[Smt-talk] Subdominant versus Predominant

Richard Hermann harhar at unm.edu
Sat May 12 10:12:19 PDT 2012

Dear Smt-listers,

I studied with Oster, translator of Der freie Satz (Free Composition) into English, and also with John Rothgeb and David Beach. My official studies of Schenkerian theory and analysis or method were from 1976 off and on until 1987. I have been sketching since 1976 and have continued reading afterwards both Schenker and those who work at extending the theory/analytic method. I find the implications of this thought and the sophistication of the music and its interpretation still very challenging. 

I also do not believe it was designed to answer all interesting and important questions about the repertoire it investigates; with the exception of Brahms, he did not think it applied to much late 19th-century music nor most 20-century music that he knew. Schenker's thought, however, does a very good job in the ears of an expert addressing the questions it does ask of the repertoire he considered.

In paraphrase after all these years since my study with him, Oster stated to my class that a strong grounding in harmony [scale-step-I assume], counterpoint, figured bass, and form was needed before the study of Schenkerian analysis. After extensive guidance from an analyst, the way was then open for serious study of Schenkerian theory. I would add that knowledge of the theoretical thought from the Renaissance through early theories of harmony is quite useful as is even more importantly significant performance experience of the repertoire at hand. Tonal improvisation and model composition should also be added to this list in my book.

Analytic decisions are very, very far from arbitrary and must be grounded in support from all of the subdisciplines of music theory listed above in a hearing/interpretation of the music.

I heartily endorse the 10,000-hour rule. After a good deal more than 10,000 hours, I still wrestle with the thought of my being truly expert in this area.


Richard Hermann, Ph.D., Prof. of Music
Music Theory and Composition Programs
Regent's Lecturer
University of New Mexico

On May 11, 2012, at 1:26 PM, Nicolas Meeùs wrote:

> I translated Schenker's Der freie Satz in French in 1993. I started teaching Schenkerian analysis on the basis of his and other's graphs around 2000. I began introducing a few graphs of my own in my teaching one or two years ago. I very much confirm the "10,000-Hour Rule".
> Nicolas Meeùs
> Université Paris-Sorbonne
> Le 11/05/2012 20:33, David Carson Berry a écrit :
>> On 5/11/12 1:19 PM, kos at panix.com wrote:
>>> I tell my students that studying Schenkerian Analysis is like studying a 
>>> musical instrument: You can't hope to be competent in it without many, many 
>>> hours [really:  years] of instruction and study.
>> In Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers (2008), he refers to the "10,000-Hour Rule" (based on the work of K. Anders Ericsson), which basically states that you need about 10,000 hours of practice/experience to master a task and achieve success. To recast the Rule in topical terms: if you're really into studying Schenkerian theory and analysis, then at 20 hours per week it will take you about ten years to "master" the topic. (And even more, if you want to remove the quotation marks from "master"!)
>> When I first read Gladwell's book, this Rule reminded me of a remark that I encountered once, which I believe was attributed to the Princeton-based music theorist Godfrey Winham (1934-75). He said that he wouldn't discuss a Schenkerian analysis with someone if they hadn't produced at least 100 graphs of their own (or whatever the actual number was). In other words, if someone didn't have a great deal of experience (100 graphs -- 10,000 hours -- or somewhere in between), he knew they would not be able to discuss the matter with understanding and intelligence.
>> Or, as was remarked earlier:
>> On 5/11/12 1:19 PM, kos at panix.com wrote:
>>> Personally speaking, I would certainly not dare to criticize a methodology if I 
>>> had only a rudimentary understanding of its principles.
>> --David
>> David Carson Berry
>> Associate Professor of Music Theory
>> University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music
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