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.


(This has also been posted on my Facebook timeline. I’d like to bring it over here as well.)

One of the things I want to do at the new gig is get students writing earlier and more. I’d like to have them read some articles to get a sense of what academic writing in this discipline is all about, but I don’t want to throw them into the deep end. Can anyone recommend good articles (solid, good research and analysis shown) that are geared more toward people who are starting out in the field? I figure if they get used to this early on, they’ll have a better sense of how to write.

Some articles/books that have been suggested include Deborah Stein’s Engaging Music, Joseph Kerman’s Contemplating Music, Leonard Meyer’s Music, the Arts, and Ideas and Explaining Music, David Epstein’s Beyond Orpheus, David Lewin’s article “Figaro’s Mistakes,” and Edward T. Cone’s article “Three Ways of Reading a Detective Story – or a Brahms Intermezzo.”


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.


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?