[Smt-talk] Criteria, themselves Old and New

Michael Morse mwmorse at bell.net
Tue Mar 12 08:09:29 PDT 2013

Dear Folks,
  Frustrating as this go-'round may seem, I for one have found it very instructive. In fact quite a number of dimensions of theory have appeared under the common aegis of debating Schenker redux, from issues of aesthetic and national bias to the nature of tonality and harmonic progression to the nature of 'harmoniefremd' tones. 
  In this context, Nicolas's suggestion that he considers himself an "historian of theory" raises a topic that is not so much new here as presenting another angle on these various problems. And of course, like everything else we discuss, it's maddeningly difficult! The matter is historiographical. If someone said "Beethoven's Battle Symphony is a trifle, not worthy of his Nine Symphonies," I would be surprised if someone accused this statement of ad hominem. Perhaps we could contrast that with statements such as "Riemann is wrong about undertones," or "Schenker misunderstands the tonal role of the subdominant." It seems to me that such statements not only take issue with the validity of the the theorists's claims, but with their investment in those claims. In other words, in contrast to the statement about the Battle Symphony, these are ad hominem statements, or at least raise that spectre, and directly. 
  If that suggestion is defensible, there would seem to be two levels of potential objectivity with respect to music theory. One would be in the theoretical enunciations themselves. The typical bias is that Pythagorean approaches intrinsically have the higher ground of objectivity. But there is no a priori reason why Aristoxenos or Rousseau or, sancta simplicitas, Wagner can't be accorded the laurel wreath for a more accurate and "objective" account of the nature of music. Yet there is another and distinct level or kind of objectivity, easily confused with the first, which is historical. By this, I mean not so much the impact and reception of a particular theory, although that is a part of it, but the place of a particular doctrine and body of ideas in the history of musical thought. Calling Riemann or Schenker "followers of Aristoxenos" would be fairly preposterous, and obviously; but what about "Riemann's theory is more Aristoxenian than Schenker's"? Of course what we should make of this claim would depend on what its claimant said to expound and defend it. But could such a claim ever be considered historically objective? Again, it seems to me that the path to answering that question would be subtly but profoundly different from assessing, say, a statement such as "the influence of Mozart is more apparent in Richard Strauss than it is in Mahler."
  At the least, an historian of music theory confronts "the" problem--hah!--of objectivity in two very different, uneasily correlated gyuises.
MW MorseTrent UniversityPeterborough, Oshawa



      I consider myself a historian of theory. I am perfectly aware of
      the principles that you defend, all the more so that my own
      musical education has been to a large extent in a Germanic
      (Riemannian) context. The only point on which we diverge is that
      you want to "prove that fake theory is fake", while I am
      interested in all theories, which all have something to learn us.
      I don't remember having ever said a word against the tradition
      behind you; I know it, I know its value, I knew it before you were
      born. You refuse to hear my arguments about another theory, that I
      certainly know much better than you. Let's leave it at that.


      Don't resent any animosity in this, it's merely that we are not
      really discussing (nor exchanging photos of restaurants or pets
      ;-)). The list of my publications, in case you are interested, is
      available on http://www.plm.paris-sorbonne.fr/spip.php?article154.






      Nicolas Meeùs

      University Paris-Sorbonne





    Le 11/03/2013 18:44, Ildar Khannanov a
      écrit :

              My dear friend Nicolas,
              (may I call you this way--after all, we have
                been exchanging the letters for several years now),
              in the course of our exchange I have grown even
                stronger in my understanding of music and in my position
                in music theory. Accusation in that I do not hear you
                can be sent back to you, but there is no reason to
                engage in personal remarks. The internet blog is not the
                place to truly state theoretical ideas (it is normally a
                place to exchange photos from the restaurants and
                pictures of pets). Of course, it would be interesting if
                we exchanged the views through publications. I, from my
                side, can offer my modest attempt in an article
                "Hierarchy in Music Theory before Schenker" (Res musica,
                4, Estonian Academy of Music and Theater, 2010). I
                invite you to criticise in in your publication anywhere.
                I can then respond, in writing.
              On the other hand, I am working on so many
                interesting projects that expending my time on fighting
                with the windmills, proving that fake theory
                is fake, would be a luxury I cannot afford. Perhaps, I
                will find time to publish something on harmony, voice
                leading, Rameau, etc. At this point, I can assure you
                that behind me there is a tradition which is in no way
                less powerful that that of Schenker. I do not express my
                opinions. Rather, my statements are well-formulated
                principles, which were in the tradition for many
                decades, if not centuries. 
              Best wishes,
              Ildar Khannanov
              Peabody Institute
              solfeggio7 at yahoo.com



Smt-talk mailing list
Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.societymusictheory.org/pipermail/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org/attachments/20130312/2b370f74/attachment-0004.htm>

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list