Music came first. Theory followed. Not the other way around.
At Cool Conservatory, we study music theory for all the right reasons. You can't break the rules until you know the rules. And the more deeply you know them, the more intelligently you can break them. To this end, we've developed several unique tools to clarify musical concepts that can sometimes appear, shall we say... opaque. Music theory, history, appreciation, and ethnography are all facets of the same beautiful jewel -- they should all be studied together. Contact us today to get started!
Academic music theory evolved as a means of explaining how the Masters created spontaneously, "by ear." Of course the great composers knew the theory of their time backwards and forwards. They simply were willing to ignore it when it didn't suit their artistic vision. And then the theory had to be altered to accommodate the new way... because when Beethoven did something, it couldn't be "wrong."
Knowledge of theory benefits you by vastly shortening the distance between seeing music on paper and playing it with your hands. Or hearing a song on your iPod and playing it with your hands. Or hearing an original idea in your head and writing it down or playing it with your hands. Basically, music theory provides the missing link between your senses of sight and hearing, your imagination... and your instrument!
Cool Conservatory's approach begins with "nuts-and-bolts" music theory -- what are the elements of music usually called, how do they work, how have composers employed them in the past. This is called "common practice music theory;" but it's not the only theory out there. There are many other music theories in the world, based on the insights of individual musicians and having little to do with "common practice." There's the Equal Interval System. And the Lydian Chromatic Theory. As a musician, you don't need to know all these systems -- but you do need to know there is no One Right Way.
To the left are depictions of 28 musical geniuses. When you study at Cool Conservatory you'll learn about these and many other others. Why do they matter? Why should you care? Why isn't this boring? Where are the women? Glad you asked!
First of all, many of those geniuses were brilliant, antisocial wackos (that's a technical term) with difficult personalities and more ego than five average rock stars. Except for Freddie Mercury, bottom right, who was a rock star. So they're an entertaining lot who led entertaining lives.
But much more importantly... each broke significantly with the past to give the world something truly new. (And each time they did, music theory had to be revised). You would be well-advised to learn what they did, how they did it, and moreover why -- because your goal as a musician must be to find something new inside yourself, something unique, and acquire the tools to bring that extremely personal expression to all the music you create. They did it. So can you.
Understanding deepens experience. This of course holds true for any form of communication -- but especially for non-verbal forms of expression such as music or dance.
Music is art; the appreciation of any art depends on the acquisition of:
... a general knowledge of how the work was created
... an aesthetic sense developed by exposure to as much good art as possible
... critical thinking skills and awareness of details
These can all be acquired through practice and, in the case of music appreciation, much listening. We live in an era where music has largely devolved into a disposable commodity. Becoming an educated listener will lead you to the discovery of ageless art that has stood -- or will stand -- the test of centuries.
No matter how monolothic it frequently appears, the rich heritage of what is known as "Western Music" is only one among many musical traditions. This will be abundantly clear after just a cursory survey of cultures around the world.
Humankind celebrates with music. We mourn with music. We exult and weep and worship with music. Music is woven into the fabric of both our everyday lives and our varied special occasions. And this is found to be the case in every culture on Earth.
Many cultures developed "art music." All created folk music. And even as a great melding of musical styles from around the world has taken place over the last 130 years or so, many cultures have striven mightily to retain their musical identity. At the same time, generations of musicologists and collectors have preserved much indigenous music that would otherwise have been lost.
"World" music is an incredibly rich and inspiring resource to both instrumentalists and composers. And today it's easier to access than ever!