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I cannot help you with (1), but I think I can help with alleviating your fears regarding (2).

Just by understanding scales and progressions you won't "start hearing them everywhere" and "fall into patterns". There are no "right" and "wrong" progressions in contemporary music, they are just there. By understanding the theory, you will see why you might like certain things and dislike others. It won't take away your enjoyment from music and it won't change your music tastes. Whatever progression is "right" in someone's eyes will be "wrong" in eyes of another person.

Music theory is as close to math as one can get in arts, imo. There are no "right" or "wrong" numbers, everything is very neutral and non-biased. Yes, some progressions sound more right or wrong to most people, but that's mostly because of our collectively shaped taste of music, and learning theory will not force you into any kind of tastes on its own. It might motivate you to explore more diverse music, as you will be looking for more novelty in patterns, but that imo is a good thing and, in fact, is the opposite of being locked into the "ivory tower".

So my advice on it would be to stop fretting and to just dive deep into the music theory :)

> you won't "start hearing them everywhere" and "fall into patterns"

You might be right, or you might underestimate my both snobbery and laziness (◔̯◔)

Absolutely. Learning about microtones was an absolute game-changer in my mental appreciation of music.

See, this is really an example of what I'm talking about. You wouldn't need to learn about microtones if you didn't follow the twelve-tone standard before. I'm pretty sure that the brain by itself is pretty sloppy in regard to intervals and even more so with tones and keys.

12-tone standard actually falls nicely out of the natural harmonics inherent in music though. So there's a pretty good reason for using 12 distinct tones.

That doesn't mean you can't have amazing music once you break away from them, but just because these deviations are interesting and cool doesn't mean they aren't useful and normative for a reason.

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