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What is a musician?
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Oskar



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 10:55 am    Post subject: What is a musician? Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Another spin off from the thread "Samples must be paid for."
What's a musician? To my mind, it's someone who has mastered an instrument, and is able to communicate his musical ideas - verbally, with sheet music, singing/playing or by other means. I also feel that the definition of an "instrument" doesn't necessarily have to be just what you find in a symphony orchestra. I mean, a good turntablist qualifies - he/she can do amazing stuff, just as exciting as a virtuosp drummer. Likewise, that strange guy out of Yello (Boris Plank?) couldn't play worth beans, but he created amazing stuff all the same. "Non-singers" like Johnny Rotten/John Lydon, David Thomas of Pere Ubu are top notch musicians, they just hit notes not found in any Western scale, regardless of temperament, which in Mr Lydon's case may safely be called Obnoxian. Cool
Anyway, what say you?

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I think that when it's not used to mean "A person with technical mastery of a musical instrument" then it might as well be exchanged for the word artist.

I pretty much go with the meaningless dictionary definition:

Musician, n.
artist who composes or conducts music

So i see it like this: to define what a musician is you must define what music is. In order to define music you have to define art. I've never been able to come up with or find a satisfactory definition for art. I think it's because it's constantly changing. Artists define what the word means by the art they create so it's a chicken and egg scenario.

"I'm a musician because I make music."
"Well, what's music?"
"Whatever I make." Add self-gratified smile.
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paul e.



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

maybe this is about the differences between an 'instrumentalist' and a 'non-instrumetalist'

either can be 'musicians'

if i can read between the lines, oskar seems to be suggesting 'instrumentalists' are 'more of a [ 'real'] musician' than someone who does not play an instrument..

this might be correct..it might not...any ideas ?

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 12:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

My personal definition of art: Expression which includes a choice between more than one correct answer.

So, in essence, an artist is someone who makes choices. Better artists just make better choices. Better is subject, and that's why some people like some artists over others. And why some people choose some *art* over others. I think any person who spends a fair amount of time *as* an artist, begins to recognize the everything is art. An artist has to choose his/her medium for communication, and I suppose it's that choice that's under suspect. I would think the question could also be whether an artist that creates with an instrument that someone else designed/made is more desirable than an artist that creates with sounds that someone else designed/made. I guess it's the same with those who disagree over "true analog" vs. digital, or acoustic vs. electric.

As Oskar mentioned, Mastery is a whole new level of artistry, in which I believe an artist spends a great deal of time & effort in making better choices. Of course there's the "ability of the Master to communicate his ideas"...but that ties *directly* to the listeners ability to *hear* the master's ideas. So the listener must also be an artist in some way as well.

Of course, this is all my opinion, and is only considered truth to me (unless your art, I mean your choice, is similar). Enough babbling.
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Dovdimus Prime



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

So, if I can't play any instrument, but I write music virtually every day, what does that make me?

Question

Huh?

Question

I realise I'm setting myself up for a fall here.... Smile

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Dovdimus Prime wrote:
So, if I can't play any instrument, but I write music virtually every day, what does that make me?

a virtual musician Question dunno

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Oskar



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Dovdimus Prime wrote:
So, if I can't play any instrument, but I write music virtually every day, what does that make me?


Depends, doesn't it? If you don't play a conventional instrument (including e.g. turntables and "non-singing") but can communicate your ideas to others then you're a musician in my book.
Btw, jksuperstar summed it up very nicely, as far as I'm concerned. Good man!

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Abstract definitions are difficult. If you see someone and have difficulty determining if they are a musician, just ask somebody. If you don't like the answer, then ask someone else.
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Dovdimus Prime



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 12:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Ah well, I can actually mix and scratch a bit so that means, even according to Oskar's definition, I am a musician! Oh the relief! Very Happy

But seriously, to me the distinction between composer and performer is analogous to the distinction between architect and builder. And I don't know who built St Paul's Cathedral...

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 2:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
When I speak of good rhythm I am not reffering exclusively to the precision of a metronome. Precision is indeed essential to good rhythm, and i maintain that the metronome is a musician's best friend. Playing to a metronome, however, is similar to looking at yourself in a mirror. The mirror shows you what you look like, but in itself it cannot make you beautiful. The metronome will not make you precise, but by listening carefully to it you can tell wheter your rhythm is precise or not.

Perfect rhythm includes precision, but also energy, dynamism, impetus--what musicians usually call forward motion. This is nearly indescribable. Forward motion is part of the quality in music that makes you pretend you are the conductor. Heinrich Neuhaus quoted Goethe: 'You think that you push but you are being pushed.' Forward motion make music compelling, and it adds a livelinesss to rhythmic discipline that is lacking in mere metronomic precision.

