing.  That's how we can say "Oh that is Bach or Corelli, Haydn or Mozart, Beethoven or Brahms, Debussy or Ravel."   The "rules" are merely guidelines for laying down a foundation upon which to develop one's own unique style.

Today we write music with the triad as the basis of harmony.  It was not always thus.  PreBaroque eras used only 2-note chords in fourths or fifths, and forbade the use of the third!.....listen to the early chants.  And even earlier, there was only melody.

Another influence on composers of the classical tradition was travel to other countries of Europe.... There is much written on the Germanic, Italian or French styles...and they continued to learn from each other, and often wrote compositions incorporating elements of style from other countries.  Johannes Brahms, a German, was fascinated by the Hungarian folk music, and used their scales and harmonies in writing some of his compositions.  In addition, the trade routes between the East and West exposed musicians to new scales, harmonies, rhythms and styles and also instruments..... today one finds a variation of these instruments in all the countries of Europe and Asia....variations of the stringed instruments (lute, harp, guitar, viols, sitar, santoor), reed instruments (oboes and shennais), flutes (side and end blown, wood, bamboo.  metal), drums of all sizes and shapes...Some countries, as in India and Africa incorporate the use of various sizes of gourds in the design and building of their instruments.  The exposure to and adaption of the different instruments, sometimes, depending on local materials available, added to experimentation with new sounds.  For instance, the clarinet and trombone were later additions to the orchestra, the harpsichord preceded the piano.

 IMPROVISATION:..............  Music theory can form the backbone of creating music, but one really should also spend time in improvising...exploring new sounds, being "in the moment" of sound and feeling........  On the piano for instance, experiment with raising or lowering one of the notes of a chord.  ".Oooooh, I like that!"...keep it in your heart..Voila! ....you have the beginning of composing!!!!.........  Experiment with changing a key merely by making a minor chord major and go from there, without worrying about the Circle of Fifths....This can be an illuminating experience!  add color or texture to a line.  Spend time each day just improvising...it is very liberating, and gives great pleasure.  Even the major composers, like Brahms and Beethoven, were known to often improvise their own compositions in public performances, including those with an orchestra.....they were inspired, "in the moment".

In the 20th Century, JAZZ developed....Jazz has certain basic "rules" or guidelines that give it its own particular sound, but within this structure is a great deal of improvisation....

LISTENING:................   I spend much quiet time in nature..contemplating.....listening to the sound of the wind rustling the leaves of trees as their branches dance to and fro, or whipping about when the winds are strong and whirling; the many different songs of the birds; the buzzing of bees; the pitter-patter of a gentle rain, or the crescendo of a driving rain; the ripple of a brook or river; the roar of the ocean....listen too for the silence.....  Feel the rhythm of the clouds floating silently by.. sometimes slowly and gracefully, sometimes swirling wildly:.....IMAGINE:..... "What would music imitating that scene sound like?"......  The sun bursting over the horizon at dawn, the music of the changing color and vibrancy of the sky, and then the contrast of the sunset at first gloriously bright ... fading into darkness........or  when the moon is full the beautiful blue hue cast upon everything;  the quiet that befalls the Earth as snow envelops it.......................................   For others of  you, perhaps the multitude of the sounds of the city will provide inspiration.  And even in your home... when you accidentally bump a pan with a spoon...notice!! it becomes a bell or drum, depending upon whether the spoon is metal like the pan or wood................................             ...........pause, take a moment to listen to the vibrations before continuing.

So..... take these thoughts, study, explore, listen, improvise and have fun.... remember though to become well versed in creating music takes time, patience, hard work, years to become a master... but above all keep the sense of enjoyment in what you are doing.......even if you don't become a master, you can still do a good job and get a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction from the experience...........Jackie Bhuyan, currently a recording artist, long-time composer, performer, former college teacher of music theory, music history and appreciation and piano.  9/27/2009

RECOMMENDED............................................................................................................................................

"The Darling Conversations"...a 3-CD set based on the Improvisation Workshops by Music for People.   http://www.daviddarling.com/recordings/TheDarlingConversations.html

"The Listening Book:  Discovering Your Own Music". by W. A. Mathieu (composer, musician, teacher and author also of "The Musical Life" and "Harmonic Experience,  For audio/CD see:             http://www.listeningbookaudio.com

"Bringing Music to Life", by Barry Green, noted bassist, teacher and author of "The Inner Game of Music".  Visit his site:  http://thegreenartsnetwork.com for discussions and information.


                    Copyright 2010 by Jacqueline Tschabold Bhuyan.   All Rights Reserved.





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