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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Opus_Maximus] #2722693
03/19/18 05:03 PM
03/19/18 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
Originally Posted by bennevis

Who wants to play Chopin or Rachmaninov or Prokofiev or (God forbid) Messiaen anyway, when you could spend your lifetime playing nice tunes by ear with RH and make up stuff with LH?
Sadly, this is what more and more students (in Western Countries) are wanting.

Where do you get this information?

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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: Vid] #2722694
03/19/18 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Vid
What would it mean for classical music if no-one could read music?


Bingo.

Originally Posted by Vid
Could you study law through oral tradition? I don't think so.


I recall several classmates of mine who tried.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: JayWalkingBlues] #2722696
03/19/18 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
I still stand by the point that it is equally important, at least to myself (as I cannot speak for anyone else), to be able to play without sheet music. I have known a couple musicians (neither a pianist) that could not produce a song without the sheets. Their connection was between the eyes, and the hands. Without the eyes, the hands don't know what to do.

Actually, it's a bit more nuanced than the black & white scenario you've painted. Any classical musician who's been taught well should have sufficient aural skills (certainly by the time they've reached intermediate standard) to play simple songs by ear. They might well also have sufficient improvisatory skills to 'fill in the blanks' while playing the bits from the classical pieces they've learnt recently.

When I was a student in my late teens 'Inter-railing' around Europe (travelling with a backpack around Europe on a month-long Inter-Rail train ticket, which used to be a rite of passage for young Europeans), I came upon the lovely Bösendorfer showroom in Vienna, and spent an enjoyable afternoon playing the Imperial Grand there - with no sheet music at my disposal. All I could remember were some bits and sections of several classical pieces, so I just "joined" them up with my own improvisations, and had a great time, despite not being able to play a complete piece from beginning to end.

Quote
I started as a guitarist. As a performer, I cannot imagine performing to sheet music. I also sing........

I also 'started' as a guitarist - accompanying myself and friends in pop songs, long before I learnt piano. All I needed to know were a few choice chords (C, D, E, E minor, F, G, A & A minor), and by trial & error, applied them to every song, if I couldn't find it in the songbook. It worked well - I could even choose between two keys (C and G major) to sing them in.

But that wouldn't work for classical, which isn't straightforward tune with simple chords.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: Farago] #2722700
03/19/18 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by kevinb
I think it's generally not too helpful to use Liszt and Mozart, et al., as examples of anything.

Why not? They were humans.

Originally Posted by kevinb
Their experiences do not generalize to most other musicians.

But appreciation of their musical output sure does generalize to many, many, many people. "Non-musicians" included.

Originally Posted by kevinb
Liszt may have been able to play Hummel concertos by ear, but I suspect that skill is unavailable to nearly 100% of other musicians.

Why? Because that's what seen nowadays?

Originally Posted by kevinb
I suspect also that this skill cannot be taught using any method we currently know of.

I conjecture that it can be fostered with the proper environment, and minimal interference. What say you about that?

Originally Posted by kevinb
the overwhelming majority of musicians, or trainee musicians, who want to play in the western classical tradition will simply have no practical alternative than to learn to read music

Here's the issue: you presuppose that the great composers whose music constitutes the Western classical tradition achieved what they achieved through reading music. This is a harmful assumption. See the latter part of my post here.

Originally Posted by kevinb
... the cultural expectation... is note-pefect conformity to some published score, with tightly constrained interpretive freedom... that's the way things are now.

Ironically, all the great composers whose legacies the Western tradition purports to be upholding are all rolling in their graves. Improvisation was something that they revered. Foisting sheet music is the first step in cutting off a student's own creativity.

“Improvisation is something you do if you want to study jazz,” classical tradition teachers say.

The vitality of improvisation has been drained out of our historical conception of what classical music was. Common conceptions of how composers thought and worked is flipped on its head, and understanding of the evolution of Western music has been terminally distorted.

Johann Sebastian Bach, known as the godfather of music, was little-known as a composer when he was alive. However, he was renowned as the greatest improviser on the organ in all of Europe. Bach put improvisation skills at the center of his teaching. He often wrote out several different versions of his most popular pieces, such as the inventions, to show how a student might improvise on the structure.

