Let's face the blurry eyed fact. Music Theory can suck some sweaty and smelly fill in the blanks... especially if you don't even know what music theory IS. Here's the 'other side' of music theory hell. Music theory, in its upper reaches of mathematical contrivance, parallels such things a string theory, Ptolemaic astronomy and sacred geometry. When contemplating such findings, we deduce a primordial dichotomy of heaven expressed in abstract syntax. And to us analytical nerds who love intellectual overload, music theory can deliver a 1-2 punch mainlined to the cerebral cortex of a curious inquiry like a knowledge junky.
Want more (coazing question mark insert here.)
Here's a wittle-bitty essay on Music Theory:
WHAT IT TIZ- by Jayma Superlove
While I’m aware that Charlie Brown and his crew called’ The Peanuts with Snoopy Dog’ is a bygone of my 1970’s childhood- those of us who remember this endearing show surely remember Charlie Brown’s teacher. Ever wonder why the Teachers’ commentary sounded like a chocked-out muffled sea of ‘wa wawaaas!” I think that’s how most of kids hear a teacher. It’s a sea of baffling and beguiling words- splayed together with syllable this and blah blah blah that.
In fact most kids, and people in general, are lost in a sea of misunderstood, mis-defined and convoluted words. Now, when we get to the subject of MUSIC THEORY, faces go blank, and awkward silences hush over the room… because what IS this fabled MUSIC THEORY STUFF!(insert horrifically pining question mark.) The glazed over look in the eyes of those confused and perplexed…. The spinning minds and the wasted time for those so stymied and frustrated by music theory. What torture this stuff can be for those who have an expanded penchant for creativity. As demonstrated by Charlie Browns’ teacher, music lessons become a sea of ‘yada yada, blah blah blah’ when the pins in open minds are not anchored with solid meanings and when definitions are not amply supplied by their tutors.
First, did you know that English is one of THE most complicated languages on earth?
Second, did you know one of the reasons for this the HOMONYM! (insert an OH WOW question mark here). Now, stop right there. If you don’t remember or don’t know what a homonym is- look it up. That’s the very first step in learning anything. Look at it. Look it up. Go on an adventure of word discovery. It think they call this etymology in fancy terminology. Really, truly embrace the definitions of words and you will become Einstein or Aristotle in no time!!!! Study their derivations, where the English word came from, and vwahla! You have a primary key to becoming a fantastically high IQ person! There are laughably dozens of ‘homonyphic numbers’ in music theory. Measure number ONE. Scale Degree ONE. Count number ONE. Numbers alone, in music theory can be a huge source of confusion, because the same number can carry several different definitions. If you ‘re aware of the use of homonyphic words and numbers in music theory, you’re already way ahead of the pack.
Now, did you know that 90-95% of musicians or music students polled, can’t accurately define the word THEORY! When we look in Webster’s dictionary, we see 5 definitions for the word ‘theory’. Now, find one that seems to fit. Now, marinade in it. What does it actually mean (dot dot dot) Connect the dots. Do they connect (eurodite question mark insert here). Or is it still poorly defined for you (plantative question mark). Are there other words in this definition that you need to clear up (question question mark)... How about ‘principles’ or ‘methods’ (conclusive question mark). If the words in the definition are not fully understood, can you see how we end up in a jumbled up mess of misunderstood, mis-defined, convoluted understanding (insert a feeling of relief question mark).
When questioning our knowledge on such basics, it is amazing how blank and possibly devoid of actual, applicable knowledge we can supply. For example; did you know that there are 22 different definitions for the word “of”. Amazing to think how smart and much more we could understand, if we understand the definitions of the words we use.
I will go ahead and define ‘theory’ as it has been digested in my mind. ‘Theory’ is: that branch of an art or science dealing with knowledge of its’ principles and methods rather than with its’ practice.
Now, how about MUSIC THEORY (excited question mark!) Let’s boil this down even more to it’s core meaning. What IS MUSIC THEORY (yes, what is it question mark!) It is basically the MATH AND VOCABULARY OF MUSIC. What is important here is that MUSIC THEORY is an invented tool. Sheet music is not music. The little scribbles and dots and symbols on the page, IS NOT MUSIC. It is an invented language that can explain HOW to PLAY music. MUSIC is an aural happening. Music is SOUND. Music is combinations of SOUNDS put together in an infinite combination of ways… and in MUSIC THEORY; we can analyze it (figure it out and describe it), and talk about it with other musicians in our own ‘secret language’ of sorts if we know the MATH and VOCABULARY of MUSIC THEORY. Now, to go a little further into this- the VOCABLUARY of music theory also involves SYMBOLS. There are 3 aspects to a symbol. Mass (what is it), Meaning (what does it mean), Mobility (what do you do with it). And if we contemplate this enough- the very letters I’m using to type this blog are symbols. (An ‘S’ is and ‘S’- we have assigned it mass, meaning and mobility. To exemplify further; it has a place, ‘mass’ we write it as a curvy line thing from up and down- and if you’ve been indoctrinated in English you can identify an ‘S’, plus ‘meaning’ we understand various things about an ‘S’ like how to make the sound ‘ssssssssssss’, plus ‘mobility’- we can use it. We put ‘S’ in words to communicate ideas.) Language is a TOOL. Show a Violinist in China a Treble Clef and they will know ‘what it is’, ‘what it means’ and ‘what to do with it’. Put 40 musicians from all over the world in an Orchestra, give them sheet music- if they know MUSIC THEORY, they can speak it or play it together. Music IS the universal language- not only emotionally but also analytically as in MUSIC THEORY. Now, the MUSIC THEORY vocabulary part can be divided into 2 major parts for understanding music words and music symbols. When you study MUSIC THEORY you learn the words of music and the symbols of music.
Now, how about the MATH part (eww math question mark)... Did you know that composers like Bach were running computations in music as significantly complex as Trigonometry and Calculus (it's actually easy question mark) Yes, yes- such masterminds as those of John Coltrane and Igor Stravinsky ran calculations in their musical exposes that baffle super-computers. Now, let’s properly define MATH. MATH is: the science of number, quantity and space. Ask yourself, do you have the words in that definition properly and thoroughly defined... How about the word “SPACE” (mmmmm wondering question mark!) I had to research this word for myself so why not define it! SPACE is: a viewpoint of dimension or consideration of distance. This gives you quite a bit to contemplate I hope! If you are a beginning or intermediate student- stop right here: simply know this- there is math in music, schedule a tutorial session, dive into it. In my own personal excitement, I am in awe how it all works!!! It is amazing how our predecessors figured all this out!... The time signature is a fraction… the rhythms can be sub-divided into ratios. Wow wow wow.! Music Theory is fascinating once you get over the hump of knowing what it is, what it means and what to do with it!!! Now, if you are an advanced student- check out the Fibonacci sequence or Golden Ratio and explore the works of Dr. Mandelbrot and the Mandelbrot sets or Sacred Geometry! It is fascinating when you start to understand the core relationships between the UNIVERSE, MATH and MUSIC. If I’ve piqued your interest on this line, read the book “The Music of the Spheres: Music, Science and the Natural Order of the Universe” by Jamie James. Music Theory may not be as boring or intimidating as you once thought, eh!!
I hope this small discourse was enlightening to you and if you have more questions you can schedule an appointment with me at The Superlove Music Studio, and we can go on this quest for knowledge together!!!