A musician who is learning a new piece may rush over easy passages and slow down difficult ones. He may claimes he is ' concentrating' on sound-production, or fingering, or getting the notes, and so on, and therefore ' the rhythm is not important'. Yet virtually all difficulties are conquered trough good rhythm, not before it, and above all not separate from it. Good rhythm is the mean whereby a musician may acquire freedom.




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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

_•°ø wrote:
Quote:
When I speak of good rhythm I am not reffering exclusively to the precision of a metronome. Precision is indeed essential to good rhythm, and i maintain that the metronome is a musician's best friend. Playing to a metronome, however, is similar to looking at yourself in a mirror. The mirror shows you what you look like, but in itself it cannot make you beautiful. The metronome will not make you precise, but by listening carefully to it you can tell wheter your rhythm is precise or not.

Perfect rhythm includes precision, but also energy, dynamism, impetus--what musicians usually call forward motion. This is nearly indescribable. Forward motion is part of the quality in music that makes you pretend you are the conductor. Heinrich Neuhaus quoted Goethe: 'You think that you push but you are being pushed.' Forward motion make music compelling, and it adds a livelinesss to rhythmic discipline that is lacking in mere metronomic precision.

A musician who is learning a new piece may rush over easy passages and slow down difficult ones. He may claimes he is ' concentrating' on sound-production, or fingering, or getting the notes, and so on, and therefore ' the rhythm is not important'. Yet virtually all difficulties are conquered trough good rhythm, not before it, and above all not separate from it. Good rhythm is the mean whereby a musician may acquire freedom.




Indirect Procedures: A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique
Pedro De Alcantara



He is onto something.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Dovdimus Prime wrote:

But seriously, to me the distinction between composer and performer is analogous to the distinction between architect and builder. And I don't know who built St Paul's Cathedral...


But it wouldn't be there if they didn't.


elektro80 wrote:

He is onto something.


I'm guessing it's something about ambient music?
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 2:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Ambient music? Well... I am still not sure what ambient music is. Anyway, the quote shows a framework within music and it does not specifically comment on rythmic music since timing and event structures also occur in the composition of what you might call ambient music. As such, the written notation for a lot of the current contemporary classic/modern music does in fact very often contain peformance details ... to an extreme level. ...In fact so much that there is a current discussion going on re modern composers are completely overdoing it and turning orchestral muscians into flesh and blood midi devices. My own little piece Utmost Savagery is an example of the use of timing and rythmic events in ensemble pieces with a "floating" feel. There is nothing advanced in the notation really. I am using 8/12 and 4/4 across the piece. It can be argued that I am using rythm and the old tradition of "counting" Shocked just because I know nothing better and that I am anal about this because I have had music lessons. That may be, but I tend to believe traditional music training and theory has been helpful too me, even though I am possibly making stuff that does not sound like i am viennawaltzing the polka boards. Of course, a lot of modernist/contemporary music can often use seemingly non rythmic event structures that sounds like they are outside of any event struvture evident in the music.. seemingly random notes and clusters and beeps and whatever. Making this work is not easy and I suggest that having musicians around that understand intuitively what is needed to make this work is pretty damned cool.
There is a grey area in theory concerning clustering schemes like I use in Utmost Savagery. Clustering techniques like the ones I have used cannot really be learned in a classroom, but they can be discussed and explored. That said, I am in fact arguing that there is a validity in musicians/composers figuring out stuff on their own. Formal training is helpful ( and hell.. in some cases even destructive ) but on the other hand I cannot see anything wrong in people exploring music on their own.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

http://www-gewi.kfunigraz.ac.at/muwi/parncutt/publications/Pa99_PerceptualHarmony.pdf

This article is pretty cool and interesting.





Quote:
Abstract
An undergraduate harmony course is presented that is grounded in recent research on the perception of harmony and tonality, and makes relevant aspects of that research accessible to music students. Perceptual theory can shed light on such general basic issues as intonation and the role of acoustics in harmonic theory, principles of chord construction, voicing and voiceleading in diatonic and chromatic progressions, stability and tension of harmonies in tonal contexts, modulation and tonicization, and the degree of finality of cadential progressions in different voicings. The proposed course is intended to complement and enrich more familiar historical and notational approaches. At various stages of the course, all possible chords, functions, or harmonic sequences conforming to clearly defined perceptual constraints are systematically enumerated using pitch-class set theory. Relevant perceptual properties (consonance, interrelationships) of the elements, calculated according to available models, are then compared with the both their musical function in conventional harmonic theory and with their frequency of occurrence in relevant musical literature. At every stage of the course, musical and perceptual theories are integrated with ear training, analysis, keyboard skills, and composition.




