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W.C.Meyer
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I don't post as much as I should; busy, for the most part.

Are there any here interested in the study of music theory: components, forms, tonality, rhythm, who can offer any details as to how certain aspects of music relate to life, particularly an Objectivist sense of life?

I'm a music theory and composition major, and understand all components of music well, but cannot use this knowledge to explain how it could relate to Objectivism or philosophy at large.

Even if you can't make any abstract connections, I'd love to talk theory with an Objectivist.

-WC

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Can't help you there--but I have been struggling with music theory myself. I've read a lot of explanations of the keys and then they just go off and say -- this other scale with the same scheme of intervals and half intervals (but moved up in pitch) somehow gives the music a different mood than the first scale. And I've yet to see a coherent explanation of why a "minor" key is somehow more of a downer than a major key--in fact I haven't been able to find a decent explanation of what makes a key minor as opposed to major. I get the feeling there is some key (pun intended) bit of prior knowlege that everyone assumes their reader has, but which I don't have.

Do you know of any good sources?

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Music itself relates to philosphy a different way. While lyrics themselves can be either logical or illogical/moral or immoral, music itself is not so bound by those sma governing principles, because then, author intent (while still important, and if done right, still apparent) does not act as so great a force as the listener's own interpretation of the piece.

Of course, the composer can use all the "tricks of the trade," so to speak, to convince the listener of the message he is trying to get across. And this is where we get into composition theory. Like Steve said, it all then gets into majors, minors, flats, sharps, keys, and even scales.

Now, since I haven't looked too much into theory, I can't explain fully well what the difference is between a major/minor/root note, except that in most cases mjaors tend to be "fuller" than the root note (an E major on guitar, for examples, requires more pressed strings on the fretboard). The fullness generally adds to a much more present, and usually uplifting feel. Of course, there are exceptions, such as in the context of the music, and where the chords/notes fit into the whole "tension/release" nature of music. Generally speaking though, that's where those feelings come from in music.

Then, you also have sharps and falts, but those are much more easily explained than majors and minors, since they're actual levels in the note structure. In fact, a sharp for one note is the following notes flat, and vice-versa. But the sound usally comes across as off, especially when several are played in a sequence, which can create a feeling of discomfort. Of course, other times it can be used to soften the sound, and so music really boils down to a matter of context.

In truth, a lot of it is very difficult to actually explain in concrete terms (most of it beyond my ability), particularly since for any rule one can think of for the theories of music, chances are that some piece has been written somewhere that breaks it, and still sounds pleasant to the ear.

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Can't help you there--but I have been struggling with music theory myself. I've read a lot of explanations of the keys and then they just go off and say -- this other scale with the same scheme of intervals and half intervals (but moved up in pitch) somehow gives the music a different mood than the first scale. And I've yet to see a coherent explanation of why a "minor" key is somehow more of a downer than a major key--in fact I haven't been able to find a decent explanation of what makes a key minor as opposed to major. I get the feeling there is some key (pun intended) bit of prior knowlege that everyone assumes their reader has, but which I don't have.

Do you know of any good sources?

To paraphrase Potter Stewart, I don't know anything about music theory but I know what I like. What I'd really like to know is, why do I like what I like?

It's assumed by all writers of theory books that everyone has the same response to minor/major tonality. And for the most part, we all do. I understand every single thing one can potentially do with say, a harmonic minor scale, but I have yet to read any convincing work that gives insight as to why we all share the same emotive response when hearing this scale. (I use harmonic minor only as an example, here).

As for defining major and minor, the formula is quite simple. Major scales follow a pattern of whole and half steps as follows: WWhWWWh. Minor (nat.) follows the pattern: WhWWhWW.

There is no disagreement about this; however, the effects of these unique scales is entirely subjective as far as I can tell. This assumed dichotomy of major=elated/happy and minor=depressed/solemn seems to be a western phenomenon; ever since the triumph of the Aeolian/Ionian modes over the rest of the church modes, it would appear that these two scales are most capable of conveying emotions...I would agree with this: the rest of the church modes simply can't carry emotions as effectively (save token responses such as an Arabesque air with Locrian or a pirate-y feel with Dorian) as major and minor.

BUT WHY?

Edited by W.C.Meyer
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But that doesn't make sense. You have seven steps, five whole and two half. The two half steps are spaced so as to have three whole steps between them. In both cases. And why should a (say) E flat sound different on the two scales?

