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Again:  Did you get the Fisk transcriptions?  I sent you links via the OO.net forum email option.

No, I never did. Hmm, my primary address is [email protected], if you want to try that I would appreciate it very much.

You have evidence that some part of Objectivism is wrong?  Was this part of a discussion in another thread?  Could you point me to it?  I don't usually read, follow, or post in many areas except aesthetics.  Whenever I have looked around I see that other, more qualified individuals are properly answering questions related to other areas of Objectivism & philosophy in general.  I am knowledgable about it, but I don't have an unlimited amount of time & this is a division of labor society!  As well as (thankfully) a division of labor forum.


Here is an essay that I feel brings up rather good points, especially about the dogmatic nature of Objectivism. Even though every one here bashes this man, he knew the philosophy, and Ayn Rand better than any one here. I am also unconvinced on the case against animal volition. To me, this is something neither side of the argument can prove, and I don't think it is logical to reason, "Animals don't have volition because Ayn Rand says so." I have also noticed that through the literature I have read so far, I rarely ever come across proper citations. In general, the treatment of the philosophy as a closed-system, I feel, is quite lame, and that gives me a dogmatic impression of it. I have yet to see a serious Objectivist take into any consideration a view point that doesn't coincide with the Objectivist stand on a certain issue. This, to me, is intellectual suicide. With my current view of reality, I have spotted the forementioned items as being wrong (amongst others). For lack of a better comparison, when I argue with many Objectivists I feel like I am arguing with Christians. No matter what kind of contradictory evidence is shown against their beliefs, they have a completely closed mind to taking it into consideration. This, I find very lame, as being objective calls for an active mind, not a closed mind.

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I have to say, again, Christopher, that that was a brilliant breakdown of basic music theory. I think I'm going to print that our for my wife (who I've been trying to teach for sometime now, and have failed to get through to her, via my poor teaching skills.) I would definitely go to that other forum that you listed, however, my computer (work) has a firewall preventing me from it. Counterpoint rocks. I'm trying to figure out how to add more counterpoint to rock music. I know some bands have dabbled in this (i.e. Tool) but I'd like to make it more of a mainstream theme in the music.

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I have to say, again, Christopher, that that was a brilliant breakdown of basic music theory.

You are welcome. I am glad it was of value to you.

I think I'm going to print that our for my wife (who I've been trying to teach for sometime now, and have failed to get through to her, via my poor teaching skills.)

Hmmm...I am assuming your wife WANTS to learn music theory. I hope so for your sake man!

I would definitely go to that other forum that you listed, however, my computer (work) has a firewall preventing me from it...I'm trying to figure out how to add more counterpoint to rock music.

No need for that. What follows is pasted from that forum regarding my take on counterpoint & voice leading in pop music.

Voice Leading in Pop Music

There is no essential difference in the application of musical voice leading principles between Classical music & Pop Music.

There can, of course, be a great deal of difference in the fine details. Classical music voice leading is typically more complex in that it usually involves more hierarchical levels, prolongations, digressions, etc. Pop music voice leading is typically simpler & more direct with less levels to be unraveled.

Because I have dealt with Classical voice leading in other contexts I want to specifically address voice leading in the context of Pop music in this essay. After teaching guitar, bass, piano & music theory in private lessons for close to 20 years, after playing various types of Pop music in cover & original bands for even longer, I have come to several conclusions about it’s applications of voice leading principles.

Often, the most misunderstood aspect of pop music, by music students, is overemphasis of the guitar (&/or piano) parts. Many beginning students are obsessed with this aspect because they are learning & only focusing on it. It is an important aspect, but dealt with exclusively it leaves out the melody, which is often in the form of the notes that accompany the lyrics. Interestingly, the guitar part of many pop songs may contain many simultaneous notes (chords) or even fully harmonized parts of a song’s theme. However, in the case of a song that does have a melody, almost everything the guitar does functions solely as one line. This line could be considered a counter melody to the main melody; it could be considered a counterpoint to the cantus firmus that is the main melody (again, usually in the form of the notes accompanying the lyrics).

For example, even if a guitar part has full triadic, diatonic-based chords often it is still only supporting the main melody. Frequently if the main melody is presented by the guitar it is as a separate part with the guitar playing the chords played on another guitar. Also notable is the fact that frequently a bridge or solo done by a guitar is done precisely when the vocal line presenting the melody is not present. At this point, the guitar takes over the melody presentation function.