Quote:
Modern undergraduate harmony courses investigate compositional processes and devices by analyzing masterworks and by writing according to stylistic or generic models, often with the possibility of free composition and improvization. Traditional harmonic theory involves the labeling of chords in tonal chord progressions and the composition of chord progressions in mainstream tonal styles. Students are trained to identify and classify the pitch materials of tonal music, and to apply stylistic conventions with the aim of reproducing mainstream tonal styles. Aural and visual experience with a range of materials develops students’ intuitive understanding of harmony, even if they cannot necessarily articulate the underlying principles. An important spinoff of traditional harmony courses is that they improve students’ general fluency in score reading and transcription. Seldom, however, do the pitched materials themselves receive systematic scrutiny. An alternative approach to the understanding of harmony might be first to explore how the elements of harmony (intervals, chords, scales) are perceived. The past two decades have seen considerable progress in understanding of ...


http://www-gewi.kfunigraz.ac.at/muwi/parncutt/publications/Pa99_PerceptualHarmony.pdf

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
Ambient music? Well... I am still not sure what ambient music is.


That was intended as a joke, really. ::)

Quote:

Anyway, the quote shows a framework within music and it does not specifically comment on rythmic music since timing and event structures also occur in the composition of what you might call ambient music. As such, the written notation for a lot of the current contemporary classic/modern music does in fact very often contain peformance details ... to an extreme level. ...In fact so much that there is a current discussion going on re modern composers are completely overdoing it and turning orchestral muscians into flesh and blood midi devices. My own little piece [url=http://elektro80.electro-music.com/music/Utmost_Savagery.mp3Utmost Savagery[/url] is an example of the use of timing and rythmic events in ensemble pieces with a "floating" feel. There is nothing advanced in the notation really. I am using 8/12 and 4/4 across the piece. It can be argued that I am using rythm and the old tradition of "counting" :shock: just because I know nothing better and that I am anal about this because I have had music lessons. That may be, but I tend to believe traditional music training and theory has been helpful too me, even though I am possibly making stuff that does not sound like i am viennawaltzing the polka boards. Of course, a lot of modernist/contemporary music can often use seemingly non rythmic event structures that sounds like they are outside of any event struvture evident in the music.. seemingly random notes and clusters and beeps and whatever. Making this work is not easy and I suggest that having musicians around that understand intuitively what is needed to make this work is pretty damned cool.
There is a grey area in theory concerning clustering schemes like I use in Utmost Savagery. Clustering techniques like the ones I have used cannot really be learned in a classroom, but they can be discussed and explored. That said, I am in fact arguing that there is a validity in musicians/composers figuring out stuff on their own. Formal training is helpful ( and hell.. in some cases even destructive ) but on the other hand I cannot see anything wrong in people exploring music on their own.


Yes, the idea that skills are learned so they can be forgotten. I cherish my classical training and sometimes feel guilt about not pursuing it professionally but I'm glad I took a more individualistic approach to music. I probably would not be happy otherwise. The most valuable part of it for me was discipline. Not something that is emphasized much in popular music but invaluable.

Listening to the music of Xenakis, et al, really drives home the point about skilled musicians. I think part of the reason his music is not performed more frequently is because of it's immense technical difficulty. It seems to me that the more extreme modern orchestral music becomes, the more it sounds like what you hear if you just close your eyes and listen. I think it's a case of the circular spectrum, go far enough in one direction and you arrive back at the starting point. In this case, the incidental sounds of beings living their lives.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
http://www-gewi.kfunigraz.ac.at/muwi/parncutt/publications/Pa99_PerceptualHarmony.pdf

This article is pretty cool and interesting.



I'll second that. Thanks for posting the link.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yes, I think so too. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

That link might be a bit OT, but I kinda thinks it develops parts of the original direction the thread had.. and it comments a bit on the other threads that led to this one.

A text from Lehrdal is quoted:





Quote:
The conventional wisdom, at least in the United States, holds that Schenkerian theory explains diatonic tonal music and pitch-set theory explains atonal music (chromatic tonal music is a source of discomfort). This scenario is implausible from a psychological standpoint if only because it presupposes two entirely different listening mechanisms. We do not hear Elektra and Erwartung in completely different ways. There is a good deal of 20th-century music – Bartók or Messiaen, for instance – that moves smoothly between tonality (broadly speaking) and atonality. In short, the historical development from tonality to atonality (and back) is richly continuous. Theories of tonality and atonality should be comparably linked.



Well.. yes.. very true..

