Re: Solo ea

Subject: Re: Solo ea
From: miriam clinton (iriXx) (
Date: Wed Feb 16 2005 - 01:17:00 EST

Kevin Austin wrote:

> This is not an uncommon experience, and is often the clash of
> expectations.
> At 22:54 +1100 2005/02/13, miriam clinton (iriXx) wrote:
>> ...
>> i rebelled - in the middle of studies. i wrote a piece called 'is' -
>> which is anti-academic, it was purely about being myself. it's called
>> 'is' because 'it just is' - no need to justify anything i was doing.
>> in doing so, i had to battle every bit of academia that i ever
>> experienced. it was a rough ride.
> The academy is about getting a piece of paper that attests that
> certain conditions and criteria have been met. If one is not capable
> or chooses not to meet these standards, then the 'certification' is
> not given.
> There are exited doctors, lawyers, engineers, pharmacists, pilots,
> accountants etc etc. They have professional associations that
> 'accredit' that a certain standard has been achieved.
> Have you eaten in many un-accredited 'restaurants' lately?

indeed... most of the time, i choose somewhere off the beaten path. but
that is my way :)

> If you wish to be free and untainted, then the course of study is
> outside of academia. You will to a large degree also remain
> certificate-less. Some people are happier being free, untainted and
> away from the academy -- these are the ones that I recommend that they
> find their instruction through individual artists or their own path in
> the world.

this i found, after something like 10 years of study, was the way for
me. i left and never looked back. the moment i left, i was free from the
shackles around my thinking - although it took three years to undo them.
three years of experimentation in the underground dance scene, making
MADdonna remixes, and artistic silence. i am less certificated
(certified ;) than most, but i am freer in my thinking. it disappoints
me when i saw students of mine believing that they had to adhere to
rigid methods to pass an exam, and that that was what composition was
about. i taught none of the above - as the first thing i was told when
entering a university was 'this is a place where you come to discover
how to think'. the person who said this to me made quite an impression.
i never lost sight of that - but i came across many universities and
studios who had lost sight of the exploration of how to think - who
shackled their minds into methods and maps and rules.

i think i'm wandering on my own path to enlightenment, and probably
getting distracted and lost on the way, but thats the way i discover things.

>> ... i feel free. i make whatever i want - academic stuff is out the
>> window, analysis is out the window - the learning is somwhere
>> retained, the discipline - but not the rigidity.
> The rigidity is a function of the individual student. The academy sets
> standards and conditions and some find these rigid, others accept them
> as what they are designed to be, standards to be met.

unfortunately, students coming straight out of a high school system know
little different. that was why i was lucky to have this one tutor who
said 'this is not school - this is a place you come to learn to think
and explore'. i still cant remember his exact words. but a student who
does not know this - unless they are well above average intelligence and
have a thirst for exploration that exceeds the tasks set before them
(and rebels against them) - will follow the rigid path in order to get
the degree they are paying large sums of money for. the degree that will
get them a job and will say 'i had X for a teacher'.

this is the way a student's mind works. i think we as teachers need to
bear this in mind when we set courses - that we are oriented towards
exploration as well as technique. there is far too much emphasis on
technique, and when an impressionable year 1 student arrives, they focus
on the rules laid before them as if they were still in high school - and
lose sight of the possibilities and creativity ahead of them.

i did the same. i did so for 10 years.

eventually it broke my mind. something had to get free and i had to get
out. it took long periods of artistic silence to work out where i was
going - my own way. i dont deny that the technical grounding did me
well, but the overemphasis on analysis, method, structure and other such
rigidities bound me.

i think teachers should bear in mind also that each student is
different. that one may, as i do, think entirely in tangents and
strangenesses - others wish structure and complexity. neither is wrong.
it took a dance teacher to say to me 'there is no right or wrong in
dance' - that was the final key that changed my life and unlocked me
from the rigidities of academic music.

i believe that freedom in music can be found in the walls of university
study. but i believe it is the responsibility of teachers to be aware
that they may be tying down minds rather than setting them free,
depending on the courses that they set.

