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Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compositio

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Discussions about composing, arranging, orchestration, songwriting, theory and the art of creating music in all forms from orchestral film scores to pop/rock.

Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby Shooshie » Tue Feb 21, 2012 7:00 pm

greeny wrote: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.

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

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

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.
>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

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.

Having gotten the previous post out of my system, I began exploring the links. If Schillinger really is the driving force behind some of the compositions I heard, then I'm all for it. There's much to be proud of in those.

Sometimes that 1% of what's great in academia just knocks you out of the park and scores a home run. Some of the above mentioned works (or others found on the same sites) do that for me. That doesn't change my opinion of academia in music, but reinforces the fact that the really, good stuff will always stand out. I read where Dick Grove used some of Schillinger's methodology, and I've had a number of friends study there and say it changed their lives. Maybe S. is really one of the exceptions.

I personally have always used math in my analysis, performance, creation and appreciation of music. I'm sure it's not as sophisticated as Schillinger's in any way, but hey… phi is phi, and it's everywhere. Best to pay attention to it when being creative. It's one of those things like inverse square laws that really get to the root of creative, generative issues, no matter where they are found or applied. Bach used it, and everyone else of importance appears to have also.

I have trouble with anyone who wants to lay claim to being "first" or "best" at it. Like fractal geometry, its universality is only slowly being revealed, but it has been known pretty much as long as there has been a system through which to reveal it and perceive it.

Thanks for posting the links, Greeny, and thanks to all for the discussion. I hope I haven't thrown too many monkey wrenches into the works. I'm just very cautious about endorsing academic principles unless I really believe them myself. And while I don't know enough about Schillinger's System to criticize it, it would appear that the students who have used it have a strong likelihood of becoming quite competent at the art of music.


PS: The writings of F.G. J. Absil are inspiring. There's a guy who has done some serious work in the field of music, elevating academia in the process. So far he has my utmost respect. —Shoosh
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Tue Feb 21, 2012 7:38 pm

For me, the best teachers have taught me how to recognize what I already instinctively knew about music. So much more to learn!
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby greeny » Thu Mar 08, 2012 3:03 am

Just thought I'd let everyone know that my copies of the Schillinger books have arrived.
I've been awake most of the night leafing through them and trying to figure out a method of how to tackle these 1600 pages of text. It'll keep me very busy for the coming months if not years; it looks very promising.

Yee-ha :D

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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby braves11 » Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:32 pm

My professor also embraces these mathematical methods for musical creation, but he has his own spin on it even if he doesn't really say it straight out. He uses the math as a jumping off point, and is completely amenable to the similar in our own work (provided we can explain our reasoning). From what I've read about the 2nd Viennese School, and in Iannis Xenakis' work "Thought and Mathematics in Composition", this is actually fairly consistent with aleatoric music. Schoenberg and Xenakis use such methods to break out of tonality into a sonic space that they can't hear naturally through the lens of strict classical training. I try to do this in my own work, use the method, find a new space, write the movement I hear in that particular space. It seems like the strict serialists like Milton Babbitt might be a little bit of anomaly .
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby greeny » Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:24 am

Well having just read a few chapters in Book One concerning the theory of Rhythm I must confess it does require some stretching of the mind to get around some of the concepts and ideas presented. But hey I'm now juggling with new concepts such as Rhythm series such as 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, 6/6, 7/7 - I'd never heard of those!

However examining those concepts, the result is that I'm learning a new (speaking for myself) approach to creating balanced and stylistically unified rhythm-compositions. I've already written a few pages of rhythm, and only rhythm - "continuities" as he calls them, synchronized continuities when more than one part is involved - and they all seem very promising! The Schillinger book is designed to get one's juices flowing!
It does require some effort to start to use the theories in a practical sense, but hey, the same goes with learning a new song or a new instrument, one needs to make new synapses and cultivate one's own garden.

All in all it's thought provoking and great material to chew on.

I don't know any of Xenakis's texts and methodology but can now, through being a little bit acquainted with the rendering of some mathematical processes in rhythm-composition, thanks to Schillinger, make an approximative guess of some of the mathematical techniques which can be useful in the organizing of essential musical-parameters such as rhythm, scales, geometric expansions and symmetry, harmony and melody and their inter-connection, counterpoint, form, balance, dynamics and orchestration.

The proof for me that the Schillinger System is usable (at any level) is that since last week I've started to write some totally new stuff, and feel inspired and creative.