Bach’s uncle Johann Christoph (who Bach called a “profound composer”) was known for organ preludes that were known to be “written-down improvisations”. Bach’s predecessors, the German composers Andreas Werckmeister and Dieterich Buxtehude also put contrapuntal improvisation front and center. They completely tore down Renaissance composer Gioseffe Zarlino’s rules, because, “serious improvisers regarded them as so complicated and obscure that one couldn’t easily in a moment recall them.”

Werckmeister promoted the need to “not think” while improvising. Werckmeister’s circle of fifths completely shattered Zarlino’s paradigm of treating chromatics as mere “ornaments to adorn the diatonic”.

Werckmeister wrote of the superiority of improvisation to much of written music, and wrote about the importance of removing constraints on improvisation. He said, “Legitimate musicians get more from creating something on the clavier extemporaneously than by depending too much on the tablature.” He effectively liberated the keyboard into full modulation participation.

Half a century after J.S. Bach died, it was written that his improvisations, sometimes called his “extemporal fantasies”, were superior to his written pieces. It was agreed that they were more “free, brilliant, and expressive.”

Bach had a bunch of kids, the most well-known of them being his son, Carl Phillip Emmanuel, known widely as C.P.E. This young boy was blown away by the intensity his father improvised with. He would eavesdrop on his father as he improvised upon their clavichord. Contemporaries gave enthusiastic reports about Bach’s improvisations, all conveying a person possessed.

“In his free fantasies he was quite unique and inexhaustible. For hours he loses himself in his ideas and in an ocean of modulations. His soul seemed to be far removed, the eyes swim as though in some ravishing dream, the lower lip drooped over his chin, his face and form bowed almost inanimately over the instrument. Only in his improvisations does Bach tickle the ears of his listeners with a larger palette of musical interval contrasts.”

Entire elaborate improvisations emerged from from a single melodic idea. Whereas his scores were described as “frozen” improvisation, seemingly made “plastic” through notation. In improvisation, Bach could let himself go, fueled by the energy
inherent to circular well temperament tuning. Today, Bach’s written music is treated like the bible printed on gold leaf paper.

Other composers revered improvisation too. Handel wrote a treatise on performance – and half of it was devoted to improvising dances and fugues.

Mozart was most famous in his day, according to scholars, “first as an improviser, then as a composer, then as a pianist”. In a famous piano competition in front of the Pope, Mozart and Muzio Clementi not only had to improvise in the final round, they had to improvise pieces together.

Beethoven became famous in Vienna not as a composer but as an “astounding” improviser. It was a full ten years that he was known as an improviser before he started gaining recognition for his compositions. He improvised publicly until the end of his life, but way before that, when young Beethoven got to meet older Mozart, the meeting didn’t start so well. Mozart considered the piece that Beethoven had prepared to be nothing more than a a flashy show-piece. So - Mozart was somewhat cold in his expression of admiration, and Beethoven took notice. Beethoven then begged Mozart for a theme to improvise on. Mozart obliged, and, Beethoven, inspired by the presence of his idol, poured his heart out with this improvisation. It was only then that Mozart turned and quietly said to a colleague, “Mark that young man. Someday, he will give you something to talk about.”

Schubert was almost completely unknown as a composer in his day – but he was renowned as an improviser, playing in taverns all night, improvising waltzes, dances, character pieces, and because he was in taverns - drinking songs.

Brahms did the same thing - he made money as a child playing the piano in bars, improvising waltzes and dances in Viennese fashion.

Debussy saw improvisation as his main creative source, claiming that his harmonic innovations came from, “following the law of pleasure of the ear”. In particular Debussy, with his love of exotic sonority, loved to improvise on out of tune pianos, letting the novel sonorities move him in innovative ways.

Liszt gave solo piano recitals, which consisted of playing prepared, memorized music. However - Liszt would close his concerts with dazzling improvisations on the themes of the local operas and ballets that were familiar to his audiences at the time.

Rachmaninoff improvised, and he would deviate from the harmonies in his printed scores all the time - even when he recorded his own works. When interviewed about his improvisatory facility, he said, “My music comes directly from my heart.”

So too for one of Rachmaninoff’s greatest inspirations: Chopin.

