[Smt-talk] open access theory materials (forked from THEORY TEXTBOOKS)

Dmitri Tymoczko dmitri at princeton.edu
Thu Apr 26 14:04:34 PDT 2012

I love the idea of "hacking the academy," and more generally taking control away from the giant textbook companies.

A few thoughts and questions.

1) I teach intro theory without a textbook; I have about 200 pages of handouts which are on my website, and which various other people have used at various other universities and high schools.  For sight singing, I use Dannhauser, which are on IMSLP.

2) In the modern world, textbooks may not need lots of examples.  Now that virtually every classical score is on IMSLP, a list of examples is probably just as good -- since it's so easy to download them.  (An electronic version of the book could have links.)
	These days, I regularly find myself pulling up IMSLP scores on my phone during theory talks ... it's amazing how much is out there.

3) If I wrote a real textbook -- as opposed to a bunch of handouts -- I would probably be tempted to charge something for it, since I'd like to be paid something for all the work.  But I'd be quite happy with the income that would come from a modest ($25) price.  From a student's point of view, I think there's a big difference between the price of an ordinary book and the price of a big textbook. Do folks out there agree?  (You can email me privately if you want.)  Is a $25 textbook reasonable, or is it just slightly less evil than the current $75 default?  Does it matter if I updated it only every 5 years or so, so that plenty of used copies are available?
	I'm looking for some middle ground between extorting the students and getting paid for my work.

4) My own classes emphasize lots of composition assignments in lots of different styles.  When I've mentioned this to textbook people, they've tended to get nervous ... what the companies want is "plug and play" books that can be taught by anyone, with a workbook and answer key.  (Multiple choice questions are great as are "fill in the blank" questions with right and wrong answers.)  Composition -- and genuine analysis -- requires a teacher who is musically sensitive, and this tends to worry the textbook companies.  Any thoughts about that?


Dmitri Tymoczko
Associate Professor of Music
310 Woolworth Center
Princeton, NJ 08544-1007
(609) 258-4255 (ph), (609) 258-6793 (fax)

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