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Traditional Music And 'classical' Theory


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#19 Mark Stayton

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 07:28 AM

What a fascinating thread! I'll step off into the deep end here...

I came late to music theory. I came even later to being able to read music, being an aural learner for almost thirty years. I agree with Keeper's assessment of music theory as a "toolkit", at least for my own case. It also opened the door to concepts beyond the dots, which I'll get to in a moment.

Keeper's original post questioned where people got their knowledge of theory. I took a community college class in music theory, which was fine for the basic theory. I later took theory classes at workshops, which gave insight into how the theory is applied, such as chord progressions and substitutions, when and how to use them (in general, not applied to a specific musical culture). Later, I read Helmholtz and began a slippery slope into the physics, physiology and psychology of music, and I started wondering about things such as:

Why do justly intoned intervals sound "best"? Why does a 7th draw the listener to the tonic, and why does the music seem "unresolved" if this doesn't happen? What makes each key have its own "color"? Why do these phenomena seem to be almost universally experienced by listeners?

Are these things specific to Western music, or is it a natural part of the physiological and psychological response to music? Are there similar phenomena to be found among the "new" tones in, for instance, Harry Partch's microtonal scale, or among other forms of non-Western scales? For that matter, do these non-Western systems evoke still more physio/psychological phenomena that are unknown in Western music?

I never should have read Helmholtz...

If I had to go back and do it all over again, I think I would have taken much more music theory. As it is now, I haven't time enough to practice, much less plumb the depths of physiology or psychology!

One man's (slightly tangential) perspective.

#20 keeper

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 09:41 AM

[quote name='Peter Laban' date='Nov 5 2005, 06:43 AM' post='29444']
I know, I was slightly irritated last night.


No problem. I was genuinely not offended.


[quote] ...There's a different emphasis in Irish traditional music which is esentially melodic and not as pre-occupied with harmony as classical music. [/quote]

Good point. I am re-examining my own assumptions about structures as a direct consequence of this thread. They have been drilled into me through a harmonic perspective as tunes are simply not long enough to give architectural shape to large-scale works. Maybe my training in harmonic necessities is less relevant to a purely melodic tradition.

Mark Stayton seems to have taken my view that theory can fast-track deeper understanding and put it into overdrive! It reminds me of a quote from Mendelssohn. When told that music was a 'lower' art form than the written word or the plastic arts, because it was incapable of conveying accurate concepts, he replied that it bypassed the conceptual and went straight to the emotional, making it a higher form of art [heavy paraphrasing here.] I play traditional music because I get a helluva kick from doing so. I don't think that knowing the theory adds to the kick, but it does add to the intellectual enjoyment (which is something different) and to the confidence necessary to achieve a satisfactory performance.

#21 Guest_Peter Laban_*

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 10:02 AM

I don't think that knowing the theory adds to the kick, but it does add to the intellectual enjoyment (which is something different) and to the confidence necessary to achieve a satisfactory performance.


Personally I have always found that the more I learned about the music I play,it only made me realise how little I did actuially know about it. Never mind that, taking the two musicians I mentioned earlier, who have/ had no concept of theoretical issues as you understand them but who did have an acute understanding of their craft as they received it, I don't think either of them lack/lacked any enjoyment as both had a complete understanding of their music in it's context which supplied all the satisfaction one can ever hope for, intellectually or otherwise.

I also think of what concertina and fiddleplayer John Kelly said :'when I hear a man playing, I don't listen to the tune, but to what he does with it'. Which by the end of the day probably lines up nicely with wha tyou say there, but I am sure Kelly heard a vastly different musical landscape than that delivered by your knowledge.

Edited by Peter Laban, 05 November 2005 - 10:07 AM.


#22 Samantha

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 11:45 AM

I'd like to look more closely at four points you've made, Keeper, in a couple of your posts ...

"We have all heard tunes which are harmonised in a way that is highly compromised by a previous selection of melody buttons. How many other anglo players would benefit from a little structural insight like this?
Compromised in what way? If you were expecting to hear different chords, maybe it is because of what you have been led to expect from your theoretical/harmonic training in Western art music, rather than what is acceptable within the tradition of the music in question? Also, you don't need knowledge of musical theory to find alternate fingerings for a melody on the anglo, you need a thorough knowledge of your instrument. Finally, all music is adapted for the instruments it is performed on - no-one has written a violin sonata containing the C below middle C because the violin cannot play that note. An anglo player will naturally adapt the music he/she is playing to their instrument - this doesn't make the music wrong, just a different version/arrangement ... which, of course, you may or may not like.

"But, clearly, one has to accept my contention that traditional music at its fundamental level responds to the same theoretical principles as art music. ..."
Perhaps the thing here is to define what you mean by fundamental level. From the posts here it seems that the, to me, fundamental issues of the relative importance of harmony and melodic decoration are very different in Western art music and the Irish tradition.