Composers disagree though - for example, take Sergei Taneyev - a little-known Russian composer. He published a gigantic two-volume treatise called “Convertible Counterpoint in the Strict Style” - it took him 20 years to write. Taneyev used a quotation from Leonardo da Vinci as its inscription:

"No branch of study can claim to be considered a true science unless it is capable of being demonstrated mathematically.”

In it, the laws of counterpoint are broken down, explained and brought into focus as a branch of pure mathematics. He thought musical creativity should be both deliberate and intellectual, with preliminary theoretical analysis and preparation of thematic materials. His teacher said, “Whoah, whoah, whoah. Not the way to go!” - and that teacher was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Above all else, Tchaikovsky prized spontaneity in musical creativity. Dropping out of studies in law school to do music, he would sit at the piano, improving via improvving.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who wrote this firecracker of a hit, considered Taneyev's compositions "most dry and labored in character.”

Not just Rimsky-Korsakov, however. Music lovers around the world have agreed with their clicks. On YouTube, most of Taneyev’s compositions have less than five thousand views, and there isn’t one that cracks forty thousand. There is something of his with 95,000 views - this - it’s an amateur pianist playing his arrangement of Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky.

Sure, Leonardo da Vinci may have dropped the line about a study not being “true science” unless it is, “capable of being demonstrated mathematically”, but he also dropped the line that goes, “Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.”

Last, but not least, we have Master Einstein.

His mother Pauline, a talented musician, introduced him to the piano when he was a small boy and encouraged his passion for the violin, an instrument he studied from ages six to thirteen. He remarked that he never thought in logical symbols or mathematical equations, but in images, feelings, and even musical architectures.

Einstein’s autobiographical notes say, “I have no doubt that our thinking goes on for the most part without the use of symbols, and, furthermore, largely unconsciously. No scientist thinks in equations.”

In other interviews, he attributed his scientific insight and intuition mainly to music. "If I were not a physicist," he once said, "I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music... I get most joy in life out of music.”

He regretted that “[i]n Europe, music has come too far away from popular art and popular feeling and has become something like a secret art with conventions and traditions of its own". As a result of this specialization, music performance achieved high standards, certainly, but any variation or deviation from the work as composed was “often prescribed” - if tolerated at all.

Einstein was thinking of the practice among 19th century musicians of improvising on the pieces they played during performance, making recitals both unpredictable and exciting. By the 1930s this practice had long since died out, to be replaced by an overweening respect for the written notes of the score. He could (and on occasion, he did) play all the notes of his favorite composers, but he improvised as well. His sister Maja recalled that when he took up the piano, he quickly became dissatisfied with the written notes and "constantly searched for new harmonies and transitions of his own invention.” According to Mueller, Einstein's friend Alexander Mozskowski says that, “Einstein recognized an unexplainable connection between music and his science, and notes that [Einstein's] mentor Ernst Mach had indicated that music and the aural experience were the organ to describe space.” Music also embodies time. Could music have therefore provided Einstein with a connection between time and space through its combination of architectonic, or structural, nature combined with its spatial and temporal aspects? Mueller has conjectured that the physicist’s, “disposition to architectonic logics of abstraction was formulated by Einstein's musical experiences, and even enlarged by a constant struggle for musical experiences which helped him build a rich mental perceptual fabric of space and time in which to perform his scientific theorizing.” His son, Hans, amplified what Einstein meant by recounting that, “whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music, and that would usually resolve all his difficulties.” Something in the music would guide his thoughts in new and creative directions, and after playing piano, his sister Maja said, Albert would get up saying, "There, now I've got it.”

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” If we wanna see efficiency, we’ve got to see... uh... fish... in... (the)... sea.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722701
03/19/18 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Farago
Rachmaninov may have been:

1) Under the assumption that learning by rote repetition was required, because that's what many students did back then.

2) Working out kinks; he could have simply been ensuring that each of the chords fitted under his hands aptly.


Rachmaninov practiced hard to get the notes - his own notes, composed by himself - into his fingers and memory, in order to do his concerto justice in his first American concert.

Quote
How do bands with complex music (e.g. Queen - take Bohemian Rhapsody - a very complex 'pop' song)

Bohemian Rhapsody is a "very complex pop song"? grin

I recall playing it by ear - in fact, almost exactly the same notes that Freddy played on the piano - as a student. It is that simple. And I have absolutely no musical talent, not even of any sort.

You're showing your ignorance, I'm afraid.

