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 Crow
(@crow)
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30/03/2013 2:47 pm  

Seems to me there is no reason an "electronic" composer, presumably a non-reader, couldn't create a major work with the complexity, subtlety and sheer smarts of "Petrouchka" or Beethoven's Fifth Symphony or whatever. Some of the really early "electronic" stuff (using the term very broadly) is very strong. Stockhausen's electronic compositions are pretty powerful. The score to "Forbidden Planet" was very effective. Varese's "Poeme electronique" must have been an incredible experience in its original setting. Milton Babbitt, Terry Riley.... This was before people started using synthesizers as fake orchestras, trying to imitate acoustic instruments.

I like electronic music in which the composer lets the electronics do what electronics do best. Electronics today can duplicate acoustic instruments pretty well; they can generate electronic sounds fantastically well. Electronics can do things acoustic instruments can't do; that's what I prefer them to do. And (suddenly back on topic 8) ) you don't need to be able to read standard notation to get them to do that.

Personally, I am wary of all labor-saving devices. When I start "outsourcing" your work to an appliance, it can induce laziness. Even so, I downloaded a simple little program called HighC that appears to allow direct composition with wave forms. Looking forward to digging into that.

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


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(@noteboat)
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30/03/2013 7:52 pm  

Chris, I did mean instead of MIDI. VST instruments aren't an extension of MIDI - the first generation of them weren't even MIDI compatible (a feature that was added in the second round). When VSTs became compatible with MIDI, you could use a MIDI controller to adjust tempo, dynamics, etc - which absolutely made VSTs more versatile - but they're not MIDI, they're actually sound files.

I don't doubt that you can compose without reading, or that you can get an acceptable result without reading. It's just that I highly doubt anyone who doesn't read at all will create a major work with a high level of sophistication.

Crow, I don't doubt that the medium is capable of producing great works. But the composers you mention are hardly non-readers: Stockhausen was trained at the Cologne Conservatory, Varese at the Paris Conservatory, Riley at the San Francisco Conservatory... Babbitt studied music at New York University and Princeton, and served on the music faculty of both Princeton and Juilliard. So maybe the early works are strong because they were written by trained composers.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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 Crow
(@crow)
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30/03/2013 8:06 pm  

Crow, I don't doubt that the medium is capable of producing great works. But the composers you mention are hardly non-readers: Stockhausen was trained at the Cologne Conservatory, Varese at the Paris Conservatory, Riley at the San Francisco Conservatory... Babbitt studied music at New York University and Princeton, and served on the music faculty of both Princeton and Juilliard. So maybe the early works are strong because they were written by trained composers.

Don't think I implied they were non-readers. My gut tells me you're right, however. I'm only suggesting that it could happen. I'm not aware that it ever has.

I am foursquare in favor of all the musical education you can get, especially if you intend to compose.

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


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(@chris-c)
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30/03/2013 10:43 pm  

Don't think I implied they were non-readers. My gut tells me you're right, however. I'm only suggesting that it could happen. I'm not aware that it ever has.

I agree. The obvious reason is that electronic music is still an emerging area. Both the technologies and the languages that they can use are still changing relatively quickly. The composers to use the tools will surely emerge too.

Let's look at what you might call an early example of an analog synthesizer - a cathedral organ.

They had (and still have) banks of stops, pedals, keyboards etc all designed to try and extend the range of a simple domestic sized keyboard instrument. Stops marked with such labels as piccolo, trumpet or gamba that attempted to poach a little of the territory of other instruments. No need to develop your embouchure either, as there are mechanical means of blowing the wind into the pipes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pipe_organ_stops

But how to compose for such a beast? Well, you could theoretically do it all by ear, but the main way was to learn the 'programming language' of the day - whatever form of traditional notation was around at the time. You either built it into your own hands and brain and played it yourself, or you wrote out a program (aka a score) and got somebody else to play it.

In the electronic age the process is not so different really. You can still get mechanical aids and shortcuts to help make the process either simpler or more complex, depending on what you want. That's been an ongoing process since the first the dawn of music. But you still have to learn a set of skills to be able to compose.

