Kris Shaffer kshaffer at csuniv.edu
Thu Apr 26 07:50:13 PDT 2012

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, as well. During this semester, I started using our textbook less and giving my students a combination of short things I wrote (which are mostly reference-style documents rather than written-out lectures), videos to demonstrate a task (e.g., a screencast of me working through a voice-leading assignment using notation software, or doing a formal analysis with Variations Audio Timeliner), and a short "class notes" document shared with me by a former professor. I recently opened a survey of my students to solicit feedback about these changes, and the students who have responded so far confirm my impression that the instructor-generated material is more valuable for them than the textbooks (with the exception of Karpinski's excellent aural skills text and anthology). When I get more student responses, I'll put up a blog post or two about the survey.

An additional motivation for me is that I want to incorporate some more recently developed material that hasn't made it into published textbooks yet, or downright contradicts the material presented in them—such as Quinn's functional bass, Hepokoski and Darcy's approach to sonata form, Summach's (very recent) work on pop/rock form. I'd like to do this without confusing some of my students by contradicting the textbook or making them buy several expensive volumes, each of which we will use relatively little (and many of which were not written to be used in a freshman/sophomore theory course).

All this together has led me to start creating materials for a course website that will serve next year as an online "textbook" (but with some streaming audio and video as appropriate). For now I think it will be closed, but I hope once kinks and permissions (if necessary) are worked out it can be an open resource. It's a straightforward enough task, and the student response to the small amount of initial material I've constructed has been very positive. Also, one can easily and legally embed streaming audio and video from sources like Spotify, Rdio, and YouTube, allowing a "textbook" to include some of the best recordings and live performances of the music studied in a convenient format students are comfortable with, which I think could be a huge advantage. Has anyone else tried something like this?

Kris Shaffer, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Music Theory
Charleston Southern University
twitter: @krisshaffer

On Apr 26, 2012, at 9:45 AM, Dmitri Tymoczko wrote:

> I really agree that theory textbooks are too long -- I think an optimal introductory textbook would be much shorter and more focused on the core information that students really need to remember.  If I ever write a textbook (and I think about it sometimes) I will try to make it short.
> I've always suspected that a key driver here is the economics of the textbook industry, rather than any underlying pedagogical need.  Perhaps it's as simple as this: textbook publishers want to charge a lot of money for their books, and they think it's easier to do this with a 600-page hardback than a 200-page paperback.
> DT
> Dmitri Tymoczko
> Associate Professor of Music
> 310 Woolworth Center
> Princeton, NJ 08544-1007
> (609) 258-4255 (ph), (609) 258-6793 (fax)
> http://dmitri.tymoczko.com
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