Michael's Cafe


Sensei's Library's Very Own Venue for Irrelevant Hot Topics, Rants, Arguments and Sounding-Off

If you have something go-related or indeed not go-related that you'd like to talk about, this is one place where you can do it.

This page began life as a simple homepage (Mgoetze), but then Tamsin inadvertently started a long argument on it, and a whole new establishment was born.

mgoetze: Well, my last attempt to get a conversation going here wasn't too successful... let's try again. :)

So could someone please tell me what it is that people dislike about jigo? Specifically, why do so many amateur tournaments have fractional komi? I can understand that this wouldn't exactly be a desirable result in a best-of-7 playoff for the Kisei or Meijin title, but a McMahon Pairing tournament can handle such a result just fine. Am I missing something? Is it just copying over from Japanese customs? Or is jigo somehow an unsatisfying result for a lot of people?

mgoetze: I've been thinking... people always love to see games on KGS that involve really good players (such as tartrate or sariyu) or those with a particularily spectacular style (such as TheCaptain). I wonder how feasible it would be to make a kind of KGS Championship in true japanese style (preliminaries, league, and best-of-3 title match)... how many of them would participate? I think the main difficulty would be convincing the players, as I have a feeling that people like breakfast actually come to KGS to get away from this sort of thing. Any comments, suggestions? :)

And I just thought of a good blurb... "KGS has introduced 8 and 9 dan, now let's go all the way to 10! Presenting the Internet Judan!" ;)

Tamsin: I too would love to see something like this. But as you point out, professional players play on the Internet to relax, not to be competitive, and to add to their living by teaching. That said, I don't think there's any harm in asking, but perhaps you should suggest a much simpler tournament structure, perhaps an 8-man knockout. Try and work out who is most approachable, too - tartrate, for one, is very easy-going.

mgoetze: Since this isn't a music wiki, I'll just refer you to Arnold Schönberg's Harmonielehre for a discussion of the "rule-breaking" of Mozart and Bach.

Tamsin: What point are you making here? That Bach and Mozart did really break the rules or did not really break the rules. I would be genuinely interested to know what Schönberg had to say on it. Sorry to put this into your homepage - obviously you can delete it after the discussion or without answering, if you prefer - but I felt that much of the music analogy-related stuff needed to be removed from High Concept Opening Myth because I had made my point, Charles had made his, and we seemed to have reached a natural pause with it. Anyway, if you can expand on Schönberg's views, I would be grateful. Thanks in advance.

mgoetze: There are some specific examples where he points out e.g. an 8-tone chord in one of Bach's Motets, and then goes on in his typical style, "see how much disdain he shows for the rules? But he hid it in the Motets of course, where no theorist would stumble upon it," etc. (It's some time since I've read the book and in German at that, so my paraphrasing is probably quite bad.) Basically the point is that the rules are always invented after the music is written, and don't fit all the music but only some of it. (For his own part he introduces the non-rule, any chord can follow any other chord... but this was still before serialism.)

Tamsin: Thanks very much. It's a good point you raise about rules evolving from music - something like the chicken and the egg riddle. Do composers make composing rules as they go along or do they compose with respect to pre-existing rules? With respect to composers of Bach's time, however, one can state confidently that they, including Bach himself, would have had constantly in mind many rules, as music theory had already evolved to a degree of considerable sophistication. It was common practice to learn how to write counterpoint stage by stage (the species of counterpoint), and to copy out works by acknowledged masters such as Palestrina to gain thorough competence in the craft. When Bach breaks rules, then, you may be sure he does so from the perspective of one who understands them and respects them very deeply. That is to say, when you have studied examples of good composition and have in addition musical genius, then you can find exceptions and extensions to the principles that theorists have derived from earlier music.

Finally, please don't take too much notice of Schönberg's views on Baroque music: he was coming from a tradition that believed in "progress", almost as if it were a god, and would have seen any departure from existing standards as an iconoclastic gesture rather than as an extension to those standards. Moreover, a lot more is known now about contemporary theory and musical education. I suppose the lesson for go players is this: study examples of good play and learn the guidelines associated with them very thoroughly, but don't begin to imagine that these represent the final word on the subject. There will always be exceptions and extensions, but it takes both talent and a sound understanding of the fundamentals to find them.

Thanks again for the discussion. If you want to delete this from your page, please copy it and dump it onto my homepage at the bottom, and I will try and find a home for it.

Stefan: Tamsin's final point begs for a link to Reification. :-)

mgoetze: Well, Bach was certainly a 9-dan pro at composing, and I am only about 10 kyu. Much as I have no idea how a 9-dan pro thinks when playing go, I can't speculate as to what Bach thought about when composing music. But I would suspect that, much as in go, the basics become so obvious that one doesn't think about them at all. A pro doesn't need to think what the difference between a kosumi and a keima is, nor did Bach need to think about the difference between a minor 3rd and a perfect 4th. But what I am sure of is that baroque composers learned music not as an art or as a science, but as a craft (and I think the same is true of pro go players). An exceptional artisan is able to add his own embellishments to a masterpiece, which have nothing to do with conventional theory as to how things should be done. Schönberg points out such bits in the work of Bach, and I am sure one could point out similar moves in the work of Go Seigen...