The big difference is that you now have a choice of programming language. Standard notation isn't the only kid on the block. Indeed, it probably never was, but it was certainly by far the dominant one.

Hard to look to the past for examples of good electronic 'orchestral' composers who didn't read, because the technology was still in its infancy, so musicians were familiar with the main language of the day. That is changing - indeed has changed. When I was a kid (I'll be 67 this year) you could go to a hotel lobby and hear a string quartet (all readers of course). They were replaced by a single pianist, and now the pianists are being replaced by canned music or player pianos. Robin Goldsby's book Piano Girl relates her horror at being laid off from a job because the hotel had bought a big shiny electronic grand piano that played all by itself. You can get a big shiny church style organ now that you can either play with your hands or a midi file too. As always, the quality of the results depends on the skills of the programmer, rather than the particular language they use.

If I look at the entertainment in my local area, how much is classical? Almost none. It's mostly bands, many of whose members read tab and chord charts rather than notation. I neither applaud this or bemoan it - it's just the way things have gone. Many homes used to have an acoustic piano. Now they're more likely have a CD player (oops, sorry, that's dated now too... :wink: ) and maybe an electric guitar. I like to have a foot in all camps if I can, but the upcoming generation won't have the same veneration (or need) for traditional notation because they have other languages at their disposal now.


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(@chris-c)
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31/03/2013 12:00 am  

Chris, I did mean instead of MIDI. VST instruments aren't an extension of MIDI - the first generation of them weren't even MIDI compatible (a feature that was added in the second round). When VSTs became compatible with MIDI, you could use a MIDI controller to adjust tempo, dynamics, etc - which absolutely made VSTs more versatile - but they're not MIDI, they're actually sound files.

You're right, they can use sound files. I have quite a few varieties. But when I use them, the engine under the hood runs using midi. I forget the exact terminology but the midi based score that's generated can use more than one type of sound for playback. The main ones seem to be either a set of sounds that are completely synthesized in the computer (sometimes very poorly too) or variations on the theme of sampled sounds. I'm not a full bottle on all the details but I believe that there are a few ways of doing that too. E.g. they can either use a single sampled sound from the relevant instrument and generate higher and lower versions of the tones from that, or they do a more detailed job and use a small library of recorded sounds across the range of the instrument. The latest libraries sound really good compared to the early stuff.

Just to complicate matters, some programs can use samples that aren't single notes but short blocks of recorded audio sound (sometimes several seconds long) that can be stitched together to make music. That's different again. Logic comes with a stack of them, although I've never used them. Band in a Box uses midi too, but now also offers an expanding library of recorded "RealTracks" options that you can drive via its midi engine.

How do you use yours? How does your player drive your VST instruments?

EDIT: As far as I know the early VST plug-ins weren't instruments, they were effects. So they could be used with audio files. When V2, and subsequent versions were designed they added midi compatibility which allowed for the development of plug-ins that can be played like synths or other instruments. The way the sound is handled varies from plug-in to plug-in but from my understanding, mid is still the engine underneath. It is with the programs I use anyway.


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(@diceman)
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31/03/2013 1:02 am  

I went back to the original post to see what was actually being discussed in this thread . It was about two guitarists , one who could read music but not play by ear and the other one who could play by ear but could not read . It has since turned into a discussion of classical composition compared to electronic composition . Talk about a hijacking !
I guess the biggest problem I have with the whole classical argument is that the guitar was always treated like the redheaded stepchild when it came to classical composition . Let's face it , it wasn't loud enough to play in an orchestra before the advent of electronics . It was an instrument for common folk , not the so-called "longhairs." The next problem I have is I was born in 1958 . Classical music has had nothing more than a niche audience in my lifetime . So I should spend all my efforts in learning all this classical composition only to have almost no one to play it for ? Is that why you play ? I play to entertain myself and other people from the area where I live .

If I claim to be a wise man , it surely means that I don't know .


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 Crow
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31/03/2013 2:18 am  

...the guitar was always treated like the redheaded stepchild when it came to classical composition . Let's face it , it wasn't loud enough to play in an orchestra before the advent of electronics .

