If you would like to participate in discussions, please sign in or register.

In this Discussion

Most Popular This Week

    Due to changing needs and technologies, the SMT Executive Board has decided to retire SMT Discuss (effective Nov. 9, 2021). Posts will be preserved for archival purposes, but new posts and replies are no longer permitted.

    W(h)ither Music Analysis?

    In the Society for Music Analysis' 2015 Newsletter just published, there is a letter from Ian Pace challenging Jonathan Cross' rosy view of the status quo of analysis within musicology today which Cross gave in a recent colloquium in honor of Arnold Whittall's 80th birthday. Ian reflects my own views, which will shock no one, but he carries significantly more weight as an academic insider making him more difficult to igore. I'm wondering if this forum might take up his challenge here with a public debate of the issues he raises. Following is a lengthy quote, but his entire letter (pp.27-8) as well as a summary of Jonathan Cross' comments (pp.21-23) will give the full cotext.

    I have always thought of music, at a tertiary level, as a highly skilled discipline for those who have already developed and refined musicianship prior to entering university. This belief may reflect a background in a specialist music school in which, if nothing else, the teaching of fundamental musical skills was rigorous and thorough. Nonetheless, the importance of not allowing music slip to become a ‘soft’ subject requiring only nominal prior skills (and, as with much work in the realm of cultural studies, not requiring any particular artistic disciplinary expertise or extended knowledge) is to me self-evident. But with declining primary and secondary musical educational provision, frequently the extent of such prior skills amongst students can be quite elementary.

    ... [H]igher education has become a more ruthlessly competitive market with institutions fighting to attract and keep students. This is the context from which we should view the growth in many departments of types of popular music studies, film music studies, cultural studies, and some varieties of ethnomusicology, in which engagement with sounding music is a secondary or even non-existent concern. Such focus enables the production of modules which can be undertaken by those students with limited prior skills, but mitigates against musical analysis in particular.

    We now have a situation, unthinkable a few decades ago, where some senior academics— even at professorial level—have no ability to read any type of musical notation. These academics (not to mention some of their students who will go on to teach at primary and secondary levels) may only perpetuate and exacerbate this situation for their own students. ...  Expansion of musical study to encompass wider ranges of music and disciplinary approaches is certainly to be welcomed when this entails the cultivation of equal degrees of expertise and methodological refinement and critical acumen, but not necessarily when these are simply a means for attracting and holding onto less able students.

    In short, these developments in musical higher education have seen a well-meaning liberal quest for inclusivity amount in practice to a pseudo- egalitarian de-skilling of a profession. 


    Sign In or Register to comment.


    • 23 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
    • Even the best music-theoretical discourse suffers from fatal flaws, and it would probably be in the best interest of theorists to rectify first those internal failures---if that's even possible---rather than lament what very well might be a general decline in talent and training among coeval music majors and graduate students. Of course, we should expect the latter when a discipline not only struggles to define itself, but also fails to attract the best students because, among other things, it offers very few legitimate career opportunities for graduates beyond the very few academic positions that become available.              

    • I don't think music will stop because an academic laments that things are not like he thinks they used to be and thus the decline of western civilization is inevitable. The truth is that the field of music theory needs to become more relevant to the needs of the contemporary musician, not the reverse. There will always be a few small places for the academic musical theorists in university departments and the annals of history and they can be proud of teaching the cream of the crop and the select few. Meanwhile the masses will slog it out in the real music industries and markets with their uncuth untrained software, technology, approach and do the dirty work that is found in a majority of the real world situations outside the rarified hollowed concert halls of superstars and "real" artists who only meet the said commentators rigorous standands.
    • Carson,

      Evidently my use of the term 'academic insider', which was meant in a neutral sense as someone who knows that terrain thoroughly, was taken as a license to ignore his argument. Before you go any further in mischaracterizing Ian Pace and misunderstanding what the debate is about, please at least read this bio of Pace. He is not only a lecturer at City University London but one of the foremost concert pianists today and an ardent supporter of new music. He also has a good bit of practical experience in music technologies.

