Words of Wisdom

I found this story just now over at the Finale Forum. I might want to use it later so I’m copying it here.

The context of the story is a discussion of the rules of music theory and when it might be appropriate to break them.

Tom Williams had this to say:

I had the same difficulties some 3 decades ago. Reminiscing for the moment, it was a composing and arranging class, and my final project was an arrangement of a Broadway tune for concert band. I got a B, and though that was fine, I asked the prof what I should have done to get an A. He told me “It was very good, but the sax choir at measure nnn had parallel fifths and parallel octaves all over the place, and I had to drop it a letter grade.” My response: I wasn’t writing a chorale here — for Heaven’s sake, it was a 5/8 time signature in the style of a sort of jazz waltz. I wanted the saxes to sound like a pre-Jimmy Smith jazz organist.

He gave me the A.

Lest you misunderstand the moral of the tale: he gave me an A because I took the time to demonstrate that I knew the rules and broke them knowingly. Had I given him a blank look about the parallel fifths and octaves, or proclaimed myself to be above the rule, he would have — rightly — kept the grade reduced.

Know the rules. Know why they’re justified. Be able to defend them. Then break ’em to little bits!

Thanks, Tom, whoever you are! Hope you don’t mind if I steal your story a little bit.

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