Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 19 11:40:21 PDT 2013

Dear Colleagues,
yes, thinking harmonically can help. How much passes before our eyes and ears in these few measures in the Prelude in E minor! The whole life, with its ups and downs, its distractions and attractions. Professor Doyle is dismayed at the attempt of Professor Jablonsky to name all the chords here, with the premonition "not to forget about counterpoint." How inappropriate is this gesture here: not only that we must name each chord that we see, but also the chords and the keys which are not present in the score but implied by Chopin. And this progression is not a sliding of some abstract non-harmonic lines. It contains counterpoint on the surface (everybody can see the chromatic descending lines), but in depth Chopin gives out a series of sighs, the sigh of S-D (the second and the third chords) and then, the broken sighs, unfinished sighs, interrupted gestures, a gaze, full of tears, etc. Now he rushes to one side, now he stops in the middle of the gesture,
 now he desperately drops his hands, etc. Not to hear all this harmonically means not to hear music at all. And Jobim seconds this magnificent diary of despair in his "How Insensitive." It is the same work of mourning, threads of desire and despair of helplessness. Weg mit Kontrapunkt!
Dr. Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins
Solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
--- On Fri, 4/19/13, Michael Morse <mwmorse at bell.net> wrote:

From: Michael Morse <mwmorse at bell.net>
Subject: [Smt-talk] FW: ABSENCE OF LEAD SHEET
To: "smt-talk at societymusictheory.org" <smt-talk at societymusictheory.org>
Date: Friday, April 19, 2013, 12:44 PM

Dear Folks,

  A followup to Donna Doyle's trenchant comments on Stephen Jablonsky's suggestions.

  Not only are present-day music students culturally different creatures than much of our (traditional) pedagogy anticipates and expects, their applications of what we teach them are likewise different. Even within the world of contemporary classical composition practice, however you might choose to define or conceive this, more and more of the up and coming have an education and orientation that is not only different from the Fux- or Schenker-heavy training of previous generations, it resembles the education of their jazz, pop, and world music colleagues. Above all, the way that young musicians engage all of this music is different, and in some ways strikingly novel. 

  I think the era when standard practice could be a mother language for composers, or even a learned mother language, are now past. The musical "mother language" is now perforce everything and anything. In a sense, subtle but significant, our primary obligation is to teach traditional theory, harmony, and counterpoint as one kind of language among many. Instead of teaching harmony as how Corelli-to-Mahler made sense, and secondarily Stevie Wonder or Antonio Carlos Jobim, we should eventually teach it as the skill of making sense harmonically. Instead of teaching counterpoint as how JSB made sense, we should teach as the art of combining lines and moving tones.

  On its face, this sounds no doubt like a glum combination of utopian, relativistic, and wildly impractical. Yet the world of art pedagogy has made the adjustment to embracing non-representational thinking and a bewildering panoply of techniques. I wouldn't be prepared to say this went down without struggles, shouts, and broken glassware, nor that present day art teaching has the lion lying down with the lamb sipping Chivas Regal and telling old jokes to each other. Too, there are already people in music moving this way. Maestro Jablonsky himself comes to mind! 

  In a sense, the issue at hand is stark. Trying to pretend that learning Fux's rules means today anything like what it meant even a few decades ago is institutionally suicidal and, dammit, pedagogically and morally irresponsible. If all you learn is Piston, Schenker, Forte, Fux, and CPE Bach, you won't be able to make coherent classical music, never mind music of the contemporary world. Bluntly, a student trained this way today is simply not a trained musician in any honest sense. Ironically, the challenge for music theory is greater than it has ever been. Several centuries', if not several millennia's worth of founding theory on a particular, pre-elected repertory, presupposed universally representative and valid, is finally crashing and burning.  A theory that says only common practice harmony makes sense is now inescapably outright wrong.  Music theory's absurd pseudo-scientific posturings, based on "let X=whatever I like," have run out of
 options for self-delusion. The next few decades will show if we are jointly and severally up to addressing musical sense in its true fullness and richness.

