Introduction

ON LEARNING MUSICAL CRAFT
 
The links on this page lead to my series of online booklets about musical craftsmanship, as well as essays about Encouraging creativity and What I listen for in music, which also includes  some remarks about teaching composition. I have also written a Letter to a Young Composer.

 
These online books are not substitutes for traditional textbooks, but complements to them. Each one adds information for which I searched in standard texts for years without success. Often these “missing links” may be as simple as knowing the “why” for some procedure: What is it good for? At other times, I propose alternative classifications and explanations for things which are not satisfactorily explained elsewhere.
 
This series is dedicated to the memory of my teacher and friend Marvin Duchow, one of the rare true scholars, a musician of immense depth and sensitivity, and a man of unsurpassed kindness and generosity.
 

N.B. These books are free. You may consult them and download them without charge. All are however under copyright, and any quotations from them must be credited to me. No commercial use may be made of them without my written permission.
 

Subject English French Other languages
 Composition  (musical form)  x x Italian (pdf), Spanish * (pdf), German (pdf)
 Counterpoint  x Italian (pdf),  Spanish (pdf)
 Counterpoint workbooks (pdf) x x
Orchestration x Dutch (pdf), Italian (pdf),  Spanish (pdf)
 Improving computer simulation of the orchestra x Spanish (pdf), Italian (pdf)
 Two mini courses in orchestration x
 Harmony x  x Spanish (pdf)
 On Musical Ideas x Spanish (pdf)
 Letter to a young composer x  x German (pdf), Spanish (pdf), Italian (pdf), Russian (pdf)

 
* = old version

 


 
ON MUSICAL ANALYSIS
 
Here you will find my occasional essays on musical analysis. My approach to analysis is quite different from that taught in most music schools. This is mainly because I see analysis as a tool for learning how a composer creates the effects he does, rather than a unified method of systematic exegesis.
 

 
Here are a few concise suggestions for effective musical analysis:
 

  • Start by listening to the music, all through, without the score, and taking notes on whatever is most prominent. Repeat this process until you notice very little new to add to your observations. This guarantees you will not ignore the audible forest in favor of the visual trees.
  • Distinguish between powerful, obvious effects, and subtle relationships. (Avoid spending lots of time on things which are inaudible!) Ask yourself why the most salient effects have been organized as they are. Remember: For the listener, salience precedes subtlety; the meaning of the subtlest details must be related to the most salient features.
  • The results you get in analysis depend on the questions you ask. The most important question in musical analysis is not “what?”, but “when?”, or, more precisely, “why this, now?”. Analysis which does not answer this latter question is seriously handicapped, because music is a temporal art. If the composer takes his job seriously, things arrive at a given moment for a reason; musical events cannot be scrambled in time and maintain their significance, any more than you can scramble the words in a sentence or the sentences in as essay with no effect on the meaning.
  • The best analysis integrates observations about various aspects of the music: Rhythm affects harmony, orchestration affects the way rhythm is perceived, and so on. Too much analysis over-emphasizes pitch relationships. Pitch is important, but not by itself. If your analysis would remain the same even with major changes in (say) rhythm or orchestration, you are missing some very important things.