[Smt-talk] Written record of Boulanger pedagogy?

Peter Schubert, Prof. peter.schubert at mcgill.ca
Tue Dec 21 10:17:25 PST 2010

As one of Boulanger's students ("gateaux from the Boulangerie," as Richard Taruskin called us), I am glad to see this thread. I agree that the Dubois book and the Vidal basses have little to do with any specific musical style. In this they are like species counterpoint as it is used to prepare students for harmony study:  what Victor Grauer  characterized as "pushups.” Such simplified materials, while putting student success within reach, leave out most of the elements that make music lovable in the first place (rhythm, repetition, a good tune, etc.). I still have my notebooks with subsequent weeks’ solutions pasted over earlier ones, and nothing in there prepared me to write a Mozart minuet (ironically, that’s practically all I assign to my harmony students nowadays). What Boulanger did get across to me was the importance of independent rhythmic activity and phrasing in the four parts. Often the only difference between my first and last solutions was the simple rearticulation of a note in the alto part. This was better training for thinking about Renaissance polyphony than about common-practice harmony!

Peter Schubert
Schulich School of Music
McGill University
555 Sherbrooke W.
Montreal, QC  H3A 1E3
peter.schubert at mcgill.ca

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