"I think that much of the aversion to theory that comes through in some posts is that people fundamentally don't like being told what to do and they see theory as a set of rules which require adherance. It isn't."
But once you have learnt a theory it can be difficult to refrain from applying it, particularly if you have learnt the theory first, and then develop practice from it, as I think you yourself are finding, Keeper, and you say as much in your most recent post.
"I am re-examining my own assumptions about structures as a direct consequence of this thread. They have been drilled into me through a harmonic perspective as tunes are simply not long enough to give architectural shape to large-scale works. Maybe my training in harmonic necessities is less relevant to a purely melodic tradition."

Great topic, by the way!
Samantha

#23 keeper

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 04:52 PM

Perhaps the thing here is to define what you mean by fundamental level.


Okay. One example would be that the melodic progressions which prevail at phrase endings strongly suggest specific harmonies, necessary to underline that those notes are, indeed, completing phrases when the same melodic notes might occur in the middle of phrases at other points in the piece. Whether the tune is ornamented in an Irish style or harmonsed with open fifths to give a 'folksy' feel are matters of detail - important and essential within a tradition but, when pared away, you have the same fundamental building blocks whether it's Mozart harmonising the last three notes of a falling scale with I,V,I or a traditional player who is harmonising a traditional tune with thhe same phrase ending.

That is one very simple example. One at a more detailed level of the structure might be whether or not it is approriate to use the major chord on the second tone to affirm the dominant at the halway point of a traditional 16-bar piece (melody permitting, of course). One book I have read on harmonising folk tunes actually said that accidentals were to be avoided wherever possible as these were 'classical' devices. But, it seems to me that just becuase a tune is short compared to, say, a concerto movement, it still has the same completeness of structure and this should permit of modulation in order to make the return to the tonic more satisfying.

Another point I have heard teachers of traditional music say is that runs may be played legato but leaps should normally be played detached - identical to the usual advice in baroque performance practice.

Now, there must be countless, contrary examples that 'prove the rule' but I am trying to give examples of musical concepts which, I believe, are innate within the muiic itslef and which do not dependent on tradition (be it folk or classical) and, therefore, suggest a common language with its own internal integrity which does not rely on performance or interpretation.

On Samantha's point about the constraints of any instrument and the character that this brings to a piece I would refer to a jazz workshop where I was once a delegate. When the tutor was asked to define 'good' jazz he declined but he did say that he considered good performances to happen when the music in the player's head got through to the instrument with minimal compromise or loss. In other words, the more that what came out was what the player intended, the better the performance. I liked this idea and it has stuck with me. It does not seem plausiable that someone who has been harmonising a tune with, say, triads should claim that they are genuinely happy when this becomes impossible with certain chords in certain bellows directions (forgive me, I know nothing of the English system so I don't know it this could apply to that instrument).

#24 Mark Evans

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 05:17 PM

and, therefore, suggest a common language with its own internal integrity which does not rely on performance or interpretation.


Yes, there is I believe a common musical language, but does not this language depend on performance and therefore interpretation to live?

As a recovering "classical musician" I have greatly enjoyed the challenge and freedom of learning and playing by ear. Kinda like the feeling I had as a boy skinny dippin' at the lake where we spent our summers....FREEDOM BABY!....until one realizes there are snappin' turtles lurkin'. :huh:

#25 BruceB

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 05:54 PM

This theory stuff is all well and good, but what I want to know is what it's like to play that Vulcan Zither that Mark Stayton is holding. How's it tuned? I assume it's some type of logical tuning, maybe a 100 tone scale with all equal intervals? You know, like metric or something. What's at the core of Vulcan music, pure intellectual expression? Can someone trained in Earth music jam with a Vulcan? Do they ever play a "wrong" note?

Most importantly, is Janice Rand still available? What's Kirk really like? Does Scotty play the bagpipes? What's McCoy play, the bones?

bruce boysen

#26 Samantha

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 06:46 PM

... That is one very simple example. One at a more detailed level of the structure might be whether or not it is approriate to use the major chord on the second tone to affirm the dominant at the halfway point of a traditional 16-bar piece ...
...

On Samantha's point about the constraints of any instrument and the character that this brings to a piece I would refer to a jazz workshop where I was once a delegate. When the tutor was asked to define 'good' jazz he declined but he did say that he considered good performances to happen when the music in the player's head got through to the instrument with minimal compromise or loss. In other words, the more that what came out was what the player intended, the better the performance. I liked this idea and it has stuck with me. It does not seem plausible that someone who has been harmonising a tune with, say, triads should claim that they are genuinely happy when this becomes impossible with certain chords in certain bellows directions (forgive me, I know nothing of the English system so I don't know it this could apply to that instrument).


