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  • #16
    Ok guys and gals, Today I'm going to talk about flux.

    Don't be scared off by the weird name - It's not an "official" theory term... but a word I use to describe the effect of change. (I actually borrowed the word from physics - magnetic flux).

    So what is flux? Well, as I mentioned above - it is about change in a piece of music, and how change affects the listener.

    Change is essential to (almost) every type of music. Change is what keeps a piece interesting, engaging. As synth and keyboard players, I'm sure you're all aware of the magic of The Cool Sound. In my case, this is usually something I come up with in the very early stages of composition. I get a few instruments, layer a few loops, and get a section about four bars long.

    And it sounds so cool that I sometimes keep playing around with it for hours. I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about.

    It's important to remember, however, that our hour-long enjoyment of a few seconds of music does not imply that your listener will enjoy it in the same way. That is, if you had a four bar loop and repeated it for an hour, the effect on the listener would not be the same as it is on us.

    Sitting there, with the headphones or speakers, the sequencer open, the synths rolling, etc is a different listening experience than listening to a CD. Why? Because as composers, we are interacting with the music. A CD is static. If you repeat a four-bar loop for an hour and put it on a CD, the loop with not change. You will have an hour of something that's incredibly boring.

    ... just like this post so far. I keep repeating myself, and I get boring.

    My point is: No matter how cool your sound is, it's just a sound. No matter how cool it is, it will get boring. Change is essential to composing a piece of music

    Yeah, you probably know all that.

    You're probably using it already. So what's the point of writing this?

    To make you aware of flux in your compositions. Let's look at some examples of flux, and how it affects the listener. We'll take only one variable - intensity.

    The simplest flux we can have is no flux at all - that is, the piece is completely unchanging. Remember that flux is relative - so that regardless of whether we have high intensity or low intensity, if it's unchanging, there is no flux.

    When we have periods of no flux in a piece of music, the listener often has the impression that the music is standing still. It is unchanging, it is going nowhere. This can be good or bad, depending on how you (the composer) use it.

    Briefly placed at key points throughout the piece, periods of no flux can give a sense of stability, a plateau, or a pause. Extended periods of no flux can have an effect of slowing down the overall pace of the music, producing a stagnant (or boring) effect, or reducing interest in the music (the listener may allow her/himself to be distracted from the music).

    When we have a moderate amount of flux, it is often percieved as a gradual change in the texture or direction of the music. Positive flux (intensity gradually increasing) often prepares the listener for a climax or some sort of arrival point. Likewise, Negative flux (intensity gradually decreasing) is often used as a kind of "wind down" after a climax, but can also take the listener to a new place.

    Either way, moderate flux over a longer period of time can often give the listener a sense of anticipation. This is because the music is moving in a particular direction, towards a certain arrival point.

    If the section of moderate flux is familiar to the listener, they will have an expectation of the length (and degree) of the flux, as well as what the arrival point will be. If the listener is not familiar with the section of music, there will be much more uncertainty as the listener will not know how long the section will go for (they may guess though), or where the arrival point will be.

    When we have large amounts of flux, the change is very sudden. This can be used to great dramatic effect.

    When the change is positive (rapid increase of intensity), the listener often percieves a sudden "blast", can can boost the excitement of the music. This should be used sparingly though, because if the listener becomes used to it, or even comes to expect it, then the effect will be greatly diminished.

    The the change is negative (rapid decrease of intensity), the listener is often left hanging in expectation. the sudden change can have a destabilising effect, and very quickly create and sense of uncertainty.


    It's also important to remember that flux is effective on more than one level. For example, if a piece of music has many sudden rapid changes of intensity, we will have very large fluctuations of intensity. At first, this may be very exciting, and have similar effects to those I described above. However, over time if this high level of flux does not change then eventually the listener will percieve the music to have very little change - and very little flux overall. It's important to consider the larger context.


    Ok, that's all for today. I'll see you tomorrow - same time, same channel!! Until then - Goodnight!!

