[Smt-talk] The Concept of Appoggiatura

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Mon Oct 22 20:42:46 PDT 2012

Dear Daniel and Matthew,

Thank you for your input. This debate is useful to many of us, for a great deal of old American books of harmony that promoted historical values and practical concepts have been thrown out of the window in favor of books that are inventing the wheel right now. 

It is great that you brought Walter Piston to the scene, for he taught the non-chord tones by dividing them into two main categories: accented and unaccented, as it has been done in Europe for centuries. I am very curious to learn who brought along the “unique” theory of appoggiatura that: 1) imposed the condition of a leaping dissonance; 2) allowed a weak appoggiatura (on a main weak beat or on a weaker portion of any divided beat); and decided to erase the difference between the categories by classifying all tones by melodic contour alone. 

You do not have to walk the tightrope of sticking to the textbook and teach concepts that you believe are opposed to historical practices and common sense. I do not do that because in the long run it will produce students who are afraid to formulate their own opinion, to question, and to think critically. We are entitled to bring our own materials and to complement and revise portions form any textbook that will not work for our classes. And we must welcome students who want to argue for the sake of better understanding.

Uniformity is the worst blow that a teacher can introduce in the classroom; especially uniformity born out of fear to be different. Imagine, there are students (and teachers!) who are startled with the idea of labeling chords with capital letters only; nobody has explained to them that there are different systems of labeling chords, that the key signature implies the size of the diatonic chords, and that lowercase Roman numerals did not exist in Ancient Rome. It is a matter of choice, of course, but first you have to know what your choices are! 

Thank you,


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

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