As you might remember from last time I bought John Morton’s book “the composer/arranger” and went on a playful tirade about how it was not available in e-book format. That really is a complaint but let’s not dwell on it. Let’s instead dive into the introduction to see where we might be going with this book.
We start out with the claim that “The budding composer/arranger usually studies every book on the subject.”
Fancy that. I would like to think that is true, but I don’t think so. OK, maybe someone aspiring to be a “composer/arranger” is a different animal than a musician or a song writer. Have all you bloggers read every book available on blogging? No. Have all you people who post poetry read every available book on poetry? Obviously not. Forgive me, John, but I will be using parts of your book as a jumping off point to rant because this is my blog and not your book although this series of articles will more than tangentially touch on your ideas.
We should all not only do but also study. Learning the mechanics and theory of your craft can only enrich what you attempt to do, as will the study and enjoyment of your betters, as will many hours over many years of hard work, as will endeavoring to teach others to know what you know and to try to do as you do. One thing common to most if not all great artists of history is that they were voracious students of their craft, that they were consumed with the actual doing, and that they had students. I would argue that one needs all three of these components in order to be all you can be. Attempting to teach shows you holes in your own knowledge which you must fix in order to adequately teach and in turn makes you a better master yourself.
Fair point, Mr. Morton, anyone who aspires to a complicated and difficult task at least should consume all they can on the subject. To not do so is sabotaging yourself.
John Morton goes on to state some rather interesting points about globalization in general and how both historically with the lack of globalization creating pockets of styles and music systems and now with globalization a new effect on music may be at hand. This is deep stuff. He goes on to talk about the importance of jazz in the 20th century and how illiterate musicians have helped move things forward. One need not be able read in order to orate, one can be a great performer without being able to read music (but it certainly doesn’t hurt).
Here’s a very important point of John’s about musical theory: First there is an era and style of music and then follows a school of theory to explain it. The theory of it all necessarily lags the creation. With language we might say that first the young folks develop new fun ways to say things and then we older folks look it up in the urban dictionary to try and understand them — necessarily after the creation and certainly not before.
Yet another interesting point in this introduction is the comparative value of inspiration and perspiration, of craft and dumb luck. Your brilliance and luck can produce wonderful results, but a study of your craft can take you to new places and help you in some ways achieve beyond your own gifts. That’s why I read books like this, and also for the sheer intellectual challenge.
There are other varied and pertinent topics touched on in this introduction and I don’t want to plagiarize any more than I already have. The stated intent of the book is to go from the general to the specific, from broader issues first and then on to closer examination. Good. That’s how I think and teach. Oddly I tend to execute from the simple experimental jabs and then with some luck and craft I try to plant that seed to grow something more substantial. The execution and the examination are backwards, at least for me.
Next time, we jump in with both feet.