Many decades ago, back when the earth was cooling and the continents hadn't split apart yet, I dabbled in clarinet for a year in school. An E flat is an E flat and it doesn't matter whether the next note up is a half or a full step above it.

On the other hand there is this:

"an E major on guitar, for examples, requires more pressed strings on the fretboard"

from Nacirema's post. Which implies that what we are actually talking about is a *chord*, not a note, and that there are two different chords involved on major and minor scales. This would of course explain things somewhat. If that is the case why has absolutely NOTHING I have read or listened to on this subject make that clear?! Are these sites assuming everyone who is interest in music is a guitar player?

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But that doesn't make sense. You have seven steps, five whole and two half. The two half steps are spaced so as to have three whole steps between them. In both cases. And why should a (say) E flat sound different on the two scales?

Many decades ago, back when the earth was cooling and the continents hadn't split apart yet, I dabbled in clarinet for a year in school. An E flat is an E flat and it doesn't matter whether the next note up is a half or a full step above it.

On the other hand there is this:

"an E major on guitar, for examples, requires more pressed strings on the fretboard"

from Nacirema's post. Which implies that what we are actually talking about is a *chord*, not a note, and that there are two different chords involved on major and minor scales. This would of course explain things somewhat. If that is the case why has absolutely NOTHING I have read or listened to on this subject make that clear?! Are these sites assuming everyone who is interest in music is a guitar player?

The instrument used has nothing to do with the theory behind it. I'm not entirely sure what you're trying to say in your first paragraph, but: imagine the white keys of the piano. There will always be half-steps between B-C and E-F. The only thing that changes is where these half-steps are placed in the scale, relative to the root note (we're speaking of the church modes here). All seven church modes have a corresponding root note on a white key where one can start on that white key and end on that white key an octave higher without playing any accidental (black) keys. It's all a matter of what key you start on; for instance, playing the notes F through F on all white keys is a Lydian mode (scale); playing the notes C through C is Ionian (major) mode. It's all a matter of the order of whole and half steps (tones & semi-tones, respectively) in the mode (scale) in reference to your tonic (root note).

Now, of course we don't play only white keys; otherwise, what are the accidentals for? You can transpose any mode or scale into any 'key', that is, it's root can be any pitch, so long as the following pitches follow the form of that particular scale. for instance, if you wanted to start your major scale on a D, you would simply follow the WWhWWWh pattern: D-E-F-G-A-B-C-(D). We run into a problem here, however, because the interval E-F is a semi-tone, and the interval C-D is a tone. We therefore must correct this by sharping those tones so as to make them consistant with our major scale formula; therefore, the new scale is D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#-(D).

I hope that clears up scales/modes?

As for the reference to the E-major chord on a guitar requiring more strings to be pressed: remember that theory remains consistant regardless of instrument. One could make a Gb-major chord as large as one would want; but the pitches are still the same: a root, a major third, and a fifth. I never recommend taking theory advice from guitarists...if they're not classical or jazz trained players, they don't know jack. The music nerd joke goes something like "How do you make a guitarist shut up?...Put sheet music in front of him."

As for your question in regards to the functionality of Eb in a key (as in, why can't you say it's a D# instead?)...that requires quite the explanation that won't make sense unless you've fully grasped scales. It's an issue of functionality.

-WC

Edited by W.C.Meyer
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Actually if I understand you I've learned something--the position of the two half intervals within the progression is the mode; major and minor are two of these and there would presumably be five others.

I'll hopefully be getting a PM from Kainscalia recommending a book to me, but I guess the real question that bugs me is, let's take a symphony in C major. No accidentals here. (And I could sit down and laboriously figure out what notes are on each of the twelve major scales; I've seen that explanation a number of times, but it stops short of what I am looking for--and a real musician would have that stuff memorized no doubt.) Apparently the same notes exist on the A-minor scale (this was explained to me in chat about 15 minutes ago--by a guitarist! so clearly they aren't all like that), it's just that you start *the scale* with A instead of C.

So.... why is Mozart's 9th symphony called a C major symphony instead of an A minor symphony? (BTW that's not a particularly significant piece of music, but it's the first one I found that was in C.) The available notes are the same, no accidentals, what is it that makes the difference? Or for that matter, why not Key of F, Lydian mode? And I can't quite understand why it matters which note the scale starts on, because it's not like they play "do re mi..." in the middle of a symphony! (Well, perhaps in some modern work they did.) So what am I missing?

