Music Theory Fail

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Adam H
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Music Theory Fail

Postby Adam H » Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:53 pm UTC

Let's talk about songs or parts of songs that look music theory right in the eye, punch it in the face, and walk into the sunset with music theory's hot wife.

I realize that classical music theory is more like a collection of guidelines rather than strict rules. I'm talking about things that not only go against everything you were taught in music theory, but they stick out to you in the song like a sore thumb. They keep you awake at night.

I just heard a radio ditty ("94 point fiiiiiiive!!!") where the second-to-last chord was a V7 and the last chord was a Isus4. And they never resolved the 4 to a 3. For the non-theorists: play a B F G chord, then play a C F G. Normally you'd go from the C F G to a C E G, so you might want to do that to prevent a stroke. Unfortunately, I heard this ditty on the way to work, and now I am stuck listening to this unresolved progression in my head ALL DAY.

/head asplodes
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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby fuzzycuzzy » Tue Jul 12, 2011 7:34 pm UTC

Adam H wrote:Let's talk about songs or parts of songs that look music theory right in the eye, punch it in the face, and walk into the sunset with music theory's hot wife.

I realize that classical music theory is more like a collection of guidelines rather than strict rules. I'm talking about things that not only go against everything you were taught in music theory, but they stick out to you in the song like a sore thumb. They keep you awake at night.

I just heard a radio ditty ("94 point fiiiiiiive!!!") where the second-to-last chord was a V7 and the last chord was a Isus4. And they never resolved the 4 to a 3. For the non-theorists: play a B F G chord, then play a C F G. Normally you'd go from the C F G to a C E G, so you might want to do that to prevent a stroke. Unfortunately, I heard this ditty on the way to work, and now I am stuck listening to this unresolved progression in my head ALL DAY.

/head asplodes

that doesn't mean they're not using music theory; it means they're using the concepts of music theory against you by not resolving their tension so the effects stay with you longer... they're controlling your mind!

as far as trashing music theory goes; pretty much any rock and roll song because ninety percent of guitarists use only power chords I-V-8ve or C-G-C, omitting the third and keeping parallel intervals all the way
still, that's not really fair: I play some lap-steel and by design of the instrument there's not a lot of ways to avoid the parallel problem

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Adam H
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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby Adam H » Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:53 pm UTC

fuzzycuzzy wrote:that doesn't mean they're not using music theory; it means they're using the concepts of music theory against you by not resolving their tension so the effects stay with you longer... they're controlling your mind!


Oh I never said they weren't using music theory. They just used it to make my ears bleed. The bastards.

As I understand it, the rule restricting parallel 5ths and octaves really only applies to limited arrangements like Bachs 4-part choruses. The reason for the rule is that parallel 5ths and octaves are redundent, since the overtones in one part have the fifth and the octave already in them. With 4 parts you want to eliminate redundancies. But yeah, it's great fun spending hours trying to find those parallel 5ths in your music theory project, and then listening to green day or whatever...

I can't think of a specific example, but I know I've listened to more than one song with a repetitive I-vi-I-vi chord progression. SIX DON'T LEAD TO ONE, FOLKS. It's distracting.
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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby fuzzycuzzy » Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:57 am UTC

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwHpDOWhkGk

Listen to most of the piece, then reveal the spoilers:
Spoiler:
If you didn't find it already, there was a comment that said: "anyone else ever tried syncing their orgasm up to the crescendo that ends @2:01?"


Spoiler:
Freudian
music theory win!

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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby MonkeyBoy » Wed Jul 13, 2011 7:00 am UTC

Adam H wrote:I can't think of a specific example, but I know I've listened to more than one song with a repetitive I-vi-I-vi chord progression. SIX DON'T LEAD TO ONE, FOLKS. It's distracting.


If you're distracted by a progression that innocuous, then I fear you're in for a rough life.

I spent a couple years playing with a Fairly Famous Band™, at least a third of whose tunes were i-VI-i-VI ad nauseam -- specifically, Em-C-Em-C. Occasionally with a D passing chord thrown in (you know, for variety). Yeah, I'll take self-taught guitarists for $200, Alex...

