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Old 2nd September 2009
Gear Addict


I think every composer is self taught in reality.
Because composition can't really be "taught" in many ways...

All good composition (as opposed to orchestration/instrumentation) teachers can try and do is expand the musical language of the student, and respond as a sounding board to the musical sentences and arguments the student put together; the teacher cannot say "you should make this piece major" as that would be missing the point of teaching composition. Completely.

They can point out whether the listener is likely to receive the musical message that the composer says they are trying to put across, and expand their palette, and show them ways to clarify their intentions if they so request, but reaching over and taking the pen out of the students hand and writing passages themselves is the preserve of a narcissist who teaches solely for the grandeur of it. For example if a piece is minor, and the student composer says "I want this section to sound brighter and happier and evoking xyz" then the teacher can say..."well it's minor there...lots of composers use modulation as a technique to evoke emotions like that, maybe a change of key might be something you could explore".

Self taught is just a term composers/publicists of composers without a bazillion degrees in music use to raise that person on to a more interesting pedestal and get people to take notice. Often to try and raise them above a "'schooled' composer". (rubbish like "they hear it on a deeper level than you" "they didn't get obsessed by the rules, they're free"...

It's marketing, and meaningless at that.

The notion that one appreciates music less because you know what mode or scale it is written in and can describe it with a technical term is utterly fatuous of can get obsessed with "I must write in this key or using this algorithm (eg boulez)" but it's really kind of rare, and who is to say that viewpoint is unjustified and unbecoming of musical expression>

The rules of music are not rules, but mere guidelines of what has worked and not worked in musical expression over the last 1000 years.

Parallel fifths sound weak in four part harmony because of the way the harmonic series and voice leading work, not just to give music teachers a use for a red pen.
There isn't a music police that removes them, but a good composition teacher would point them out if they were out of stylistic context (ie if a student was written a faux bach chorale for whatever reason) and say...why is that there? It's not necessarily incorrect...just a good composer can usually justify what they write, even if only with "I like how it sounds".

I don't know anybody who's heard a piece of music and gone "that's rubbish"...then on being told the person is self taught, changed their opinion to 'that's great'...