"Redheaded stepchild," perhaps, but Vivaldi, Giuliani, Carulli and Kohaut wrote effective guitar and/or lute concerti well before amplification was possible. There were others.
The next problem I have is I was born in 1958 . Classical music has had nothing more than a niche audience in my lifetime . So I should spend all my efforts in learning all this classical composition only to have almost no one to play it for ? Is that why you play ? I play to entertain myself and other people from the area where I live .

Three points: 1) What's entertaining is entirely subjective. 2) If entertaining the largest number of people was a critical factor, we would all be trying to emulate Lady Gaga. 3) No one is talking about musical education as a means to play nothing but classical music. The training expands one's musical toolkit, no matter the style.

Oops, here's a fourth point: Popularity is not a gauge of quality.

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


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(@diceman)
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31/03/2013 3:08 am  

[Oops, here's a fourth point: Popularity is not a gauge of quality.

Well , if it's popular that means a lot of people like it . Niche music lovers always hate anything that becomes popular . " I used to like (insert performer's name here) but they sold out !"

Complexity also has nothing to do with quality .

If I claim to be a wise man , it surely means that I don't know .


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 Crow
(@crow)
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31/03/2013 3:25 am  

Well , if it's popular that means a lot of people like it .

Well, duh.
Niche music lovers always hate anything that becomes popular . " I used to like (insert performer's name here) but they sold out !"

Oh, please. The tastes of the "niche music" lovers I personally know run the gamut. REM fans who think they sold out sometime around the release of "Green," let's say, are not niche fans. That phenomenon is a whole different discussion, maybe an interesting one -- but it has nothing to do with classical vs. popular music, much less the original topic.

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


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(@noteboat)
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31/03/2013 11:54 am  

Talk about a hijacking !

I think the common thread in the discussion is skill acquisition - what's the most productive areas to focus on for a guitarist (or any other musician).
So I should spend all my efforts in learning all this classical composition only to have almost no one to play it for ?

Yeah, sort of. In any field you do things to achieve a particular result, but some of those things are indirect: they're more preparatory than immediately practical. If you want to be a professional baseball player, you spend some time lifting weights. Since a baseball isn't very heavy, there's really no obvious link. If you want to be a politician, you might get a better haircut. How your mop looks has absolutely no bearing on your governing skills, but the importance of packaging still exists.

In music, one of the important skills is understanding what sounds good when it's presented with something else. That's essentially what we do when we improvise or "play by ear": you can come up with an absolutely gorgeous melody that sounds awful in the context of a chord progression, or you can do something rather pedestrian by itself that sounds brilliantly inevitable when it's got the right backdrop. If you want to get consistent results, you search for the common factors.

You can do that in terms that make sense to you - developing your own internal set of rules by trial and error - or you can do that by following the well-worn path that many musicians have taken over time. Understanding how sounds work together is the essence of harmony, and to deeply understand harmony you need a way to categorize what happens when sounds interact. As a result, any conservatory student anywhere in the world will spend anywhere from 3 months to two years writing counterpoint exercises in the style of Bach and Palestrina. There is NO MARKET for this music, and there hasn't been for about 250 years. Not one student in a thousand takes those courses because it's going to teach them what they want to write... they take those courses and work those exercises because it's the musical equivalent of the weight room.

It's not a barrier to popular music. It's true that many popular musicians didn't go that route... but it's also true that quite a bit of popular music that has stood the test of time has benefited from somebody with that training contributing to the final result.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@diceman)
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31/03/2013 1:58 pm  

Oh, please. The tastes of the "niche music" lovers I personally know run the gamut. REM fans who think they sold out sometime around the release of "Green," let's say, are not niche fans. That phenomenon is a whole different discussion, maybe an interesting one -- but it has nothing to do with classical vs. popular music, much less the original topic.

I understand now . It's okay for you to hijack the thread with your discussion of electronica and classical music but not for me to respond to you . Gotcha , oh high and mighty standard-bearer for all things musical . Next thing you know you'll be calling for the moderators to ban me for disagreeing with you ... again .

