Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/studying music


If you study music seriously would it be good to know something about philosophy of science?
Could you please argue for your views on this! I assume that it doesn't make you a Glenn Gould. On the other hand Gould performed and spoke like he had studied some kind of philosophy.
What are your wise thoughts?

Hi Hank,

Thanks very much for getting in touch. I have mulled over your question for a time and come to the conclusion that I do not know enough about the philosophy of science to offer you a decent answer. So I am afraid that this question is a bit out of my field. I know some very fine professional musicians who know precious little about science, let alone the philosophy of science and they seem to manage perfectly well.

However, I suppose it depends on exactly what in music one is studying. But you use the word "seriously" which I take to mean that your are referring to studying the theory music in considerable depth, rather than say, a more practical-based study such as learning an instrument. My feeling is that when you study anything in depth you are more likely to discover connections with other areas of knowledge.

If for example, one is studying the effect of specific musical stimuli on individual human beings and how they react, one would find oneself, sooner or later in the realms of psychology, cognitive processes, possibly even religion and sociology. Certainly a knowledge of certain aspects of science would be helpful in such a study but whether an understanding of the philosophy of science would be helpful, I am not in a position to say.

Gould certainly has a profound interest in musical thought and theory, and he wrote a great deal of philosophical articles on the subject, although I have to say some of them are rather heavy going. He was very much a "thinking musician" and this comes through in his many interviews. I am sure that this very detailed thinking - and his philosophy - about musical technique and interpretation led him in a very practical way. I certainly agree with you that Gould was guided by his own philosophical thinking.

But I am sorry that I cannot be of much help on this issue.

Best wishes


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Dr Colin


I can answer questions from students of "classical" composing, arranging, notation problems and music theory, writing for instruments and voice and writing music for education. I can answer questions about orchestration but I do not cover questions about pop or rock music, pop song writing or electronic music.

I taught for many years in UK up to "A" level theory and composition. I have spent many years in music education, initially (like everyone else) as a teacher. Then I moved on to advisory work (teaching teachers!) and also lectured, giving many workshops for teachers in developing music education skills and techniques. For a time I worked as a teacher-lecturer at London University's Institute of Education and eventually worked full-time as a Music Education Adviser to schools in part of London, offering advice on music education and curriculum development.


I started composing music at the age 14 (it was mostly rubbish, since you asked) and now have a large number of compositions to credit as well as many publications, especially for instrumental music and choral music. I have also written several acclaimed works for large orchestra and choir. My work has been published particularly in the UK (under different names)(notably by Boosey & Hawkes, Novello, and Schott) but also in the USA and the Netherlands.

My music for elementary players (several publications) has been performed and broadcast worldwide. I am now retired from my previous job as Music Education Adviser. These days I spend most of my time composing and arranging. I am currently working on instrumental arrangements of world national anthems for my National Anthems website and also completing a suite of very easy piano solos and duets for elementary players. For many years I have used the music program "Finale" for all my music writing activities.

International Society for Music Education; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

"The Times" Educational Supplement; "Hi-Fi News and Record Review". For several years, I used to write for many of the state music education periodicals in the US and I also wrote several influential articles on instrumental music teaching for "Music Teacher" magazine in the UK. (UK).

PhD(Hons); MA(Hons); FLCM (compositon) ARCM, LMusTCL,(music diplomas)

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