    • Stephen, yes I will follow up on your suggestions. I honestly wonder how many musicians, even high level professional class musicians can comprehend the articles in the Society Journal. I understand that music theory is a complex and deep subject, just as science is. I wonder, and it has been a reoccurring point of mine if music theory is not also important on a more rudimentary functional level for all musicians, not just the elite. I try my best to read the articles in the Journal and more often than not end up concluding it is pretty much incomprehensible (but not always) - my shortcomings and lack of expertise for shure. What I am always looking for is useful information that contributes to my performances, composing, teaching, and understanding of music and I am not frightened by difficult subject matter. Science is difficult subject matter and if one wants to be a scientist one must be qualified. However, the difference is there are many practical venues of employment for people who qualify as scientists. Can the same be said for musical theorists? Regardless, any intellectual discipline is important and concerned with wherever the human mind can imagine. I guess my point is in reference to the remarks I read in your post (with interest) is that the world is the way it is and changing and not what it should be. Yes, musical education in America has deteriorated, but other aspects of music and industry have evolved as well and I believe that has caused quite a lot of discomfort and debate. If Americans funded the arts as in Europe 50% of Julliard grads wouldn't be going to Europe for employment. On the other hand there are a zillion cable/satelite channels with music and some musicians are gravitating towards those avenues of employment. A musician has to work whether they are a world class artist or just an ordinary working musician like me. I'm grateful to be allowed in this group, though I'm sure many don't regard me as qualified to have an educated opinion. Music theory should also be for ordinary musicians who need practical information and I am for inclusiveness and I don't really agree with the opinion of the reference you are referring to, but understand that perspective. Music is important for all people whether they had specialized training before university or not. Not all successful musicians come out of academia. I think that is a bias. I am musically educated and I do come from an academic background of music theory with limitations. My interests are in sharing knowledge and the learning never stops. Thank you for your stimulating post.
    • Nothing about music theory---not even the ostensible apotheosis of mathematical music theory---even begins to approach the threshold of science, and theory would do very well to put away such aspirations for itself---an unlikely proposition, unfortunately, considering the current state of affairs within the discipline. 

      And this notion speaks to Carson's point: The divide between "theory-as-(pseudo-)science" and "theory-as-exoteric-and-pragmatic-tool" is a specious one because it is, in my opinion, a self-serving bifurcation based upon a fallacy designed to contextualize itself as something rigorous and disprovable---ineluctably leading to a larger sense of self-importance.        

    • We are still stuck with the same dichotomy as discussed here not so long ago, between music theory as a research matter and/or as something every musician should know. (Note that, in English, the discussion concerns analysis, not theory: it is not exactly the same.)

      The question whether theory is a science seems to me irrelevant because what it really asks is whether what at times is called "human sciences" (sciences humaines, in French) are sciences. I don't think that the word concerns "inhuman sciences" exclusively. I trust that, say, sociology, or history, are sciences, and that musicology therefore also is a science.

      Our concern then may be the position of music theory (or music analysis) as confronted to musicology. When I read that "some senior academics— even at professorial level—have no ability to read any type of musical notation", I suspect the situation may be even worse on the side of musicologists (that, at least, is my own experience).

      Yet, I don't think that a musicologist, or for that matter a theorist, needs to be a performing musician or a composer. It can be a full-time job to be a professional musicologist, or a professional theorist, and I would even add that it seems difficult to be a professional of high standing in both theory (or musicology) and practice. This is what I said to many of my students confronted to the need to choose (and I hope that they were able to make the best choice for themselves - neither direction is easy).

      Theory (and musicology) of course "offer very few legitimate career opportunities beyond the very few academic positions available", as David said. And our job of course isn't to lead our students into such false tracks. Yet, some of us at least need to specialize in these disciplines at the highest level, for two reasons: (1) such specialized levels should not disappear (or else why should we not all turn to finance, or the like), and (2) our students, even if they do not intend to follow us in our not so enviable positions, should at least realize that such disciplines exist and are of some interest.

      The question may not be as crucial in musicology as it is in music theory: after all, any musician may gain to have some knowledge in music history, and everybody would agree that this means that some might have to specialize in the discipline. I don't quite see why this should be more difficult to accept in the case of theory (which, by the way, includes the history of theory).

      The result of this, however, is that SMT, or SMA, or any such organization, necessarily are torn between their discipline as esoteric and/or as pragmatic. To consider the one as a mere "pseudo science" or the other as a mere unskilled knowledge would be equally short-sighted.



    • Two different comments. Comment #1:

      I think that Ian Pace's remarks amount to this: There is some mediocre work being done under the label of "music theory" or "music analysis".

      No disagreement with that.

      Isaac Malitz, Ph.D.




