The Art of Composing: The Importance of Music Theory
"To hell with all these theories, if they always serve only to block the evolution of art and if their positive achievement consists in nothing more than helping those who will compose badly anyway to learn it quickly."
Schoenberg's music is often performed poorly and misunderstood and is seen as overly formulaic. The procedure of 12-tone is not something Schoenberg invented; he discovered it through his own process of composing and analyzing his works. His texts on the process of composition are not intended to teach composers how to compose but instead offer models on the process of composition. Teaching would require showing a student how to compose music, but the composing process differs for each student. Composing should come naturally to a composer, and while a composition can be enhanced with theories, the resulting piece will come across as inauthentic. Models are intended to demonstrate the logic that other composers have used to compose music, but composition should not be limited to the techniques of past composers.
It may seem that I am against music theory, but it has a place in the composing process. Music theory can teach composers about the music that already exists. It also offers a common language to think about and discuss the abstract art of composing music. There are at least two ways to learn about what already exists in the world:
- Composers can listen to music and study the scores of past composers to learn the craft of music composition.
- Composers can study music theory to get an efficient overview of the most common techniques used in music composition.