    Forever,




    Kim.
    <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://acapella.harmony-central.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&amp;threadid=361618&amp;perpage= 20&amp;pagenumber=1" target="_blank">The Composition Thread</a> is sticky!<br />
    <font size="1"> There is no heavier burden than a great potential.<i>- Unknown source</i></font></div>

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    • #17
      I like this a lot, as it's my passion, hot, cold, frustrating, revitalizing..all of it..

      Not sure where I'm fitting in to what's already been said, but I'll just jump in with where I sometimes have difficulty. I guess it's a right brain/left brain thing for me...My traditional way of working is to sit at the keyboard or guitar with no preconceived notions at all..This is after many years of trying to fit my small piece of creativity into some preconceived format, which of course, is the ultimate goal, but to get there, I kind of have to peek through my fingers, sort of. So, what I do, or try to do, is sit down and just free form until an idea comes..at that point I switch brains, and try to flesh it out into some cohesive acceptable structure..hopefully, not too mundane, and with some twists...

      Now, here's my problem at times. I sometimes switch from right brain to left brain too quickly. Before I've allowed the idea to formulate I start analyzing. I've written with partners before, and at that stage have a tendency to want to bring to the session a completed idea, if not a completed song, so I may be rushing the process at times...Any help in this regard would be most appreciated. Great thread, Kim.
      <div class="signaturecontainer">G.</div>

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      • #18
        Originally posted by DodgingRain
        Ah, again flux can be built into the sound and isn't necessarily part of the composition if we don't include sound design as part of a composition(which I disagree with). A sound can change over the course of several bars(100's if you like), but the idea itself is important regardless.

        Yes DodgingRain, I know how much our composing can be inspired by the sound shaping capabilities of our wonderful synths, however, I believe Jeez's intention is to keep the dialogue focused specifically on the process of notes written, regardless of which instrument or voice for which it is intended.
        As for my particular process, a tune with words is lyric driven but with a BIG ear open to the notes which will be sung. If the tune is to be written in an "off" tempo, then obviously the words will have to bend. Lyrics or not, I compose at the piano, trying to voice everything nicely, adding first the bassline and then the drums. Next I'll try adding different instruments in various places to bolster the composition appropriately. I sometimes like to try to take the chorus or bridge to an unexpected key, so finding a way to modulate smoothly is a challenge. Nice post Jeez, thanks.
        Peace
        <div class="signaturecontainer">Steinway (model K, 1917), Korg Triton ProX, Korg T3, Motion-Sound KP200s with SL-200S slave and SW-15 powered subwoofer, Barbetta Sona 41, Hammond Porta B w/Leslie 147, Doric organ, Wurly 200, Fender Twin Reverb (1974), Violin (1921) with LR Baggs pickup, 1964 Guild &quot;parlor guitar&quot;<br />
        <b><font face="Palatino Linotype"><i>&quot;When facism comes to America it will be draped in a flag and carrying a cross&quot;</i> Sinclair Lewis 1885-1951</font></b></div>

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        • #19
          Originally posted by DodgingRain
          Ah, again flux can be built into the sound and isn't necessarily part of the composition if we don't include sound design as part of a composition(which I disagree with). A sound can change over the course of several bars(100's if you like), but the idea itself is important regardless.


          If a sound changes over an extended length of time, and you use that as part of your piece, then that is definately composition.

          Sound design is when you build sounds, but the sounds have no context.

          Composition is when you give the sounds context - ie, you call it a piece.

          Composition doesn't have to be beats and bars, it doesn't have to have notes or harmony - it's just the organisation of sound.


          Ok, we're starting to get into semantics here. Let's try not to get into a petty grey-area squabble. I know that in some cases sound design and composition cross over. In this thread I'd like to just focus on composition.


          I think that's enough sound design vs. composition for this thread.

