I have to learn everything several times.

I understand and sympathize. (It wasn't that I thought I converted you to my view, but that I thought I had done a better job of conveying what my complaints about harmonic theory were.)

I don't see how I've misunderstood your claim.

The misunderstanding is most evident when you write a phrase like:

things written using harmonic theory

which begs the whole question. You assume that harmonic theory is an accurate description of "how those things are written", which is the very thing I deny. You seem to be confusing music theory with music, which is like mixing up the map and the territory.

We agree that the test of a theory of music is whether it helps one compose good music

Not quite. At least, the emphasis is on "helps", not on "good". You should think of a work of music (including its aesthetic qualities) being held fixed when we evaluate theories; the parameter we're measuring that determines how good the theory is is how easily the theory allows us to produce the music in question.

(Furthermore, it certainly can't be the case that harmonic theory's classifications track your likes and dislikes. After all, you apparently don't like Beethoven's Great Fugue, and yet as far as harmonic theory is concerned it's in the same category as his other works, which you do like.)

But even then, calling it a bad concept would be like calling Newtonian physics a bad concept because it doesn't explain motion at relativistic speeds.

I disagree that harmonic theory is anywhere near as good as Newtonian physics. I would instead compare it -- unfavorably -- to pre-Darwinian theories of biodiversity. I specifically believe it to be one of the worst theories of all time (whereas Newtonian physics is one of the best).

I don't understand music theory enough to continue the debate. I don't even understand what you mean by harmonic theory, since I assume you don't mean we should throw away 1-3-5 chords. I have noticed that Baroque music tends more often than classical or romantic music to have passages that starts on one chord, and the different parts walk their different ways to another chord with no pivot chords, just walk the bass and damn the torpedoes in between. is that related to what you're talking about?

Bad Concepts Repository

by moridinamael 1 min read27th Jun 2013204 comments


We recently established a successful Useful Concepts Repository.  It got me thinking about all the useless or actively harmful concepts I had carried around for in some cases most of my life before seeing them for what they were.  Then it occurred to me that I probably still have some poisonous concepts lurking in my mind, and I thought creating this thread might be one way to discover what they are.

I'll start us off with one simple example:  The Bohr model of the atom as it is taught in school is a dangerous thing to keep in your head for too long.  I graduated from high school believing that it was basically a correct physical representation of atoms.  (And I went to a *good* high school.)  Some may say that the Bohr model serves a useful role as a lie-to-children to bridge understanding to the true physics, but if so, why do so many adults still think atoms look like concentric circular orbits of electrons around a nucleus?  

There's one hallmark of truly bad concepts: they actively work against correct induction.  Thinking in terms of the Bohr model actively prevents you from understanding molecular bonding and, really, everything about how an atom can serve as a functional piece of a real thing like a protein or a diamond.

Bad concepts don't have to be scientific.  Religion is held to be a pretty harmful concept around here.  There are certain political theories which might qualify, except I expect that one man's harmful political concept is another man's core value system, so as usual we should probably stay away from politics.  But I welcome input as fuzzy as common folk advice you receive that turned out to be really costly.