I certainly agree that there are similarities, as well as differences - perhaps this is best expressed by the axiom about the British and the American nations being two peoples divided by a common language! All I am saying is that you seem to me to be looking at traditional music through the prism of your own experiences (as we all are) and therefore see what you are expecting to see.

On the two specific points above (and I repeat I am no expert on any form of traditional music) it's not occurred to me, and I don't think I've observed a major chord on the second degree of the scale used in the way you describe in the traditional music I've heard.
As far as the limitations of playing the anglo when choosing harmony notes available in a given bellows direction, I see this as an opportunity to introduce variety in the accompaniment. If I had wanted to use triads the majority of the time I would have chosen a different instrument (piano, guitar, PA). I still claim that the jazz musician in your example is limited by his instrument - there are notes beyond its range, and effects which it cannot produce and these are factored in to the musician's choice of instrument in the first place (one that is most sympathetic to him [new thread opportunity here - what makes someone choose a particular instrument] and which gives him greatest potential for what he wants to express), and then subsequently in to what's "in his head".

I hope you don't see this as a flame-war, Keeper, I just find these ideas very interesting ...
Samantha

This theory stuff is all well and good, but what I want to know is what it's like to play that Vulcan Zither that Mark Stayton is holding. How's it tuned? I assume it's some type of logical tuning, maybe a 100 tone scale with all equal intervals? You know, like metric or something. What's at the core of Vulcan music, pure intellectual expression? Can someone trained in Earth music jam with a Vulcan? Do they ever play a "wrong" note?

Most importantly, is Janice Rand still available? What's Kirk really like? Does Scotty play the bagpipes? What's McCoy play, the bones?

bruce boysen


I don't know, Bruce, but if, as I once had the pleasure of hearing, a blue-grass band from Wales and a Russian folk band can jam playing "Oh when the saints go marching in" then anything is possible
:D !
Samantha
(Edited for typo - also I posted this as two replies but it's come up as one on the board ... hey ho!

Edited by Samantha, 06 November 2005 - 06:49 PM.


#27 JimLucas

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 08:03 PM

Another point I have heard teachers of traditional music say is that runs may be played legato but leaps should normally be played detached - identical to the usual advice in baroque performance practice.

While a couple of pieces in a book of Swedish tunes I've been reading through explicitly indicate "slurs" on octave jumps.

Now, there must be countless, contrary examples that 'prove the rule'...

An old saying that I fear many people today misunderstand, as I once did. The old meaning of "to prove" was "to test" or "to try" (in the legal sense), not "to demonstrate".

...you have the same fundamental building blocks whether it's Mozart harmonising the last three notes of a falling scale with I,V,I or a traditional player who is harmonising a traditional tune with the same phrase ending.

Ah, but what if the "traditional player" (or anyone else, for that matter) does not use that particular harmonisation? Wouldn't that suggest that it's not universally "fundamental"?

It does not seem plausable that someone who has been harmonising a tune with, say, triads should claim that they are genuinely happy when this becomes impossible with certain chords in certain bellows directions...

You should read Andy Turner's review of Dan Worrall's book of and on William Kimber's arrangements.

Then again, what if even from the beginning they have not restricted their harmonising to triads? I know that for myself, if I want to think in triads I have to specifically concentrate on it. I don't normally think in triads. But trying to work up an arrangement on a particular instrument (e.g., G/D anglo, or Crane duet) can lead me to harmonies that I wouldn't have thought to try on a different instrument (e.g., C/G anglo, or English), but which I may then try to transfer. Even on the English, where transposition alters patterns much less than on an anglo, I find that working in different keys sometimes leads me naturally to different harmonies.

...(forgive me, I know nothing of the English system so I don't know it this could apply to that instrument).

In general, any chord is possible on the English, on which bellows direction doesn't matter. But some are easier than others, and that goes double for progressions.

As an independent concept, I sometimes vary the harmonies in a song accompaniment from verse to verse to highlight the different moods conveyed by the words in each verse.

#28 Frank Edgley

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Posted 07 November 2005 - 01:29 AM

Just a few thoughts:
(1)Itzac Perlman stated in a program about himself that he loves traditional fiddle music, but he can't quite seem to get it right, no matter how he tries. (So much for theory improving performance!)

(2)My son is a talented fiddler. His violin teacher, from years ago (an enlightened soul) has asked my son to teach him tradional fiddling so he can loosen up his playing. The teacher plays first violin in the local symphony. My son can read music, but learns everything by ear, then puts his own twist on it.

(3)Suzuki stated that music was like language. You learn to speak it before you read it. (It is possible to go a lifetime without reading, but you will never learn to speak from merely reading. By listening you will take on the characteristics of those you have listened to. Later, you can learn to read and expand your vocabulary, but it will always have the flavour of what you grew up hearing.)

