[Smt-talk] truncated theory for Music BA

About Time Music judddanby at abouttimemusic.com
Mon Feb 20 12:14:09 PST 2012

> 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.

What I find most challenging about this model is imagining what kind of music theory would apply only to music ed majors. Not knowing the purpose(s) and goals of your general BA program, what comes to mind is a strong focus on musicianship in that fourth semester. You could structure it to foster the kinds of skills that a music educator would need to be successful:

	reading and auralizing transposed scores
	keyboard skills
	aural error detection: pitches and rhythms, of course (though not just within single lines but also individual errors within an ensemble texture), but also articulations, dynamic blend within ensembles, etc.
	and perhaps a bit on the science of sound/physics of instruments

> 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.

I am in total agreement with that statement. As much as it pains me to say this as a composer of highly chromatic music, I long ago made the decision to eject all post-tonal theory from my four-semester sequence. I prefer to help students get to as deep a relationship as possible with the more familiar tonal idioms (mostly common-practice functional, but also "cousins" like jazz and pop, modal, etc.), so they can hear and understand the tonic triad as a frame for what happens, musical forces at work within that frame, voice-leading, the intimately conjoined nature of rhythm/meter/line/harmony, cadences, structural versus contrapuntal chords, and form. A passing glance at post-tonal theory just for the sake of "being thorough" is perhaps more "dangerous" than none, in that it necessarily means not getting as deeply into anything, and therefore not nurturing the skills, understanding, and processes students would need to continue to foster their imaginative relationship with music after their time in our courses is past. I would rather model depth in one area, and know that some few might take that with them into their future study of other musical practices.

Good luck with your task, Zae!

Judd Danby


Judd Danby, A.Mus.D.
Instructor of Music Theory, Composition and Jazz Improvisation
Music & Dance Dept.
Arts & Communications Academy
Jefferson High School
1801 S 18th ST
Lafayette, IN  47905

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