If I claim to be a wise man , it surely means that I don't know .


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 Crow
(@crow)
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31/03/2013 2:30 pm  

To clarify my previous point about "niche" music fans: Every classical music lover I have known, with the possible exception of my piano professor at conservatory (a stick in the mud), has had musical tastes that roam from pop to jazz to Balinese gamelan to Scot piobaireachd, or thereabouts. That is not a broad, sweeping generalization like
Niche music lovers always hate anything that becomes popular;

that's based on people I have known personally. YMMV. I know the other kind of classical music "lover" is out there, the ones who use it as if it were a tranquilizer, or a nice warm bath. I avoid those people, so maybe my experience is skewed.

The death of school music programs nationwide means kids aren't exposed to classical music early on & thus don't develop adventurous listening habits -- or (suddenly back on topic 8) ) a desire to learn to read music.

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


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(@diceman)
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31/03/2013 3:13 pm  

To clarify my previous point about "niche" music fans: Every classical music lover I have known, with the possible exception of my piano professor at conservatory (a stick in the mud), has had musical tastes that roam from pop to jazz to Balinese gamelan to Scot piobaireachd, or thereabouts. That is not a broad, sweeping generalization like
Niche music lovers always hate anything that becomes popular;

that's based on people I have known personally. YMMV. I know the other kind of classical music "lover" is out there, the ones who use it as if it were a tranquilizer, or a nice warm bath. I avoid those people, so maybe my experience is skewed.

The death of school music programs nationwide means kids aren't exposed to classical music early on & thus don't develop adventurous listening habits -- or (suddenly back on topic 8) ) a desire to learn to read music.

I may be alone in my opinion , but I believe the reason music programs are dying is because there is not enough emphasis on music that the kids are likely to have fun playing . I know that school curriculums dictate certain types of music must be played but where is the fun ? Do we continue to push marches and classical works until there is no music of any kind being taught in our schools ? This is not to say that I think these things shouldn't be taught , just that maybe some sort of compromise is possible . Mix in something that was written while the kids learning the music were alive every now and then .

If I claim to be a wise man , it surely means that I don't know .


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(@notes_norton)
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31/03/2013 3:40 pm  

I'm a classical 'niche' music lover and have hundreds of symphonic works in my collection, but Muddy Waters, Stan Getz, Dr John, The Beatles, Moody Blues, k.d.lang, Soca Nights, Gilberto Santa Rosa, and hundreds of others are on my ipod.

Oh and the Romeros - a family of fine classical guitarists - and they read music.

You can create a symphony on a computer, as long as you know music theory it can be a good one. But you probably cannot create one by sampling snippets of other people's music and stringing them together.

It's not the tool we are talking about, it's the knowledge. And reading music is part of that knowledge that you need to take you from the more basic forms of music and into the more complex forms of music. Without being a snob, and knowing that I play jazz and like 3 chord blues too, classical symphonies are perhaps the best music every written.

And I don't think you can write one without reading music.

So again, IMHO it's not ears vs eyes, but ears AND eyes

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Bob "Notes" NortonOwner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmithThe Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


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(@anonymous)
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11/04/2013 9:42 am  

i didn't know stevie wonder could read music, although on reflection it's pretty obvious that he's probably been able to from a very young age. i still think that a person who can play by ear but not read will have an advantage over the opposite. there are countless musicians who learned their trade listening to the radio or wearing out records or tapes. there are some obscure pieces that don't have decent recordings, but there are stacks of albums no one's ever transcribed, and no one's writing out what's playing over the radio, ipod etc while you listen. also, unless the person who reads someday learns to play at least a little bit by ear, i'd imagine that his playing would be, well it might be unique. it might be sterile. it might be normal. have no idea, really, since it doesn't really happen. every musician has a feedback loop from their ears to their brain when they play, and that's part of what makes a good one. they say beethoven at the end would rest his head on the piano to hear what he could.
as for electronic music, it depends on the musician. most electronic musicians aren't mozart, but neither is anyone else. there are good ones, though. same as any other genre. this is pretty good, imo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xw5AiRVqfqk


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