(4)A number of years ago there was an album put out by a fellow named "GUNN", along with some other classical musicians, playing O'Carolan compositions. It was stiff, absurd, and "quaint." There are subtlties in such music which cannot be captured adequately by standard notation. Many classically trained musicians play what they see on paper, which is not the way traditional musicians understand that it should be played.

(4) Years ago, when a classical musician acquaintance heard that my wife had acquired an Irish harp, he asked, "Does it have coloured strings, like a real harp?" (This kind of condescending arrogance I find annoying, yet is present with some classical music afficianados and classical musicians. If the Irish did not invent the harp, they were, at one time undisputed masters of it.)

(5) A story --- When the traditional musician was asked whether he read music he replied, "Not so much as it spoils the tune."

I know a lot of this has been said already, in other ways, but the facts remain: classical music can be beautiful, but just because it comes from a more "literate" background does not necessarily mean that it is superior. Traditional music will not necessarily be improved by "help" from the classical "tradition."

#29 Guest_Peter Laban_*

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Posted 07 November 2005 - 04:05 AM

Glad to see Frank makes the same points I was trying to make.

There is a long history of trained musicians who set out to 'improve' traditional music (look at collectors from Bunting onward adding harmonies to material collected, altering the structure of pieces so 'proper' harmony could be applied). There is a documented refusal of classical musicians to take the music on it's own terms.

There is, mainly on internet forums I must admit, an ongoing discussion on the use of notation. I think notation, if used properly and in an informed way, can be a good tool. Breandan Breathnach's 'The Use of Notation in the Transmission of Irish Folk Music' (Cork : UCC, 1986) should give some insight in the matter in the context of Irish music.

Pat Mitchell's 'Rhythm and Structure of Irish Traditional Dance Music (Journal of The Sean Reid Society, vol 1, 1999) while written by a piper for pipers should open a few eyes and ears, it's the most insightful piece written on the subject yet.

While Irish music is essentially melodic, the use of harmony by individual players is not unprecedented: the fiddle playing of Padraig O keeffe and Denis Murphy of Sliabh Luachra, Paatrick Kelly and Ellen 'Nell' Galvin of Clare are good examples. The older styles of concertinaplaying (played on the the German concertina initially) made extensive use of octave playing and simple harmonies. I submit that in most cases the use of harmonies was not along the same lines as the classical composers (there's one broadsweeping generalisation). Anyone who has heard the recording of Nell Galvin playing 'Sean ui Duibhir a Gleanna' on the fiddle will know what I mean. Trying to change that by applying 'proper' hamonies will change the character of the music and eventually damage it rather than improve it unless the matter is approached with great care, sensitivity and an inside knowledge of the material and the idiom.

Edited by Peter Laban, 07 November 2005 - 06:06 AM.


#30 Jim Besser

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Posted 07 November 2005 - 06:49 AM

Just a few thoughts:

I know a lot of this has been said already, in other ways, but the facts remain: classical music can be beautiful, but just because it comes from a more "literate" background does not necessarily mean that it is superior. Traditional music will not necessarily be improved by "help" from the classical "tradition."


Well said, Frank.

Personally, I have benefitted from a slowly growing understanding of musical theory after 3 decades of blissful ignorance; I wish I had learned more in the early days.

However, I have played with many classically trained musicians who simply couldn't get the feel or spontaneity of traditional music, or the lift of traditional dance music. Some do, but I know more who have been trying for years and just can't get it.

THe best musician I play with is utterly ignorant of the rudiments of musical theory. But put any instrument with frets in his hands and he can play it, in any key, with amazing skill and inventiveness. It's hard to imagine that a better knowledge of music theory (or any knowledge) would change his playing.

I came to reading the dots very late-- only about 6 years ago. And honestly, I can see both pluses and minuses in that. Being able to read has sometimes speeded up the learning of new tunes, but I also think my ability to learn by ear has deteriorated as I rely more on the crutch of notation.

So a mixed picture, from this person's perspective.

#31 tony

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Posted 07 November 2005 - 11:43 AM

I have found a basic knowledge of music, and in particular the ability to read the 'dots', a tremendous aid in learning new instruments especially the Maccann Duet.

I play a lot of music that I have never heard before, albeit in my own style (well that is what Folk Music is all about) and fail to see how I could have achieved this without reading the 'dots'.