No, actually, I'm not afraid - I already knew that from your first post........


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: bennevis] #2722702
03/19/18 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Rachmaninov practiced hard to get the notes - his own notes, composed by himself - into his fingers and memory, in order to do his concerto justice in his first American concert.

He also regularly deviated from his own harmonies, and had full improvisational facility. His recordings, as incredible as they are, don't reflect exactly what's written in the score. He was a great storyteller with his music, not simply a rigidly regurgitative rote repeater.

He once said, “Too few students realize that there is continual and marvelous opportunity for contrast in playing.”

Originally Posted by bennevis
You're showing your ignorance, I'm afraid.

Oh? What am I ignorant of, specifically?

See this post.

Originally Posted by bennevis
I recall playing [Bohemian Rhapsody] by ear - in fact, almost exactly the same notes that Freddy played on the piano - as a student. It is that simple. And I have absolutely no musical talent, not even of any sort.

I think that, if you chose to go busking, and you played Bohemian Rhapsody by ear, many enthusiastic people would disagree with you. Reading these sad words makes me even more dejected than your attack on me.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722711
03/19/18 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
A fuller and more complete understanding of music theory, which includes reading, will strengthen almost any musician's ability.

How so?

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
I'm talking about being able to analyze and understand music. Spending a little time to understand key signatures, chord progressions, basic scales, timing, and dynamics will allow you to:

(1) Learn songs more quickly with less effort

(2) Play more effectively with other musicians

(3) Have better focus when playing and

(4) the ability to improvise.

The heights you can reach and the speed you can get there are easily tied to understanding the music. Reading is really a small part of this, but a useful part.

But how does reading allow one to be better at improvising?

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
Being able to put sheet music in front of you and just start playing it, is really a niche ability that is difficult to develop. Sight reading is certainly a valuable skill, but depending on your goal in music, may certainly not be necessary at all.

Right? There's clearly a negative correlation between roaringly successful musical careers and ability to sight-read scores.

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
Just don't fall into the one pitfall of sight reading. Too many musicians learn to play only by sight reading.

Agreed. It seems that's what all piano lessons try to do.

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
It's very limiting.

Agreed.

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
Once there's a direct connection between your eyes and your hands (which is really what sight reading is), it can be difficult to play if you remove the "eyes" from the equation.

Makes sense.

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
You need to develop the brain to hands connection... Otherwise, you will have real difficulties or may otherwise be completely unable to play without sheet music. To me, that's as limiting as not reading music at all.

Agreed.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722717
03/19/18 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by kevinb
I think it's generally not too helpful to use Liszt and Mozart, et al., as examples of anything.

Why not? They were humans.


Throughout history there have always been a few people who have been able to pull off extraordinary feats. Sometimes there are clear biological or social reasons for these prodigious capabilities, and sometimes the reasons are completely obscure.

The fact that I am of the same biological species as Usain Bolt does not mean that I will ever be able to run 100m in less than ten seconds. I probably won't revolutionize physics, or lead a revolution, or create a new religion, despite sharing a species with Einstein, Che Guevara, and Siddartha Guatama.

When it comes to devising methods for music training (and any other kind of training) we need to focus on what is achievable for people with normal levels of skill, dedication, and resources. The few people with prodigious gifts will find a way to use their genius, with or without training. Training is for the rest of us.

I could be wrong about all this. It could be the case that, just because Bach could improvise a fugue in six voices, anybody could learn to do the same, given sufficient application. However, it would take an awful lot to convince me that this is the case.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722718
03/19/18 06:19 PM
03/19/18 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by David Farley
If it's a serious question and the OP didn't post it on this particular forum to troll up some Colonel Blimp enraged spluttering to add to an article he might be writing...

Certainly not aiming to troll, despite what certain highly-eloquent people...

Originally Posted by JoelW
troll

... may think.

(To JoelW, I say, "thank-you for the brevity," and, "RRRWWARRRRGHHABLLLAAAOUW!!! GET OUT FROM UNDER MY BRIDGE!!!")

Now... David:

Originally Posted by David Farley
Why not turn the question around? Why did musicians who probably early on ran way ahead of their formal training feel compelled to write their music down? And in many cases were very clear that they wanted their music played as written. The obvious answer is they had to because the recording industry didn't exist at the time. But even if it had would Chopin and others have been content to leave their music to their own recordings and only those who could play them by ear?

