Don't take anything I type in here as being personal, I am a contentious bastard at the best of times and I am not particularly even directing many of these arguments at you, as I don't know enough about your musical background to do so. I hope you appreciate however that I am often confronted by people making statements similar to those you made yesterday, and as a staunch defender of music education I feel obliged to outline my exact objections with what you said.
Ignoring the opening of the discussion, which was really just a bit of facebook banter, I want to jump immediately to your dismissal of studying music on the grounds that it stifles creativity.
I have heard this argument many times, and there is certainly a legitimate argument for this in two respects;
1) The study of art of composition (which is firmly what I am interested in) is something that is indisputably separate to the study of music. This has been the case for a number of years, and although there are certain schools of thought that are entrenched in tradition (See Joseph Schillinger's system of music composition or the serialist movement lead by Arnold Schoenberg ), there are enough other school of thought to provide some credible arguments to this going as far back as the writings of Bach.
2) In order to create music that is successful, worthwhile, interesting or any other flattering adjective you care to imagine, it is not essential that you have a traditional music education.
However, whenever someone has presented such arguments to me (and I must say I've never heard them qualified with either of the bullet-points outlined above) the reasoning behind the presentation has always struck me as being disingenuous.
Again, this isn't aimed at you, but more at other people who have said similar things to me in the past. That, I must stress.
This argument always seems to come from a viewpoint of being open minded, however I cannot see how restricting your input is anything other than being narrow minded. It's actually very dismissive of an enormous world filled with an enormous range of musical ideas, from those laid out by Luigi Russolo in the futurist manifesto to the broad church that is pop music.
Yesterday two words kept coming up in our conversation. One was "influence" and the other was "study".
Now, from what I can make out you were against the idea of things that you might learn from study influencing the music you make.
The first thing I would like to get to the bottom of is that I'm not sure we are understanding the word study to mean the same thing, at least not in a musical context.
As I outlined earlier, studying the art of composition is very different from studying music. A lot of people seem to think that the study of composition means understanding complex harmony and contrapuntal rhythm, how to write a fugue etc.
This isn't really the case, when you study composition it is assumed that you either know that stuff or you don't. It's music theory that you study at GCSE and if you don't know it, well it's really not that important. The study of composition is the full understanding of the piece you are getting your teeth into. Understanding conceptually what the composer is trying to do, understanding what all the rather boring musical language is there for, not what it is doing in itself. Composition is an artform, the musical devices used to achieve the art are merely devices. They are often handy to know, but it doesn't change the fact that it's something you can learn from a book, given the time.
Okay, so at this point you can still argue that learning these intangible, etherial qualities that dance in the vapor, you might still be influenced by things you learn.
My response to this is, at what point do you consider your mind to be pure. You said you use a guitar, a bass and a computer. These are fairly conventional things that are used in music making, so to some extent you are adhering to things that you have learned.
If you are using a guitar and presumably playing notes, you are making use of western tuning. If you are using a computer for anything other than recording then you are almost certainly sticking to quite strict rules outlined by very traditional music theory. Meter, dynamic, etc.
All of these things are therefore influencing you in the same way that someone who has studied the work of Wagner might be influenced by some of his ideas.
The art isn't in the mechanics, it's in the creation, and I firmly believe that by absorbing everything from the traditions of the Javanese Gamelan to the experiments of Karlheinz Stockhausen, you are only adding further sophistication to your pallet.
There is something in what you say about being influenced to the point that you are merely mimicking, but if this is the case then a) someone who does this has NOT understood the fundamental internal dialogue required compose, b) this argument can only hold water if the person holding these opinions is creating something utterly mind blowing that redefines how we think about music.
Imagine how stupid I felt when I noticed the typo in paragraph 5.