#32 m3838

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Posted 07 November 2005 - 06:42 PM

Hey guys.
I must say this discussion is why I lurk here in the concertina.net. I don't like the sound of concertina, I can't listen to irish music, but I really like the concertina community.
They're weirdos with great background and eye opening expiriences, ready to jump in and express themselves.
in to the discussion:
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Keeper wrote:
I guess I disagree with those who feel it is unnecessary to explore music theory. I believe that they are missing out on one of the great joys of music, which is knowing why something sounds whole and 'good' and fulfullling - Geschtalt, to steal a German word. It is rather like doing a sudoku - it serves no purpose in itself, is highly theoretical and rarifed, but has reminded me that, in real life, a few reality checks on my domestic accounts can prove very usefu
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Me:
I didn't read that people express it. In contrary, looks like everybody is of the opinion that learning is a good thing. Some people point out thought, that not only 'classical' tarining is training. A simple guy playing fiddle is not uneducated and naive. He/she knows what he/she is doing very well. Well indeed to be able to write tutor books.
Who will question Mally's Melodeon Method? He puts the note stems in the "wrong" way. Up - for pull and down - for push of the bellows. Works extremely well. Although I was confused in the beginning.

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Keeper:
I believe that 'knowing for knowings sake' is a valid mental pleasure.
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Me:
We may depart from the topic of discussion. Books are written about the subject of art, beauty and pleasure. To me, the best book is by Leo Tolstoy, "What is Art?". He was at it for 15 years and it's very serious work. To Tolstoy, "Beauty, Pleasure" are not subjects of art, as they are prone to be influenced by habit and fashion.
Let us not forget, that this discussion is mostly about people picking the instruments to play folk music late in life. Knowledge for knowledge sake is not on the map, be it good pleasure or bad. Let's stay away from professional exclusiveness. As animator I watch cartoons differently from you. As architect my impression of San Francisco is very different from most of the people. I find it debilitating for my career.

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Keeper:
But is is interesting to ask whether the scraps of musical shorthand that remain from pre-recording days suggest freedom of interpretation or simply act as aides memoire to a rigid performance.
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Me:
I'm not sure it is legitimate to talk about freedom or liberalism in conjunction to European tradition. There wasn't such thing untill very recently. In Ancient Greese people were put to death for blasphemy and it's the cradle for Democracy. In 11th century Ottoman Empire was more liberal than Italian City-states.
Also, you link notation to theory. I don't think it's possible. We know, I heard, alot about greek music theory, but, sinse they didnt' have any notation, there is no music remnants, EXCEPT (and it's a big "except") today's classical music. Don't view tradition as something, that happened at some point in time. We are live proofs of that traditionm, no matter whether some tunes were written or not. We know them by heart.
We heard them from our predecessors and the chain goes on. Right into Ancient Greece, if you want. So music from pre-recorded days doesn't depend on "scraps of musical shorthand". As for performance. it is always alive and can't be rigid. I will go as far as saying that the more rigid the rules are, the more alive and intricate the performance. Especially if the audience is familiar with rules and doesn't accept anything else. In this context our modern "western" liberalism suggests only random hopping on the surface, and is not a benefit by definition.


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Keeper:
Blues is a sub-set of jazz which has a specific, set harmonic sequence.
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Me:
I beg your pardon. Is Blues - jazz? Blues was there before the style called "jazz", which meant "sex" in the New York slang. And Blues doesn't originate from New York.
Blues is not a musical genre per se, no matter what learned musicologists, mostly whites, are saying. It's a chant, complain of poor people of particular region, of partiular time. Today's blues is farce. But it's another topic.

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Keeper:
If theory follows rather than leads performance practice, why are people so afraid of it?
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Me:
Firstly I don't think people are afraid of it. What I think is happening is people percieve your idea as a threat because mostly we are busy folks in the middle of our lives, that don't have time to learn to your exemplary extends. And the impression we get is that we have little hope without years of study (an Hour a day is not enough). Fortunately, my expirience forced me to "forget" most of what I learned and approach music intuitively. I get better results. I'm sure in due time I will need for more knowledge, and I will seek it (from you perhabs), but not to exceed my need. Here is the case where concervatism works well: it is better less, but better.

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Keeper:
If they are able to say '...in all cases where there is a plural or feminine agreement with words ending in 'e' ...' then I have a toolkit to correct myself in the future.
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Ending the plural is the way people speak. In other parts of the same country people may say "a" or "i" or "ey". Grammar changes because the intuitive ways of people speech changes. There is always a fluctuation of speech contrary to grammar, often to make a point. A foreigner will have a hard time with it.
Example is the russian song that Jim Lucas demonstrates in http://www.nonce.dk/...yetyat_Utki.mp3
This is a solemn song that in today's Russian culture transformed.
The original song is about ducks that are flying away etc.
Now "Ducks" (utki) in Russian rhymes well with ... "The hores" (prostitutki).
So the song goes like this: (intentionally incorrectly)"Ducks are flying,
and behind them are (incorrectly) male ducks.
To russian ear it sounds like this:
"The hores are flying, and behind them are horny, but unable men (male ducks).
Funny, but where's the grammar? And how will it teach you to understand and more, to create such a text? Needless to say, much of native speech is like that, or it's dull.

