Does it sound Japanese?

• Oct 11, 2022 - 22:26

My first try to write something in Japanese style. I did not try to mimic a specific style but I wanted it to sound more traditional than modern (as modern Japanese music sounds very Western). I used 平調子 mode (not sure how it is spelled in English) for koto. I didn't use any specific rules for shakuhachi as. AFAIK, there are so many ways to play shakuhachi that no specific rules exist ;) But my knowledge about Japanese music is mostly based on wikipedia (and I do not know Japanese), so I may be wrong (and even way wrong). So. if you know the subject better, feel free to offer your corrections. (Please save any musescore files in music xml format for MS2 compatibility)

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Possibly, only because of the instruments. Otherwise, maybe a little too Western. Perhaps spend some time listening to the real thing to get a feel.

In reply to by bobjp

Too late, I made a clip and published it already. And anyway, I can correct something (if told what exactly is wrong) but not everything.
Let's discuss another tune - it is NOT Japanese, just not to create another topic as you will answer faster here ;) That's my first try to write a song where the bass part is not a copy of the lead. Is the bass good? Any corrections? (For me it sounds nice.)

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In reply to by etsenberg

If it sounds good to you, that might be all that counts. Personally, I'm not a fan of this kind of modal writing that may be seen to lack direction. The bass part still follows the melody for the most part. Yet the fact that it is steady 4 beat notes could be seen as a way to hold the piece together. What is your goal?

In reply to by bobjp

I don't understand what goal a song may have. Just to sound good, that's all ;) I wanted the bass rhythm to be constant if you mean that. And I like how the bass part sounds solo, too. It makes a clear pattern with beginning and ending, not a random set of notes, nor a repetitive up-down-up-down - so I don't understand why you think it lacks direction. But if you want to change something (not everything) in the bass, I would like to compare your version with mine. (If you do it, please save it in xml format.)

In reply to by etsenberg

I'm talking about the melody. I'm not interested in changing anything. You like what you have done. That's what counts.
For me, the goal of music is not just to sound good. That's important. But there is much more. It needs to have direction. A goal. It needs to take us on a journey, and let us know when the destination is reached. It tells a story, and like a story, is made of of sentences or thoughts. Phrases. Ideas.
I did not hear a pattern in the bass because I was distracted by the melody. So thanks for pointing it out. composing can be a delicate dance between writing what you need to write, and writing what someone else might enjoy.

In reply to by bobjp

Well, if you say it is good if the author finds it good, let it be l) I am a professional writer and an amateur musician. As a poet, I've seen a lot of amateurs who think their poems are good while their rhymes are terrible and their meter is wrong, They are just too incompetent to understand their own incompetency (so-called Dunning-Kruger effect). I just don't want to make the same mistake.
While any story definitely needs a goal, I don't think it's true for music. Definitely not for songs, as they just repeat the same stanzas several times. And even other music - most of classical pieces are known for their main theme, sometimes for their beginning, but not for their ending. I know very well how the whole story (even a long novel) can be written for its last paragraph (or even the last phrase), but music is not written for its last measures.
As for writing counterpoint, I came to the following rules:
1. Use consonances for strong beats, prefer perfect consonances for beginnings and ends.
2. Contrary motion is good (but not mandatory).
3. The counterpoint part should sound good when played solo.
Do you agree?

In reply to by etsenberg

Every phrase in a song is like a sentence. Every word in a sentence has meaning and direction. Every note in a phrase leads to the next note, and produces a complete thought. Much like a sentence. The journey that music takes you on is one of state of mind. A song is much more than just the same stanza over and over. Lyrics help give it direction, a story. Any art form does the takes us on a journey.
What do you hope the readers of your poetry come away with. Just the first line, or maybe the last? You have an entire story to tell. So do classical composers. Classical music isn't for everyone.
The goal of writing counterpoint is not just to use a particular interval at a particular time. It is also based on a chord progression. Often, in two part counterpoint, both parts have movement. Or trade off. One moving more than the other in turn. I suspect that it is more important how the parts sound together, than how they sound alone. What if someone read every other line of one of your poems?

