Abstract music | entry. #1

It’s 7.48pm at the time of writing this. I’ve spent nearly the whole day working on a piece of music for my tutorial. I feel like it’s a quirky piece. Unusual for me. Learning it is going to be difficult, but fun. I love the polyrhythms and the syncopated feeling here.

I feel like I need a stronger grasp of harmony… but it was fun, writing this. It was like, a culmination of things I’ve learned.

The teacher at the composition seminar said that harmony was key to emotion. That really got me thinking… and halfway through writing, all the voice-leading exercises I once had to do for music theory came back. It was so strange, to combine this analytical way of going about it… and it worked. To some degree.

After falling down the rabbit hole, I came across this book on Harmony by Walter Piston. The introduction brought on a fresh perspective for me, that that I never considered,

But if we reflect that theory must follow practice, rarely preceding it except by chance, we must realise that musical theory is not a set of directions for composing music. It is rather the collected and systematised deductions gathered by observing the practice of composers over a long time, and it attempts to set forth what is or has been their common practice. It tells not how music will be written in the future, but how music has been written in the past.

Mastery of the technical or theoretical aspects of music should be carried out by him/her as a life’s work, running parallel to his/her creative activity but quite separate from it. In the one he/she is following common practice, while in the other he/she is responsible solely to the dictates of his/her own personal tastes and urge for expression.

Walter Piston

I added the pronouns there. I also wish… I could pick up any old book where the writer had miraculously decided they wanted to solely use the female gender, and instead of that being sexist, we’d all think it’s normal.


That blew my mind a little. I wish it didn’t, I wish I’d been better equipped. But I love how empirical, truthful and honest it is. Simply, in that quote, Piston talks of music purely from the perspective of the craft of understanding music… and the art of creating it.

Yet, in the deep end where music meets academia… the books did once, feel stuffy.

Life is funny like that. Presently though, I am neither here or there. I’m in a liminal space.

It’s as though… all the smog and the fog has cleared… and my own desires and priorities have crystallised into clarity. The truth, is there, without needing anyone’s permission to be there.

Yesterday, we went over synthesisers… and for the first time in my student life, I was interested. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent a lot of time getting used to the DAW LogicX, that I’m now finally more curious about what’s under the hood because I could understand it. It was good. The possibility of being able to create ambient soundscapes using only synths, intrigues me. But also, just the very idea of being able to control sound on such a minute level. Even Ableton-Live, no longer feels counter-intuitive to me. How interesting. I went away, thinking about Nils Frahm’s music, Says, and it struck me, that I suddenly had an inkling of how his music worked and that the buildup towards the end had something to do with opening the filter on the synth. Maybe? I could be wrong.

My teacher asked me to bring in a brief.

I thought… that I’d really like to explore the realm of electro-acoustic music in a performance setting.

To be honest, that scares me.

Originally my desire was to write music I could perform, period.

It often feels like, learning never stops. And I am the slowest learner I know. It’s kind of comical. I finally realised, writing a piece of music was not the same as improvising, in fact, the two couldn’t be more different. It makes me feel wistful, because I also realised, the process of writing is never linear. Much like writing a story, it also feels like putting a puzzle together. And yet, I had this assumption that… creating music was somehow linear. Because… it is an artform that unfolds over time?

Writing in LogicX was like working with bits and pieces of data… midi information. But it meant that, in a way I was less connected to the music because it’s one thing… to manipulate data… and another thing to work with notes. But it also felt like… the music was more internal, having so much control over the sound and sense of space, made the music different. It was more of an experience, but writing in Sibelius… puts the focus on the music and its relationship to all the other elements in the work itself… there is no sense of space to manipulate and work with. At some points I was intensely aware of myself, listening for the patterns, following what intuitively felt right to me, but also asking, I wonder what this will sound like if I do this. And several hours flew by and I felt like no time had passed at all.

Still… I feel like a fresh new beginner. A little childish excitement. I am a beginner. I probably always will be. I like this mentality.

This piece, also, reminds me of a recent dream I had. I dreamed someone I knew, was playing a piece of dissonant jazz and I loved it and I envied their skill and talent.

I don’t think my piece is dissonant or at all jazz, but I know I probably have a stronger taste for dissonance than the average listener.

I’m thinking that I’d like to present my work in class at the end of week 11 or 12.

In the meantime… these posts on abstract music will be a good way to note down my thoughts for my final report.