    • Comment#2:

      I think a background topic for this thread is "Foundations and Methodology" for Music Theory and Music Analysis. ("MT" and "MA")

      Examples of Foundations/Methodology issues that pertain to the above:

      [a] Is there a "core" of MT/MA that functions as a "highly skilled discipline" ? (and that also is "good"?)

      [b] Is there a "core" of MT/MA that can be characterized as a "science", and which also is "good". (BTW "science" is often regarded as a simple concept. In fact it is a soft and broad-ranging concept with a rich history. Nicolas is a capable commentator on that matter)

      [c] Can there be high-quality MT/MA that does not deal with music as "notes" ?

      [d] (an intriguing angle on [c]) When a Music Theorist/Analyst regards an item of music as consisting of "notes", what methodological assumptions are they making? Are they painting themselves into a corner, limiting the quality of their work by focusing on the "notes" aspect of the music ??!!??

      [e] At U.C. Berkeley, there is a "Group in Logic and Methodology of Science". For 60 years, that group has engaged in an examination of various sciences, with a focus on structure, methods, foundations of each discipline. Why is there not an analogue for this re MT/MA? If I may rant briefly: I am passionately interested in this, but I have not encountered anyone else in the MT/MA community who is seriously interested in this or who appreciates its importance.







      Isaac Malitz, Ph.D.




    • Stephan, I did go back and read the source material you refer to and find that conclussion absurd. Ethomusicology is a cultural study? Has anyone ever attended a Kubuki performance or Gagaku Court music or Koto classical concert in Japan? Or studied the rich diversity and complexities of African music, rhythm and polyphony? To relegate Ethomusicology to a cultural study suggests that other concepts of musical philosopy and organization are somehow not as important for a larger view and perspective of the universe of music and contrary or threatening to pure musical analysis is bizarre. I think most composers - the ones who create music are more than happy to expose themselves to new ideas, concepts outside their own culture, new things. Les Paul invented multitrack recording which changed the world of music and the recording of music that now is ubiquitous and extended as a primal concept for software and used everywhere in music industry and production. Les Paul did not emerge from academia - I think there is room for creativity outside the box. In fact the best ideas are often "from outside the box". Necessity is the mother of invention - not some stuffy idea of the importance of procedure and protocol. Furthermore, composers create music, not musical theorists. I don't believe a work of art or even commercial music can be reduced and understood by technical systematic analysis alone and in no way explains the emotional conceptual creative impetus that generstes the final music. The music of Frank Zappa is a wonderful example of complexity generated by a view of expansion of possibilities realized by current technological means - in the case of Zappa's music the New England Digital Synclavier. His infamous "Black Page" attempts and succeeds at pushing beyond the boundries of notational complexities and rhythm. Zappa did not emerge from academia. Creativity can not be reduced to mere systematic analysis and dissection in my opinion. Cage's music was influenced by his Zen studies (anothet important argument for expisure to world musics) and his interest in nature and biological science. Analysis and investigation of structural aspects of music is and always was of the utmost importance for musicians and the historical understanding of music, how it works, what it is. But to think that the inclusion of other perspectives and viewpoints of sound and music are a liberal polluting factor for the rarified world of academic music theory is very narrow minded and irrelevant in my opinion. Musicians and composers are seeking new ways to express themselves relevant to the time they live in, not guarding some narrow view of history and systematic theory which excludes ideas.
    • I concur with this last post from Carson, which is focused on how mainstream MT/MA is rather far behind the current practices and needs of composers and performers.

      Additionally, I believe that mainstream MT/MA is rather far behind what is happening in academic research, in ancillary fields such as psychoanalysis or Artificial Intelligence , that has an important bearing on MT/MA and that needs to be integrated. Example: AI is probably about 10 years away from being able to do MA that is comparable to what is learned in an introductory-intermediate class in mainstream music analysis. AI is probably 5 years away from being able to write a music-criticism piece that is comparable to the work of a professional critic. In my opinion, every serious practitioner of MT/MA should work hard right now to become aware of developments like this; these developments won't terminate the fields of MT/MA, but they will cause those fields to look very different. Soon.



      Isaac Malitz, Ph.D.




    • Carson, would you please tell me exactly what source material you say I referred to & possibly give a brief quote or summary of what was in it that you object to. Because I have no idea what you're talking about. Also, I respect that you teach privately. I've done a bit of that myself. But the topic I thought I was opening is about the teaching of theory as part of the curricula for undergrad majors & postgrads in music schools in colleges and universities – 'inside the box' if that's how you prefer to think of it, understandably albeit incorrectly.

