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Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compositio

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Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compositio

Postby greeny » Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:42 am

Hello everybody,

Recently I had an opportunity to visit the National Library in Paris France and had a chance to browse through a copy of the Schillinger System of Musical Composition ©1941. A very thorough piece of work, covering many facets of the process of writing music. Lots of famous and not so famous composers have gone through this extensive text (1600 pages) and worked out many of the puzzling and challenging subjects presented in the book, so I've read.

At first sight - I've only had two peeks at it but I did make some notes - it seems the overall approach is quite unique in that it utilizes various mathematically and geometrically based formulas to handle all sorts of musical elements such as rhythm, scales, inversions, expansions, harmony, melody, counterpoint, various processes which can bring forth a variety of composing techniques, musical form and orchestration. Musical parameters such as pitch and duration can be organized and distributed in a systematical approach whereby for instance changing a single element or term in an algebraic equation can bring forth unforseen shifts in musical emphasis.

The text suggests many ways to initiate one's mind towards creating and developing musical ideas in an organized fashion in such a way as to inspire and push one's creativity into all sorts of unexplored areas. My brief - two afternoons long - preview of the book certainly suggested that to me.
But because the two volumes are seriously priced ($375 for the two) and therefor require some consideration before an eventual purchase I was wondering whether there are any composers here who have used this system of composing, let alone successfully written music from some of the approaches presented in Schillinger's book? I'd be very curious to find out how the system has worked for them and if it is at all true that it can bring about significantly accelerated musical production.

Anyone care to respond?

Thanks,
Greeny
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:54 am

I don't know that work but it sounds interesting. As for using mathematics and formulae in composition, it is probably something many do instinctively - especially after a good deal of experience. If that would enlighten a composer further into how their instincts work,. it could be very valuable indeed. If it is overly academic it could get tedious.

There are circulating copies of Vol 1 & 2 in the local arts library here which I will definitely check. Thanks! :)
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Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compositio

Postby kgdrum » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:19 pm

in college 1 of my professors was a disciple of this approach, yes it's interesting but IMO I think music should be based on what you hear not mathematical formulas.
This professor encouraged it as more of a tool to develop sight reading skills rather than a compositional focus.
But my foggy memory of this dates back 32 or 33 years, yikes!
most of this time since then I've tried to unlearn and forget all of these academic theoretical approaches that for me are better in theory than actual practice & use.
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:28 pm

Well this is getting better by the second! :) I'd LOVE TO improve my sight-reading. It has lagged far behind all my other musical skills, IMO. Anything that can help that is most welcome.
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Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compositio

Postby kgdrum » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:22 pm

I know my reaction is somewhat retarded lol
But in college several of my teachers kept on saying if you could only read like you can play..... omg!
Being slightly dyslexic tonal reading is something I have always struggled with.
Rhythmic reading I actually enjoy at times(I love the mathematical aspect of it) but I have always been more of an instinctual player and have come to the realization that my reading skills will never match my playing skills.
Once I came to this conclusion, I decided to just play music.
Honestly I haven't attempted to develop my reading skills in decades.
Sadly these skills now are so regressed I just concentrate on playing.

Yes some of these skills can be developed but when you see or hear stories about great sight readers like
Vinney Colaiuta I came to the conclusion that some of these abilities people are born with,right or wrong.

This is a famous story about his sight reading skills told by Steve Vai seeing him at a Zappa rehearsal:

