There is so much in music that words cannot express. Yet, at the same time, there are concrete scientific principles that contribute to its ability to connect with us, to make us feel emotion, to make us dance. Take harmony, for example. In order for chords to sound in tune, small adjustments have to be made to each note. Some notes need to be sharper, some flatter. And depending on the kind of chord, these adjustments can be rather drastic. It’s the laws of nature. Is knowing this information critical to being a great musician? Not necessarily—though it can certainly be helpful.
This and other theoretical underpinnings of music—the truths that make music music—lead me back to thinking about how we talk about “rules” in style. There’s definitely merit in knowing some of the rules of style. They help you form the foundation of your personal style and provide a launching pad for exploration. I’m a firm believer in the value of understanding the basics. Do you need to know them? No. But, again, they can be helpful.
However, unlike some musical principles, the rules of style are not absolute truths. They’re not controlled by physics. Everything does not need to be perfectly aligned and perfectly adjusted for there to be harmony in style. Striving for perfection is a virtue, but particularly and especially in matters of style, there can be perfection in imperfection, don’t you think?