evocative vs. rigorous music

Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.
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simonm
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Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by simonm » Wed Feb 12, 2014 2:44 pm

lagartija wrote:
michael karmon wrote:Taking a short break from composing, so I don't have time for a long post at the moment...But I'm thinking here about approaches to *writing* music, not listening to it. About striking a balance between re-working and re-using the ideas you already have (rigorous) vs. coming up with new ideas to compliment what you already have (evocative.) I'll try to write more when I have some free time.
:desole: Obviously, I've totally misunderstood the nature of your question.

I've never come across the word "evocative" used as you have just used it. .... :?
+1

plus its not what I understand under "rigorous" either. :D

Humpty Dumpty anyone.. :lol: :lol: :lol:

michael karmon

Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by michael karmon » Sun Feb 16, 2014 8:04 pm

I'm intrigued by your architecture background, Gruupi. I often find myself thinking of music in architectural terms (without actually knowing much about architecture.) But especially when things are not going smoothly, I think of the music as a three dimensional structure that I can "walk" through and make sure the foundation is solid and the windows open the right way and so on. A lot of people talk about the connection between music and math, but to me architecture seems a closer match.

As for the "rigorous" part of composing, to me it's about augmenting what you come up with intuitively. Sometimes it's good to really take your material apart, examine small motives, rearrange things, etc., just to see if something new and intriguing comes up. It seems rigorous to me because it's what I learned in school, so it's organized and thorough and pretty much the opposite of intuitively coming up with music.

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Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by Gruupi » Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:45 am

Yes Michael, I see more what you mean by rigorous now. There is inspiration, but there is hard work of sorts to edit and channel that inspiration. The balance that you are fussing over is trying to not let the editing process squash the evocative part.

Just to be clear, I have an architecture degree and I work in an architects office, but I don't have much inspiration or creativity in that regard. I am more a nuts and bolts guy, really my talent is in drafting. I solve functional problems but have almost no aesthetic sense. I like it as a a job, it's not quite fun but I enjoy it.

My real passion though is music. I feel I do have some creative ideas musically. I can apply some of the rigor of the design process to my composing, but I intentionally don't force myself to find a solution to a composing problem. I let it come. I guess what I am saying is that in music I don't have any deadline pressure, so I can wait a year to get an idea, or to complete an idea. I don't think they would let me take so much time at work hehe. I would think any professional or highly developed trade has things that can be applied to learning music or composing. We all learn how to work through problems with creative solutions.

Another thing that architecture school kind of forces on you is confidence in your ideas. You have to present your projects to a jury, which includes your classmates, professors, and sometimes visiting professionals. You have to be able to back up your design decisions. I don't have to present my compositions this way, but sometimes it can be fun to share the thoughts of why I made certain choices.

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Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:31 am

Rigour in composition traditionally means organic growth of the music through tightly controlled development of the motives presented. The opposite is usually what is termed as ''through composed'' (hate the term myself). This is where a composer writes from start to finish by following his fantasy and employing little or no motivic rigour and control; in other words, the music does not grow organically out of the initial material but simply follows the fancy of the writer as the writing proceeds.

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Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by Gruupi » Wed Feb 19, 2014 4:19 am

Organic to me seems to mean just the opposite of control. I'm not buying organic growth having much to do with tightly controlled development. You let the music take you where it wants to go. Thus the whole gist of this discussion, control (rigor) vs. organic (evocative). It's a fine line, different for every composer and probably different for every piece. What you may call the writer's fancy can also just be a well honed musical intuition.

Denian's argument sounds very much like my I heard from my architecture professors. I am not saying it's not a valid approach, to work an idea while exploring all options, but for some it can lead to music that loses it's spark (from being over worked). I have come to believe that inspiration is a gift, and you have to set up your life facilitate this gift. You then have a work process to take advantage of the gift when it comes.

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Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Wed Feb 19, 2014 7:21 am

Gruupi wrote:Organic to me seems to mean just the opposite of control. I'm not buying organic growth having much to do with tightly controlled development.
Think of organic in the light of the way a foetus develops, one cell dividing into two and two into four and so on. This is, in fact, how organisms develop and possess form, unity and integrity. Form, unity and integrity have been goals of artists down the centuries, aspirations of artistic creators for hundreds if not thousands of years.

The reason my comments remind you of your architecture professors is because the two disciplines, music and architecture have, in the history of the West at least, gone hand in hand in both technical approach and aesthetic development. Haven't you ever noticed that the names of architectural periods or styles are exactly the same as those of musical periods and their concomitant styles? Study any great work, particularly from within the common practice era (and countless numbers from without), and you will discover that motivic development - the principal of controlled organic growth and the transformation of motifs over the course of a piece - is absolutely fundamental to composition. The idea is that nothing is wasted in the process, instead the (hopefully inspired) material is viewed and developed in different ways and from different angles as the music progresses. This gives form and unity.

As practical examples (there are literally countless numbers of them) I would recommend that you listen to and study the 7th symphony of Jean Sibelius or, much more famously (and, in every sense, obviously) the opening movement of the 5th symphony of Beethoven.

''Architecture is frozen music.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

''Music and architecture blossom on the same stem: sublimated mathematics. Mathematics as
presented by geometry.''
- Frank Lloyd Wright

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Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by Gruupi » Thu Feb 20, 2014 1:55 am

Ok Denian, thinking of it like the growth of a fetus into an fully grown human is organic, yet directed. I can buy that. But genetics and somewhat the physical environment mostly predetermines the form of the human. It's the other stuff that really makes it worth living.

