[Smt-talk] Theory textbooks

J. O. Meniktos-Nolting jmenik at umich.edu
Mon Apr 30 13:00:04 PDT 2012

I cannot help but note that the discussion of theory textbooks  
reflects broader concerns about the disciplinary boundaries of the  
field.  Of course, the "best" textbook is the one that best matches  
the needs and goals of professor and students.  This is not something  
we can measure with a ruler, and it is sometimes something that we  
have to construct ourselves.

With regard to recent statements about the relationship between  
theorists and composers, I suspect someone like Kofi Agawu would agree  
with Dimitar and Steve.  At the same time, Agawu's contention that the  
most productive way of accessing "truth content" in music is via  
analytical modes of composition and performance—-especially via  
presentation of “fictional musical-conceptual constructs” and  
engagement with the hands-on pleasure of analyzing-in-time by playing  
notes in various ways--serves to admonish theorists who espouse  
different goals than to uncover truth content by their teaching and  
research.  It seems that to critique the professionalism and  
creativity of other music theorists, then, is to risk missing the  
multiplicity of legitimate pedagogical goals one might pursue:

> 2. The lack of professionalism, creativity and critical thinking in  
> a big army of "pure" theorists who are hired to teach in colleges  
> and even conservatoires. Of course, the books those pure theorists  
> publish reflect all the gaps they have had in their own education  
> and are thus of no real use.

Let's be careful to recognize that what theory is today is not what  
theory will be tomorrow.  Differences of approach are the vitality of  
the field, and so we will find practitioners whose approach seems  
naive to us.  History of music theory and criticism is full of others'  
observations of the same.  It only provides opportunity for growth.


Joelle Meniktos-Nolting
PhD student at the University of Michigan

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