This is boggling my mind... why does it matter what note a scale starts on... a scale you never hear played out in a piece of music? C major, A minor, and F, Lydian mode, should all be identical given that. Yet, it's so important that when they describe a symphony they give the key it's in, as if that's its most important attribute.

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As for the reference to the E-major chord on a guitar requiring more strings to be pressed: remember that theory remains consistant regardless of instrument. One could make a Gb-major chord as large as one would want; but the pitches are still the same: a root, a major third, and a fifth. I never recommend taking theory advice from guitarists...if they're not classical or jazz trained players, they don't know jack. The music nerd joke goes something like "How do you make a guitarist shut up?...Put sheet music in front of him."

I would just like to point out that I'm more a drummer than anything else, although I doubt that it will bring me any more credibility to the conversation (I base this off the fact that there are 20 drummer jokes for every 1 guitarist joke). :)

However, if it saves face any more, I was originally trained in jazz.

What can I say? My specialty with theory is more in time signatures anyway.

Although this does fascinate me, and I will continue reading/trying to understand.

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I don't post as much as I should; busy, for the most part.

Are there any here interested in the study of music theory: components, forms, tonality, rhythm, who can offer any details as to how certain aspects of music relate to life, particularly an Objectivist sense of life?

I'm a music theory and composition major, and understand all components of music well, but cannot use this knowledge to explain how it could relate to Objectivism or philosophy at large.

Even if you can't make any abstract connections, I'd love to talk theory with an Objectivist.

-WC

I've been playing the guitar, piano, and bass from my very early days in high school. I've also taken private lessons in music theory from a fantastic teacher named Mark down at Laguna Beach who taught me the fundamentals of theory.

That being said, I'm not sure if it is possible to relate music to Objectivism in general. Music as I've been taught, is a repetitive competition between tension and release that is able to manifest itself with human emotion and thus like a romantic novel, becomes a form of art. Since Objectivism is a philosophy and not an emotion, I would say that it would be to vague to classify one form of music for having an "Objectivist sound/feel" to it, but since the Objectivist stance on art is romantic to the glory of man, I would say music that what would appeal most to an Objectivists aesthetic would be something definitely within a triumphant major key of some sort. The specifics as far as chords within the progression, tonality, modes, key changes, genre of music and what not are up to the composer.

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Apparently the same notes exist on the A-minor scale (this was explained to me in chat about 15 minutes ago--by a guitarist! so clearly they aren't all like that), it's just that you start *the scale* with A instead of C.

So.... why is Mozart's 9th symphony called a C major symphony instead of an A minor symphony?

Yes, it is true, that the set of notes in the A natural minor scale is the same set of notes as in the C major scale (that is, A natural minor is a mode of C major), but the PATTERN OF INTERVALS is different. Melodies are made from INTERVALS not just from notes onto themselves. If you play the A natural minor scale, starting on A and ending on A, then play the C major scale starting on C and ending on C, you will hear the difference, since the PATTERN OF INTERVALS is different, even though the same set of seven notes is used.

As to a piece of music being in A minor as opposed to C major, when the piece is in A minor, its final chord is an A minor chord, and when in C major, it's final chord is a C major chord. And the A minor chord is a different set of notes from the C major chord. And it's not just the final chord is such and such but that a piece of music has a certain sound as it is a "story" about reaching its final chord. The piece "moves toward" its final chord; this is the "harmonic movement" which gives the piece so much of its character. And that is most prominent not just in the final chord, but in the final CADENCE (a cadence is a movement through a series of chords toward a certain chord). The final cadence in A minor is E7 to A minor. The final cadence in C major is G7 to C major. The sound of those cadences is distinctly different. And a piece has cadences throughout, not just final cadences. The cadences leading up to the final cadence give the piece its character; and a piece in minor will have different cadences from a piece in major.

The best way to understand this is to hear it in conjunction with the theory. Go to a piano. Play the A natural minor scale, then the C major scale. You'll hear the difference. Play an A minor chord, then a C major chord. You'll hear the difference. Play a cadence E7 to A minor, then G7 to C major. You'll hear the difference.

Edited by Hodge'sPodges
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The best way to understand this is to hear it in conjunction with the theory. Go to a piano. Play the A natural minor scale, then the C major scale. You'll hear the difference. Play an A minor chord, then a C major chord. You'll hear the difference. Play a cadence E7 to A minor, then G7 to C major. You'll hear the difference.