Parncutt then says:

Quote:
An approach to harmony based on the chromatic scale and pitch-class sets – along the lines of Forte (1973), but applied to tonal as well as atonal music – might help to bridge the gap between music theories based on the major-minor system and music theories associated with other styles: the impressionist tonalities of Debussy and Ravel, serial and non-serial forms of atonality, bebop jazz, and even harmonic and contrapuntal styles from the Middle Ages and Renaissance where clear mappings may be made between diatonic and (hypothetical) chromatic scale steps. Such a pluralistic approach is consistent with trends toward postmodernism and neotonality at the end of the 20th century.



Quote:
Recent explorations of the relationship between perceptual theory and the historical evolution of tonal-harmonic syntax (Eberlein, 1994; Tenney, 1988) have highlighted the influence on harmonic syntax of social, perceptual, and physical influences, where social influences include the changing compositional conventions of different historical periods. The crucial role of history means that relationships observed between the predictions of perceptual models and modern harmonic language are best described as indirect; directly, our perception depends primarily on musical conditioning (Lundin, 1947; Parncutt, 1989). For example, the double-leading-tone cadence of the 15th century (e.g., DF#-B to C-G-C) presumably sounded perfectly normal (consonant, final) at that time, but to modern ears it can come as quite a surprise. The cadence emerged from the application to three-part music of voice-leading rules that had originally been intended for music in two voices (Eberlein, 1994).


A jolly good read.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

A musician is someone who was likely a bird in a past life, if those exist.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 6:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
That link might be a bit OT, but I kinda thinks it develops parts of the original direction the thread had.. and it comments a bit on the other threads that led to this one.

A text from Lehrdal is quoted:



As an aside—I’ve never read anything by Lehrdal that was not extremely worth while. I recomend him highly.

Quote:
The crucial role of history means that relationships observed between the predictions of perceptual models and modern harmonic language are best described as indirect; directly, our perception depends primarily on musical conditioning (Lundin, 1947; Parncutt, 1989)



That seems to me to be a statement most relevant to serious contemporary composition. Will Hoskins, my mentor of many years, believed that most modern compositions are to a great extent self-defining systems. From which it follows that to get the most out of them one must listen to them repeatedly so that one can be conditioned to (learn) their syntax and semantics--a position with which I am in complete agreement.

But it’s an interesting and difficult balancing act. If there is insufficient “traditional/historic” content the listener may not be persuaded that repeated listening is worthwhile.

My failing memory vaguely recalls Richard Wagner being in such a position in regard to the harmonies and modulations of one of his early operas and being on record as stating that he would not again make the mistake of advancing music’s vocabulary at a rate faster than his audience could absorb. Anybody here know which opera that was?

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2004 12:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Wagner seemed to dwell on this issue several times. Tchaikovsky did actually comment on the The Ring in a similar fashion. And yes.. he did strecth it with the Ring... Very Happy


Hoskins idea that modern compositions are to a great extent self-defining systems is pretty much corrrect the way I see it. However, this is an interesting issue and your comment:



Quote:
But it’s an interesting and difficult balancing act. If there is insufficient “traditional/historic” content the listener may not be persuaded that repeated listening is worthwhile.


is very interesting. I agree with this statement.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2004 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

play wrote:
Dovdimus Prime wrote:

But seriously, to me the distinction between composer and performer is analogous to the distinction between architect and builder. And I don't know who built St Paul's Cathedral...


But it wouldn't be there if they didn't.


True, but quite clearly my point is that we remember the building because of Wren's contribution not the builders'.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2004 9:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

St Paul's Cathedral is a masterpiece. Only a skilled engineer/architect could have pulled it off, but then again.. if there hadn´t been expert builders available the result would have been just another dead duck.

Buildings like this one can probably be compared to performing Stravinsky´s "The Soldier´s Story" without seriously hurting anyone.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2004 9:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Mad

Clearly, my point is that we admire the thing for the quality of its design. Skilled builders can make a very nice house, but nobody puts photos of the house on a postcard.

I'm not trying to argue that music doesn't require good performers as well as good composers. But I am trying to argue that it needs a good composer as well as good performers, and therefore that the composer's role is as important - he is also a musician.[/b]

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2004 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
Clearly, my point is that we admire the thing for the quality of its design. Skilled builders can make a very nice house, but nobody puts photos of the house on a postcard.


Also related, few people outside other musician's now who's in the backing band, or who was in the studio to record the artist's song. The typical listener only know's it's "Muddy Waters", or whomever. Irregardless of how involved they were in the style each imparted as compromises were made in playing the piece. (Just like we may know the architect but not the builders). Credit & "importance" are not necessarily related to each other, nor are they necessarily related to skill.
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