Another bonus is that it keeps one 'at it', reading and learning that is.
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby dewdman42 » Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:24 pm

I own all his volumes and I have had a difficult time making sense out of it. He used a lot of proprietary non-standard mathematical notation that is not completely understandable without someone telling you what the heck he meant. The few people that seem to understand something about it guard their knowledge closely and look for ways to profit. The same is true of the late Lyle Murphy's stuff as well.

Yes the founders at Berklee had some exposure to and interaction with Schillinger's methods, I can't remember the details, but its not clear at all to me what parts of it ended up in Berklee's approach to writing and arranging.

There is definitely some interesting stuff in there and Schillinger might be useful to generating some interesting bits to start with, or fill with, but frankly every piece of music I have heard that was done using schillinger approach sounded like a computer did it. Seems like non-inspired people tend to gravitate to this method as a last ditch effort to write some music, while musically inspired people don't have the patience to wade through 1600 pages of non-standard mathematical notation. But I rather suspect that he was really on to some ingenius patterns in terms of music and have always felt that if a musically inspired person also learned this system they might use it to their advantage some how.

Gershwin was known to have been an active student of Schillinger, but I can't remember which compositions may have been influenced by Schillinger's methods.
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby mikehalloran » Sat Jun 16, 2012 12:08 pm

Shooshie wrote: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.


I find my reading skills get rusty with no use. In my case, the bass and strings suffered more than vocal reading.

I have never found reading exercises to be of any use without the pressure to perform. When in the groove, the music went from the spots on the page to my fingers or voice with no conscious thought on my part. When rusty, I have to think about it - this gets in the way.

When in good form, I could sight read concerts with no problem - and was often hired at the last minute because I could. It didn't matter - upright or electric bass, symphony, show orchestra banjo/guitar book, choir, conductor... I was a member of the "Freeway Philharmonic" as we call it in Northern California, one of those musicians who play in many small orchestras to try and make a living. Having a decent day gig, I didn't do the full Monterey/Reno/Redding/Santa Rosa circuit that many of my friends still do.

Since my stroke, I can no longer play my strings and probably never will. I doubt if anyone will ever hire me to conduct again. There would be safety concerns.

To keep my vocal reading chops alive and give my brain a work out, I've been going to a local summer sing where I get to pay $15 to sight read major works under various guest conductors. Looking at this summer's season, however, nearly all are works I have sung in the last three years so I may not go this year - except a Bach B Minor Mass: I'll show up to read that as I have never sung the whole thing. My wife and daughters want me to go to all of them anyway ("it will do you good"). We'll see...
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby markstyles » Sat Jul 07, 2012 3:56 am

I toyed with it in the 70's I was working with the then new synths at UMass Boston., and it seemed like a wild idea. Some parts of it were adapted and taught at Berklee College of Music in Boston way back when for a while. Berklee first started as a jazz music college and then expanded.

I had access to one book. To be truthful a lot went over my head, it's dry stuff and a lot of it was not musically interesting to me back then. But a lot has changed now.. Those books should really be in public domain.. There is a lot of important and very observant points made..

I'd be more interested in it now, that I've burnt out on pop,rock,rap music. You might check out Berklee College of Music and see if there is any mention of it there.

I did compose some music with it. It was different but it was valid. Be prepared to do a lot of work, and change your viewpoint on what constitutes music. The counterpoint most interested me. The harmonic quality was awkward to my untrained ears.. (mostly a self taught rock musician).

It would be interesting for a qualified individual to tackle it, I know there would be a lot to glean from it.. In fact maybe I'll google later.. I haven't thought about it for over 35 years.

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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby dosuna11 » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:14 pm

For me the human voice singing always generates the most logical ideas. Exposure by listening to great works and singing the parts can create a palette for exploitation. Listening to exotic scales harmonized broadened my ears harmonically. Music theory is a wonderful device to explain and generate new ideas when stuck. I found Schillinger's methods very math oriented and OK just as Slonimsky it was a system of terms and devices. In short whatever gets the purest melodies to move forward I'm all for it. One Note Samba, it could be the ultimate protest to 12 tone.
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Re: Anyone familiar the Schillinger System of Musical Compos

Postby jazzylee77 » Thu Feb 27, 2014 5:02 pm

Pattern recognition. Musician soldiers in ww2 often were the best code breakers. (At least according to a chapter in this interminable historical trilogy reading)
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