At 4/19/13 10:22 PM, camoshark wrote:
If people weren't pushing the boundaries of theoretical knowledge, we'd still be making madrigals.
I write madri- hey wait! >:(
As said above, theory is just one tool in the toolbox. I know composers who aren't creative enough to otherwise write good music but are saved by the technicalities of theory letting them create ideas- people who wait for weeks just to get one idea. Yet I can sit and just spew ideas, and yes, I find the theory side and everyone shouting "Just pick one idea next time!" at me is quite limiting when I could just go off on musical adventures for minutes at a time going through countless random ideas, and so could many other composers I know... but at the end of the day, that limiting factor is beneficial.
I've experienced writing music both without any regard for theory, just by ear (when I first started) and writing music strictly by theory (in theory class). I have to say, the ear is much faster and more pleasurable to write for, but the quality of work is often lesser, while theory is harder to write in full mindset but often yields more of the "why didn't I think of that?" stuff that another composer might hear. However, the real trick is not one over the other- it's moderation of both.
Compare some Romantic- or Post-Romantic-Era classical to almost any modern popular song (pop, rock, dubstep, etc.)- a brilliant show of knowledge and moderation between theory and creativity vs. something centered kinda around emotion but utterly ruled over by underlying laws of the particular genre, even though a good number of modern professional popular writers/musicians know less actual "theory rules" than you probably do-there are big-name "composers" that cannot read or write music.
I'm listening to some Gershwin right now (early 20th Century/Post-Romantic) and let me say, you don't get music like this today no matter where you look (except perhaps a few outstanding film soundtracks or broadway scores). There's a lot of theory behind it, as WELL as a lot of creativity and emotion. It's not about theory RUINING creativity. It's about being good enough to use it to augment and supplement creativity. Nowadays in popular genres it's just about fitting in and using the chord progression everyone's going mad about or the form that is popular (seriously... most modern songs have the same form... you can't critique classical for that). If theory ruins your creativity, it means you need to work harder on finding the right balance or else you'll end up like Harry Parch, and remember kids, no one wants to be a Harry Parch! :P