Whiteagle wrote: ↑
Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:51 am
Hi PeteJ. Yes I am interested in composing. Have just started to do a little bit. wouldn't know how to go about harmonising Bach chorales in his style though.
I will say something another forum member has repeated numerous times:
Music Theory is DESCRIPTIVE, not PRESCRIPTIVE.
It DEFINES elements and classifies and categorizes them.
It can also define ELEMENTS OF THE STYLE and for pedagogical purposes, distills those as "rules".
In order for music theory students to harmonize a choral melody, they are generally taught a bunch of rules they must follow in order to get a decent facsimile *in the style*.
The rules change for each style. They are also necessarily incomplete.
The only way to really learn to compose in a style or like a composer is to immerse oneself in that style.
And I should warn that that style is 200 years old now. We could argue about its relevance but if you want to harmonize a melody like Bach for fun, by all means, delve into Bach's music, play it, tear it apart, and figure it out.
"Music Theory" isn't going to teach you that.
Ask yourself this: Which course did Bach take?
Most composers have a natural affinity for composing firstly, and secondly learn most of what they do from simply listening to and playing the music of others, then digesting it and regurgitating it, keeping what they like and eliminating what they don't like.
What music theory then does is come along and try to DESCRIBE what those composers did.
In some ways, yes, it does sort of tell you what you'd need to do to sound "roughly" like them, but the using "rule-based" composition methods results in "un-inspired" music.
IOW, you can follow the rules exactly and still come out with a piece that doesn't sound very interesting.
Probably the worst thing about theory study, besides people falling under the impression that it's "a bunch of rules to be followed" is that people tend to think that the theory that describes 200 year old music is applicable today. Sure there are people still writing (maybe unfortunately) in "archaic" styles but just as an example, if you go study Common Practice Period Music Theory, it's not going to help you write like Debussy, or Satie, or Stravinsky, or Takemitsu, or Palestrina, or Gesualdo, or Hildegard von Bingam, or Miles Davis, or Frank Zappa, or The Beach Boys.
You need to immerse yourself in the musical style you wish to compose, and learn to play as much of it as you can, and then you need to try to re-create it, using the existing works as a model, and slowly develop your own voice.
As for harmonizing a melody, it's a tool. But a composer needs many tools and a huge amount of music is not simply a melody that's been harmonized and in fact very few people write that way any more. In fact it's more of an instructional tool for theory students than anything else at this point. I'm not saying it doesn't happen and isn't a good skill, but just as many writers (if not more) "melodize a harmony" today.
Modern music is a different style. Some of it extremely different and some of it firmly rooted in the past. You can be anywhere you want along that spectrum, but traditional theory studies aren't going to help you much if you want to compose like Ligeti.