But then I don't write music the same way most others do. It is common practice to write a melody and then go back and write the accompaniment. I don't write melodies, as such. I might start with a measure or two. Then I fill in the other parts, building a progression that gives me a direction to go. I develop melodies from the result. This is how I write for orchestra. In this way, every note is important, and not just filler.

In reply to by bobjp

Again, my point is literature cannot be an analogue for music, If we use your analogy with a journey, literature is a journey to reach the destination while music is a journey to enjoy the views in process. (The "views"are important for literature, too, but only as a prerequisite of a good journey but not the goal of it )
But looks like we just have different philosophies. I thought I misunderstood smth. technical, but if it is philosophical, there is nothing to discuss - each one is right ;) I am with "the others" who " write a melody and then go back and write the accompaniment."
Of course the parts must sound good together, but sounding good alone is a good prerequisite (while not a guaranty) for that. If you still want an analogy with a poem, odd lines must rhyme with odd, and even with even.

In reply to by etsenberg

It depends on why the music was written. Some music is a series of views in process. And some, like "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite, are a crescendo to a climax at the end.
There are many ways to write poetry.
Music, art and literature are not automatically all that different from each other. It just depends on the goal, or lack of one.

In reply to by bobjp

Yes. "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is a perfect example of your point. Ravel's "Bolero" may be another one. You may laugh, but even my very first try to write music was of this kind (it was dictated by lyrics). Bur I think such music is more an exclusion than a rule. The majority of melodies may have local climaxes but not a single goal to which the whole tune goes.
Sure, there are many ways to write poetry and music. My concern was not to make a technical error. There are good poems with good rhymes and there are good poems with no rhymes, but there are no good poems with bad rhymes. That's what I am trying to avoid in music.

In reply to by etsenberg

And there is plenty of bad music that follows the rules. I don't think music is about rules. It's more about inspiration. Without it, music is just sound. Certain rules help you to produce a certain kind of music.

Just because something follows "the rules" doesn't make it good. And just because something doesn't follow "the rules" doesn't make it bad. There's more to it than that. Plenty of writers were rule beakers.

I'm not sure what you mean by bad rhymes. Are you sure it's not on purpose? Or just a matter of opinion? Not everyone agrees on what good poetry is. I don't think atonal music is very good. Lots of people like it because tonal music is tired.

In reply to by bobjp

Bad rhyme is always bad, period. Do you know the term "grammar nazi"? I an a rhyme nazi - that is, zero tolerance for bad rhymes. Of course, there are differences between languages - non-flective are more tolerant than flective ones. Thus, in English “tree - he”, and in German even “Lueft - Gift” are considered OK, In Slavic languages, the former is bad, and the latter is terrible (“trim - him”would be good but not perfect ) “Tree - him” is definitely bad in any language.
But let’s not dig into offtopic.

In reply to by etsenberg

The analogy works more than you think it does. Even if you don't consciously realize it, almost all music has a structure that builds on itself in a way that's engaging to listen to.

Choosing to write music that's pleasant to hear at any given moment, without regard for whether it flows naturally and purposefully with what's around it, is like reading off a list of random pleasant-sounding words in a monotone voice and calling it poetry. It might have a few of the elements of good poetry, but it's meaningless and gets boring fast! If you insisted on writing a poem where the words don't mean anything, you'd at least read it in an expressive manner that feels like you're saying something, right?

In reply to by Rose Egbert

Not at all! Literature, including poetry, works with information, the second signal system. Music works with senses, the first signal system "What it means" vs "how it sounds". Both for you and me, sad melody is sad, and joyful is joyful. But the same words have totally different meanings. Your "bog" is my "god". and my "god" is your "year" . While for poetry sounding is also essential (for rhymes and meter), meaning is the first. And music has no meaning by itself! You (or the author) can associate it with smth, but this association is external, not contained in the music per se. It affects emotions directly, not via meaning.
And of course, not a single “pleasant”note but sequences of them make music good, and those sequences must have their structure and logic But that does not mean that the whole melody must be a single sequence with a single direction and goal. “Structure” or “pattern” does not mean “goal”.

In reply to by etsenberg

You've got a forum full of music people telling you that music made with a direction in mind is more coherent than music that isn't. You say you don't want to make amateur mistakes, so believe us when we say that having something to say—a scene to set, a story to tell, an emotion to capture, even if it's not that deep—is an indispensable step in making music that holds attention, and believing otherwise indicates a deep lack of understanding of the medium.

