[Smt-talk] Theorists and composers

Michael Morse mwmorse at bell.net
Sun Jul 8 05:01:50 PDT 2012

  Professor Ninov expresses the matter forcefully but justly. What is music theoretical "purity," exactly? How and why is it desirable? And as Professor Ninov points out, how is it desirable in the education of faculty and students? 

  All disciplines owe it to themselves and to the society to redefine themselves, periodically if not constantly. The perception exists that pure theory, disengaged from music and musicianship, and pretending to scientific inviolability, was the product of postwar serialism. Because this movement happened to coincide with a lavish expansion of university resources, a music essentially without a public but a convoluted need for theory evolved, and a coterie of theorists to explain it--and nothing else. The rise of the pure theorist developed in tandem with the academic composer. Except for a grotesquely narrow range of music, artificially self-selected, the "music" part of "pure music theory" was all but oxymoronic.
  I'm not in a position to endorse or gainsay this caricature. I have seen some evidence for it, and met some people who seemed to live it out. If it was ever true, it cannot and must not be any longer. The cultural situation is far too parlous at present to allow such narcissism. I appreciate that the debate here, from all sides, has attempted to focus on our collective responsibilities. It would amount to a confession of past guilt to suggest that these responsibilities are more urgent now than ever. I prefer to say instead that defining ourselves is the glorious liberty of thinkers, and defining our subject is the sobering obligation that goes with it.
Michael MorseTrent UniversityPeterborough, Oshawa   		 	   		  
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