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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby Adam H » Wed Jul 13, 2011 7:30 pm UTC

There's a big difference between i-VI-i-VI and I-vi-I-vi. The first progression sounds equivalent to vi-IV-vi-IV which is basically just a deceptive plagal cadence (haha it's been a while since I used these terms so that might be wrong). Whereas a minor A to a major C ad nauseam sounds stupid. Bands usually get away with it by flirting with a V chord or something in between the vi and I - like Kelly Clarkson's 'Since you been gone': the verse is I-(something funky)-vi-(something funky)-I, and it sounds fine (YMMV :oops: ). Another example I thought of is Hallelujah, which has a C-am-C-am chord progression before the verses. To me, it's only acceptable because 1) it's a short part of the song, and 2) the bass plays a quick B right before the I chord, at least in some versions.

My craptastic high school rock band played a whole bunch of i-VI-i-VI too - but our preference for variation was an Fsus2 (if you're in Em). Yeah we were that sweet. :D Good times.
-Adam

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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby MonkeyBoy » Thu Jul 14, 2011 1:12 am UTC

Adam H wrote:There's a big difference between i-VI-i-VI and I-vi-I-vi. The first progression sounds equivalent to vi-IV-vi-IV


Not unless you take it out of context and ignore the tonal center. By that logic, vi-I is "equivalent" to ii-IV, which is just another way to get to V. Or iv-VI if you're in a minor key. Or v-VII.

One of my favorite theory fails: a lot of old blues and boogie-woogie guys would play the same lick over the IV chord that they did over the I. And a lot of times that lick includes the major 3rd, which then becomes the major 7th of the IV chord -- which, in a blues tune with all dominant chords, is just about the cringiest sound you can get.

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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Sat Jul 16, 2011 6:27 am UTC

fuzzycuzzy wrote:
Spoiler:
Freudian

Doubly so for me, since my mum (is learning to) play 'cello

On topic, I like the the progression i-III-VII-V bunches.
Also, as I believe someone already mentioned, parallel perfect 5ths and octaves are avoided because they are perfect and sound like overtones of one voice, not separate parts if they continue for too long. Something Bach did to avoid them was to add grace notes in one of the offending parts.
One reason to study diatonic theory is so that you can know when to add something out of place for special effect instead of writing a bunch of "creative" crappy/unlistenable music.
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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby Adam H » Wed Jul 20, 2011 8:45 pm UTC

MonkeyBoy wrote:
Adam H wrote:There's a big difference between i-VI-i-VI and I-vi-I-vi. The first progression sounds equivalent to vi-IV-vi-IV


Not unless you take it out of context and ignore the tonal center. By that logic, vi-I is "equivalent" to ii-IV, which is just another way to get to V. Or iv-VI if you're in a minor key. Or v-VII.

vi is the relative minor of I. That's why it's not taking it out of context to "equate" i-VI with vi-VI. I didn't just move all of the chords up the scale willy-nilly like you seem to think. Also, I didn't equate the two, I said they sound equivalent. Consider that you played D chords in the middle of your Em-C progressions rather than D#dim (which classically is the more typical 7-chord) or B major. I bet you could have ended all of those Em songs on a G chord and it would have sounded fine.
-Adam

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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby Masily box » Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:48 pm UTC

To be picky, ii to IV is a pretty rare move in music from the classical era. (Way less common than IV to ii.)

But why are we trying to use theory from classical music to talk about popular 20th century genres at all? That would be like trying to use Old Norse grammar to understand a sentence by Jane Austen...

(By the way, for the ultimate example of nonresolving 4-3 suspensions, check out the Adagietto from Mahler 5. :D )

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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby SecondTalon » Thu Jul 21, 2011 2:14 pm UTC

Because a respectable number of the people writing the songs in the popular 20th/21st century genres went to school and learned all about classical music theory.

So it's more like using Old Norse grammar to understand Jane Austen if Jane Austen had 4-6 years of Old Norse Grammar and wrote in such a way as to incorporate what she'd learned.
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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby Dream » Thu Jul 21, 2011 10:24 pm UTC

Masily box wrote:But why are we trying to use theory from classical music to talk about popular 20th century genres at all?

