[Smt-talk] truncated theory for Music BA

Kris Shaffer kshaffer at csuniv.edu
Fri Feb 17 08:31:55 PST 2012

Zae (and list),
We have a similar situation at Charleston Southern. All are BA in music, with most majors taking fundamentals (or testing out) plus 4 semesters of theory & aural skills. Our Music and Worship Leadership majors, however, jump out after level 2 to take jazz/commercial music theory and arranging. No one gets a "truncated" program, but because of the different courses taken in semesters 3 & 4, there are two main exit points for students in the standard theory and aural skills curriculum.

Yale, where I did my graduate studies and teaching, has another sequence similar to yours. One semester of fundamentals was followed by two semesters of pre-major theory and aural skills. Those classes covered all of diatonic harmony and voice-leading, as well as tonal chromaticism and an intro to form in common-practice music. There were lots of non-music majors in those courses who stopped after (or sometimes during) that sequence. After passing those courses and being admitted to the major, music majors moved on to upper-level studies in theory, history, etc.

The challenges at CSU have been (and still are) getting the worship leadership folks through what they need in year 1 to be ready for their year 2, while keeping everything at a sane pace and in a coherent sequence for everyone. I've made use of some things we used at Yale that help accelerate the teaching of diatonic harmony and voice-leading: namely, using species counterpoint to introduce voice-leading prior to harmony (rather than teaching them together), then using Ian Quinn's functional-bass system for teaching diatonic harmony and reinforcing voice-leading principles in keyboard style. We're also able to do a fundamentals review at the beginning, some basic formal analysis (using Caplin's formal functions), and a pop/rock unit that centers primarily on form (building off of Caplin's sentence model and Everett's related SRDC model) in that first year.

Getting all that in the first year means doing a few things out of my ideal order and dropping a couple things I'd otherwise like to do (like model composition beyond the phrase length). However, it also has the advantage of leaving the whole second year to do chromaticism, large-scale classical form, 19th-c. art song, and a few 20th-21st-c. topics, all with a heavy emphasis on analysis and writing. I've done some of that with the current second-years (who didn't get my first year, since this is my first year here), and it's been rewarding to spend a lot of time with a few key genres and do a lot of analysis. So perhaps your last semester could be a "form and analysis" class or a "model composition" class that allows for more in-depth, contextual exploration of things covered in the two-semester crash course on music theory.

I don't know if that is helpful. And, honestly, being in my first year full-time and the only theorist at CSU, I wouldn't mind feedback on what we're doing from any others in a similar situation. Good luck in your program development!

Kris Shaffer
Assistant Professor of Music Theory
Charleston Southern University

Prof. Kris Shaffer
Charleston Southern University
Horton School of Music
9200 University Boulevard
P.O. Box 118087
Charleston, SC 29423-8087
(843) 863-7964
kshaffer at csuniv.edu

On Feb 16, 2012, at 2:31 PM, Zae Munn wrote:

> I am seeking models for a Music BA in which the theory requirement is  
> limited to one semester of fundamentals plus 2 semesters of theory,  
> while the Music BM (Music Ed) would require fundamentals plus 3  
> semesters of theory.  So all music majors would proceed together for  
> the first 3 semesters, then the Music Ed students only would continue  
> on to a 4th semester.
> This is a new and somewhat worrisome concept to me, but I have a  
> directive to develop such a program.  I would appreciate hearing from  
> those of you who have experience with such differentiated programs, as  
> well as from those of you who have either positive or negative views  
> of the concept itself.
> I am not convinced that I can create a reasonable 3-semester sequence  
> beginning at "this is a whole note" and ending with some sort of  
> knowledge of 20th c. analysis. And, even if that is possible, what  
> would the 4th semester group move on to?
> Please reply to me: Zae Munn, zmunn at comcast.net
> If there is sufficient interest I will be happy to summarize responses.
> Thanks, Zae Munn
> Saint Mary's College
> Notre Dame, IN
> www.zaemunn.com
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> Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
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