It's quite clear to most that certain artists have a distinct sound. While a lot of it may be down to production elements and instrument choice, there can really be no denying that their personal harmonic language plays a role.
While music theory gives a good framework for describing and analyzing their choice of notes/chords, I find that it often stifles an inexperienced players creativity by imposing itself as a set of rules that must be followed. Eventually they may reach a point where they constantly come across caveats such as: "This works here but not there", or "That's modal interchange to the artist's taste, but it probably works because XYZ". With an almost certainty being that the artists themselves were unconcerned with these explanations of why their material "works".
Not to hate on music theory of course - It certainly is a pure way of analyzing many things, but I just wonder if there isn't a lower level way of describing a complete picture of an individuals harmonic language without caveats. Perhaps using set theory or mathematics?
For example, we are able to accurately determine if a painting was done by someone like Da Vinci, or if it is simply a good fake. Might there be a way of completely defining the sound of an artist? A method of extracting and preserving their harmonic language - their musical 'soul'?
Edit 1: Just to clarify, I understand that music theory is used as a way of describing what is happening rather than a set of rules - however as someone who has seen young musicians over and again try to improvise over a piece and essentially walk the major scale or modes up and down, I just wonder if there isn't another way of imparting the sound they WANT to play quicker than years of listening, transcribing, then deriving. Specifically, I was curious if there has ever been a way of or an attempt at summarizing a signature sound in some form of notation, rather than simply getting a feel for it, or recognizing licks after years of practice? A packet of information that contains constantly recurring ideas that are a signature of the artist written in a standardized way - that would also include rhythmic, compositional, and other elements.