Although I might live to regret mentioning this in case any potential employers find the blog, there is an area of music theory in which I have not had much teaching experience.

I haven’t taught aural skills/musicianship in a while, and I’m rusty.

What is the pedagogical purpose of musicianship/aural skills? We require aural skills because – and this is not meant to be sarcastic or obvious – it makes a musician better. The ability to sing a melody at sight will improve performance accuracy. The ability to internally hear intervals, chords and progressions will improve analysis, which in turn will lead to a performance that is a better reflection of the composer’s intent.* A musician needs to hear a piece internally before he or she plays/sings it.

What is the proper balance of theory/analysis and aural skills? Whoever unties that particular Gordian knot is going to be the King/Queen of All Theory Pedagogues. Even though I don’t officially teach the Aural Skills classes at my current institution, I do incorporate hearing and singing intervals/chords/bass lines into my theory classes as well as a small keyboard component. Music is, after all, an aural art.

Fellow theory teachers – what sorts of materials and techniques do you use in your aural skills classrooms?

*Ah, yes, “composer’s intent.” That old canard.


You don’t expect a football coach to also be a musician, but it does happen:

He’s not the first Bengal with musical ties – Mike Reid was a music major at Penn State, wrote 12 number one country songs and six musicals/operas (including Different Fields, about – wait for it – a football player) – but it’s still nice to see this sort of thing.


Continuing with the theme established from last week, I’ve decided to list ten absolutely on the audition excerpts. Some are from band music, some are from orchestral music.

In no particular order:

1. Holst, Second Suite, first movement, euphonium solo at reh. 5
2. Holst, The Planets, “Mars,” euphonium solo (this is the famous 5/4 excerpt) at reh. 4
3. Mussorgsky (orch. Ravel), Pictures at an Exhibition, “Bydlo” (originally played on tuba, lies very well on euphonium)
4. R. Strauss, Don Quixote (originally for Wagner tuba; according to David Werden, Strauss himself recommended euphonium after hearing the Sousa band)
5. Gould, Symphony for Band “West Point”, first movement, solo at reh. 11
6. Grainger, Irish Tune from County Derry (great for showing off good sound)
7. Sullivan (arr. Mackerras), Pineapple Poll, first movement, beginning to reh. 1
8. Shostakovich (arr. Hunsberger), Festive Overture, reh. 8
9. Barber, Commando March, reh. B
10. King (arr. Bainum), Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite

There are many others that could have made this list (it was a tough call leaving out Grainger’s Children’s March: “Over the Hills and Far Away” because I love that solo so much; ditto the Safranek transcription of Tchaikovsky’s 4th), but these ten mark a good cross-section of the standard rep.

What do you think?


Here in the Atlanta metro area, we have I-285 (the “Perimeter”) and I-20. I-285 is a belt interstate which circles the city. I-20 runs east-west and splits the city pretty much right down the middle. Most of the lower- and working-class types – as well as the bulk of the minority population – live south of I-20 and/or ITP (“Inside the Perimeter”). Most of the upper-middle and upper-class types – as well as the bulk of the white population – live north of I-20 and/or OTP (“Outside the Perimeter”).

This can’t surprise either of my readers, but Jawa Girl and I live south of I-20 and ITP. This was not accidental. Not only is my job south of here and it’s easier to deal with the traffic, but anyone who knows me knows how not-gladly I suffer fools and rich white self-entitled people (and I say that as someone who *is* white and wouldn’t mind being rich). I like living in a diverse neighborhood. I like the fact that not everyone looks like me. I recognize that makes me a minority (ha!) amongst my fellow members of the Pale ‘n’ Portly, especially down here, but that’s alright with me. I’ve never been one to go with the flow, except for that one incident in 8th/9th grade, and in my defense I looked really good in the pastel Don Johnson jacket.

So when a local hospital put an ad on the TeeVee that said “Taking Healthcare outside the Perimeter – where people actually live!”, it got my dander up. ITP and south of I-20 get enough negativity as it is. Yes, crime is, statistically speaking, higher here. Not gonna deny that. But – and understand this is not to excuse bad behavior, but rather to understand – this area has consistently been ignored/blamed/put upon by the Powers That Be down here. It the city of Atlanta, many north-south streets actually change names at Ponce de Leon (the previous line of demarcation, before I-20 was built) so that people up north (mostly white) wouldn’t have to live on the same streets as people down south (mostly non-white).

I have a message for Dekalb Medical Center – Hillandale: People – real people – actually do live inside the Perimeter. Don’t absorb the racism and classism that have too long plagued this area.


Continuing with the theme launched in Tuba-Euphonium Tuesday this week, I decided to make a list of ten books every theorist should read at some point during the MA/MM program (or just before entering). Caveats here: 1. As always, I can’t claim to have read all of them, though at the very least I have read excerpts. 2. This list assumes an undergraduate degree in theory/composition or a solid BA. 3. Some are (or can be considered) textbooks.

And away we go, in no particular order…

1. Heinrich Schenker, Five Graphic Music Analyses
2. David Lewin, Generalized Musical Intervals and Transformations
3. Felix Salzer, Structural Hearing
4. Joseph Straus, Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory
5. Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff, A Generative Theory of Tonal Music
6. Allen Forte, The Structure of Atonal Music
7. Grosvenor Cooper and Leonard Meyer, The Rhythmic Structure of Music
8. William Rothstein, Phrase Rhythm in Tonal Music
9. William Caplin, Classical Form
10. David Huron, Sweet Anticipation

This list is going to be hopelessly and helplessly incomplete. I have tried to cover tonal music, atonal music, rhythm, form, and even cognition. The tonal materials skew Schenkerian; that’s not intentional, but even if you don’t like Schenker you have to deal with him.

Thoughts? Complaints? Addenda?