    • The issue Ian Pace is raising is an existential one, but evidently we have to wade through 'science' yet again to get at it, losing potential participants and interested audience in the process. Those wishing to cut to the chase can just skip to the paragraph  below beginning 'I also agree with Isaac ...'

      David, I agree with you if, as I believe, you're warning about a bogus comparison between methodologies in music theory and the physical, hard sciences, as well as disparate meanings of 'theory' between the two. (However, I'm certain you know that physics is now experiencing a crisis of its own around the central notion of falsifiability since they have reached a point where a theory may be correct, and everyone who understands it agrees it's either correct or at least a viable candidate, but it can't be either verified or falsified due to the unattainable energy levels required in any experiment that might test the theory's predictions. Maybe there's something for the music theorist to learn here, especially those who claim music theories can't be 'science' based solely on the accurate notion that they are not falsifiable. But, please, another day in another discussion thread.)

      Nicolas raises another issue about bringing in 'science' to this question by reminding us that the U.S. is not the world. In Europe, at least in France and Germany, the word 'science' has been used freely with respect to the study of music long before Kuhn, Duhem & others refined it beyond the reach of natural languages. The common Euro usage here represents a long tradition (weren't philosophy and physical science once considered synonymous even well beyond Europe?) and, not only is there nothing objectionable about this use once we recognize their context, I doubt they will take kindly to any attempts to teach them proper meaning and usage of their own languages. Now toss in to all this the (U.S.?) bifurcation 'science and the liberal arts' – not to mention the question of where, if anywhere, the 'fine arts' fit into that Academic Potsdam Agreement – and the result is not conducive to a colleagial discussion.

      I also agree with Isaac – if this is his point – that any serious field that wants to encourage its health and follow its own progress, as well as guard against the intrusion of snakeoil salesmen, ought to have some regular means for objective 'self-examination'. Do we really have to wait for Alan Sokol to ride to the rescue again before we recognize BS in our midst? (Still, I do think that Isaac's mention of Tarski's Group in Logic and Methodology of Science may be unwise. It may cause a severe outbreak of hives throughout the dominant pomo forces in AMS (and SMT??) at this point. I don't want to be responsible for making anyone ill, so let's not mention either Tarski or the word 'logic' again.) But seriously ....

      The question is, how would such a 'self-examination' be conducted without threatening to intrude on academic freedom. One possibility is to have an open contrarian session at annual SMT meetings with one invited paper to focus on, or publish a contrarian column in the newsletter, for the purpose of challenging current/status quo approaches to theory, analysis and especially pedagogy.

      I understand that institutional self-examination is not high on the list of most SMT members who understandably want to just get on with a life of doing and teaching theory-we-all-know-what-it-is. (Isn't the life of the adjunct difficult enough already?) But the cost of ignoring a regular regimen of examination from within is that it leaves room for the intrusion of others with agendas that may be quite diferent from and even inimical to those of SMT and the field(s) it claims to promote. One such recent intrusion came just a year ago in 'Transforming Music Study from its Foundations: A Manifesto for Progressive Change in the Undergraduate Preparation of Music Majors', a manifesto (NB: their word) produced by a select & arguably unrepresentative group convened by the then-president of the College Music Society. It is a veritable road map to precisely the sort of scenario that Ian Pace (he is far from alone, just more public than most) is saying he has observed/experienced. It's true (AFAIK) that CMS has not officially endorsed this manifesto, however its origins from within the governing body of CMS give it a potentially overwhelming influence.  To remind you, here is a quote from the manifesto:

      Key is the identification of principles that underlie a new core curriculum and infiltrate all coursework: 

      creativity-rich, hands-on, integrative, and culturally diverse engagement with contemporary music of many kinds 

      inquiry into the past through the lens of the present 

      balance between creative exploration and rigorous development of craft 

      mind-body integration 

      rhythmic studies informed by contemporary, globally-informed practice 

      community engagement, and 

      technological application.