In much Pop music the guitar line may consist of full chords, each of which may contain a root, third, fifth, & octave (sometimes one or more of which is doubled as the guitar has six strings). I have been asked if consistently using barre chords or power chords such as described in the previous sentence violates voice leading principles by constant presentation of parallelisms (notably parallel fifths), or too many thirds consecutively, etc. As long as there is a melody line also present somewhere in the song, or some kind of functioning counter melody, the answer is no. Every note of any chord the guitar may be playing has some function, but they are not all equally important. There is a hierarchy of value involved that necessarily takes place as a natural consequence of tonality.

For example, the most important note in any chord is frequently the lowest in pitch. This lowest note present represents the specific inversion of the chord & thus how the chord will function in the entire context of the song’s voice leading. There is the possibility of an interior note assuming more importance but this is typically an exception that can be dealt with as it arises; it does not effect the principles of voice leading, only to which notes they are applied. Any other note accompanying this most important note will certainly help identify further characteristics of the overall chord (major or minor third, seventh, etc.) but since we are assuming the presence of a melody line the harmonic implications & functions should already be present. These other notes will essentially only reinforce (or digress from) the already present melody & main note of the guitar part, being the counter melody. These other notes will essentially be ornamental in nature; they will not serve as harmonic pillars. That function is already served by & present in the form of the melody (vocal lyric line) & counter melody (guitar, bass, piano parts).

So even though a guitar part may contain parallel fifth after fifth in presenting barre chords or power chords, the fifth does not necessarily adversely affect the voice leading presented in the song. It is merely “along for the ride” with the chord; it is reinforcing the overtone series presented by the root or third (or whatever the most important note of the chord actually is). Obviously, in the case that a chord is in second inversion, thus making the fifth the lowest & usually most important note, it temporarily functions as the counter melody note & the other notes of the chord (root, third, etc.) move down the hierarchy in importance. Further, often when this happens you will notice that the bass in the song is still using the root or third as the lowest note actually present in the song, making the guitar’s fifth ornamental anyway. This typically happens in “heavier” Pop music when the guitar happens to be using inverted power chords. In any event these are all minor considerations as the central principle I am stating can be easily identified: There is only ONE most important note of any chord which is functioning as a melody or counter melody note. Further, if this note can be positively identified as a counter melody to main melody, this note is second in importance to the note it accompanies in the main melody.

A brief overview of voice leading is in order. Voice leading is regarding all the notes present in a piece of music as part of a melodic thread. For example, suppose a song in which there is a series of three-note chords being played. Each note of each chord is regarded as it’s own “voice”. As the song moves from chord to chord, the top note (highest in pitch) of each chord is regarded as an entity called a melodic thread in it’s own right from the beginning of the song to the end. The same follows for the middle notes of the chords forming their own melodic thread & the lowest notes likewise. These melodic threads are “voices”. The ways in which these voices interact is regarded as how voice leading is accomplished in the song. The basic principles of tonal harmony, the arising of a functional labeling of chords are a consequence of voice leading. For example, the concepts of the Tonic chord (one chord in relation to it’s root being the same as the key in which the piece is written), Dominant chord (five chord being built on the fifth degree of the key), as well as Sub-dominant, & Intermediate, etc. chords exist because of voice leading.

In its bare-bones presentation, voice leading is essentially two simultaneous melodies (voices, lines, etc.): the melody & countermelody (or cantus firmus & counterpoint). In Johann Joseph Fux’s classic, timeless work on the subject, “Gradus Ad Parnassum” (typically known as “The Study of Counterpoint”) the basic principles & example applications of the same are clearly, systematically presented. Note: the version I have & will be quoting/referencing is the translation by Alfred Mann (copyright 1971 ISBN 0-393-00277-2). The main focus of this work (& the subsequent theory & practice of the subject) is the study of the interaction of & types of motions available in leading the two voices.

The work starts by identifying a hierarchy of relative consonance/dissonance of musical intervals as such:

1. The unison, fifth & octave are perfect consonances.

2. The sixth & third are imperfect consonances.

3. The fourth is a dissonance when a fundamental (the root of the chord being presented) & an imperfect consonance (not the root)

4. The remaining diatonic intervals are dissonances (second, tritone, seventh)

Next are the three types of motion available to voices:

1. Direct motion results when two or more voices ascend or descend in the same direction by step (scale-wise) or by skip (larger than scale-wise).

2. Contrary motion results when one voice ascends while the other voice descends.

3. Oblique motion results when one voice ascends or descends while the other voice remains stationary.

The work then moves to the four rules the student is supposed to use as a guide as to the motion proper to the voices so as to achieve the proper intervals between the voices. These rules have to do with the nature of consonance or dissonance of intervals & the manner of motion in which one is to approach said intervals.

