Focusing on Our Architecture

We are all familiar with those program or liner notes that are a step removed from generalized music theory and are about as stimulating to read as a legal brief or a software manual. When I was an adolescent and music was my heartthrob, I just didn’t get how something so sensuous could be intellectualized […]

What role has theory played in your compositions and how important is it for people to know the theory behind the music in order to appreciate it? Julia Werntz

Julia WerntzPhoto by Pandelis Karayorgis Because I write microtonal music and spend a lot of time with other people’s microtonal music, there is a lot to try to figure out—microtonality is still new, even over a hundred years after Julian Carrillo began experimenting with it. So in addition to composing, I’ve written a few articles […]

What role has theory played in your compositions and how important is it for people to know the theory behind the music in order to appreciate it? George Russell

George Russell Photo courtesy New England Conservatory Theory in all endeavors, musical or not, is important only if it derives from the need of one’s essence, rather than being only other people’s ideas or thoughts. A useful theory must blend and bend into one’s own being; theory has to be self-made. Theories which have been […]

What role has theory played in your compositions and how important is it for people to know the theory behind the music in order to appreciate it? Cindy McTee

Cindy McTee Elaborate theoretical systems can be found in my work, and they are always employed as a means to an end. I can think of two reasons why I might feel the need to explain my music in theoretical terms: first, to provide the listener with information designed to enhance the experience of hearing a work […]

Yoko Ono’s Snow

Originally published on February 7, 1977 As usual, I’ve been going to a lot of concerts. On my desk at the moment are several different programs from events which I’ve attended recently, and which I suppose I really ought to report on. But the snow that has been falling so abundantly has made me aware […]

What role has theory played in your compositions and how important is it for people to know the theory behind the music in order to appreciate it? Fred Lerdahl

Fred Lerdahl Near the beginning of my composing career, around 1970, I underwent a crisis of belief. Modern music had splintered into mutually incompatible styles, each with its own aesthetic, and any coherent sense of the historical trajectory of art music was gone. Contemporary compositional methods were often highly rationalized but inaccessible to listeners except […]

Suspended Bell Gives Concert

Originally published on December 9, 1974 The procedure had been suggested silently by a poster hanging on one wall of the Experimental Intermedia loft. ‘Letting the metal swing back and forth,’ it said, ‘making it sound when it comes to you (just by touching).’ Now six or eight of us were sitting on the floor […]

What role has theory played in your compositions and how important is it for people to know the theory behind the music in order to appreciate it? Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson One of my favorite riddles is this: What is the difference between theory and practice? Theory is when you know everything about it but it won’t work. Practice is when it works but you don’t know why. It seems to me that good composers are always concerned with both theory and practice. They […]

Victor Grauer: A Long Hum Drone Hum Hum

Originally published on December 14, 1972 Grauer Grauer Grauer Grauer Grauer Grauer Grauer Victor Grauer Grauer Grauer Grauer Victor Grauer Grauer softly reading softly reading softly reading reading reading reading reading reading softly reading reading reading reading reading reading reading softly reading reading reading reading reading reading reading reading reading reading for more than three […]

What role has theory played in your compositions and how important is it for people to know the theory behind the music in order to appreciate it? David B. Doty

David B. Doty Like any composer working in just intonation, I find a certain amount of theory necessary. When choosing from among a potentially unlimited variety of pitches and intervals, some kind of roadmap is essential. Of course, the composer’s ear should be the ultimate judge of what pitches are correct in a given musical […]