Theory Thursday

I’ve been thinking more and more about the theory curriculum and how it is structured. Nothing new there; many a theorist has given thought to the basic four-semester undergraduate curriculum. That’s not where my thoughts are lately, though.

I’ve been teaching Scoring and Arranging this semester (a class I’ve taught before many times), but for some reason during the score study portion of class I’ve been paying extra attention to how contrapuntal and formal events affect timbral choices. This got me thinking – rather than three separate classes for form, orchestration and counterpoint, how about a one-year superclass in which all three topics are interconnected? (In case you haven’t noticed, the interconnectedness of the different aspects of the music curriculum is something that has always been an interest of mine. I blame thank my first undergraduate theory teacher, Dr. Christopher Gallaher, because he was big into Gestalt theory.)

It’s a thought, anyway. What do you think?



  1. A great idea, but the trouble is that more and more curricula are leaving a separate analysis course out altogether and winnowing orchestration down to one semester, at best. And counterpoint? Why not put counterpoint in the frosh sequence where it belongs (instead of leaving it out like most curricula and many older textbooks)? Every musician can benefit from a little bit of Zarlino, but let the theorists, musicologists and composers slog through a full course of it. I love counterpoint, but in 6 years of public school music teaching and freelance gigging, it somehow never came up… where does this supercourse fit in at a public university where 1/3 of the bachelor’s degree is Gen-Ed requirements? If only high schools would do their job…

  2. You see the problems here. And when you throw in insanely tight limits on bachelor’s degree credits for funding (like here in GA – students can get *zero* financial aid if they have more than 132 credits, which means music ed degrees have had to combine courses like mad) and other requirements from legislators and trustees who think that higher education exists to provide infrastructure for a football team…


  3. For your first question, I would agree with you vis-a-vis counterpoint in the freshman year. The upperclass supercourse would be where the more advanced stuff (i.e., write me a double fugue or a mensural canon at the sixth) would be.

    And heck, I’d like to see history/literature distributed more carefully throughout the curriculum as well.


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