      This document is rife with motivational speaker jargon such as 'creativity', 'paradigm', 'diversity', 'three pillars of change', 'option-rich curricular protocols', etc., and the target for 'change' is obviously 'theory' in any connection to 'European classical' music/repertory/tradition/practices. ('Theory' is used 22 times and the evil 'European classical' 15 times - these people really needed an editor.) The entire manifesto is not so much an inspiring call to action as an incredibly extensive list of weasel words which can easily be interpreted to encourage and validate the sorts of 'outcomes' Ian has referred to as current realities that he has observed already in the U.K.

      I haven't heard much about this manifesto for the past few months, but in my experience, things like this don't go away, they go underground in plain sight. As I recall, this manifesto, to calm initial fears and objections, was to be 'discussed', not only at the recent SMT meeting, but with more easily controlled meetings with university and college music department officials with 'input' from their faculties and students. This all appears, as it is meant to, as an open, democratic process respecting academic freedom and the rights of individual institutions to define their own curricula. (The fact that it may concomitantly help to attract and retain students and increase profits is, I'm sure, not a consideration.) In business and government situations I've heard this strategy referred to as 'compartmentalized implementation.'

      While it is one of their most potent tools, administrators and their professional 'consultants' do not talk about CI openly however. There's no way to know it's happening until 'reorganization' (in this case, curiculum adjusting naturally to market demand) is officially announced, and you're told that the 'participatory process'  you bought into has 'worked' magically to match a formerly invisible fait accompli. (I'll spare you my considerable personal war stories here.)

      Now, since it is highly relevant to this discussion, perhaps someone out there could enlighten us as to the progress that has been made in the effects the CMS group's attempts to sell it's manifesto so far and its effects on music departments' curricula. How about a 'status report' from CMS and those it has been 'presenting' to?

    • I like Stephen's proposal: "One possibility is to have an open contrarian session at annual SMT meetings with one invited paper to focus on, or publish a contrarian column in the newsletter, for the purpose of challenging current/status quo approaches to theory, analysis and especially pedagogy."

      The mainstream MT/MA communities badly need to be shaken up.


      Isaac Malitz, Ph.D.




    • Dear Stephen and friends,

      I think this is something that I can contribute to as well. After all, I studied in Russia, at Moscow Conservatory and, before that, for 11 years at the Specialized Music School. All the subjects that we teach today in the US at the university undergraduate level were taught in Russia within the high-school program. That included keyboard (for all majors), harmony, counterpoint, form and years of ear training and music history. Really, some 24 semesters of ear training, before entering the Conservatory. After such training, at the Conservatory,a theory major could afford learning some "sciences", including natural sciences, or humanities. Ancient Greek, semiotics, political science. It would not hurt student's overall standing. I completely agree with Ian Pace. Even such thing as keyboard exercises in freshmen harmony class--something feared by teachers, since most students "are not pianists" --is feasible, if the teaching method is related to that old good system. Why, then, our incoming students had only "pianolessons.? And why cannot our government establish the system of pre-conservatory professional training FREE OF CHARGE? Aren's we the richest country (at least, from Donald Trump's perspective)?

    • Fair enough, Stephen. I do disagree, however, that theory's "identity crisis" is in any way analogous to current horizons/limitations in physics, and I don't see anything beyond a superficial parallelism there. (And that discussion definitely belongs in another thread.)

      I interjected---perhaps inappositely---because I feel theorists, in particular (and musicologists, in general), are usually focused on the wrong questions and problems. Perhaps the reason there exists a general "decline" in music-theoretical ability is because one doesn't really need to be a trained musician/musicologist to contribute to the field these days. (In a very tangential way, this is loosely analogous to the emergence of DAWs and workstations that have turned accountants and grocery clerks into self-proclaimed producers, DJs, and songwriters---without a degree from Berklee.) I believe my general criticisms of music theory, as a disipline, speak directly to the issues you're raising (i.e., they evince the cause of, or at least a contribution to, such a decline), but I'll honor your plea and save it for another thread---perhaps one I begin myself.   

    • Dear Stephen,

      In your original post you referenced the Society for Music Analysis' Newsletter and a response to Jonathan Cross' "rosy view of the status quo" of analysis within musicology from Ian Pace who states:

      "This is the context from which we should view the growth in many departments of types of popular music studies, film music studies, cultural studies, and some varieties of ethnomusicology, in which engagement with sounding music is a secondary or even non-existent concern. Such focus enables the production of modules which can be undertaken by those students with limited prior skills, but mitigates against musical analysis in particular."

      In short, these developments in musical higher education have seen a well-meaning liberal quest for inclusivity amount in practice to a pseudo- egalitarian de-skilling of a profession.

