[Smt-talk] Theorists and Scientists

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Sun Jul 8 23:10:53 PDT 2012

Dear List,

I agree completely with Professor Froom who wrote: "For these reasons, it is disheartening for me to see a job posting restricted to Ph.D.s in theory when the theory teaching responsibilities will be undergraduate." 

This discrimination is due to different factors, the most important one being the undeservedly high self esteem that some search committee members have developed and, therefore, their looking down at composers and other musicians skilled in theory. When those members understand once and for all that theory is about being able to do things in music, they will become more humble and respectful to the profession of a music theorist.

Finally, about anyone who allegedly harbored resentment to music theorists. I think there is no such person on the list. I personally consider myself no less a music theorist than anyone who has a Ph. D in the field. ( I have a DMA in composition and an MM in theory). The degree does not matter so much. It is the projection, which certainly has much to do with musical skills and creativity. The musicological-historical projection and the "big knowledge on paper" is not enough to create a great theorist. Musical endowment and consistent practical work with the very tools of theory is indispensable.

I have encountered with a pleasant surprise many theorists who can play piano well and can harmonize melodies. I never asked whether they were composers or theorists by degree. They were genuine music theorists and teachers in my eyes. Therefore, the real meaning of the talk is not about "composers versus theorists" but about "genuine theorists versus pure theorists".

However, there are many others who never use the piano, and have no clue to the craft of harmonization or counterpoint. This category of people I call "pure theorists". Since they cannot sell what they do not have, they can only teach speculative, verbal theory and the skills to write a paper. As a result, a great number of undergraduate and graduate students graduate "naked" in theory - they become just like their teachers - good writers about music with poor practical skills in theory.

I hope I managed to clarify my point. I will refrain from further commenting for a while.

Best regards,


Dr. Dimitar Ninov, Lecturer
School of Music
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, Texas 78666

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