[Smt-talk] Doing music theory vs teaching music theory

Isaac Malitz imalitz at omsmodel.com
Sun Jun 1 20:12:37 PDT 2014

I think the fundamental issue is as follows:

      Mainstream music theory is "stuck" on a single model of music, 
where music is modeled as a "Pattern Of Notes" ("PON".)
      PON is obviously a good model, it has been successful for several 
hundred years.
      However, it misses a lot, and it is especially weak for analyzing 
a great deal of contemporary music.

       What is needed now is the following:
       - A head-on critique of PON, so that it is very clear what is 
good and bad about PON.
          In any scientific discipline (I think of music theory as a 
kind of scientific discipline), any model has positive and negative 
attributes. Let's get clear about this re PON.
       - Methodical discussion *at a high level* of alternatives to PON. 
Not simplistic partial models, but "big" models that address the big 
issues about music.
       - More generally a close analysis of how 
musicians/music-theorists common "think" about music, and a critique 
thereof (We need to think about how we think about music)

For some years I have been preoccupied with the above. And I am sorry to 
report that I haven't found anyone else who is truly focused on the 
above issues.
I don't claim to have all of the answers. But I think I have made some 
See www.OMSModel.com for my latest work - however a revision is in progress.

One kind of model which is needed - and feasible - is a model that is 
built around the way music is experienced.
The best attempt I have seen for this (other than my own?) is the model 
that underlies Pandora.
This is a good attempt, unfortunately the experiential attributes are 
not well-chosen from a scientific point of view.
I doubt that the leadership at Pandora has had the "musical" skill 
necessary for this. Sorry to be so blunt, Pandora.
I have seen some small attempts for models in the field of Music Cognition.
But the best attempts seem to be small, partial models as opposed to a 
BIG model.
(consider David Huron, whose work I like. But he just hasn't decided to 
focus on the concept of a big experience-based model. )

Most scientific disciplines these days make extensive use of "models".
Consider: Physics; cosmology; biology; economics; sociology; psychology; ...
It is not good that Music Theory relies on PON almost exclusively.
This is like cosmology before Copernicus !!

Comments, please .

Isaac Malitz, Ph.D.
imalitz at OMSModel.com
(I am a Ph.D. Philosophy/Logic, also a very good musician.  fyi: In the 
world of Philosophy/Logic, issues such as models, scientific 
methodology, foundations-of-science, etc are central subject matter.)

On 6/1/2014 3:44 AM, Stephen Soderberg wrote:
I am planning a series of posts on my blog Essays & Endnotes that may be 
of interest to some on this list. Those interested please check in over 
the next week or two under the posting string identified as "Desperately 
Seeking Relevance: Music Theory Today."
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