          Forever,




          Kim.
          <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://acapella.harmony-central.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&amp;threadid=361618&amp;perpage= 20&amp;pagenumber=1" target="_blank">The Composition Thread</a> is sticky!<br />
          <font size="1"> There is no heavier burden than a great potential.<i>- Unknown source</i></font></div>

          Comment


          • #20
            Originally posted by ebonivory
            Now, here's my problem at times. I sometimes switch from right brain to left brain too quickly. Before I've allowed the idea to formulate I start analyzing. I've written with partners before, and at that stage have a tendency to want to bring to the session a completed idea, if not a completed song, so I may be rushing the process at times...Any help in this regard would be most appreciated. Great thread, Kim.


            I know what that's like. I've had situations where I come up with an idea that I like, then start developing it too early. Pretty soon I hit a dead end, because I didn't start out with much material.

            When this has happened though, sometimes I find it helps to start developing new ideas, and build on them before incorporating them into the original material.

            Of course, this doesn't always work.

            The important thing to remember, is that composition is an iterative process - it's not common to start at the start, develop your ideas, then have a completed product - all in a linear fashion. Very often, you have to go back, make up new material, scrap older stuff, mix and match, etc.

            Hope that helps.

            Forever,




            Kim.
            <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://acapella.harmony-central.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&amp;threadid=361618&amp;perpage= 20&amp;pagenumber=1" target="_blank">The Composition Thread</a> is sticky!<br />
            <font size="1"> There is no heavier burden than a great potential.<i>- Unknown source</i></font></div>

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            • #21
              Originally posted by easy1
              I believe Jeez's intention is to keep the dialogue focused specifically on the process of notes written, regardless of which instrument or voice for which it is intended.


              Almost. That's the right idea... but also understand that not everyone uses notes, or time signatures, or even harmony. I've done some work which had none of this - just a "music concrete" collage of sound. That's still composition, and the principals we're discussing here should still be applicable.

              Forever,




              Kim.
              <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://acapella.harmony-central.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&amp;threadid=361618&amp;perpage= 20&amp;pagenumber=1" target="_blank">The Composition Thread</a> is sticky!<br />
              <font size="1"> There is no heavier burden than a great potential.<i>- Unknown source</i></font></div>

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by Jeez



                The important thing to remember, is that composition is an iterative process - it's not common to start at the start, develop your ideas, then have a completed product - all in a linear fashion. Very often, you have to go back, make up new material, scrap older stuff, mix and match, etc.

                Hope that helps.

                Forever,




                Kim.


                That is helpful Kim. It helps to realize that going back to the creative mode for additonal ideas/material, without giving up the orignial concept is possible and sometimes necessary.
                <div class="signaturecontainer">G.</div>

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                • #23
                  Hooks.

                  In my opinion a song needs a hook if it is to be remembered long after the listener has heard it. Hooks have to repeat in the song to help it settle into the listener's head.

                  I always consciously put them in my songs. A hook can be anything that is catchy and memorable - a catchy bass line or an interesting arpeggio or a voice saying "Bring on the thunder" before every chorus section. There can be more than one hooks in a song.

                  I had this saved from somewhere I dont remember -

                  "
                  HOOKS
                  This is the part of a commercial composition we remember after the song is over; the refrain ;the part of the song that grabs you. The part you cannot seem to get out of your head, that you keep singing, the catchy repeated chorus. Commercial jingle writers are some of the most proficient in coming up with memorible hooks. These are the compositions that stick even if we try to forget them. There are many forms for hooks and hooklines.

                  HOOK BASED ON SONG STRUCTURE
                  This type of hook is repeated several times and contains the hook line or title of the song; usually the first or last line of the chorus. Sometimes a bridge section can also be a hook, but we mainly refer to the chorus.

                  HOOK BASED ON INSTRUMENTAL MELODY LINE
                  Some phrases that are played by a lead instrument may ingrain themselves into our memory and indeed be considered a melodic hook. Sometimes we tend to make up our own syllables to go along with these popular riffs such as the Pretty Woman riff, or the Beatles Something.

                  HOOK BASED ON THE LYRICS
                  Sometimes the lyrics or storyline are so powerful, or the message so potent, that we associate that subject with a certain song. This association acually hooks the listener into identifying with a certain subject or emotion. This angle is a bit less defined than going with a traditional song structure hook based on repetition, but can also be very powerful.