Okay, not a bad notion. Certainly, I have no doubt that starting and ending a scale (any scale) on A will sound different than starting and ending any scale on C... but no piece runs through the scale like that.

This bit about chords and cadences though is probably actually the answer to my question. Unfortunately I have to explain the level of my *practical* ignorance here: I have no idea what an A minor chord is. Nor a C major chord. (I do know a chord is two distinct tones played simultaneously and that some combinations are more or less dissonant than others.) Or any of these cadences. (I have heard cadences on a CD lecture I am listening to, but the lecturer frustratingly seems to have assumed everyone would know he was talking about chords and know that they were different somehow.) You see, I last took music lessons in fifth grade (which was back during the Ford Administration!) and they certainly didn't explain any of this to us back then! It was just "play a G-flat whenever you see a G becuase there is a flat symbol on the G line at the beginning of the staff" and the really annoying pieces had several sharps or flats at the beginning of the staff--busted my ten year old crow--and I had no idea back then this was how to impose a key on the music. I was playing the clarinet and don't even remember if it is *possible* to play a chord on one.

Furthermore I do not have access to a piano or any other musical instrument; I don't think I've actually laid eyes on a keyboard in over a year. (Now there is the cultural gap between those who perform music and those who do not!) How about telling me which notes are combined to make up the chords? That would at least give me a theoretical grasp of the difference.

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I have no doubt that starting and ending a scale (any scale) on A will sound different than starting and ending any scale on C... but no piece runs through the scale like that.
It's not just a matter of the starting note. Do the experiment both times starting on C. That is C natural minor vs. C major. So

C D Eb F G Ab Bb C

vs.

C D E F G A B C

They have a very different sound not just for having different notes, but for being a different PATTERN of INTERVALS. And, as I mentioned before, even with the same notes, but starting and ending differently, there is a different sound because a different pattern of intervals:

So

A B C D E F G A

vs.

C D E F G A B C

sound different even though the same notes, since the pattern of intervals is different.

As to a piece just running a scale, of course melody is not just running scales, but the point is that melody is a PATTERN of INTERVALS not just a sequence of notes. I think it would help if you reconceptualize what the basic unit of melody is. The basic unit of melody is not notes, but rather INTERVALS.

For example, a melody that goes C D G Eb D, is transposed, e.g., as F G C Ab G.

Because the melody is not so much distinguished by the sequence of notes C D G Eb D, but rather by the sequence:

up whole step, up perfect 4th, down major 3rd, down half step.

That's why we don't need perfect pitch to recognize a melody. We only need relative pitch, the ability to recognize INTERVALS (the difference in pitch between two notes). Perfect pitch is the ability to recognize each note. Most musicians DON'T have perfect pitch. If an ordinary musician is away from his instrument, and you play a note on a piano, then the musician can't tell you whether it's a C or any of the other eleven pitches. But if you play a C and then an Eb, then the musican CAN tell you that is a minor third INTERVAL.

And this is why we recognize a melody no matter what key it is played in. If I sing a melody you know but I start on a different note from the one Nat 'King' Cole starts on - but keep the same intervals - you'll recognize the melody sure enough. Your recognition of a melody is not a recognition of certain notes, but rather of the pattern of intervals (I'm not mentioning here the length of the notes and pauses between them, since, for now, I'm just isolating to the question of pitch).

As to chords, usually not just two notes played at the same time, but rather, at least three notes (and often more) and not just any three or more notes, but certain combinations.

Edited by Hodge'sPodges
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I'm still suspecting that the "differences" I am hearing, supposedly a G minor symphony is dark and brooding and angst filled, while a G major is not--have more to do with differences in the way chords are constructed.

Otherwise I can still see no reason I could not plagiarize a symphony in C, scratch out the key designation, and call it a symphony in A minor. How could one possibly know the difference? Because it would be perfectly valid to start a melody (or theme) with (say) an E note, in either key, and it would necessarily proceed with the same sequence of intervals, and since it's the same intervals between the same notes, it would sound the same. *But* if the E note were really some sort of chord whose fundamental were E, and that chord were constructed differently in C vs A minor (e.g., E+ G + the A in the octave immediately higher in C, vs. E + higher A plus higher D in A minor, *then* it would sound different, and I imagine the difference would be fairly easy to recognize as the difference between major and minor once educated. (NOTE: I am pulling those chord examples out of an orifice best not mentioned in polite company; because as I pointed out earlier I have no idea what they consist of. No doubt my randomly generated examples would sound worse than a cat in heat mating with an untuned bagpipe if actually played.)