      I studied full coursework in Ethnomusicology of every continent and culture at the University of Washington as part of my comprehensive theory studies and it has been invaluable for me as a composer to study world music concepts.  I also played a Thai string instrument (saw du) and studied written Thai classical music. I also regulary play a variety of world scales as a normal part of my daily practice routine to expand my aural horizons.  Is that a mitigation against musical analysis?  I study music theory in order to be a competent professional musician, which I am - not to be a professional musical theorist.  I play music for a living.  I don't teach for a living, but I do teach as part of my profession and have been doing so for 20 years.  I studied music theory extensively and I have a right to call myself a musical theorist who is interested in musical theory and the practical applications for musicianship, composition, and understanding of music at a deeper level.  

      To address your other points: I don't believe it matters if one teaches theory at a university or in private if the topic is music theory and one has training and education in musical theory.  Why must the topic of music theory always be framed in reference to teaching?  Is music theory about music theory or about teaching music theory?  Can we discuss music theory without referring to undergraduates?  Did Einstein talk about physics in terms of teaching physics to undergraduates or did he talk about physics? Musical theorists should spend more time talking about musical theory and less time worrying about undergraduate protocols.  Students benefit when those trained in musical theory actually talk about musical theory, not their status and position.   

      Regarding "inside the box," I studied Schenkerian Analysis, Post Tonal Theory, 20th Century Technique, Jazz Theory, Music History of all Western Music periods, Jazz History, Early Music/ Renaissance/ Baroque Counterpoint, Jazz Performance, Piano studies, World Ethnomusicology, and Composition classes at the University of Washington as an undergraduate who was allowed to design my own "theory" program transferring in as an older student with prior experience and training. Before the UW, I studied with a prominent Los Angeles cellist - Gretchen Geber (you may have heard of the Gebers?) Edwin Geber- LA Phil, Gretchen Geber - Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Stephen Geber - concert master of the Cleveland Orchestra, and David Geber - head of the Mann School of Music Cello Studies. I also studied with two prominent Los Angeles composers - George Huessenstamm at Cal State Northridge, who is also author of several Norton publications on notation, harmony texts, and Lionel Greenburg from Los Angeles Pierce College. If you think that because I or any other "undergraduate" student in music only has entry level education you might be surprised.  

      In summation, a well rounded musician needs as much information as possible related to their craft - theory, history, cultural study, performance, technology, yes, even science aspects such as an understanding of the acoustical physics of sound, etc.  I enjoy the wonderful articles and intellectual heft of musical analysis in Spectrum, but very little of it is actually helpful to me as a musician - cellist, jazz bass player, composer, performer, or teacher.  I find a lot of the content too complicated and absurdly abstract filled with specialized jargon, symbols and terms not used or even understood by most professional musicians.  I would challenge you to ask even top level classical musicians (not theorists) if they understand most of the articles in Spectrum.  That said, I would be a fool to diminish the importance of the professional "musical theorist."  Analysis is a given in understanding music, but common sense and practical knowledge as related to music theory (for all) should not be dismissed or marginalized by elites as inferior or "pseudo- egalitarian de-skilling of a profession."    


    • BTW, I do read the Spectrum articles even when they are above my koan. Many are comprehensible and educational if I am able to understand the complexities or not. I would not diss the complexity of physics just because I cannot speak the language. The truth is that most of my theory professors were very helpful while a few seemed to think that I would only be allowed to advance through the ranks if I had the talent and apptitude for a professional theory major. And those few excluders could never answer my stupid questions - how can I use this information as a composer - what are the practical applications for music? What does it mean in simpler language? How can I use a Z - relation? But the whole affair seemed to be shrouded in mystery - I should just keep my mouth shut, do the exercises, learn the symbols to pass the tests, don't bother the professor, and if I scored higher than a 3.5 I would be admitted by Kafka's gatekeeper to join the elite ranks. Needless to say as a person of limited financial means I could only afford one measly Bachelor's degree anyway!