"He's one of the most amazing sight-readers that ever existed on the instrument. One day we were in a Frank rehearsal, this was early '80s, and Frank brought in this piece of music called "Mo 'N Herb's Vacation." Just unbelievably complex. All the drums were written out, just like "The Black Page" except even more complex. There were these runs of like 17 over 3 and every drumhead is notated differently. And there were a whole bunch of people there, I think Bozzio was there. Vinnie had this piece of music on the stand to his right. To his left he had another music stand with a plate of sushi on it, okay? Now the tempo of the piece was very slow, like "The Black Page." And then the first riff came in, [mimics bizarre Zappa-esque drum rhythm patterns] with all these choking of cymbals, and hi-hat, ruffs, spinning of rototoms and all this crazy stuff. And I saw Vinnie reading this thing. Now, Vinnie has this habit of pushing his glasses up with the middle finger of his right hand. Well I saw him look at this one bar of music, it was the last bar of music on the page. He started to play it as he was turning the page with one hand, and then once the page was turned he continued playing the riff with his right hand, as he reached over with his left hand, grabbed a piece of sushi and put it in his mouth, continued the riff with his left hand and feet, pushed his glasses up, and then played the remaining part of the bar. It was the sickest thing I have ever seen. Frank threw his music up in the air. Bozzio turned around and walked away. I just started laughing."

I really think someone like that has an innate skill that can't be taught or learned.

* to add to this story, backin the day I was friends with a few of FZ's band members who told me about the auditions that Bozzio nailed to land his gig with Frank.
From what I was told they auditioned a ton of drummers,Terry was the only one who was able to sight read the parts to FZ's satisfaction.
I saw him on the 1st tour as the 2nd drummer, it wasn't pretty lol.
1 or 2 of my friends in the band at the time were all grumbling that they didn't get it & actually quit the band after the tour.
I was told this was a big reason why they quit,the next tour I saw Bozzio w/ Zappa and he was f-ing amazing!
He had become a MONSTER!
So when I hear about someone like Bozzio having this kind of reaction to Colaitua's reading skills, I'm happy to just concentrate on becoming a better player.
I leave the reading to those freaks of nature.
Last edited by kgdrum on Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:02 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:38 pm

For sure, one should always strive to play better than one can read - at least for a performer. For a teacher, at least at the lower levels, maybe not so much.

Aside from reading accurately, I also have always wanted to improve my skills at listening really well (visualization of what I am hearing, which goes along with a good mental visualization of what I am seeing in the case of reading) and notating what I play (in longer improvisational sessions) fast and accurately.

The "trick" of course being to make all that as transparent to the listener as possible.

The sushi at a page turn diversion is a good one! Maybe I'll practice just my page turns a little later today. This section of the WTC has been giving me fits of late:

Image
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby Shooshie » Mon Feb 20, 2012 4:51 pm

Reading is definitely something that improves with practice. I've been one who had to learn to read. I certainly wasn't born with it, but at my peak I could look at a page and pretty much see and hear it all in a couple of seconds. I don't know how to explain that. But you just see it. Then as you actually read it, you're playing what you already saw. I mean, you know how it goes, so it's almost like you're playing by ear, but you have the benefit of knowing what notes to play. I think the key is pattern recognition. Your fingers can do it; that's what everyone means by "playing." But recognizing the patterns at sight is a skill that is learnable. Another thing that made reading easier was learning to play fast and picture phrases rather than just note patterns. I guess that's just a more extreme form of pattern recognition. It took many years to get to that point, and when I stopped playing for a long time, it was also the first thing to go away, though it comes back pretty fast… with more practice.

Oh well… I just reread what I wrote, and it sounds stupid, but that's about all I can say about it without saying too much.

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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby cuttime » Mon Feb 20, 2012 5:52 pm

Image

(this image seems to be from a legit source, if not please feel free to remove it).
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby bdr » Mon Feb 20, 2012 6:52 pm

Schillinger was sort of 'the guy' in the 40's to study with. I think I read somewhere that Lawrence Berk, founder of Berklee was a student. There are a few resources on the web if you want to find out more.

http://www.josephschillinger.com/
http://www.schillingersociety.com/

there's also another method called 'EIS' (Equal Interval System) created by Lyle 'Spud' Murphy that many current arranger/composers use.
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby rickorick » Mon Feb 20, 2012 6:58 pm

The first 2 bars were easy.
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby stubbsonic » Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:39 pm

bdr wrote:
http://www.josephschillinger.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;



That link doesn't seem to work.
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:50 pm

Right! Might be a good time for someone to snag that url while they can! :)

In the mean time...

http://josephschillinger.wordpress.com/introductio/
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby greeny » Tue Feb 21, 2012 7:37 am

Wow thanks for all the reactions!