1. Use contrary or oblique motion when moving from perfect consonance to perfect consonance.

2. Use any of the three motions when moving from perfect consonance to imperfect consonance.

3. Use contrary or oblique motion when moving from imperfect consonance to perfect consonance.

4. Use any of the three motions when moving from imperfect consonance to imperfect consonance.

It is easy enough to see how to reduce these rules. Beethoven was said to have combined rule one & three, as well as, combining rule two & four based on the symmetry of their motions. He thus reduced it to two rules. The composer/theorist Martini reduced it to one, saying in effect: The only progression NOT allowed is direct motion into a perfect consonance.

The stated justification for these rules is to “provide a variety of sound”. This is achieved in the rules by prohibiting the parallel succession of perfect consonances because it deprives voices of their independence & by the careful use of imperfect consonances so as to avoid monotony. Prohibiting parallelisms is key to me. This is true essentially because there is no justification for considering a voice a separate entity (a voice in its own right) if it merely mimics the other voice; especially in the form of a unison, fifth or octave. It can be a useful ornament, embellishment or effect but it is not a separate voice.

All of the examples clearly focus on the interval (& progression of intervals) occurring as a result of two simultaneously occurring notes of the two voices throughout a piece. The examples given are not “songs” or complete “piece” per se. They are merely potential melodic lines or threads presented for the sole purpose of learning voice leading principles. There is typically a given melody line (the cantus firmus) with a possible counterpoint line. Occasionally there are “incorrect” counterpoint notes in the examples in order to show improper voice leading choices in contrast to better or more proper choices.

The given cantus firmus’ are written with the idea in mind of a singable melody line, starting and ending on the root note of one key, generally having one high (or low) point & frequently containing a good variety of differing motions (up & down, step & skip). Also, there is an excellent sense of goal-directed motion built into most of the cantus firmus melodies. Unfortunately, this is not made explicit, but the perceptive student can identify it. For example, all of the melodies start on the root, most then move to the fifth of the key (the dominant) & finally move down step wise to the root at the end.

The beginning exercises only allow for the use of consonant intervals between the voices. This is not to suggest these are the only intervals acceptable in musical composition (even though they are in fact typically the only ones used in Pop music). It is merely to focus on the hierarchical importance of certain notes, intervals & ultimately harmonic implications in tonality. Later exercises introduce the use of dissonances.

There are several “species” of counterpoint in a plan of growing complexity in the amount of notes, amount of voices (from 2, to 3, to 4) & rhythmic values. There is eventually a suggestion for the moving on from “strict” counterpoint study to “florid” counterpoint & free composition in which actual pieces or songs are supposed to be produced using stated principles.

If the student consistently follows the examples of the book, it is possible to see that the concept of goal-directed motion is the central premise in tonal music. This is presented in the form of a melody that implies a harmonic framework or such a melody with an actual harmonic context present in the form of counterpoint voices.

Two things are frequently surprising to many beginning students of counterpoint. One is the difficulty in consistently creating acceptable voice leading with such simple materials. Second, after the student has gained some skill & applies these concepts to actual songs/pieces of existing music, the student is “amazed” at how consistent “catchy” or “hummable” tunes/songs/melodies are with the principles stuffy old Herr Fux has outlined.

Interestingly, it is rather easy to apply voice leading principles to Pop music. Typically, it is easy to identify the main melody line; then, isolate the supporting counter melody in the form of a guitar, bass or piano part. From this information I can then draw a simple chart of the bare-bones melody/counterpoint presentation of the song. Once this reduction is accomplished it is easy to see the overall structure of the song: its beginning, middle & end; in other words, it’s goal-directed motion. Applying Schenkerian concepts to this bare-bones structure is also quite an easy matter. This is primarily because it goes right to the central premise in application of Schenker’s theory: There is a “background level” (most important hierarchically) of information in any tonal piece. Every note in a piece is present in the “foreground level”, then it is the theorists job to place relative value on each note, thereby reducing the structure eventually to it’s bare-bones melody/countermelody function. After this is done, it is easier to see the goal-directed nature of the piece. The goal-directed nature of the piece answers key questions such as: What is the motion of the melody in the context of the home key of the piece? How does the countermelody support this motion? Does the melody clearly move from a beginning through the middle to an end? Does the countermelody effectively support the melody & its sections? How effectively are the melody & countermelody integrated?

This is the process by which I analyze any & all music. These are the questions I ask of any music I am analyzing.

Christopher Schlegel

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