[Smt-talk] Simplifying theory books--comment

Zae Munn zmunn at comcast.net
Thu Apr 26 06:34:02 PDT 2012

In my diatonic harmony class this semester, I am trying this: I  
provide my students with a less-than-one-page summary of a Kostka and  
Payne chapter, I present briefly (usually in C or a) and then we go  
right to the K and P workbook for applications, musical contexts, and  
thinking of the material in different keys. So they will end up with  
maybe a dozen pages of "text" and most of their work will be contained  
in the workbook. They are not required to own the textbook itself.

I have personally learned lots from the K and P textbook, esp. the  
detailed examples of standard and exceptional uses. But, in my  
experience, students are less and less able to process written words  
in relation to musical examples, esp. when keys change from example to  
example. The result is that they usually gloss over them and hope I  
will tell them what they really need to know in class.  The summaries  
I have given them are really what I used to end up telling them  
anyways after struggling to help them process the assigned text. This  
way they have it, in writing, at the outset, and it's simple and clear  
enough that I can really insist that they know that material well.

Best, Zae Munn
Saint Mary's College


On Apr 26, 2012, at 9:17 AM, Nicholas Baragwanath wrote:

> In response to Stephen Jablonsky's comments on the seemingly inverse  
> proportion between the length of a harmony textbook and its  
> efficiency in providing practical training, it might be interesting  
> to note that Nicola Porpora, the principal teacher of Farinelli and  
> Haydn, used a single page as the basis for five or six years' of  
> training in singing and bel canto improvisation. The thoroughbass  
> manuals that formed the cornerstone of musical education in the 17th  
> and 18th centuries usually contained around 50 pages or less. The 55  
> pages of Fenaroli (1775) would fit onto approximately 15 pages of a  
> modern textbook.
> Less is more?
> Nicholas Baragwanath
> University of Nottingham
> nicholas.baragwanath at nottingham.ac.uk
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