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?


Though I guess this is technically more composition than theory…

I’ve been thinking about orchestration lately and how we decide what notes/themes work best with the different timbres at our disposal. John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls is playing right now, and I’m intrigued by the interplay of the spoken names/words and the string writing.

Composers – Where in your compositional process do you decide on timbre assignments? I know that several of Stravinsky’s works (I’m thinking of the Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, among other things) started out life as something completely different timbrally-speaking. I personally make about 55% of my timbral decisions during the sketching and the other 45% during the final drafting, though those numbers may fluctuate (for example, I have made maybe 15% of the timbral decisions for the finale of the piece I’m currently working on; earlier variations had about 75% of the decisions made before the final draft) and are always subject to revision.

How about you?