Interestingly put. I think that Chopin and others would have adored recording technology, and they would have improvised into recording devices, much like Michael Jackson, the Beatles, and other great musicians actually did. Chopin found himself in a right state after his improvisations. He would decamp into deep flow state, and upon his return, he would fight to recall his improvisations that were enabled by dipping into his dreamlike states. Why would he fight to recall them? Well - for posterity and for music publishers' payments, I presume! Oh how I wish recording equipment captured his and Bach's improvisations, which, by all accounts, blew their written compositions out of the water.

Originally Posted by David Farley
It's not like people who teach music professionally don't get that it isn't just reading notes on paper.

I wish I could say I agreed with that. I worked at a music school for beginners with a very high enrollment, and extremely high turnover. Virtually all the teachers' actions suggested that lessons were about "just reading notes on paper".

Originally Posted by David Farley
if left to their own devices music teachers would give kids a thorough grounding in all the fundamentals before reading sheet music even came into the picture.

Sadly, I've seen precisely the opposite of that. As have many of my music school friends.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722720
03/19/18 06:23 PM
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OMG too long. For a 'bogus' thread it sure got a lot of responses quickly. It seems like the OP is just stirring the pot, or playing devils advocate, but it does raise interesting questions and discussion. I tried to play guitar forever without proper lessons and largely failed. As an adult beginner in piano I wanted to do it the 'right way' and I'm glad I did. My goals though are to develop a new skill and for enhanced cognitive training. I have no delusions of playing in front of an audience; any piece learned is one more than I hoped for.

Some commercial successes aside very few people can make a living out of playing.....those quoted are still one in a million. And very few of those successful musicians can play complex classical music. Now if a classically trained musician switches to pop, the music would likely be more complex and interesting. I'm sure there are examples of this.


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: pianoloverus] #2722721
03/19/18 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think this is a major troll thread and best to ignore. I thought many of my comments very early in the thread were self evident yet each one got a response of "why?".

I didn't find them self-evident at all. What's incontrovertible for one isn't necessarily incontrovertible for the next. Iconoclasm moves society, and our species, forward.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out!

Originally Posted by Tim Urban in The Elon Musk Blog Series
We were taught all kinds of things by our parents and teachers—what’s right and wrong, what’s safe and dangerous, the kind of person you should and shouldn’t be. But the idea was: I’m an adult so I know much more about this than you, it’s not up for debate, don’t argue, just obey. That’s when the cliché “Why?” game comes in (Elon Musk calls it “the chained why”). A child’s instinct isn’t just to know what to do and not to do, she wants to understand the rules of her environment. And to understand something, you have to have a sense of how that thing was built. When parents and teachers tell a kid to do XYZ and to simply obey, it’s like installing a piece of already-designed software in the kid’s head. When kids ask Why? and then Why? and then Why?, they’re trying to deconstruct that software to see how it was built—to get down to the first principles underneath so they can weigh how much they should actually care about what the adults seem so insistent upon. The first few times a kid plays the Why game, parents think it’s cute. But many parents, and most teachers, soon come up with a way to cut the game off: Because I said so.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722726
03/19/18 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by cmb13
OMG too long.

Leave G*d outta this! wink

Originally Posted by cmb13
For a 'bogus' thread it sure got a lot of responses quickly.

How's it bogus? Numerous people have agreed that it's a valid question.

Originally Posted by cmb13
It seems like the OP is just stirring the pot, or playing devils advocate, but it does raise interesting questions and discussion.

Yay. Thank-you.

Originally Posted by cmb13
I tried to play guitar forever without proper lessons and largely failed.

That's a long time, heh. How did you try?

Originally Posted by cmb13
As an adult beginner in piano I wanted to do it the 'right way' and I'm glad I did.

What's the 'right way'?

Originally Posted by cmb13
My goals though are to develop a new skill and for enhanced cognitive training.

But why? You weren't aiming to express yourself musically?

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722727
03/19/18 06:33 PM
03/19/18 06:33 PM
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Carey Offline
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Are we still having fun?

The GREAT classical composers who lived prior to 1900 and who performed GREAT feats of improvisation are PRIMARILY remembered and appreciated today for the musical ideas they actually committed to paper - usually by themselves, whether they were adept at reading a score or not.