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Keeper:
he considered good performances to happen when the music in the player's head got through to the instrument with minimal compromise or loss. In other words, the more that what came out was what the player intended, the better the performance.
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Me:
Hmm. This is very interesting point of view, but differs 100% with my opinion on the matter. So if he plays saxophone that can't play chords, or piano that can't bend, or guitar that can't sustaiin or a Theremin that can't play stacatto - then what?
I think it was simly attempt to be clever. Or that person had something else to say.
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Samantha:
I don't know, Bruce, but if, as I once had the pleasure of hearing, a blue-grass band from Wales and a Russian folk band can jam playing "Oh when the saints go marching in" then anything is possible
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Me:
As you know, american Dixyland style is very popular in Russia, so this is expected.
There is another hit: "Beatles on the Russian fields" - Beatles' hits are played exlusively on balalaikas, accordions, symbals, spoons. Sounds awesome. Totally Russian.

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(3)Suzuki stated that music was like language. You learn to speak it before you read it. (It is possible to go a lifetime without reading, but you will never learn to speak from merely reading. By listening you will take on the characteristics of those you have listened to. Later, you can learn to read and expand your vocabulary, but it will always have the flavour of what you grew up hearing.)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Me:
Can't be said better. I'll have to look into it. My child's two piano teachers despised Suzuki method. But their own teaching is rigid, technical, classical and strict. Gives good result, if the pupil gets over, but most pupils drop early. So much for musical education

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There is, mainly on internet forums I must admit, an ongoing discussion on the use of notation. I think notation, if used properly and in an informed way, can be a good tool.
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Me:
Of course notation is a good tool, who can agrue? But why mix together simple way of recording sounds and high end Theory. They are oceans apart.

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I have found a basic knowledge of music, and in particular the ability to read the 'dots', a tremendous aid in learning new instruments especially the Maccann Duet.
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Me:
Yes, good for you. Duets and EC are more classical instruments, designed for reading, EC - especially to read violin scores. They are not folk instruments and their price doesn't suggest so. Anglos, esp. 20 buttons Anglo-German ones - are. It's a limited key instrument and while it is good to learn to read, what if you need to change key?
Simple enough - grab another instrument.
Today Keeper has C/G Anglo. Tomorrow he will get G./D. And after tomorrow Bb/F.
Is he going to learn to read on all of his instruments? - Good Lord!
That's why push/pull players are better off with the tablature.
I teach my mom to play an A/D diatonic. For the sake of simplicity we agree to treat it as G/C. I give her tunes in music notation and tablature. She learned notation, but actual tune is learned from tablature, and notes are used as lengh reference.
When learning to play from Malli's Melodeon Method I had to transpose all the books (ALL the books) from D/G to G/C (my instrument), because his tablature sucks.
Bernard Loffet's tablature is clear and logical and so far is the best.
I myself am trying to obstain from reading and learn by ear. I need this mystery, it motivates.

#33 keeper

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 07:41 AM

I hope readers think that this topic still has some legs as I hope to post again when I can escape the workplace! In the interim, can I please thank all contributors. It is a great courtesy to respond at all and so many have taken great pains to provide their insights.

#34 keeper

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 04:07 PM

Well, I'm back and I would like to pick-up on some of Mike's points in particular, after thanking others for their posts (particulalry the useful link to Kimber's performance practice).

Mike said: Let us not forget, that this discussion is mostly about people picking the instruments to play folk music late in life. Knowledge for knowledge sake is not on the map, be it good pleasure or bad. Let's stay away from professional exclusiveness.

I reply: I do not think that knowledge is exclusive to professionals.

Mike said: I'm not sure it is legitimate to talk about freedom or liberalism in conjunction to European tradition.

I reply: I assume that any view is legitimate unless it is offensive. But I am not sure how we jumped from the liberating and democratic power of musical notation to a history of western civil liberties.

Mike said: ... you link notation to theory. I don't think it's possible.

I reply: Well, yes, I did, but this was not what I wnated to investigate. My original post refers to 'formal training' and does not suggest notation as such. Personal tutoring is formal training if it promotes a muscial grammar. I guess it was inevitbale that a thread concerning formal training and traditional style would rehearse some ongoing discussions about issues such as notation compared to aural transmission. One thing that strikes me is that this is all relative. I remember heated discussions at music college about whether only performers were legitimate musicians compared to theorists or composers, (even). Yet to some of our readers the clearest distinction seems to be between 'classical' musicians and 'traditional' musicians. As I can claim a foot in both camps (not on ability, just devotion) I would plead for generosity of heart. I know a composer who creates fine works of great integrity but he is tone deaf, cannot play a note and works entirely from concept, via 'theory' to composition. Someone somewhere had to write every traditional tune that we know. Until every note was completed, they were working within a formal frame that had some sort of independent musical grammar. And every time they wrote one more note, they closed several doors to other notes due to the increasing inevitability of the overall shape of the tune.

