What place does music theory have in songwriting? Can it be helpful? Stifling? Maybe both? Why are we looking at a picture of a pie?
In an interview I conducted last month, I had the opportunity to explore these questions with Prof. Brad Osborn, a music theory professor from the University of Kansas and the author of “Everything In Its Right Place: Analyzing Radiohead” from Oxford University Press.
It was so great to steal Prof. Brad for a few moments between classes. As an independent music educator, I sometimes don’t know if I am crazy or just an alternative thinker when I talk to others about traditional music theory and methods of analysis. But I definitely learned a few things from Brad and felt deeply affirmed at the same time by our mutual appreciation for holistic musicianship.
I thought Brad would be the perfect person to ask this simple question: as fans of Radiohead and musicians ourselves, why should we care about music theory? At its core, his answer is really rooted in a deep appreciation for songwriting, and I think it’s worth a listen.
We touch on ideas like the “Euclidean Algorithm”/“maximally-even” rhythms, the idea of the “Goldilocks Zone,” and the concept of “Ecological Perception.” We ask aloud whether Thom Yorke’s opinion matters as it pertains to analysis and interpretation of Radiohead’s music. We wonder whether artists are trustworthy when they talk about their intentions. And it was quite the music nerd thrill.
What did you think about the interview? Would you be interested in seeing more content like this? Share your thoughts below!
You can read the article Prof. Brad Osborn mentions in the interview below:
You can buy Brad’s book “Everything In Its Right Place: Analyzing Radiohead” at the OUP Store (no, he did not pay me to put this here, I just think it’s cool).
And finally, check out this cool little web app for quickly creating Euclidean-style rhythms and start making some maximally-even rhythms of your own now.