                  Hooks using certain sounds, effects and other production tools can also be identified with when the soundscape is heard and is also a further way of individualizing the production.
                  "

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Jaydubz
                    http://www.zappa-analysis.com


                    Fasinating! As our signatures might attest, I think we are on the same wavelength.

                    But to make a long story short, Zappa started out with a brilliant and balanced approach, where sound for it's own sake (as Dodging Rain mentions) and melody/harmony were equally explored, not to mention an exciting approach to rhythm. But in his later years, Zappa lost interest in melody, harmony and repetitive rhythm, and was preoccupied with sheer sound and asymmetrical rhythm. IMO it was too bad, as he was a brilliant melodist. Uncle Meat, Waka Jawaka and Studio Tan are three of my favorites. He was also a incredible guitarist--Sheik Yerbouti has a great mix of his humor and guitar work. He was also a bit crazy--he went back and ruined all of his earliest recordings by radically remixing them, playing down the original melodies, pulling up obscure instrumental parts, and even removing large parts of the original drums and putting in a wretched electronic bass drum, just because those early recordings were so "primitive". A total original.

                    [edit] Since this is a thread about form, I suppose I should add that Zappa remained a master of form throughout his career, from his early deconstructions of pop music on Freak Out to his seemingly random (but actually masterfully constructed) sonic exercises on Jazz From Hell and The Yellow Shark. Not to mention Porn Wars, which should be required listening for anyone interested in electronic sound.
                    <div class="signaturecontainer">&quot;Music is the best&quot;<br />
                    --Frank Zappa<br />
                    <br />
                    For a good time, try <a href="http://analogkid.us/yabb/YaBB.pl" target="_blank">http://analogkid.us/yabb/YaBB.pl</a></div>

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by DodgingRain

                      Hey Afro... do you have a link to anything on the 'net? Sounds like there may be some interesting ideas there.

                      There's a book still available on Amazon from my college days, a fantastic guide to modern techniques: randomness (aleatory), 12 tone technique, microtones, thematic metamorphosis, bitonality, modality, rhythm and meter, and even a little dated but useful chapter on electronic music at the end: Techniques of Twentieth Century Composition by Leon Dallin. Also, for a discussion of flux, or development as it's called in the classical world, and music structure/form in general, you can't beat Aaron Copland's classic What To Listen For In Music, available in paperback at your local bookstore.
                      <div class="signaturecontainer">&quot;Music is the best&quot;<br />
                      --Frank Zappa<br />
                      <br />
                      For a good time, try <a href="http://analogkid.us/yabb/YaBB.pl" target="_blank">http://analogkid.us/yabb/YaBB.pl</a></div>

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        No mega-post tonight. It's already 2:30am and I'm dead tired.

                        Maybe I shouldn't go reading up on CPU architecture before going to bed??

                        Forever,




                        Kim.
                        <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://acapella.harmony-central.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&amp;threadid=361618&amp;perpage= 20&amp;pagenumber=1" target="_blank">The Composition Thread</a> is sticky!<br />
                        <font size="1"> There is no heavier burden than a great potential.<i>- Unknown source</i></font></div>

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                        • #27
                          Ok, tonight I'm going to talk about Stability.

                          What is stability? Stability is the effect of a number of factors - rather than try to describe what stability is, I'll list some techniques that can produce a sense of stability:

                            . This is the opposite of stability - where tension is easier to create, where the listener has to work harder to understand the music.

                            Instability is often where things get much more interesting as well - this is where the music strays from the proverbial beaten track.

                            It should be farily obvious that it's a good idea to aim for a balance of stability and instability. Play around and see what you get... or at least, keep it in mind when you're working on current and future projects.

                            That's all I can think of for now. I'm tired.

