Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Theory Canon

At the Society for Music Theory conference last year there was a session on whether the theory canon is or is not a good idea.  I am on the side of its not being a good idea unless the ear of the student is already confidently aware of options.

Having learned too much too soon I had little tolerance for single pitch events as a young player: I supplied harmonies for every note, whether appropriate or not, and changed the harmonies furnished when I did not like them.

My students do not learn music theory; they learn instead to identify what they hear in terms of active overtone implications.  On the piano that is not an easy task.

And that is another gripe I have with the Music Theory Establishment:  Instead of allowing the piano to be the magical acoustical treasure-house it actually is, the instrument is used as a convenient pitch-by-numbers machine.  Can anyone take seriously ear training taught from the piano?