Well rounded classical musicians should be able to read music in addition to all the other creative stuff they do. The more versatile you are, the better.

As far as pianists go - the ability to read a score is essential for anyone seeking a career as an accompanist or chamber musician. It's also rather important for anyone who attempts to turn pages for one of those pianists during a performance.


Last edited by Carey; 03/19/18 06:37 PM.

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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Carey] #2722729
03/19/18 06:45 PM
03/19/18 06:45 PM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 99
Planet Earth, System of Sol, M...
Farago Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Carey
Are we still having fun?

Yes indeed, birthday boy! (Happy birthday once again!)

Originally Posted by Carey
The GREAT classical composers who lived prior to 1900 and who performed GREAT feats of improvisation are PRIMARILY remembered and appreciated today for what they actually committed to paper - usually by themselves, whether they were adept at reading a score or not.

Precisely - but - their improvisations were said to be far greater than what was committed to paper.

Originally Posted by Carey
Well rounded classical musicians should be able to read music in addition to all the other creative stuff they do. The more versatile you are, the better.

But a lot of classical musicians aren't creative! They're repeating what's already been written. There are things that could have been done to stoke their genius. Slowly forcing them into interpretership isn't one of them.

As a certain Piano World user wrote ten years ago:

Originally Posted by Zom
People today have succumbed to the modern thought disease of ignoring all techniques which involve intuition and immediate feedback as a way of making choices. This includes economics, health, music and even science. Very few composers improvise anymore, and those who do consciously restrain their creativity to be within a very small subset of musical possibilities. If more people would realize that unadulterated freedom at the instrument is why all the composers of the past were great (most of them anyway), we would DEFINITELY have great composers today following in their footsteps.

So - for how many more decades will the quintessential 'Western classical tradition' teacher be allowed to continue their business practice? Sheet music decoding is the perfect pretext for the continuation of lessons that don't foster creativity. Nearly all students end up quitting.

Why is that?

The dogmatic thinking predominant today has already been around since the 1930s. Will it ever be quashed it once and for all?

Originally Posted by Carey
As far as pianists go - the ability to read a score is essential for anyone seeking a career as an accompanist or chamber musician.

I don't disagree, but also... this video comes to mind (relevance begins at 0:35).

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722730
03/19/18 06:49 PM
03/19/18 06:49 PM
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jandz Offline
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Originally Posted by Farago
But how does reading allow one to be better at improvising?

In the same way that understanding language allows you to write more fluently and with more focus. But I think that we're conflating reading music with music theory, of which the reading bit is a rather small part. Music theory is basically an analog of language. You write much more effectively when you understand how the language joins thoughts and ideas together, this statement being at once true of both words and of music.

Don't focus so much on reading, though. It doesn't hurt anything. It's just a tool.

Originally Posted by Farago
There's clearly a negative correlation between roaringly successful musical careers and ability to sight-read scores.

Ahh! Now this is a generalization and is made from too little evidence. The pop stars of today don't need musical notation because their tunes are simple enough for the ear to understand and they have recordings to listen to when they forget. The classical guys had no such thing. If you knew a collector - the rare collector - who had a copy of Bach's WTC, there was no way you were borrowing it. You had to copy it, by hand, and be able to read it again later at your own instrument. Musical notation was your recording. And really, it is the only recording we have for most of the greats. Interpreters of the classical style learn to read precisely so that they can "hear" the music as close to how the composer intended it to be as possible. Hearing someone play Beethoven on the radio is hearing another interpreter's version of those notes, not hearing Luddie himself.

But that aside, Liszt was "roaringly successful" in every meaningful metric (wealth and fame) and history regards him as perhaps the best sight-reader that ever lived. He was the first rock star, paving the way for the pop stars of today. So this statement is really only true for musicians of the middle of last century who, as has been noted, played simpler tunes and had recordings when their memories failed them.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722732
03/19/18 06:54 PM
03/19/18 06:54 PM
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New York
Mark_C Offline
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Farago: Just wanted to say, besides that I still don't see you having given any reason for why you doubt that being able to read music is a good idea, and even being somewhat of a wiseguy myself.... grin

....That smirking pic of you isn't much help for taking this stuff seriously.