MW Morse
Trent University
Peterborough, Oshawa

From: donnadoyle at att.net
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2013 00:08:47 -0400
To: jablonsky at optimum.net
CC: smt-talk at societymusictheory.org
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] ABSENCE OF LEAD SHEET

Dear Stephen,

First of all (so I'll not need to apologize to my sisters for putting this last): Women 
write textbooks, too. (Kostka-Payne is best-selling, yes?) How much would it have cost 
to have said, "[A]lmost to a person"?

Re the matter at hand: You voice an important ongoing concern. Even the graduate students 
I work with tend to fixate themselves on numbering verticalities from m 1. And they tie themselves up with RNs in bridge passages before they're certain of the tonal center. 
What really shocks me is their lack of quick response in simple chord spelling. 

I wonder if our harmony texts are based on an outdated cultural situation, when 
students arrived at college having played dozens of sonatas, sat in hundreds of 
hours of rehearsals, heard thousands of hours of classical music, etc. Those students,
having acquired experiential context for a piece, were readier to narrow their focus 
to the small-scale. As you point out, the situation today requires us to show students 
a work's big picture before addressing the details. Perhaps our texts should be 
reformatted to do the same. 

As for chord (and scale) spelling, jazz/pop people are easily more adept than classical. 
It seems to me that the classical curriculum should include more quick-response drills--
both on one's instrument and spoken, old-fashioned memorization and weekly 
vocabulary tests (timed). Also, when analyzing a difficult passage, I require students 
to write the chord names above the bass clef before assigning numbers below.

This said, I'm surprised (dismayed) that you want all the chords of Chopin's E Minor 
Prelude named. Certainly you know that counterpoint counts, too! 

Best regards,
Donna Doyle
Adjunct Lecturer
Queens College, CUNY

On Apr 17, 2013, at 4:47 PM, Stephen Jablonsky <jablonsky at optimum.net> wrote:

Esteemed Colleagues,

As someone who has taught music theory for almost half a century I am wondering about your feelings in regard to including lead sheet notation in our instructional practice. A quick survey of the best-selling theory textbooks reveals that, almost to a man, none of these authors ever identifies a chord progression by chord name and function. The myriad musical fragments that litter these texts only contain figured bass or chord numbers, never chord names. The students who come to our school have a great deal of difficulty naming chords, especially in treble/bass piano notation; orchestral scores are usually beyond their capabilities. 

I am always amused when I ask my upper level students to analyze a composition in class (I only do complete pieces because analyzing fragments is worthless in my opinion) and they immediately begin to write chord numbers. Of course I stop them immediately and ask them to tell me how many measures there are in the piece to give them a sense of proportion. I then ask them to identify cadences so we know where the points of arrival are located and how they affect the ongoing flow of the music. After that, they need to name the chords and identify to non-harmonic tones. Finally, we get to chord function. I have always felt it was better to measure the canvas before getting lost in the details.

Those of you who have struggled to teach theory know how difficult it is for beginners to separate the chord and non-chord tones in a wide variety of textures, and to discern the true harmonic rhythm. Students who were taught using only chorales think that every piece ever written changes chords every quarter note (OY!). 
The craft of musical analysis consists of two activities: labeling and interpretation. If the labeling component does not include the correct naming of chords then everything else sits on a weak foundation. Is it possible that because lead sheet is associated with popular music and jazz that it is excluded from “classical” textbooks because of some ill-conceived prejudice or foolish tradition?
Before I retire, I would love to see one textbook tell me the names of the chords in Chopin’s E minor Prelude before attempting reduce it to some fancy chart or graph.

Dr. Stephen Jablonsky, Ph.D.
Music Department Chair
The City College of New York
Shepard Hall Room 72
New York NY 10031
(212) 650-7663
music at ccny.cuny.edu

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