Of course I don't agree unconditionally with Schönberg's theories (for instance I suspect he would say that music is always an art, never a craft), but I think he has interesting things to say and the Harmonielehre is definitely worth a read. ;)

Dieter: I have read that the pros constantly agonize over the difference between kosumi and keima for instance, in shapes that attack, defend, run out, connect etcetera. For what it's worth.

mgoetze: Well, but they're not really wondering whether one is good shape locally and the other isn't, but rather what will happen a few moves down the road if they play either, much as Bach was probably thinking how best to reintroduce the theme 3 bars later... The point is that the basic building blocks are being put to use without having to rethink how the basic building blocks actually work (e.g. keima can be cut, kosumi can't... pros take this as a given rather than reading it out again every time. At least, I think so.)

Tamsin: I agree that Bach probably didn't always think consciously about the basic rules, because his extensive study would have internalised them. That said, if you look at, say the first B minor fugue in the "48", you will find that its apparently unconventional counterpoint with its grinding dissonances and lack of resolutions actually can be justified with respect to normal rules of counterpoint. In go, I would imagine that pros similarly internalise shapes and techniques, to the point where they can find new ideas by seeming intuition, while in fact they are actually applying their knowledge at a very advanced level.

(I can't help taking a scrutineering interest, by the way, in references people make to music here, since that is my occupation. I make my living from performing music and I hold a doctoral degree in musicology (musikwissenschaft). I'm also a regularly-performed composer.)

dnerra: I have one question about that. Whether or not Bach broke the rules, was he aware at all of such rules? What I mean is that most rules that musicologists are talking about seem to have been formulated much later than when they started to get used. So composers and probably musicians have some intuition how, say, a sonata movement should be arranged in order to make it a memorable experience to play and hear it. And of course they never invent this completely on their own, but are influenced by what they have seen and heard from contemporary composers. Then, much later, musicologists come, put some abstraction on the formats and digests rules. Many of the pieces turn out to follow the rules, but many others 'break the rules' -- which just means that the rules are not 100% adequate to describe what the composers have been doing.

If I am right with my claims, then this is s.th. that fundamentally changed in the beginning of the 20th century. And s.th. for which there is no analogy in Go.

Tamsin: I just told you that Bach, like all other composers of the 18th century onwards, was well aware of rules. This is not speculation, it is fact. He spent many hours copying out music by other composers to learn how to compose; he received lessons in music from his guardians and teachers; he would have been taught using musicae poeticae (treatises on the principles on music). For the same reason he learned the craft of composition, young kakyuusei in Korea go through hundreds of life and death problems, young insei in Japan study the games of Shuusaku repeatedly, and amateurs in the West read textbooks like In the Beginning and Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go. At the risk of repeating myself for the 3rd or 4th time, but just to drive it home forever, I am convinced that even the Bachs and Takemiyas of this world learn how to walk before they run, they learn the conventional wisdom before adding to it. In chess, too, Nimzowitsch and Reti were well-versed in Morphy and Steinitz before they developed their distinctive theoretical contributions.

And Mgoetze, a thousand apologies for this discussion on your page having got so out of hand. Unless you object within 24 hours I shall either delete it or dump it onto my homepage. You are welcome to cut and paste it onto my page if you would like.

Alternatively, how about using the above material as the basis for a Analogies between Go and Music and Other Arts? page?

dnerra: Tamsin, I'll make one more try. If Bach was already aware of counter point rules, then this could just mean that the 2nd step of musicologists entering the arena and digesting rules had already happened, because counter point had been in use since much earlier than Bach's time.

And in case I am still wrong about this: Let's consider the example of the 'Sonatenhauptsatzform' (sry don't know the English translation). By now, it's one of the first pieces we are taught when learning musicology in high school. But my memory tells me s.th. that is not taugh in schools, namely that this was not formulated as a set of rules until around 1840 (sry cannot find a reference ATM). So, Mozart and Beethoven (the standard examples which are used when teaching this in high school) did not know this as a rule, and still they seemed to have followed it, and sometimes broke it.

Again, feel free to tell me I am wrong.

Tamsin: You're not so much wrong as mixing very different issues here. The meaning of "Sonata form" (Sonatenhauptsatzform) is contentious; the rules of counterpoint are much easier to lay down in conventional terms, and had indeed been laid down by theorists all the way back to Tinctoris (1400s). You are right to say that definitions of "sonata form" tended to be evolved after the fact, but wrong to compare this with counterpoint. I don't think we should continue this discussion. I don't mind being disagreed with, but you should be aware that certain areas of terminology in music are extremely difficult and are not for lay people. If you want to know what you're getting into, I'll send you part of my research on terminology in Baroque music. I haven't even looked at "sonata form" yet because I truly fear the complexities of the issue.

Anyway, to get back on topic: I don't know how to make a good analogy with go here. Perhaps something on the lines that the rules of harmony and counterpoint as found in Zarlino (1570s) onwards were fairly stable and simple, like go proverbs and life and death shapes, while "sonata form" compares more with styles of go playing, such as concentrating mainly on territory or on influence (i.e., it's much more vague and difficult to pin down).

mgoetze: I don't think we are actually disagreeing here, Tamsin. :) I was just making Schönberg's point that the published theories are generally incomplete and often inadequate. Of course Bach followed "the rules" more often than not - the point is that there are exceptions. As for removing this from my page, see what I wrote at the top; I can't wait for the day someone else feels the need to Wiki Master Edit my homepage *chuckle*.

Sonatenhauptsatzform developed gradually from earlier forms, and, as Tamsin points out, Mozart and Beethoven quite certainly learned it by studying the works of earlier composers (the name Haydn springs to mind, of course...) And of course, today's pros do their real learning by studying the games of Shusaku and Go Seigen.

Michael's Cafe last edited by MrTenuki on March 28, 2006 - 04:17
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