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

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Fri Apr 27 05:58:54 PDT 2012

Dear Colleagues,

I think that the sentence below, copied from Dmitri's message has the clue to today's teaching of music theory:

"Composition -- and genuine analysis -- requires a teacher who is musically sensitive, and this tends to worry the textbook companies."

Nicholas Cook has a book named "Analysis through Composition". All these ideas suggest that  a sensitive teacher must be more than a "dry" music theorist, whose mastery only consists in the ability to speculate verbally and in writing.

A sensitive teacher is never satisfied by a single book, he gathers information from different sources and complements that with his own ideas. This is the only way of breaking the mold and thinking outside of the box.

An example of indifferent approach. A teacher says to his/her students: "Never, ever double the leading tone!" Such a teacher is certainly misleading his students, for the leading tone is automatically doubled in some sequences and deliberately doubled in III6/4 when it occurs between two submediants ( a rare case). It can also be double in III6 when this chord does not perform a dominant function, and occasionally, when the dominant is treated as a local tonic, being tonicized by vii7 chords (half-diminished and diminished). Although the voice leading in this latter case suggest a doubling of the leading tone, it could also be solved otherwise, but in music both approaches occur with some frequency.

A sensitive approach: " Do not deliberately double the leading tone when it is a member of a dominant function - unless this occurs in a sequence or, more rarely, when the dominant is treated as a local tonic."

How can a theorist develop a sensitive approach if all he reads about doublings is a half page of instructions which are inadequate in many respects? The same thing with the non-chord tones: " With the exception of the 9-8 suspension, do not place the tone of resolution in the chord along with the suspension itself!" Another inadequate and misleading direction. Numbers do no matter - what matters is which tone of the chord has been temporarily displaced. If it is the third of a primary function - I, IV, V - it is usually avoided in a simultaneous sound with the suspension. But it is not necessarily avoided in auxiliary chords (II, III, VI, and VII) and in a deceptive resolution involving a suspension or appoggiatura (Wagner's Tristan is full of VI chords whose third is present along with the tone that displaces it). A 9-8 suspension is no better if the third of a primary chord has been displaced: in C major the vertical sound from bottom to top is E-G-C-F. This is a 9-8 suspension or appoggiatura, but is does not work well. 

All the difference in the world of theory lies in sensitivity, which can only come from creativity, trial and error. How can an insensitive or indifferent musician write a good book of theory, when all he does is reiterate inadequate definitions and postulates?

Best regards,


Dr. Dimitar Ninov, Lecturer
School of Music
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, Texas 78666

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