Paul Cadrin paulcadrin at hotmail.com
Thu Apr 26 07:05:27 PDT 2012

I think we expect today's textbooks to fulfill purposes different from those in the time of Tchaikovsky. We live in an age where virtually all music produced by humans in the course of history and in the array of cultures around the world is available, mostly through recordings, but also live (including the constant outpouring of what could be called "commercial music" for want of a better term).
Curiously enough, most of the students who come to our classes have been steeped in a very narrow segment of that wealth, and all too often not the segment which would best illustrate the kinds of practices that we hope to teach. So the textbook is expected, more or less explicitly, to fulfill a broader purpose than just the teaching of basic writing skills in a canonic idiom, but also to open cultural vistas for our students. Not to mention the fact that most textbooks also include some form of instruction in "twentieth-century idioms" (whatever one want to include under that heading!).
In Tchaikovsky's time, students came to theory classes, their memories filled with music of what we would consider a very limited stylistic range, basically covering less than 100 years of "common practice". Berlioz was considered a maverick, and his works would certainly not have appeared in any list of acceptable examples to follow!

I remember reading (where?) that Hindemith thought that all one had to know in music theory could fit in a 15 page booklet, including musical examples. Agreed! But that booklet would probably feel to most of our students as undecipherable as a secret code in a foreign language! A student once told me that all the examples in four-part harmony sounded like church music. Once has to be satisfied that this student at least knew that there is such a thing as church music!

Paul Cadrin
Musicologue sans frontières
Montreal (Quebec) Canada 		 	   		  
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