[Smt-talk] Criteria for Old and New

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Wed Mar 6 17:36:32 PST 2013

Dear List,
I have had a nice short private conversation with Dr. Smith and apologized for the "downright wrong" stunt. It looks like any attempt to discuss anything serious in a blog necessarily turns into terminological soccer. It started with "flat out wrong" in my direction, I kicked it back with "downright wrong." I do not want to wait until somebody will send it back at me again with "right-smack-in-your-face wrong." I stop this footballing with an energetic gesture of apology before Dr. Smth and anyone on the List. 
Best wishes,
Dr. Ildar Khannanov
Professor of Music Theory
Peabody Institute
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
--- On Wed, 3/6/13, Charles J. Smith <cjsmith at buffalo.edu> wrote:

From: Charles J. Smith <cjsmith at buffalo.edu>
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Criteria for Old and New
To: smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 12:40 PM

I've been wrong before. Some students and colleagues would probably go further, and say "wrong more often than right". So it goes...

But this is a first, perhaps for Michael, too—being downright wrong. Wow! Quite an honour...


Dear Michael, 
Your (and Charles Smith’s) claim that “we are all Schenkerians” is downright wrong. In the United States and Canada, theorists are preoccupied with many issues beyond Schenkerism. I know highly professional and well-established professors of leading schools who are working in the fields of Schoenberg studies, Neo-Riemannian theory, theory of musical form, musical semiotics, cognitive studies, history of music theory, who could care less about Schenker. In Europe, there are large societies and projects which avoid Schenkerian dogma. I can name ICMS and EUROMAC. In the past several conferences of EUROMAC and ICSM I chaired panels on musical hermeneutics and semiotics. So, I can say, that Schenkerian theory is not universally recognized globally. It is limited geographically, generationally and historically. 
I am making enormous claims? Really? Here are some enormous claims: 
“What Kretzschmar, Riemann, Grove, and the rest wrote about, for example, Beethoven’s symphonies, is simply wrong and untrue. A thousand times untrue!” (p. xxv). Poor Kretzschmar, the father of German musical hermeneutics, a person with Doctoral degrees in Philology and in Music! Poor George Grove! Why did he deserve bashing from Schenker? Ok, let us look it up in the New Grove Dictionary! 
“In Fux, as well as in C. Ph. E. Bach, unfortunately there are also errors that sully not only the method but the theory itself.” This hurts, but not as much as the attacks on Rameau and Riemann. Take “Tonal-doll theory” – it alone amounts to shameless libel, kicking the corpses of great theorists and getting away with it. 
This “tonal-doll” is the first example of reduction in tonal theory and the first example of hierarchical approach to music. It bothers Schenker (he wants to be the first!) and he attacks it. Yet, unlike the “graphic reduction,” the ability to operate with the “tonal-doll” is not given to anyone by birth and has to be studied, internalized aurally. Without this doll Bach would not be able to harmonize 371 chorale melodies and to write large-scale modulatory segments in his instrumental music. It normally takes several years of ear training at an early age. It is not advisable to read Riemann to anyone without such training. 
The list of theorists who lived before and during the lifetime of Schenker and were unlucky to be disqualified (fully or partially) by Schenker’s value judgments: 
Fux, C. Ph. E. Bach, Rameau, Kirnberger, Sechter, Bellerman, Richter, Riemann, Albrechtsberger, Helmholtz… 
The list of theorists whom Schenker fully supports: 
It is worth noticing that Schenker had hardly more than rudimentary and fragmentary knowledge of the ideas of these theorists. He simply had a chance to read some of these books at home, in his spare time, while they have to be studied in the formal environment of a classroom, under the supervision of a teacher. 
I have gathered these names from the first thirty pages of Counterpoint. After satisfying himself with the “critique,” Schenker goes on to the discussion of the role of cantus firmus on the examples from Mozart’s symphonies and Chopin's Mazurkas. What, on Earth, the “cantus firmus” is doing in this music??? 
Why is it, that you, Dr. Klein, do not notice these enormous and unsupported claims? 
With respect to a colleague, never being weary of collegial communication, 
Dr. Ildar Khannanov 
Professor of Music Theory 
Peabody Institute 
--- On Tue, 3/5/13, MICHAEL KLEIN <mklein01 at temple.edu> wrote:

From: MICHAEL KLEIN <mklein01 at temple.edu>
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Criteria for Old and New
To: smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 8:36 AM

Dear Colleagues,

These attacks on Schenkerian analysis are really growing tiresome, in my opinion.  I see them on the list from time to time, and I usually just let them go.  

Up front -- I'm not a Schenkerian (in the sense that I do not do research in Schenkerian analysis).  But in another sense -- to quote Charles Smith -- we're all Schenkerians.

That aside, these anit-Schenkerian postings are often riddled with errors.  I don't know what Ildar means by "his theory has never been contemporary to any other theory," unless he's trying to say that Schenker's theory is not set up for contemporary music (and, of course, it's not -- it is a theory of how harmony and voice-leading work/interact in a certain repertoire of tonal music). The statement that Schenker's theory "has never been a part of any larger project" is flat out wrong. And there has been plenty of work to show Schenker's deep connection to the history of theory.  So, that part of Ildar's claim is incorrect, as well.

As the current saying goes, we're entitled to our own opinions, but we're not entitled to our own facts.  If Ildar and others on the list don't like Schenkerian analysis -- fine.  But please stop it already with the attacks on an analytical system that many find deeply useful and rewarding.  

I know I'll regret that I posted this (as I always do).  But I'm starting to get tired of seeing these same issues reappear throughout the year -- usually with few facts to back up enormous claims.

All Best,


Michael Klein
Chair, Department of Music Studies
Professor of Music Studies
Temple University
Boyer College of Music and Dance
316 Presser Hall
michael.klein at temple.edu


Intertextuality in Western Art Music: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=21727

Music and Narrative since 1900: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?isbn=978-0-253-00644-8

"Denn alles Fleisch ist wie Gras. . ."

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Prof. Charles J. Smith
Slee Chair of Music Theory & Director of Graduate Studies
Office: 410 Baird Hall
Director, Slee Institute for Tonal Harmony (420 Baird)

Mail address:
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Buffalo, NY 14260

cjsmith at buffalo.edu
Office Phone: 716-645-0639
Department Fax: 716-645-3824

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