[Smt-talk] Is "White Christmas" better than Mozart K570? It depends on the model ...

Steven L. Rosenhaus srosenhaus at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 10 06:46:33 PST 2014

I teach pop and musical theater songwriting as well as concert music composition, and I include song critiquing as part of the process in the former. I try to convey the idea that the songwriter has to forego “like versus dislike” for “does this work or not?”. Too many songwriters/composers start out limiting themselves to their personal tastes without learning how to acknowledge what works in songs/works that are not in styles they’re used to or that they like.

Best compliment I’ve received after a songwriting class: “Thanks for teaching me how to listen to my own songs.” Comments like that are few and far between of course.

Steven Rosenhaus

On Dec 9, 2014, at 11:45 PM, Isaac Malitz <imalitz at omsmodel.com> wrote:

> I would like to explore the following comments by Timothy Chenette a little further:
> "I was very proud that I “relativized” my teaching of voice leading last year by having my students analyze and discuss a sacred harp piece that used parallels, “inappropriate” doublings, etc. But still, somehow, they left the course still with the idea that “old music was written according to rules, but in modern rock, pop, and jazz music people just do what sounds good.” If people can’t see the connections between what I’m teaching (usually old music) and the music they know best (usually rock and pop), that’s a big problem."
> I think the core issue can be made very clear as follows. Suppose you were to present the following two pieces to Prof Chenette's students:
> [a] Mozart Piano Sonata K570, Mvt 1 played by Mitsuko Uchida
> [b] White Christmas, sung by Bing Crosby
> I would expect that many students would enjoy [b] considerably and would find [a] to be a big yawn.
> (Perhaps I should use something not-so-antiquated for [b], but gee it's Christmas. Many good items of contemporary pop music could be used instead in [b]. Perhaps something from Prince's new albums)
> Of course from a conventional technical point of view, K570 is far superior to White Christmas.
> But is there any way to rationalize a preference for [b] (other than dismissing certain listeners as naive or unmusical or ...) ?
> I think there is:
> There are two different musical models that can be applied to [a] and [b].
> - A conventional academic note-centric model will effectively lead to a preference for [a]
> - However a model which is focused on the experience of music (e.g. OMSModel.com) will tend to prefer [b]
> [brief rant] I can't understand why many professional musical theorists continually try to stretch and distort conventional theory to apply to contemporary music (pop, jazz, serious contemporary, ...). [end of rant]
> I could elaborate on the above, but I'll wait for comments.
> Isaac Malitz
> imalitz at OMSModel.com
> www.OMSModel.com
> 818-231-3965

Dr. Steven L. Rosenhaus
E-mail: srosenhaus at earthlink.net
Tel: 718-268-8906
URL: https://files.nyu.edu/slr3/public/

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