                            Forever,




                            Kim.
                          <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://acapella.harmony-central.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&amp;threadid=361618&amp;perpage= 20&amp;pagenumber=1" target="_blank">The Composition Thread</a> is sticky!<br />
                          <font size="1"> There is no heavier burden than a great potential.<i>- Unknown source</i></font></div>

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                          • #28
                            These days I'm into the improvised woven winding river style of ambient/electronic classical/newage music that for the most part doesn't have any repeating segments. It would be impossible for me to play it live so what I'd probably do is memorize some of the basic jist of the tunes, maybe some favorite parts and wing the rest for a different performance every time plus I could interject parts on the fly. You can check out some of my stuff here to get an idea of what I'm up to. Some of it involves the crossfade-parts-of-tunes-together-that-weren't-long-enough-to-be-a-composition-on-their-own approach.

                            Lately I've also done some play-a-couple-of-notes-tweek-the-synth-parameters stuff too. No more conventional use-the-metronome-and-watch-how-many-bars-for-each-section method for me.
                            <div class="signaturecontainer">War is over if you want it.<br />
                            - John &amp; Yoko -<br />
                            <br />
                            Nothing fails like success. <br />
                            - Alan Watts - (based on <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sa%E1%B9%83s%C4%81ra" target="_blank">Samsara</a>)<br />
                            <br />
                            &quot;I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.&quot;<br />
                            -Thomas Edison, in conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, 1931-</div>

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                            • #29
                              Hey, DodgingRain, it looks like you maybe should start a thread of your own.

                              Hint. Hint.

                              Kiru
                              <div class="signaturecontainer"><font size="1">&quot;Don't sell your life! Do whatever you really want to do. You must act as the master of your life, and then become <i>free</i>. No matter how difficult it is, no matter how unsuccessful it might seem, do whatever you want!&quot;<br />
                              -- Michio Kushi<br />
                              <br />
                              The only way to settle questions of an ideological nature or controversial issues among the people is by the democratic method, the method of discussion, of criticism, of persuasion and education, and not by the method of coercion or repression.<br />
                              -- Mao Zedong</font></div>

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by rockafeller



                                Yes, the original inspiration and good general compositional approach does transcend genres, but if thats all you are concerned with you wont make much more that 15 second comercial tunes. Understanding the compositional structure specific to your genre is completely necessary. General music theory will only get you so far. I can write a thrash metal riff on my guitar because I have general music theory and understanding of chord progressions, but that wont be enough for me to write a complete "good" song.


                                ...but it's general thread on theory and structure which is useful to everyone, and I find that it's much easy to pickup any formulamatic structures for a genre just be listing to the music thne to learn general music theory. Songwriting takes a lot more then just good music theory as you say, but songwriting without music theory isn't going to work regardless of how meny pop/trance/hip hop/whatever insta-hit formulas you know.


                                I'll go back to dance music. You can take a chord progression or program an arpeggio because you have an understanding of general music theory and apply a slightly tweaked preset and say I have a trance song, but you really don't. You have piece of the whole. If you don't understand how the arpeggio must enter and exit the song morph from a percussive element into a lead element (compositional theory specific to the trance genre) you will never write a good trance song. I can write a thousand 4/4 beats that would fit into any dance song because I understand general music theory. I can write a thousand synth lead parts and a thousand pad parts for those beats, but if I don't know howo to arrange and sequence within the paramerters of that genre then I'll never write a good song.


                                You should have a good idea of arranging with a decent amount of music theory, and the guys/gals who started trance didn't have formulas to go by. They ether knew what they were doing or got lucky. I know a few guys who plonk out trance tracks. They come up with some killer drum tracks, but everything else is very limited because they don't have a clue as to what they are doing. You can plonk out a great bass line, but good luck trying to get it to work with anything else.


                                Basic music theory can be taught out of a text book. Applying that theory to a specific genre with specific compositional standards and understanding how to manipulate those standards well is much much harder.


                                Agreed. That's why I never put a label on anything I write whcich is easy since I'm just doing it for fun.


                                Someone on this site once responded to the question of what's the difference between all of us bedroom studio producers and professional artists. Their response was that we all write good stuff, but the pros just have a talent for putting it together. And putting it together is essentially arrangement which is specific to each genre.


                                I always thought is was how good you were in the sack.


                                Now lets put our heads together and get Jeez to post on something that we have trouble with the textbook on.

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