MTSMA Conference this Week

I’ll be presenting a paper at the Music Theory Society of the Middle Atlantic’s Annual Conference in Washington DC later this week (details here and abstract below). If any readers are attending, let me know: I’d be glad to catch up.

MTSMA 2011 Annual Conference

Friday, March 18 and Saturday, March 19

George Washington University

Saturday, 10:45-11:45 Pedagogy—Old and New
Mark Janello, Peabody Conservatory (of the Johns Hopkins University),

Abstract: Shapey’s Worksheet as a Pedagogical Resource

Christian Carey, Westminster Choir College of Rider University

From 1981 until his death in 2002, Ralph Shapey repeatedly employed serial procedures in his compositions. Rather than using a 12X12 matrix, Shapey employed a 6X12 array he called the Mother Lode Worksheet. Patrick Finley has pointed out the worksheet’s connection to common practice tonality; principally in its voice leading and in Shapey’s use of it to derive unorthodox non-tonal yet regularly articulated cadences. Joseph Straus accentuates the 12-tone aspects of its design, delineating its partitioning into tetrachords and the array’s near symmetry. Thus, the Mother Lode bears out Shapey’s own statements about his compositional practice combining both “radical” (12-tone) and “traditional” (tonal) elements.

After several decades of teaching at the University of Chicago, Shapey created a primer outlining his approach to composition pedagogy. The Basic Course in Music Composition doesn’t employ the Mother Lode Worksheet. But many of its approaches to manipulating both pitch and rhythm reflect the construction and deployment of the Mother Lode.

Given its flexibility, the worksheet can be a useful pedagogical resource in a variety of contexts. This paper explores three brief lesson ideas that employ the worksheet. It’s presented alongside exercises from the Basic Course in a composition class, in a theory lecture discussing serial transformations and post-tonal voice leading, and in an applied composition lesson as an example of a compositional space and an entry point for a student to learn to organize precompositional materials in a “worksheet” format.

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