Friday, February 6, 2015


As of today I will move the blog to my website:  Today I announce a new learning initiative.  Read about it there.

Future blogposts will be on that site!

The First Note

Of the three Tonal Refraction books in or almost in print, each one was sparked by a singular composition whose first sound is problematic.

How does Mozart contrive to make G so uncomfortable?  How does Beethoven make A sound like a mystery?  How can a B-flat triad in root position  produce such malaise - is it just because Schumann left the 5th to the imagination?

I am fascinated by first sounds that belie all one knows about tone, about theory, about harmony.

I once asked students in a graduate seminar in Music Theory if they were aware of compositions whose beginnings made them uncomfortable.  The teacher, amazed at the notion, said aloud, "I never asked that question."  Several students could immediately think of pieces that met the criterion.

It is important to pay attention to those feelings of uncertainty.  They may yield profound insight into many of the work's odd passages:  why that articulation?  that dynamic?  that octave break?