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I'm still suspecting that the "differences" I am hearing, supposedly a G minor symphony is dark and brooding and angst filled, while a G major is not--have more to do with differences in the way chords are constructed.
Both chords and melody. Both a G minor chord and a G minor melody (one built on a G minor scale) have a "darker" sound than major.

Otherwise I can still see no reason I could not plagiarize a symphony in C, scratch out the key designation, and call it a symphony in A minor. How could one possibly know the difference?
I already told you. Because a piece in C major has a cadence G7 to C major while a piece in A minor has a cadence E7 to A minor. Those are both different notes, involved, and different chord structures, and sound different. And the cadences and melodic figures leading to the final cadence are different too.

Because it would be perfectly valid to start a melody (or theme) with (say) an E note, in either key, and it would necessarily proceed with the same sequence of intervals, and since it's the same intervals between the same notes, it would sound the same.
Of course; it would BE the same. But a piece in C major ends on a C note (usually, nearly invariably, I mean) and a piece in A minor ends on an A note, so if both start on an E note then they WON'T be the same pattern of intervals since a path from E to C is not the same as a path from A to C.

*But* if the E note were really some sort of chord whose fundamental were E, and that chord were constructed differently in C vs A minor (e.g., E+ G + the A in the octave immediately higher in C, vs. E + higher A plus higher D in A minor, *then* it would sound different, and I imagine the difference would be fairly easy to recognize as the difference between major and minor once educated.
It's not a matter so much of octaves; and not a matter so much of STARTING note or chord (more important is ENDING note and chord). And two things: a minor chord sounds different from a major chord, because the intervals in a minor chord are different from those in a major chord. Again, two axes of comparison:

C major triad: C E G.

vs.

C minor triad: C Eb G.

(same tonic, different modality - called 'parallel minor')

C major triad: C E G.

A minor triad : A C E.

(different tonic, different modality - called 'relative minor')

Notice C Eb G and A C E are transpositions of one another.

Also, past triads and past even sevenths, minor chords may get different alterations to the extensions. For example, (usually) the eleventh of a major chord needs to be augmented to avoid a minor ninth clash with the third of the chord, whereas the eleventh of a minor chord can be perfect since that forms an acceptable major ninth with the third of the chord.

Also, typically in jazz, the ninth of the dominant in minor is different from the ninth of the dominant in major. So these cadences:

G7b9 Cm - minor cadence

G7 CM - major cadence

Also the fifth:

G+7 Cm - minor cadence

G7 CM - major cadence

or both:

G+7b9 Cm - minor cadence

G7 CM - major cadence

Edited by Hodge'sPodges
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Steve, I remembered I was to tell you of a book that you could peruse.

Look for this one: Harmony, 4th Edition by Piston. Avoid the 5th edition, as it was edited after Piston's death and even the editors note on the 5th edition that Piston would NOT have approved of many of the additions. I used the 5th edition when I was a the conservatory and I ended up buying the fourth edition because it was much clearer- the editors really did a mess of things. Anyways, Piston approaches the theoretical foundations of harmony- the backbone of all music- and only with an actual understanding of how harmony works (and the origin of the system itself) will you be able to understand more about music. Think of it as having to first understand color theory before you pick up a paintbrush.

After you are done with this book, you can peruse Schoenberg's "Theory of Harmony" then you can go on with his last work, "Structural Functions Of Harmony", which are his final thoughts on the subject of classical and romantic harmony.

I hope this may be helpful to you. I also recommend that you follow the order that I outlined, since Piston will give you the basics for harmonic understanding and Schoenberg's thoughts on romanticist and classical harmony will help you put the basic understanding you got from Piston into a specific context.

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It's not a matter so much of octaves; and not a matter so much of STARTING note or chord (more important is ENDING note and chord). And two things: a minor chord sounds different from a major chord, because the intervals in a minor chord are different from those in a major chord. Again, two axes of comparison:

C major triad: C E G.

vs.

C minor triad: C Eb G.

(same tonic, different modality - called 'parallel minor')

C major triad: C E G.

A minor triad : A C E.

(different tonic, different modality - called 'relative minor')

Notice C Eb G and A C E are transpositions of one another.

I think here you answered a lot of my questions. Thanks.

And thanks, Kainscalia, for the book recommendation.

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