Friday, December 30, 2005
Music Theory with Non-Majors
Arnie the puppy dog says:
WOOF! Music Theory and Music History are two different subjects. Why try to suggest a linear path that 20th century music has followed? Didn't the 20th century bring forth a synthesis of and openness to a huge variety of disparate compositional techniques and performance practices, many of which have few direct relationships to the canonical works of the 18th and 19th centuries?
For a 20th century Music Theory curriculum, why not exclusively teach about pieces of music that lend themselves easily to analysis? WOOF! Rather than extremely complex and lengthy masterworks, why not take students through pieces in which the ideas are singularly and/or simply manifested? Webern, for example, makes for easy analysis, and his music is not too overwhelming for students new to analyzing serialism and twelve-tone music.
But why not take the opportunity in 20th Century Music Theory to introduce students (most of whom I imagine are performance majors, but correct me if I’m wrong) to music that lies outside the perceived trajectory of classicism, romanticism, serialism, etc. etc.? HOOOOWWWWL! They’ve had enough exposure to Berg, Schoenberg, Corigliano, Read Thomas, and others like them. Why not introduce them to compositional and performance techniques that they might not otherwise be exposed to? How about alternative tuning systems, experimental music, and chance music?
Which reminds me: many Music Theory and Music History courses fail to adequately distinguish between chance music (i.e. Cage’s Music of Changes) and experimental music + game pieces (i.e. Oliveros’s Sonic Meditations, Zorn’s Cobra, Rzewski’s Les Moutons de Panurge). WOOF! [sniff sniff] WOOF WOOF!
And what about music and identity/politics? [playfully] GROWL!! How do the additive processes in Rzewski’s Coming Together compliment the subject matter of the text? What does Reich do with his source material in Come Out and Different Trains? Do those pieces validate, or violate, their human subjects by manipulating and isolating their words from the context in which they were spoken?
As far as post-minimalism, you can’t beat Andriessen’s De Tijd for easily identifiable yet infinitely complex and lush compositional techniques. The same goes for almost any of John Luther Adams’s works, and he’s written some pretty informative essays about his music in the book Winter Music.
If the students get frustrated at the lack of “practicality” of their new knowledge (some orchestral musicians don’t consider knowledge in and of itself to be a useful thing) when auditioning for Woolly Mammoth Symphony Orchestra [whimper whimper], they can go back to learning orchestral excerpts and analyzing their 2006 auditions calendar as soon as they finish their essays comparing and contrasting the music+words pieces of Laurie Anderson and Amy X. Neuburg.