[Smt-talk] Theory textbooks

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 27 17:06:03 PDT 2012

Dear Dr. Schubert and the list,

perhaps in the same venue, or from a slightly different angle, I suggest that the thikness of the book is not the essence of the problem. Our texbooks, and I mean some nine or ten commonly used today, do not provide students with governing principles from the very beginning. In most textbooks, somewhere at the end, there is a suggestion to take ii chord after IV, and not vice versa. Such "suggestion" have very little pedadogic effect. It is very difficult to remember all of them, all the detail of "voice-leading" and "scale dergree theory."

One chapter, one topic in particular, is missing from the beginning of our foliants:

the theory of tonal-harmonic functions. It is this theory which allows student to harmonize

a melody. Tonal function allows to think horizontally. Oswald Jonas and Schenker did not know that, appartenly. "Root-function" is the agency which connects one chord to another and allows to unfold the harmonic progression. The system of tonal-harmonic functions must be explained from the very beginning and student have to be trained hearing these function in the aural skills class.


Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Institute
Baltimore, MD
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

--- On Fri, 4/27/12, Peter Schubert, Prof. <peter.schubert at mcgill.ca> wrote:

From: Peter Schubert, Prof. <peter.schubert at mcgill.ca>
Subject: [Smt-talk] Theory textbooks
To: "smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org" <smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org>
Date: Friday, April 27, 2012, 10:36 AM

Dimitar Ninov’s concern for the VI chord illustrates the problem that triggered my radical change in basic harmony teaching (described in more detail in my recent JMTP article).  It’s about what you focus on at what stage in the student’s evolution. If you were teaching a figure-drawing class, the VI chord could be likened to the arm. In that context, studying one appendage is meaningful because the student already knows what the whole body is. Kids draw the whole body (as a stick figure at least) from the beginning. But this is not the case in music (people are always complaining that kids nowadays don’t know any repertoire). So my conclusion is we should start with good stick-figure pieces (like those in Nannerl Mozart’s book) and, if we must single out an appendage, we can say “look closely at this phrase ending, why does it sound incomplete? Oh, that’s a VI chord. We call this a deceptive cadence. That’s why the repetition of the
 last phrase is necessary.” The first question Nadia Boulanger asked her new students was “Do you know a lot of music by heart?” We must start with the students’ grasp of some whole thing. Then later we can have textbooks that have separate chapters on the toes, the nose, etc. And which textbook won't matter so much.

Peter Schubert
Schulich School of Music
McGill University
555 Sherbrooke St. W.
Montreal, QC  H3A 1E3
(514) 398-4535 x00281

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