>> rigidity is dangerous, and i never taught my students to be so. i
>> taught them to explore, to have /fun/ - where is the fun in academic
>> composition?
> If you want 'fun', then a Masters or PhD program is not the place to
> look.

or a B.Mus - but they had fun and passed at the same time. in fact, the
group was successful and had a high level of attendance simply because
they werent subjected to music that they had no way in to - that was
full of rules and rigidity that they did not understand.

yes, we looked at rules and structures too, and we listened to the great
20th-21st century composers as well as Georgian folk music and Orbital.
and some craved structure and enjoyed it. but the principle was that my
students were free. that university was somewhere that they had come to
learn to think.

it was quite telling that they all complained about what they had to do
in the week i was off sick.

i had fun when i composed 'is'. that was in my last year of study. i
think its possible - we as teachers are just stuck in a tradition, i
believe - which is dangerous when the next generation of composers are
fledglings in our hands.

>> ... first year students, fresh out of high school where rules are the
>> norm. there /are/ no rules in music,
> ah ... this is silly. They may not be 'rules' in the written sense,
> but I would think that your brain runs on 'rules'. We may not be aware
> of them moment to moment and many of them may be ingrained into one of
> the lower levels of the physical brain, but they are used to receive
> and assess the information that is coming in, and determining the
> usefulness, appropriateness / behavioral response to the situation.
> A historical and cross-cultural look at music as it has been practiced
> for the past 3000 years will show that there are rules. Sometime in
> the mid-20th century a few western individuals proclaimed that music
> could be free from rules, but that has not altered the practice of
> music in wider culture and society.
> Most often the rules are specific and context driven by the language
> constraints of the style, and sometimes they are driven by biological
> and physical forces. (eg for dance music, have the beat fall between
> 30 and 240 beats per minute -- limitations of pulse and sustainable
> response times.)
indeed, and i dont deny that technical grounding is important as well.
and we did indeed learn and teach the physics of music, the physics of
harmonic structure, of compositional structure and of analysis. this i
set though as a /basis/ - not as the only rules to be followed. i see
students behaving like sheep at M.Mus or Ph.D level - following the
rules of the 'masters' because they're honestly under the impression
that this makes their work 'right', and that like the subjects of a
hellfire and brimstone preacher, composing 'wrong' music is simply not
allowed. what is wrong and what is right? who defines those rules? there
is no wrong or right - once you have a grounding in the physicality of
sound (i include here traditional harmony and analysis) you are at a
point where you can make your own decisions. and sadly, students arent
ever told that they /can/ make their own decisions - they remain in this
rut, unless a teacher can reveal it to them, whereby they compose rule
after rule after rule... i have heard so much non-music from imitative
students, and been saddened by it.

the point i'm making isnt "silly" - it is fact. one cannot tie down
music to a set of formulae - but unfortunately this is what ends up
being taught. i think you're not quite following the /full/ quote -
snipping it misses out its essence. "there is no right and wrong in
music - only /context/". (i apologise for the misquoting - the word
rules shoudl have been replaced by 'right or wrong' - this adds a
subtlety but does not change its overall meaning).

the context is the most important part. why did Vincenzo Galilei write
so much about breaking the harmonic rules when effect demands it? why do
i find a pair of parallel fifths in a Bach prelude? (and my hands went
'wtf?' when i played it)... because the context demanded it. because it
suited the context. because exploration was happening.

the word context is where decisions are made - and this brings in
difficult decisions - the most difficult of all. do i place these
parallel fifths in this context? is it quite the right effect, or is it
out of place? it takes aural training to follow such a notion, but it
also takes intuition. it means much harder work on the part of the
composer than following a rule-book.

we're in danger, if we remain believing that there are rigid rules in
music. there are guidelines that can be twisted and bent backwards until
the desired effect is achieved. and these are exciting to explore. try
bending the laws of harmony back upon themselves - creating the illusion
that something will resolve in one direction when it continually heads
elsewhere. the late 19th century composers did so. they broke all the
rules, and created something quite astounding.

which would you rather be in a storm? a flexible piece of bamboo, or a
straight tree trunk? which one is going to break first?

i was once a tree trunk and broke. thats when i found how to bend, flex,
weave, shape - and above all /enjoy/ music. i was not permitted to enjoy
creating music under the rule-books of academia - the pressure was
always on that in order to pass an exam, one's music must not just be
one's exploration but must also have some pseudo-philosophical
somethingorother attached to it in order to legitimise it. the result is
non-music. the result is dry and imitative.

i wrote myself into a corner- and then after three years, backed out and
became a piece of bamboo.

> Hmmm .... I can see it coming now ... the idea that the "finite number
> of compositions" concept is simply because of quantizing errors.

?... dont follow

syntax error

kernel panic

core dump


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