Taken together with this seemingly provocative semi-troll-like stuff, I for one find it awfully annoying, borderline intolerable.

Maybe it's just me....

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: jandz] #2722734
03/19/18 06:58 PM
03/19/18 06:58 PM
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Farago Offline OP
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Originally Posted by jandz
Originally Posted by Farago
But how does reading allow one to be better at improvising?
In the same way that understanding language allows you to write more fluently and with more focus.

So, let me get this straight:

Reading promotes improvisation

... in the same way that...

understanding language promotes fluent, focused writing?

This doesn't make sense to me. Can you elaborate?

But I think that we're conflating reading music with music theory, of which the reading bit is a rather small part. Music theory is basically an analog of language. You write much more effectively when you understand how the language joins thoughts and ideas together, this statement being at once true of both words and of music.

Don't focus so much on reading, though.[quote

Originally Posted by jandz
It doesn't hurt anything. It's just a tool.

Imagine if all painters were confined to this?

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Mark_C] #2722735
03/19/18 07:01 PM
03/19/18 07:01 PM
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Vancouver, B.C.
Vid Offline
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Maybe it's just me....


Not just you.

Could maybe be more meaningful discussion on improvisation in modern pedagogy but this is not that.


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: David Farley] #2722738
03/19/18 07:11 PM
03/19/18 07:11 PM
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JohnSprung Offline
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Originally Posted by David Farley
Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by Farago
They can’t silently look at an unfamiliar score, comprehend what’s on the page, and (thus) get emotionally affected by it. They’re trained to look at a score, decode it, and make their instruments produce the right tones. Almost always devoid of nuance, some do this quickly - most slowly. This isn’t reading..”


Devoid of nuance.... ?

The misunderstanding here is that notation is capable of nuance. Notation is extremely useful and convenient, but it has some shortcomings.

Notation can tell the pianist exactly which keys to press. It's a 100% solution for that. When and how long to press, it's rather coarsely quantized into halves, quarters, eigths, etc. How hard to press (how loud), it's very subjective. This can be demonstrated with any of the notation editing programs. They play back exactly what the notation is able to contain, and the results definitely lack the nuance that turns three G's in a row into Cole Porter's "Night and Day".

So, you want nuance? You gotta bring your own.

As for notation being necessary, I could definitely walk to New York. There might be a few people here who could swim to London. But it's a whole bunch easier just to buy an airline ticket.



I meant to respond to that particular statement earlier. Most "trained" musicians I know will usually begin to move and/or sing, often without realizing it, when they're looking at an unfamiliar piece of music. The whole scenario given sounds like it's coming from someone who hasn't spent time observing musicians.


OK, but how does that disprove my assertion that notation has significant shortcomings? They move and sing because of the knowledge and experience they bring to the information on the paper. They don't know the specific piece, but they may know the composer, and definitely know the genre and style.

There's more to music than can be contained in notation.


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722744
03/19/18 07:21 PM
03/19/18 07:21 PM
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Planet Earth, System of Sol, M...
Farago Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Farago: Just wanted to say, besides that I still don't see you having given any reason for why you doubt that being able to read music is a good idea

You must not have read all my posts then. Foisting sheet music upon beginners is foisting a detrimental crutch upon them (akin to paint by numbers being foisted upon hopeful young painting students). Fast-tracking students into codependence on scores stymies the ability to truly play by ear, which is a requisite skill to segue into musical creativity.

Originally Posted by Mark_C
....That smirking pic of you isn't much help for taking this stuff seriously.

Surely the content of my writing weighs more heavily than a 150 x 150 pixel image?

Originally Posted by Mark_C
Taken together with this seemingly provocative semi-troll-like stuff, I for one find it awfully annoying, borderline intolerable.

Maybe it's just me....

Maybe it's a sign that your tolerance for healthy debate is low?

I'll change the picture of my face if one moderator requests it, or if twenty or more non-moderator users request the change.

Originally Posted by Vid
Originally Posted by Mark_C
Maybe it's just me....

Not just you.

Perhaps your tolerance is a little low too, Vid?

Originally Posted by Vid
Could maybe be more meaningful discussion on improvisation in modern pedagogy but this is not that.

It could certainly turn into that. Why not give input there? Improvise a little.

Both of you could benefit from reading this.

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