Even the most soulless corporate muzak is made with the intent to inspire a feeling in the listener. If you don't even have that, you just have noise.

In reply to by etsenberg

I think music and poetry have more in common than you think. A single word like "dog" spoken out loud brings to mind certain things. A single note like "Ab" can also bring certain things to mind. This depends on what instrument is used and how in is played. Much the same as voice inflections affect "dog". A person can read a sentence silently to themselves. A musician can read music the same way.
You might counter that music is meant to be heard. Don't forget that language and music were in use long before either were written down.
I get the feeling that when you read a poem that doesn't fit your rules it is automatically a bad poem. You come across a rhyme that you don't like and right away that overshadows what the author is trying to say. I get it because when I listened to your music, almost none of it fit into a category that I understand or enjoy. That doesn't mean it's bad music. It just doesn't fit with what I understand. The same can be said of any art form. There is a famous painting of a soup can that means nothing to me. And I have seen the "Mona Lisa" in person (though not the soup can), and it has far more impact for me. I think that maybe "how"something is presented is just as important to "meaning" and "goal", as "what" is presented.

You do not want to make "rookie" mistakes. No one does. But you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. Don't get so caught up in "the rules" that you loose sight of putting soul into your music.

In reply to by bobjp

First, see my replies and
There are poets whom I dislike but whose talent I acknowledge. And there are so-called "poets" whose works are weak and poor even if I agree with their ideas and share their emotions. To have what to say is not enough - you must know how to say. If you have interesting ideas but lack poetic talent (or just too lazy to work on rhymes and meter ), write prose, that's all. (I write both and know the difference.) You can distinguish a bad singer from a good singer , cannot you? You will not say a bad singer just has a different taste. Bad rhymes are just like false notes.
And please, let's finish the offtopic!

In reply to by etsenberg

If by off topic you mean poetry (which you brought up),fine by me. I'm not sure what the topic is right now.

I asked you what the goal was of your piece of music. The only answer so far is that music has no goal. So let me put it this way. What were you thinking of while writing the first ten or so measures? If, as you say, music is a series of scenes, what is the scene at the beginning. Was there a particular mood or feeling you had in mind? Or were you just concerned about following the rules? Is all you are trying to do is not commit rookie mistakes? What does that piece mean to you? Why did you write it? Or do "false notes" mean no music.

In reply to by etsenberg

Concerning the technical question:

1) Using consonances for strong beat is ... sort of a thing that might work well for a beginner, but in a lot of classical music, you will see the opposite. Dissonances on strong beats are everywhere, but they usually follow some rules, i.e. they must be resolved in some way. (The specific rules vary over times, and my point is not to go deep into rules.)
Never putting dissonances on a strong beat in a melody is something that in my opinion makes melodies quite weak.

2) Contrary motion is indeed nice. ^^
Also, the amount of space between the lowest and highest note at a particular time is a nice thing to play around with.

3) Counterpoint part should sound good when played solo - I personally absolutely love when this is the case!
But in music history, you will find plenty of examples that don't do it. In the end, it depends on the piece, and on the style. Some music just plainly doesn't care about counterpoint; for other music, it's essential. :)


On the more "composing philosophy" questions -
I firmly disagree with any notion that music has to any specific thing. It's absurd, because music isn't a language; there is a plethora of music traditions around the world and some of them have almost nothing in common with others.

It's fine if "music has to go somewhere" works for someone, but if you ask 10 people what they would mean with such a phrase, you would get 10 different answers. I do have lots and lots of personal opinions on what makes melodies good, but many of them are a matter of taste.

When it comes to learning to write melodies, I would actually recommend studying children´s songs. They often follow very basic rules that can be scaled up to much larger structures.

BUT of course there is music that has entirely different concepts of melodies, and also plenty of music that just doesn't do melodies.

In reply to by jundurg

Yes, there are many approaches, ans I am not pretending to state any universal axioms. Saying that my approach is good does not mean others are impossible or bad ;) (While some still are bad; there is a difference between "I don't like it, but it's a matter of taste" and "it is definitely bad because it violates the very basics".)

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