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Old 3rd September 2009
i think there is something to be said for both schools of thought. usually the people who come down on one side are ones who due to experience have been jaded to some degree. I was a music major in college. by the time i started i had already figured out on my own the basics of keys and chord functions, so it was fun to have my inklings confirmed by teaching. then we went to more advanced theory and while it was interesting and much of it usefull, i found that much of it was going beyond the practical applications of composition and more like innovation for innovation's sake. im speaking mostly about avante-garde 20th century stuff from the 40's on. it seemed that at some point, music began to attract people with a psychological predisposition to order or lack thereof, and less about human expression.

THere is something to be said for purely technical advances, but the average person doesnt care. On the other side, though, should we let the lowest common denominator hinder art? of course not.

I am a huge fan of Hans Zimmer. does he pander to the mall crowd sometimes. Yes, and he rips himself off sometimes too, but still nowhere as much as James Horner. I guess what I like about him is that he doesn't hold anything in too high of a regard that it can't be chewed up and spit out in the form of something new. He'll do a score that mixes classical western harmony with japanese influences, then another that brings in slavik sounding scales. its all a big mish-mash of sounds and musical devices that are purely a means to an end, IE the support of the story and human emotion.

i think thats what makes composers like zimmer and elfman so popular and prolific. they have an ear that allows them to pick up new musical ideas then use their intellect to combine them while still envisioning the 'big picture' and not get too hung up on the theory of it all. if it works, it works.

i think the best way is to be self-taught WHILE you're being trained. too many poeople just do one or the other. they spend years learning technique but they never sit down and write. or they spend years writing themselves into hopeless cliches and repetition, never breaking out of their cycles with new knowledge or ideas. You have to do both. Yes rules are not the be-all end-all of music, but there are good and bad ways of breaking the rules, and sometime you have to really know how to follow them before you can break them in the right ways. -Dan