[Smt-talk] "Core syntax" and 6/4 chords etc.

Daniel Wolf djwolf at snafu.de
Mon Jan 25 11:18:10 PST 2010

On Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:55:14 +0100, Dmitri Tymoczko <dmitri at princeton.edu>  

>  I promise you that, despite my interest in statistics, I am more  
> interested in music, and in learning how this style works.

I, for one, look forward to following more of Dmitri's work in this area  
and — inasmuch as such statistics document real events in real repertoire  
— one can hardly say that it is a less musically interesting approach.   
Moreover, as the passages from Aldwell and Schachter cited in this thread  
are themselves framed in statistical terms, but without statistical  
evidence, it is quite surprising to hear arguments against research that  
actually does some counting.

One of Dmitri's points has not, I believe, received enough attention, and  
that is his pedagogical concern with the weight given to a particular  
topic, especially in the context of theory classes in which time is  
extremely precious.  In being good scholars of the history of theory, we  
may sometimes run the risk of confusing historically-informed methods of  
theory instruction with methods that are effective and efficient.   I  
have, previously, here indicated my enthusiasm from Dieter de la Motte's  
Counterpoint textbook, which decidedly errs in the direction of  
pedagogical effectiveness over historicism, so my own prejudices are  
clear, but this is certainly a conversation that ought to be taking place.

Sometimes a bit of theory can establish itself as essential, and then  
embed itself in the literature and institutionally, despite the fact it  
has either been overvalued or even superceded.  Anyone who has followed  
baseball will surely know the example of the "error" in which a fielder is  
penalized statistically for missing a catch while being in the vicinity of  
a ball; statistics have been kept on the error since the late 19th century  
and the careers of thousands of players have negotiated their contracts on  
the basis of this statistic, despite the common sense objection (which  
Bill James raised in the 1980's) that a poor player could have a smaller  
error count than a superior player simply by staying physically away from  
the ball!.  Might it be possible that the weight given to passing and  
neighboring 6/4s is precisely such a vestigial phenomenon, begin with the  
(legitimate) treatment of the 4th in contrapuntal treatises?

Dr. Daniel Wolf

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