[Smt-talk] Theory textbooks

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Tue May 1 10:19:09 PDT 2012

Dear Nicolas and the List,
I have studied both (German Funktionstheorie in Russia and Schenkerian theory of scale-degrees in the United States). Both sides propose statements but they do not necessarily adequately  translate into pedagogic practice.
I noticed that when students realize figured bass, they count notes from each given bass up. I have seen some of them using fingres to count. So, practically, on the undergraduate level, realization of a figured bass presents calculating of the notes of each chord from a bass up and adjustments made in response to schoolbook requirements of voce leading (such as "resolve the seventh by step down). Ears may not participate in this activity.
I do not know of any compositional technique for building harmonic progression using Schenkerian theory. Analysis--yes, actual composing of a 4-part progression--no. There are some suggestions concerning prolongation but they refer mostly to analysis of a given score. As such, Schenkerian fundamtenal line is inaudible. It is purely graphic phenomenon. If to reconstruct a harmonic progression from a given fundamental line, we will receive one and the same harmonic progression, a standard school-book harmony which has nothing to do with actual endless variety of harmonic progressions in music.
When a student builds a harmonic progression using functional theory, he or she must hear the functions underlying an unfigured melody or unfigured bass. It is impossible to simply calculate the possible chords under a given note: this will not lead to a meaningful progression. The only way to harmonize a given melody in functional style is to hear the flow of functions in cycles of TSDT. This method cannot promise a student the understanding of the structure of the whole Beethoven' s symphony in one grasp, but can lead to knowledge of shorter chord progressions, cycles, phrases, breathing curves of harmony.
Tonal-harmonic function is a quality of a chord which connects it to other chords and places it in a syntactic whole. Functional hearing, based upon congnitive mechanisms of tension, attraction and resolution, regulates horizontal dimension of a harmonic progression.
Tonal-hamonic function is used not to separate chords into pure verticalities, but to connect them in horizontal dimension. The only agency which makes harmonic progression meaningful is its coordination with the tonal-harmonic functional syntax. Of course, threre are exeptions and licences which composers take, but they only make the rule more meaningful and useful.
Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Conservatory
Johns Hopkins University
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

--- On Tue, 5/1/12, Nicolas Meeùs <nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr> wrote:

From: Nicolas Meeùs <nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr>
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Theory textbooks
To: "Ildar Khannanov" <solfeggio7 at yahoo.com>
Cc: smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Date: Tuesday, May 1, 2012, 6:05 AM


Can you explain in what sense you believe that the theory of tonal functions (say, Riemann) allows more to think horizontally than the theory of root progressions (say, Sechter/Bruckner)? 

For sure, it would be important that textbooks on harmony or analysis position themselves within a history of harmonic theories, but I think that this should lead to teaching the history and genealogy of the theoretical paradigms about tonality. Without this confrontation of theories, we would indeed be teaching ideologies.

On the other hand, I am afraid that music teaching often is based on ideology. Even in our supposedly rational world, it remains largely based on oral tradition, on the example given by the "master". This is obvious in the case of performance teaching. It is less obvious, but I fear hardly less present, in the case of theory teaching. And if each of us took the time to first justify one's ideological position, we may never find the time to really begin teaching theory...

But let's leave that for another discussion. For the time being, I'd really want to know your opinion about German vs Austrian theories.

Nicolas Meeùs
Université Paris-Sorbonne

Le 1/05/2012 03:36, Ildar Khannanov a écrit : 

One chapter, one topic in particular, is missing from the beginning of our foliants: the actual explanation of the theoretical position of the author. I prefer the theory of tonal-harmonic functions. It is this theory which allows student to harmonize a melody. Tonal function allows to think horizontally. Oswald Jonas and Schenker did not know that, appartenly. "Root-function" is the agency which connects one chord to another and allows to unfold the harmonic progression. The system of tonal-harmonic functions must be explained from the very beginning and student have to be trained hearing these function in the aural skills class. If the texbook is Schenkerian, it is worthy to introduce a chapter on Schenker's theory and give it to students in the most open and sincere fashion. Otherwise, what is, in fact, a concept, is introduced as an ideology.


Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Institute
Baltimore, MD
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

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