A piece of music isn't predetermined, maybe Mozart had complete works of music just pop into his head, but most people aren't that gifted. I don't want to discount knowledge and having the tools we have available to study on how others have solved compositional problems. But some of us have experienced the lack of inspiration when relying on the "book" way of composing, it's more than a set of rules. I think that what Michael Karmon is struggling with is how to keep the inspiration. In other words, academic music can be come boring (or downright unlistenable).

If you listen to and play enough music, you don't have to consciously think about motivic development, you just do it naturally, even when improvising. Good improvisers compose good music on the spot, they follow their fancy about what needs to come next to complete the idea. For me at least, composing is mostly about editing the improvisations, making a more cohesive and concise final product. Sure I rely sometimes on what I've studied, but more often than not, it's intuition.

michael karmon

Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by michael karmon » Fri Feb 21, 2014 12:02 am

I agree that motivic development is so fundamental to composition that it can happen intuitively, without putting much thought or effort into it. But I feel that the more music you write, and especially with longer pieces, it's very helpful to be aware and in control of what your motives and themes are doing. I feel that relying on intuition alone can produce pieces that lack the kind of cohesive unity that Denian is talking about. Bot to each his own. :)

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Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by Gruupi » Fri Feb 21, 2014 3:31 am

I agree. Most of my pieces are short, so it's not like there is as much to "work" at anyway. I lot of the time the structural thoughts come when I am away from the guitar.

Oliver Newman

Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by Oliver Newman » Fri May 16, 2014 3:30 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote:Rigour in composition traditionally means organic growth of the music through tightly controlled development of the motives presented. The opposite is usually what is termed as ''through composed'' (hate the term myself). This is where a composer writes from start to finish by following his fantasy and employing little or no motivic rigour and control; in other words, the music does not grow organically out of the initial material but simply follows the fancy of the writer as the writing proceeds.
Through-composed simply means a structure that has no repeated sections, it has nothing to do with rigour or control. Wagner's Prelude to Tristan und Isolde, for instance, is through-composed - it is, however, an organic growth of two motifs. Many through-composed pieces have just one motif, and they explore them in their entirety. Just because the structure isn't ternary, or sonata, doesn't mean rigour and control aren't involved. If anything, they are often required more, as without the limitations of a prescribed form, the composer has to be careful that the music has a goal and an aim.


[quote="Denian Arcoleo] Study any great work, particularly from within the common practice era (and countless numbers from without), and you will discover that motivic development - the principal of controlled organic growth and the transformation of motifs over the course of a piece - is absolutely fundamental to composition. The idea is that nothing is wasted in the process, instead the (hopefully inspired) material is viewed and developed in different ways and from different angles as the music progresses. This gives form and unity.[/quote]

Unless you follow the John Cage school of thought.

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Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Fri May 16, 2014 5:34 pm

Well, the term through composed does indeed mean with no repeated sections. But it also has another meaning related to compositional technique which essentially means the composer starts at the beginning and writes through to the end without looking back or making reference to anything that comes before in the piece. This latter meaning of the term is the one I was referring to. Check it out, you might learn something :wink:

Oliver Newman

Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by Oliver Newman » Sat May 17, 2014 9:09 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote:Well, the term through composed does indeed mean with no repeated sections. But it also has another meaning related to compositional technique which essentially means the composer starts at the beginning and writes through to the end without looking back or making reference to anything that comes before in the piece. This latter meaning of the term is the one I was referring to. Check it out, you might learn something :wink:
I confess to never having heard it used in that manner. A quick look at the Grove dictionary also fails to find that definition.The Oxford Companion to Music defines through-composed as: 'Any composition that does not rely on repeating section for its formal design.' In fact, I only seem to be able to find your definition on Wikipedia (and even then, Wiki notes that there are no references or sources backing it up). I only seem to have music dictionaries published by Oxford on hand at the moment, so if you have another, reliable, source for your definition, I would be intrigued to know of it.

I feel like the definition you are using has been written by someone who doesn't quite understand how composition works. You can, of course, start writing and rely on intuition to get you to the end of the piece. And yes, it probably would end up being through-composed. But I don't believe that has a standard name, and I can't believe that if it does, it would be 'through-composition'. Within the people I know, it would be referred to as purely intuitive composition.

And, just because one doesn't have a formal plan laid out to start does not mean the end result is any less controlled or rigorous. As I said above, the composer still has to make sure the music does not meander too much, and keep it focused. It simply means that the musical material can diverge in a more organic manner.

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Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Sun May 18, 2014 8:32 am

Oliver Newman wrote:I feel like the definition you are using has been written by someone who doesn't quite understand how composition works.
You imply that there is one way in which composition works. Beethoven and John Cage (you invoked Cage's name) were both composers, do you feel there is any great similarity in the methods they employed?

delayedMusician

Re: evocative vs. rigorous music

Post by delayedMusician » Thu Aug 28, 2014 7:56 pm

michael karmon wrote:One of the central challenges of composing for me is striking a balance between evocative and rigorous music. If it's too evocative you run the risk of writing something that is not really interesting enough for a concert situation. And if it's too rigorous you can end up with music that is claustrophobic and stingy. I'm still working on finding that balance. Any thoughts on this?
This is one of these times when I like to oversimplify: just write what YOU like, not what you think others want to hear in a concert or wherever. I personally would never care, simple as that. True, it might be uncomfortable. Playing my jazz piece in a place where only baroque music is mainly going on, might seem out of place. I'd rather find the right place for my music than finding the right music for the place, although that might be an interesting challenge too.

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