It's all the same western equal tempered standard notation, theory and structure. So are blues, most of jazz, and the more popular end of electronic music. If you want to get far enough away from classical music that the theory isn't a lingua franca, you'd have to look at much more innovative styles than rock.
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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby Masily box » Sat Jul 23, 2011 7:12 pm UTC

I really beg to differ... Music theory is all about explicating the stylistic conventions of a particular genre of music. Even if a person was trained in one style of music, that doesn't necessarily mean that their later compositions are going to reflect the style they were trained in at all. And just the fact that a style uses something that approximates 12-tone equal temperament doesn't mean that that style is going to have anything in common with classical music's conventions. (Actually, strictly speaking, the Classical style predates widespread use of equal temperament, which is matters because Roman numerals as a system of chord labels presuppose a diatonic--not chromatic--pitch system. Most of the music where equal temperament actually matters, say in Liszt, is exactly where roman numerals fail to be very useful.)

Now, I don't deny that there are some things that 20th century styles have in common with classical music's common practice. But it's important to be aware of the difference between (1) an individual song breaking a convention that both 20th century and classical music have, and (2) an individual song breaking a convention of classical music that isn't actually part of the more relevant style.

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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby Dream » Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:59 pm UTC

Masily box wrote:And just the fact that a style uses something that approximates 12-tone equal temperament doesn't mean that that style is going to have anything in common with classical music's conventions.

I makes it notatable on the standard stave, which makes it mutually comprehensible, which is what a lingua franca is.
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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby SirMustapha » Mon Jul 25, 2011 1:34 pm UTC

Dream wrote:I makes it notatable on the standard stave, which makes it mutually comprehensible, which is what a lingua franca is.


Xenakis's music was almost all entirely notated on a standard stave, with staggering meticulosity. Is his music a "Music Theory Fail" as well, even though it conforms to basically no rule at all from classical music theory?

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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby Роберт » Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:49 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:
Dream wrote:I makes it notatable on the standard stave, which makes it mutually comprehensible, which is what a lingua franca is.


Xenakis's music was almost all entirely notated on a standard stave, with staggering meticulosity. Is his music a "Music Theory Fail" as well, even though it conforms to basically no rule at all from classical music theory?

I really don't get who you are addressing here, Sir.
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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby Dream » Mon Jul 25, 2011 6:15 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:
Dream wrote:I makes it notatable on the standard stave, which makes it mutually comprehensible, which is what a lingua franca is.


Xenakis's music was almost all entirely notated on a standard stave, with staggering meticulosity. Is his music a "Music Theory Fail" as well, even though it conforms to basically no rule at all from classical music theory?

Leaving aside your "Music Theory Fail" accusation, here are the first three GIS results for "Xenakis Score":
Image
Image
Image

You're probably thinking of the likes of Pithopracta, (below), which basically proves my point: Even the likes of Xenakis string music can be articulated with standard western notation, because that's the way to tell a violinist or a cellist what to do. When you get into his more esoteric work, the standard notation is dropped
Spoiler:
Image
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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby SirMustapha » Mon Jul 25, 2011 7:05 pm UTC

Dream, the way you were speaking implied that any music that can be notated on a standard stave can (or should) be analysed according to classical music theory, just because "it gets mutually comprehensible". But take it this way: just becase the English alphabet is nearly the same as the Portuguese alphabet doesn't mean a Portuguese reader can read an English text according to the Portuguese grammar or vocabulary. If I write Mycenae Alpha on a standard stave doesn't mean it should be notated as such.

And by the way, if you read a little more on Xenakis, you will see that he often used graphs and complex calculations to compose his music (even going as far as using gas theory and poisson distributions to write random sequences of notes), and then carefully transcribed it into regular sheet music -- and that includes Metastasis, part of which is depicted on the second image. Also, Mycenae Alpha was a piece written for the U-PIC computer, so that explains why a traditional score was never written. But how can you judge, according to classical rules, a composition that is supposed to be random, just because it's written on a traditional score? Does the representation of data defines how its content should be analysed?

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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby Dream » Tue Jul 26, 2011 1:14 am UTC

SirMustapha wrote:But take it this way: just becase the English alphabet is nearly the same as the Portuguese alphabet doesn't mean a Portuguese reader can read an English text according to the Portuguese grammar or vocabulary.

It's more like standard Chinese and Japanese characters. If you know a few rules, the two are mutually comprehesible. The languages are very different, but if you just work with exactly what's on the page, you read what was articulated by the author.