Mike said: Blues is not a musical genre per se, no matter what learned musicologists, mostly whites, are saying. It's a chant, complain of poor people of particular region, of partiular time.

I reply: Sorry. I simply disagree. Maybe you believe that only blues 'worthy of the name' is grounded in these social issues but I think it underlines my point that blues which is seeking to say something else is still recognisable as blues. Why? Well, because a generally agreed definition for blues describes a (reasonably set) harmonic sequence allied to some performance requirements such as ostinato base figures and a leisurely speed. There is an old expression: 'if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck, it's probably a duck.' [Sorry, but Mike started the 'duck' thing!]

Mike said: Grammar changes because the intuitive ways of people speech changes.

I reply: Does it? I am not sure. Usage and idiom change but grammar does not change as far as I am aware. The attempt to re-write musical grammar at the turn of the last century using atonalism has substantially failed in all musical fields, in my opinion. And it seems very curious to use organic change as a defence [?] of traditional music. I accept that traditional music performance can be as vibrant as that of art music (devotees would say 'more vibrant') but I think that this performance spontanaeity comes at some loss of organic development as a genre.

Mike said: My child's two piano teachers despised Suzuki method. But their own teaching is rigid, technical, classical and strict. Gives good result, if the pupil gets over, but most pupils drop early. So much for musical education.

I reply: I have three children. They have all had formal musical training from paid teachers (i.e., not me). The only teaching method out of five instruments that failed completeley was Suzuki. One example proves nothing on its own but I think I know why it failed in the case of my child. She got bored with being a 'monkey grinding an organ' and wanted to know what was going on in the music. This was aggrevated by her traditional training on another instrument which told her that there was, indeed, fascinating stuff going on in the music and the Suzuki repetition drove her nuts.

Mike said: Today Keeper has C/G Anglo. Tomorrow he will get G./D. And after tomorrow Bb/F.
Is he going to learn to read on all of his instruments? - Good Lord!

I reply: I have a G/D anglo and a C/G anglo.They have slightly different button placements. I also dabble on G/D melodeon. Without my working knowledge of musical theory I would, indeed, have to learn which button represented which written note, on every instrument. But because I know that Bb is the major third of Gb, which is the same as F# on fixed-pitch instruments, I can move with relative ease between keys. At least, in my head I can. My original post mentioned that I have only been playing for 30 months and the layout of the anglo still confuses me at times. But what I am not confused about is what note I am trying to play!

#35 m3838

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Posted 09 November 2005 - 02:43 PM

Keeper:
Well, I'm back and I would like to pick-up on some of Mike's points in particular, after thanking others for their posts (particulalry the useful link to Kimber's performance practice).

Me:
Why me? Pick up on somebody's points as well, I'm not that valuable.
Anyways, OK, let's talk.


Keeper:
I do not think that knowledge is exclusive to professionals.

Me:
In principle I agree, but in practice aquisition of knowlegde takes time and a true knowledge is, unfortunately, quite exclusive.
Otherwise explaiin existance of division of labor, or why musicians in symphony orchestra don't change instruments from concert to concert: violin to piano-forte, tuba to stand-up bass etc.
Also, don't ignore the fact on the ground. We "are" mostly busy professionals, having very little extra time. To most of us, the ability to read score and have music sound in our ears, or analise musical piece for pleasure is unaccessible.
I don't argue that it's possible, the only question is "when"?

Keeper:
I assume that any view is legitimate unless it is offensive. But I am not sure how we jumped from the liberating and democratic power of musical notation to a history of western civil liberties.

Me:
I was not talking about civil liberties. Just as you weren't, when you mentioned liberalism of written notation, resulting from it's imprecision. If I understood you correctly, you were arguing that learning the musical theory is beneficial for folk musicians because it is very liberal and allows for wide interpretations. Which is not such a statement because there is always a room for interpretation, even in the most rigid seting. So this decared freedom of classical training is not in itself a lure for folk musicians, who traditionally pick a tune by ear and try to play it.


Keper:
Mike said: ... you link notation to theory. I don't think it's possible.

I reply: Well, yes, I did, but this was not what I wnated to investigate.

Me:
My reply was sparked by many replies that praise abitlity to read music and common linkage of this ability to "basics of Theory". One can learn to read in a week, but working knowledge of theory will come after years of study or will not come at all.
Reading is not the basics of theory It's just naming convention. Useful.

Keeper:
One thing that strikes me is that this is all relative. I remember heated discussions at music college about whether only performers were legitimate musicians compared to theorists or composers, (even).

Me:
Or like the "discussion" whether only those who make money can be considered "professionals".
These discussions have to start with lenghty definitions of terms.

Keeper:
Someone somewhere had to write every traditional tune that we know.

