[Smt-talk] truncated theory for Music BA

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 20 13:39:45 PST 2012

Dear Zae and Judd,
it seems to me that this topic is extremely important and, indeed, belongs "in the precincts of a learned society." I noticed long ago that large schools display their achievements while smaller schoold prepare students en mass. In this respect, whatever you choose to do will affect the condition of the field of music theory for the years to come. 
It is difficult to fit a complete course of study of music theory into three semesters, let alone with the 20th-century component. Perhaps, teaching of the 20th-century materials can be delegated to an afternoon listening elective. I have tried that and it seemed to work. In your spare time and when the students are not busy, say, after 4pm, you take your PC, data projector, go to youtube or bring your own CDs and start listening together and discussing. 
Teaching tonal practice requires a different type of pedagogy. It is better to follow the centennial tradition and teach by well-defined subjects, such as ear training, counterpoint, harmony and form. So, you can lump together elements of counterpoint and harmony (for your 2nd semester) and form and analysis for your 3rd semester. I would feel very sorry if the integrity of these disciplines is not retained. Students have the right to study a discipline, and not a fantasy of the instructor.
Good luck to both of you!
Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Institute
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

From: About Time Music <judddanby at abouttimemusic.com>
To: smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org 
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2012 3:14 PM
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] truncated theory for Music BA

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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