Organizing Principles

Discussions on the theoretical basis of the LCC

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Organizing Principles

Postby dogbite » Sat May 07, 2011 3:13 pm

my two one-hundredths of a half-step:

i love paul nelson's composertools and accompanying apps. set theory (as utilized by forte, rahn, nelson and others) provides an analytical tool to sort out all possible combinations within the twelve tone system.

i also love the particulars of harmonic theory and how the overtones series can be used to describe or otherwise define at least some of our perceptions of musical phenomena.

that being said, i would like to point out the following:

don't you think that using set theory and its 4096 pitch sets of 2048 modes of 352 scale/arpeggio types is kind of like handing the periodic table of elements to the chef while asking him to prepare a fine meal? in other words, without some kind of organizing principle (or limiting factor) what is to assist the chef in coming up with something more interesting than primordial goo?

harmonic theory: same thing; there are an infinite number or harmonics, overtones, harmonic partials, and non-harmonic partials. the twelve-tone system is a practical way to generate tones that approximate certain harmonic ratios with a barely noticeable error on fourths and fifths (2 cents) yet a larger error on thirds and sixths (14-16 cents) by distributing these errors evenly throughout twelve equal-tempered tonalities.

russell has explicitly stated that his theory is based upon equal-temperament; more specifically, equal-tempered fifths. one must also keep in mind that russell's original (1959-1964) texts are very different than the latest (2001) edition and that many of us have studies the earlier version for perhaps several decades before seeing the newest work. therefore, we may view the proofs differently because we've had a chance to assimilate the principles therein.

motherlode has pointed out something of import that this music called jazz evolved under the radar of western european academia and in my opinion explains some of why classical theory traditions seem ill equipped to describe this relatively new music. do i agree with all of what russell cites as mathematical fact? nope. but let us recognize that russell was not a professional mathematician; he was one of jazz's finest composers and if he (perhaps) has relied on others to provide mathematical descriptions of his concept that turned out to be not quite right, the question then becomes: are we willing to set aside our discomfort and embrace what he was telling us beyond these abstractions that are so easy to get caught up in?

the organizing principles given to us are valuable tools that keep order from descending into chaos. the concept has a strict categorization (through its tonal orders) of these materials that some may dismiss as unnecessary (due to their being available through other methods) or downright wrong, but many others have found them to be ultimately quite useful. the concept is a method and a method is a method, subject to all of the downfalls of any "method" - but to learn a method one must set aside all discomfort as to embrace it freely, as to not dismiss that which may turn out to be something wonderful.

it is a sad thing that russell has passed away some time ago and therefore will not be adding to the written record of his concept. whether or not any of the unknown number of authorized instructors will weigh in with specific answers to these kinds of questions is unknown to me (or anyone else that i know of) but seems unlikely. same thing with volume two; it's been ten years and i just don't think we're gonna see it, so i must work with what's in front of me and i do not wish to speculate as to what's not. i have my own concept, a synthesis of all i have learned from russell, hindemith, schoenberg, wuorinen, benward, etc, etc, but this is a forum for russell's concept; not mine. therefore i will try to stick to the concept itself while i'm here because i full well know that any theory of music (it really isn't particle physics, you know) will contain subjective elements that are quick to evolve into something that has little to do with music.

again, just my two one-hundredths of a half-step, or two cents.
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