[Smt-talk] Specialization versus Generalization

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Thu Oct 10 15:21:57 PDT 2013

Dear Colleagues,

In relation to the discussion on specialization versus generalization, I would like to summarize my thoughts with the following passage.

Frequently, we hear the claim that the “integrated approach” to music theory leads to the development of a more complete musician. In our current situation, this literally means that if you studied for three semesters (the fourth one is lost to calculating sets and drawing matrixes) a little bit of harmony, counterpoint and musical form – all in one single “integrated” book – you would gain more theoretical and practical knowledge in theory than if you spent two years in studying separately harmony, counterpoint and musical form from books written by composers or other professionals (who make a living off the creative application of those disciplines). If many colleagues believe that that is the case, I will probably not be able to convince them in the opposite. On the other hand, I believe that specialization eventually leads to greater professionalism and greater completeness in the study of music theory. 
    Eventually, one thing is certain. The deficiency of skills in the craft of harmonization severely affects one’s scholarship and undermines the development of original ideas which can only emerge in the process of “doing things”. In this sense, I believe that professional theorists cannot rely on research and verbal speculation alone, unless they are historical musicologists. But even then they must possess musical talents and  certain performing skills.

Thank you,


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

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