[Smt-talk] Theory textbooks

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 30 18:36:47 PDT 2012

Dear List,

Sorry to post this for the second time. I did not see my message sent earlier.

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 "suggestions" 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 actual explanation of the theoretical position of the author. I prefer the theory of tonal-harmonic functions. It is this theory which allows student to harmonize
 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. If the texbook is Schenkerian, it is worthy to introduce a chapter on Schenker's theory and give it to students in the most open and sincere fashion. Otherwise, what is, in fact, a concept, is introduced as an ideology.


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

--- On Mon, 4/30/12, J. O. Meniktos-Nolting <jmenik at umich.edu> wrote:

From: J. O. Meniktos-Nolting <jmenik at umich.edu>
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Theory textbooks
To: smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Date: Monday, April 30, 2012, 3:00 PM

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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