[Smt-talk] Written record of Boulanger pedagogy?

David K Feurzeig mozojo at gmail.com
Mon Dec 20 06:11:21 PST 2010

This is a wonderful end-of-semester thought-provoking thread.

Dmitri's surmise:

> I would be surprised if the progressions they contained diverged  
> radically from those in standard tonal harmony.

prompts me to underscore the potential circularity of such correlations.

What is (or becomes) "standard" has, of course, much to do with how  
music is taught. The vast majority of composers--not only the rank and  
file but also the "geniuses" whose canonized work becomes normative-- 
received extensive formal instruction. The influence of a national or  
school tradition, or even of a single pedagogue or treatise, can be  
significant. I'm thinking, for instance, of the wonderful but tortuous  
Albrechtsbergerian counterpoint of late Beethoven, where pedagogical  
peculiarities, however transcendently handled, are very much in  
evidence. Or think of the invention of the Locrian mode by early  
theorists, like an undiscovered element on the periodic table (though  
that's one that didn't "take", obviously).

This theory-to-practice influence ought to be much stronger in the  
relatively small world of music than in spoken or even written  
language, where the ratio of "expert practitioners" to the number of  
grammarians or pedagogues is an order of magnitude larger than for  
music composition.  (Even in language, though, we have strictures such  
as the avoidance of split infinitives, sentence-ending prepositions,  
etc., that are said to originate more from theory than from practice.)

David Feurzeig
University of Vermont

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