It is true that this text is a bit obscure, shadowed by many other well known theoretical works.
The main difference with most other competent books is that Schillinger brings us a new view about the functionality of music theory and the various ways it can be put to use to create an infinite number of approaches to composition. It's mainly about creating new materials for oneself and not about repeating that which has already been done copied and redone by others in the past.

Here are a few links which I believe might shed some light on the text.

http://www.ssm.uk.net/index.php" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

And yet another society mainly interested in selling you a certificate:

http://www.schillingersociety.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Here's a piece of music composed by someone utilizing some of Schillingers techniques:

http://danielsimpson.com/schillinger-r3-2-UK.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Next, a site where a composer/arranger well versed in the System has a few Pdf's available for downloading: one illustrating the Theory of Rhythm and the other one of the Theories of Harmony.

http://www.fransabsil.nl/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
>go to >archives> and scroll down to:
"Hybrid 5 and 4 part Harmony", and,
"Guide to the theory of Rhythms Vs 1.2"

I'm afraid there isn't much more information available on the web other than Wikipedia.

Here's the publisher:
Clock and Rose Press, Rose's Books, Inc.
P.O.Box 342, Harwich Port, MA 02646
info@clockandrose.com

Well, I've decided to get it.

I was a bit surprised to notice how my initial post swiftly triggered a discussion about sight-reading and the reading of music in general.

Reminded me of….

... A long time ago one of my mentors told me: "one reads as well as one writes"
I guess that can also be extrapolated to: "one plays as well as one hears".


Thanks for all the comments.
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby wrathy » Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:04 pm

I got the text's (Vol's 1&2) out of the library when I was doing my doctorate.
I had always been curious about them. I have to say that after a few months of picking thru them*, there was not that much in there that was very interesting. I would say that some of the items (ie Theory of Rhythm) are given mathematical correlations which make something that sounds pretty simple overly complicated. The guy was undoubtably very very smart, but quantifying everything in music is not for me. (In the counterpoint section, he actually goes off on Bach at one point!) Following the many formulae is just too much for me, and my eyes glaze over.
I am not sure the following is possible:
Get System + Follow/Learn System = Great Music.
Maybe one can get a few techniques from the books, or maybe its has some good initial techniques to generate ideas, but can't you get the same thing from studying the music of, say _______________________ (fill in your faves here....).

* I was actually trying to locate the origins of a different approach to passing diminished chords, that is taught at Berklee and by other teachers, that is said to originate with Schillinger, but I could not find it in the 1600 pages!
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby Shooshie » Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:43 pm

I'm going to launch a viewpoint that may not be popular, but it is what I believe. In the late 1940's, post-war, the US was looking to employ a lot of ex-soldiers who had just saved the world. They offered them free schooling, and the arts were still flourishing from power structures that had built up during the Great Depression to employ artists and musicians. Those turned to academia, where they already had a foothold, and began creating the university system we knew in the 1970s, 80s, and on through today. They needed theories, scholars, people with Ph.D.'s, and lots of authentication and academic blessing. If you wrote down a theory and put it on a shingle, you could pretty much be a doctor of music or whatever. This was a system hungry for warm bodies, looking to create music and art departments (and all other departments) in universities all over the country. Teaching colleges were transformed into universities, but the "teaching teachers to teach teachers to teach teachers" aspect remained in full bloom.

In short, most of those guys couldn't have recognized a great theory of music if it had landed on their heads. And it did… most of them were familiar with The Well Tempered Klavier and the Two and Three part Inventions -- all of which were fabulous teaching tools and theories of music. Those sufficed for everyone up to Schönberg, but now they wanted to quantify everything in a way that seemed "genius" to modern eyes. Publishable theories brought attention, which brought funding, which brought buildings and more faculty and theories, and more acclaim and funding, which compounded the cycle.

There's much more, but that's a start. I don't want to say too much at once. That was where a lot of our modern music schools came from, and we will be a long time getting out from under the tremendous waste they laid upon the arts.

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