Me:
Yes, ofcourse.
Or in my case: "someone somewhere had to learn a tune that was written, play it, record on the CD, so I can pick it up traditionally by ear." It's good to be a parasite.
Now it would be interesting to start a new topic called "What is Folk tradition?"
Also a nice can of worms.

Keeper:
Mike said: Blues is not a musical genre per se, no matter what learned musicologists, mostly whites, are saying. It's a chant, complain of poor people of particular region, of partiular time.

I reply: Sorry. I simply disagree. There is an old expression: 'if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck, it's probably a duck.'

Me:
That's all nice. Also there is observation that if a rabbit walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck - it's stil a rabbit. Examples: Great american cars of the 50-s that looked like rockets, roared like rockets, and used gas like rockets - were still cars. Pretence is not a style, however common it is and how much it reminds of original. Another example: attempt to create "modern" ballet, using all the cliches of classical ballet, only broken here and there. Instead of pointing toes making straight angle, instead of jumping falling etc. Pitiful, destructive and unconvincing. Pretencios, other words.

Keeper:
Mike said: Grammar changes because the intuitive ways of people speech changes.

I reply: Does it? I am not sure.

Me:
To everybody I'd recommend to go to this site:
http://www.writing.u.../x/Wallace.html
And listen to mp3 of approximated sound of Chaucer's poems in their original state.
You can't be claiming that English grammar hasn't changed since then.
From Russian language perspective perfect 200 years old form: "I am having to be happy" is dropped and is incorrect. Correct grammatical form is "I happy".
All the words' endings have changed compared to 11 century. Russian was much like German in putting the verb at the end of a sencence, now it's free.
Again, are we talking about syntax or more general Grammar, of which syntax is part?

Grammar
Etymology: Middle English gramere,

The characteristic system of inflections and syntax of a language
A system of rules that defines the grammatical structure of a language
the principles or rules of an art, science, or technique.

Syntax
1 a : the way in which linguistic elements (as words) are put together to form constituents (as phrases or clauses) b : the part of grammar dealing with this
2 : a connected or orderly system

Keeper:
I reply: I have three children. They have all had formal musical training from paid teachers (i.e., not me). The only teaching method out of five instruments that failed completeley was Suzuki.

Me:
It is very interesting. Logically Suzuki method sounds well grounded. Perhabs it needs to be applied smartly. Because I know many people who studied music, who are grinding an organ. They can't improvise, can't pick up a tune by ear, can't figure out harmony. The only thing they can do is to take a score and play from it.
I'll look into Suzuki method, sounds interesting enough.

Keeper:
I have a G/D anglo and a C/G anglo. Because I know that Bb is the major third of Gb, which is the same as F# on fixed-pitch instruments, I can move with relative ease between keys.

Me:
Are you talking about buttons or musical keys? Probably the latter.
Well, I only dealt with Anglo for 2 years. This is a multy-phaceted problem:
1. You have a score of music in Bb and C/G Anglo. You can sing the tune from a score and then play on your Anglo transposed.
2. You may hear a tune and then transpose and play.
3. You may attempt to play as written, giving you have enough accidentals.
Can you give me an example of moving between keys? I think I am not really understand you here.

For me, having limited push/pull instrument makes it easy to transpose by ear.
Just find a tonic and sing the melody from it. With accordion it's even simpler: Find a bass/chord - and you've found the key. With Anglo it is more complicated and if I had uni-sonoric chromatic instrument, like EC or Duet, or Bandoneon - I'd be studying harmony like crazy. I felt like even with the Anglo, where you have to construct your own chords, I was sometimes at loss and could benefit from some knowledge. It's not clear example though, because 30 button Anglo is not a folk instrument per se.
20 button is and there you don't need to figure left side up. It comes naturally.

Departing from "Folk", "Classical", and arriving in our real world, where people pick instruments not to play "folk" or "Blues", but to just entertain themselves, or express themselves in any way they are pleased, ability to read music is good, having a good pitch is good, some theory is good too. Getting into concervatory is an overshoot though and for those talented among us it still has little relevance to performance.
And probably close to 100% of "us" will never be able, nor feel the need for educated reverse engineering of Chopin's etudes. Let's not overkill.

#36 keeper

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Posted 10 November 2005 - 06:49 AM

Hi, Mike. Thanks for responding. I am not picking on you but you are the most active at the moment.

Can you give me an example of moving between keys? I think I am not really understand you here.


What I mean is that theory makes it is easier for me to know that a certain note ('pitch', to be accurate) lies in a certain place relative to its tonic. In folk music, the tonic ususally does not change during a piece as full modulation is not common (although I do know of several examples) So, if I the note that I am trying to find sounds like it is four notes above the tonic I will find it regardless of the key in which it is being played. Having said that, I find it much more quickly in certain keys than in others when it comes to the anglo. On the piano', I am quicker due to better familiarity.



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