[Smt-talk] response to "The Craft of Harmonization

Edward Klorman eklorman at juilliard.edu
Mon Oct 7 17:58:46 PDT 2013

Dear all,

A small addendum to Steve Laitz's compelling call for generalism and integration in music pedagogy (not only due to practical realities of our institutions but due to the inherent musical, educational benefits of integrating certain interrelated topics):

I wish to quote Delacroix's account of a conversation with Chopin, which is transmitted in Delacroix's journal (entry dated 7 April 1849):

As [Chopin] said to me, "Where [Beethoven] is obscure and seems lacking in unity, the cause is not to be sought in what people look upon as a rather wild originality, the thing they honor him for; the reason is that he turns his back on eternal principles; Mozart never. Each of the parts has its own movement, which, while still according with the others, keeps on with its own song and follows it perfectly; there is your counterpoint, 'punt contrapunto.'" He told me that the custom was to learn the harmonies before coming to counterpoint, that is to say, the succession of notes that leads to the harmonies. The harmonies in the music of Berlioz are laid on as a veneer; he fills the intervals as best he can. (Translation from Composers on Music: Eight Centuries of Writings, ed. Josiah Fisk, Pantheon Books, 1997, p. 90)

Leaving Chopin's value judgements (as transmitted by Delacroix) aside, I think many of us would agree that there is something valuable in teaching harmonies in connection with counterpoint, "that is to say, the succession of notes that leads to the harmonies." I first learned of this quote from Carl Schachter, whose two co-authored textbooks offer pioneering advances in this regard--an approach that, I hasten to add, is impressively exemplified in Steve Laitz's appropriately titled textbook, The Complete Musician, as well.



Edward Klorman, PhD
The Juilliard School
Chair, Music Theory and Analysis
Faculty, Chamber Music

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