Re: On the Grammar of Music ("O.T.Furnes" )

Subject: Re: On the Grammar of Music
From:    "O.T.Furnes"  <oddtf(at)>
Date:    Fri, 27 Apr 2001 08:21:37 +0200

Reply to Martin Braun: I am afraid that the point you are missing here is that the rules we are = talking about in music are not rules you go to jail for when you break = them; You are right when you state "break that habit - to keep your = audience awake". This is what the good composer or improvisor attempts = at. However, from that to the claim that there are no rules at all = governing e.g. chord-progressions in a given style is a capital mistake. = From years of education in composition and music theory I have learned = that each style is consistent in its own way; it may not be the = hord-progressions that are peculiar to the style in question, but any = style has a set of musical parameters that is typical to that style.=20 But let's stick to chords; The types of chords and chord-progressions in = the music of Hindemith, Messiaen, Bach, Bartok, Stravinskij, Charlie = Parker, Miles Davis in the 50's, Sex Pistols, Oasis, Nirvana, Destiny's = Child etc., etc. are in their own way peculiar to that composer/artist.=20 As I mentioned earlier I choose to denote such peculiarities as "rules" = in accordance with the dictionary which states that "As a rule" can be = read as "Usually; more often than not."=20 Martin Braun wrote: "There are no such rules. If there were, we could buy books which list = the chord-progression rules, ordered by all styles that ever appeared in European music history. Such books, however, do not exist and will never = be possible." Reply: You might like to know that my bookshelf contains several books about = the chordal treatments in Bach, Hindemith, Bartok and Oasis to name a = few. Are you saying that all of these books either are wrong in their = statements, or that what is written in a book that deals with the = harmony of Bach's music could as well be about the harmony of Oasis? Martin Braun wrote: "There may be one general rule, however, one that existed at all times. = This rule appears to say: "Whenever you suspect that a musical habit might develop into a rule, break that habit - to keep your audience awake." THAT's how our nerves work." Reply: What an excellent example!=20 This demonstrates the necessesity of rules - without the recurring = element - how could you do something noticeable different? Also, it is = interesting to be aware that the way in which certain composers "break = their habits" may also follow some sort of pattern and can therefore be = named - a "habit".=20 This also shows what I suspected in the first place - in the quote above = there is a distinction between "habit" and "rule"; I never claimed = certain musics to have unbreakable rules, but, exactly, habits - = peculiarities - manners - methods - modes - techniques - styles ...... What remains to be explored is to what degree a certain habit is present = in the style of a composer. I suspect that Martin Braun may demand 100% = consistency to allow a habit to be regarded a rule - this is not my = understanding of rules neither in language nor music.=20 I still believe that the interpretation of the term "rule" is what is at = the bottom of this exchange of views. Odd Torleiv

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