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Theory

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by Lance Jaegan, Jan 1, 2001.


  1. Lance Jaegan

    Lance Jaegan

    Dec 23, 2000
    Illinois
    So, Michael, what is your personal take on what we call "music theory"? I've always been one of those to view theory as simply a sort of formalized, traditionalized, linearized, if you will, take on a purely abstract art. However, this is not to say it is a bad thing, on the contrary, it has kept music from falling into the pit that has overtaken the rest of the art world. Hell, they can't even define what "art" is anymore. Ask 5 respected "experts" in the "art" field, and you'll get five, very, very, different answers. Music theory has prevented this from happening by providing a systematic view point from which to base all our conclusions. This is not to say I ignore traditional music theory. I tune to A 440, and subscribe to the "beat" system. Anyhow, what do you think about it? Arbitrary, or reasoned? Both?
     
  2. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    Lance,
    So you are ready to start a war.
    Theory is and always has been a way to codify the music that we produce. The music has always come first. I believe, we as humans, need to "put names" to things we can't or don't understand, (i.e. God). We assign names and create rules so that we might have power over the things we do not or cannot understand. As we codify art and especially music, the avante gard becomes the traditional.

    Music Theory is an invaluable tool for the understanding of what came before us. All to often, though, it limits the road we are taking. If we limit ourselves to thinking "within the box" we are always doomed to sounding "popular." George Russell ("Lydian Chromatic Concept for Tonal Organization") said something to the point that, if everything we play is what is expected it is boring for the listener. If everything we play is unexpected, than it is too avante gard for the audience. What we need to do is to balance the expected with the new. Each great artist creates new "rules" and we later codify those rules for educational purposes as well as to have a sense of empowerment over those rules.
    Mike Dimin
     
  3. Lance Jaegan

    Lance Jaegan

    Dec 23, 2000
    Illinois
    I enjoy the "avante-garde" and "popular" idea presented. Never thought of it quite that way before, although it is quite logical. I have this to add though - I once read somewhere that the monks who developed our system for reading music got it from the Greeks, and when they transcribed it, they reversed the notes. In their new system scales went from descending to ascending. Interesting, no?