Comment policy and more

3 min

This blog is intended as a fun, accessible exploration of the inner workings of music — mostly but not entirely music in Western traditions. I want to build a relaxed and engaged community of people at all levels of musical knowledge and experience. Anything that supports that goal is welcome; anything that doesn’t is not.

A few rules will help. As a commenter in this space, feel free to grapple with ideas and disagree as long as it’s done in a way that is personally respectful so it doesn’t shut others down. Any comments that are insulting, disrespectful, or aggressive will be removed and may result in a ban without notice or explanation.

I’ll also occasionally hide or remove aggressive comments that are so densely packed with self-righteous grandstanding that I’m unable to reply without wasting an hour and being rude. (You wouldn’t think this would be a problem on a blog like this, but I had one of those on the very first day.)

General principles

  1. Go out of your way to be kind and assume the best of others.
  2. Be the one who de-escalates a heated disagreement.
  3. Self-righteousness of any kind is a felony here. Say “I think” and “I could be wrong” a lot.
  4. Ask whether heatedly pressing a particular point is important.
  5. It isn’t. This is music, not climate change.



Theorier Than Thou (T3)

Discussion spaces that include people with radically different levels of specialized knowledge in a given subject can be challenging. Those at the higher levels can end up making those with less knowledge feel like they don’t belong in the space, often inadvertently. It’s always fine to dig deep into the technical and arcane. I love that, and others can watch or avert their eyes as they choose while we chase the music down the rabbit hole. Just be careful not to flaunt your extra knowledge in a condescending or aggressive way that shuts others down. This is a violation known as Theorier Than Thou, or T3. It is Kryptonite to the “Just Enough Theory” approach.

I honestly know it can be hard to restrain yourself when someone says “note” when they mean “pitch,” or refers to “music” when they really mean “Western tonal art music of the Common Practice era.” But please try.

As for the rest of you, don’t abuse this rule. Throwing the T3 flag at someone who is sharing knowledge in an appropriate way and is not being a jerk about it is called a False Flag Fling (F3) and is also frowned upon.


 The question of culture

Certain techniques in Western tonal music communicate certain emotions effectively to many people raised in that musical culture. Composers of film music, for example, rely on that fact. The same is true of most other music cultures. This blog explores what’s behind the ability of music to achieve that — a fascinating intersection of physics, biology, and culture, with individual subjective experience surfing on top. This blog will be a long, slow reveal of what I mean by all that.

Discussions of culture always bring out the knives. Fine to engage on that field, though I won’t let the blog be consumed by a battle of structuralists vs. postmodernists. There are other places intended for that one. This blog is about introducing music theory to the layperson. Forcing the conversation to a more rarefied level for long periods destroys that purpose, so let’s not.

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