Something happens in the third semester of music theory. Sometimes it’s early in the semester, sometimes it’s later in the semester, depending on which book (if any) you’re using and how the class is overall. Currently, it’s happening right now for my Theory III kids this year.
It’s the point where we’ve cleared most of the *conceptual* framework and can start getting more into analyses and study of entire pieces. There are still concepts to cover (extended chords, other modulatory techniques, etc.), but most of the puzzle pieces are in place. We can move into analysis that transcends the descriptive and start thinking in terms of prescriptive; that is to say, we can start applying what the analysis yields to actual performance.
For various reasons, most books/sequences use German Lieder as the springboard into this new analytical world. There are piano pieces, chamber works, and symphonic works that could show these concepts equally well, but it is almost always Lieder that we use. Part of this is because there are so many songs out there; you could get the entire third semester and a good hunk of the fourth just with four composers (Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Schoenberg for the fourth). Part of it is because you can bring in text for discussion, taking things out of the realm of absolute music and into something more programmatic. And part of it is simply because it’s just so wonderful. Schumann’s cycles especially do such a great job at showing the totality of human emotion.
I leave you with a video. This is tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Graham Johnson with what is my favorite Lied – Robert Schumann, Myrthen, Op. 25, no. 1, “Widmung.” Du meine Seele, du mein Herz…
Pedagogical question this week: How many of you out there in Theoryland incorporate what the students are doing in lessons/ensembles on a regular basis? I’m always looking for ways to do that. I believe the more the students can do theory on their instruments/in their voices, the more likely they are to understand the concepts.
For today, since Conference Submission Deadlines are approaching, I thought I’d throw it open to the readers and solicit your advice on getting papers into conferences.
A few years back, I had the opportunity to hear a paper at SMT about this very topic. I recently rediscovered the handout, which is in a place of honor at the office. Since I have a couple of papers I’m prepping and need to get the proposals done fairly soon, I’ve been thinking about the submission process. You all know that this is not one of my more successful endeavors, though after hearing from some Big Time Theorists who haven’t gotten papers into SMT in nearly seven years I feel much better about all those rejections.
Here’s what I try to do:
(1) Read the call for papers.
(2) Reread the call for papers.
(3) Reread the call for papers.
(4) Write an abstract/submission that gives a lot of information, but doesn’t give away the ballgame.
(5) Edit said abstract.
(6) Reread the call for papers.
(7) Attach examples/bibliography/other requested materials.
(8) Make sure all identifying metadata is gone.
(9) Reread the call for papers.
I have submitted – and am optimistic that it will come to pass – a proposal for a new course. This will be an undergraduate music theory seminar. First topic: 20th century analysis. I recognize this is an involved topic, so I’m trying to think of ways to narrow it slightly.
By way of background, our students get a rudimentary knowledge of atonality and 12-tone music in the second half of Theory IV. I also add a little bit of minimalism into the mix, and the year always ends with an in-class performance of In C.
These are what I’d like you, Gentle Reader, to think about:
(1) Given a seminar for undergraduates, what topics do you think are appropriate? An overview of techniques that would help them with the totality of 20th/21st century music, or paring it down to one to three ideas and working the heck out of them?
(2) The class will meet twice a week for 100 minutes at a time. I am thinking that, say, Tuesday meetings will feature discussion of the readings and Thursday meetings will feature analysis projects. Thoughts?
(3) Any recommended books/articles? I do like Miguel Roig-Francolí’s Understanding Post-Tonal Music, but I will admit to a certain bias: Miguel was and is a faculty member at CCM, and was both on my dissertation committee (and always helpful and appreciated) as well as a colleague for a year.
(4) I remember taking Danny Mathers’s Copland seminar at CCM back in 2000, and the seminar included a performance component (though added after the fact and at the instigation of the students in the seminar). Do you think a seminar such as this would benefit from a performance component?
I look forward to the discussion.
There may be more to this tomorrow, though tomorrow is an insanely long day and I don’t know if I’ll have time to update the blog. (I have been doing better lately!)
I’ve been working on some analyses of The Rocky Horror Show. I was originally going to do it through the prism of queer theory and the “othering” of the aliens vis-a-vis the humans, but it’s looking more and more like a Baudrillardian simulacrum might be the operative model. Of course, this is not new for me, as my work on Susannah used Baudrillard as well.
My fear is that, because I understand the Baudrillardian approach, I’ll try to shoehorn everything I analyze into that. So I ask you, Gentle Reader, to help me keep my focus.
More bulletins as events warrant.
The local PBS station (which seems to be very good) has been showing the Metropolitan Opera’s most recent production of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Tonight is opera number three, Siegfried.
As most of you music types know, Wagner was a big fan of the Leitmotiv, or motive connected to a person, place, thing or concept. The Ring uses tons of these, but they’re probably used to the fullest in Tristan und Isolde. Like a development section, the interaction of the Leitmotivs with each other show the evolution of the plot and of the characters. Many theorists and musicologists have charted these motives; I encourage the reader to seek out some analyses.
I’ve taught one session of every class I will be teaching this semester. So far so good, though getting through the syllabus took longer than I would have liked.
Teaching aural skills for the first time in a *very* long time now. Scared, but excited as well. Good to stretch out and get some experience with what may be the single most important part of the undergraduate theory curriculum. Plus, given the textbook I use for Form and Analysis and what I can see doing with Counterpoint, I may redefine the AS curriculum as an ongoing thing rather than just the four-semester basic undergraduate sequence. Ideally, you never stop using these skills.
(I guess this technically qualifies as Theory Thursday!)