SirMustapha wrote:if you read a little more on Xenakis

I wrote a Masters dissertation on architecture and computer composition. Guess who I've read all about?

In any case, I suspect you're ironically reading a great deal into my posts about my opinions and ideas that just isn't there. I'm not really interested in justifying myself to your imaginings.
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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby SirMustapha » Tue Jul 26, 2011 1:55 pm UTC

Dream wrote:It's more like standard Chinese and Japanese characters. If you know a few rules, the two are mutually comprehesible. The languages are very different, but if you just work with exactly what's on the page, you read what was articulated by the author.


Okay, but you're using that as a justification for applying rules in places where they aren't meant to apply, or at least that's what it seems. I can understand it's possible to use classical music theory on most of the popular music genres, but to say that you should use it is entirely different. You seemed to mix both things up and used the "lingua franca" as an argument in favour, and I simply don't understand it.

Dream wrote:I wrote a Masters dissertation on architecture and computer composition. Guess who I've read all about?


So you knew that I wasn't wrong, yet still tried to discredit me?

Besides, you wrote as if doing a 5 second image search on Google is a surefire way to back up your claim, as if it couldn't possibly be a little misleading.

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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby Dream » Tue Jul 26, 2011 6:00 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:I can understand it's possible to use classical music theory on most of the popular music genres, but to say that you should use it is entirely different.
See, no one said anything about what you should and shouldn't do.
SirMustapha wrote:"lingua franca" as an argument in favour,
No one but you thinks this is an argument, everyone else is just chatting about music notation. We may not be in agreement, but that doesn't mean we're arguing.

SirMustapha wrote:So you knew that I wasn't wrong, yet still tried to discredit me?

You are wrong. Xenakis used a lot of standard notation, but he used it when and where he was noting parts for instruments whose players read that notation. Where he was moving beyond the bounds of the western music tradition, he happily worked without standard notation of any kind, let alone the western 12 tone system. So as I said in my original post, even something as removed from classical tradition as Pithopracta can be noted in the standard form. That's my point, that music in general shares so much that vastly disparate forms can share a notations. There are, however, other things beyond the bounds of that notation that use other visual styles to articulate themselves.
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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby SirMustapha » Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:27 pm UTC

Dream wrote:You are wrong. Xenakis used a lot of standard notation, but he used it when and where he was noting parts for instruments whose players read that notation. Where he was moving beyond the bounds of the western music tradition, he happily worked without standard notation of any kind, let alone the western 12 tone system. So as I said in my original post, even something as removed from classical tradition as Pithopracta can be noted in the standard form. That's my point, that music in general shares so much that vastly disparate forms can share a notations. There are, however, other things beyond the bounds of that notation that use other visual styles to articulate themselves.


Well, this is the post that got me started into it:

Dream wrote:
Masily box wrote:And just the fact that a style uses something that approximates 12-tone equal temperament doesn't mean that that style is going to have anything in common with classical music's conventions.

I makes it notatable on the standard stave, which makes it mutually comprehensible, which is what a lingua franca is.


I don't know why you picked a phrase out of its context and gave a reply that is pretty much completely removed from what he meant. The way it was phrased implied that if a piece of music is notatable on the standard stave, then it should follow the conventions of classical music, or that it makes perfect sense to evaluate a piece of 20th century classical music according to the standards of 18th century classical music. If that's not what you meant, then your phrasing was really off.

And since when "argument" has only one meaning? I was referring to your line of reasoning, and not saying that anyone is fighting here.

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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby Dream » Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:52 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:The way it was phrased implied that if a piece of music is notatable on the standard stave, then it should follow the conventions of classical music, or that it makes perfect sense to evaluate a piece of 20th century classical music according to the standards of 18th century classical music. If that's not what you meant, then your phrasing was really off.

No, you just misunderstood me. There was nothing implying any kind of value judgement in that sentence, in fact, nothing implying anything at all. It just pointed out a mutual facet of several styles of music, such that they could share a notation. Anything about shoulds and shouldn'ts was entirely in your head.
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Re: Music Theory Fail

Postby SirMustapha » Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:52 pm UTC

Ok, I guess it's resolved. And I never intended this to be an argument.


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