      What bothered me about some university theory courses was students were expected to learn an already codified established set of rules and jargon and creative investigation or individual perspective was absent in the one way discussions. The professer merely doled out pre-fabbed information to a passive frightened classroom - and I never learned much in those situations despite my burning curiousity. Despite my ignorance and limited potential for furthering my station in music theory academia, I managed to graduate with a 3.7 GPA. And I still like musical theory and I am a much better musician/composer for it!
    • It would seem that Ian Pace's comment in the SMA Newsletter has not been properly understood. He never complained against a de-skilling of music theory or music analysis, but of music education at large. And this de-skilling manifests itself, among others, in a rejection of music theory or music analysis in favor of the "broader" (?) view of New Musicology (in the US) or Critical Musicology (in the UK).

      Ian Pace complains that these new approaches to musicology, after having rejected the claims of theory or analysis to musical autonomy, are now claiming a degree of autonomy for themselves. Pace rightly says that Ian Cross portrayed these new trends "as a general broadening of the discipline", while indeed they result in a de-skilling. Cross oddly enough denounces "the narrow purview of the Sorbonne and the regional conservatories, which had generally framed French analytical discourse" – a consideration of the French situation that would seem out or place in the very British occasion of Arnold Whittall's birthday, but which of course could only retain my attention.

      The Sorbonne, during the last twenty years, opened classes not only in Schenkerian analysis, but also in analysis of medieval and Renaissance music, of 20th- and 21th-century music, of jazz, of pop music, and of non European musics (mainly from the Maghreb and the Near East, India, and China). And when Cross describes this as a "narrow purview", he means narrow in the sense that these classes still claim a musical autonomy, while they should have "broadened" their purview to gender, sexuality and race, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, etc.

      This is the real point of the discussion. Should music theory and music analysis be sacrificed on the altar of new musicology? Must we "get out of analysis", as Kerman suggested? Or course not.



    • We did analyze music in Ethomusicology coursework at the University of Washington - independence of rhythmic interlocking parts in African music, non aligning rhythmic off centered rhythmic patterns in Japanese music, complex articulations between the beginning and ending of a musical tone in Tibetan music and their notation symbols, cross pollinization of indigenous South American music with European military brass bands, the study of raga scales in India and longer rhythmic cycles and patterns found in Indian music (24 beat cycles for example), non tempered tunings in Indonesian and Thai music. Perhaps a different type of analysis, but invesigation of specific structure, technique, and conceptual musical philosophy nonetheless. Invaluable.
    • Just to respond briefly to Stephen's desire for an "update" on CMS:

      I don't know much about the internal workings of CMS, but I think it might be interesting to note a "CMS Summit" that will be occurring in June 2016 at the University of South Carolina, whose topic is "21st Century Music School Design."  (See website here.)

      Although the "Manifesto" is not explicitly mentioned, I assume it is part of the discussion that led to this "Summit."  (And although I teach at USC, I don't know very much about this event.  It mostly seems to be aimed toward deans and administrators, though all types of music faculty are apparently invited.)

    • Regarding the issue of "science" brought up here, I would just note that -- regardless of any concerns about whether or not music theory's methodology is currently overlapping with scientific methodology -- the fates and histories of science and music theory are fundamentally intertwined, at least in the U.S.  Modern American theory was born during the Cold War, and its foundations during the 1960s were laid with the ideas of incorporating a more "scientific" study of music in mind (coupled with the burgeoning interest in using computers for analysis and theoretical computations).  For more background on this, I'd suggest looking at Aaron Girard's 2007 dissertation on "Music Theory in the Academy," which traces the history of the field in the American university system up to the foundation of SMT.  And in the past couple decades, research in music theory (and the humanities in general) is generally driven by standards set up in the evaluation of scientific research in academia -- journal articles, professional specialization, publication of "new findings," etc.

      I offer this not to dredge up another discussion on the methodology of science, but simply to note that the discipline of music theory initially found its meaning (at least in part) by trying to be part of scientific discourse (broadly construed), and our current research necessarily imitates the form of academic science (if not its methodology).  Whether or not music theory is a "science" or partakes of some "scientific" elements, the discourse in the field, the career tracks available, and the way we evaluate successful careers in the field have been shaped greatly by such ideas.  And the "distance" that sometimes appears between the abstractness of professional theory journals and musical practice is thereby partly by design, an attempt to build new more "objective" theories of music, nominally free from previous dogma and common lore.  (Whether it has been successful is of course up for debate.)

      All of that said, I think the quotation of Ian Pace in the OP is a bit problematic, since it takes out much of the context of the article, which has to do with political trends in the UK, funding and tuition fees, etc.  It's very much a piece talking about the problems confronting UK academic music theory/analysis in its specific place and time, whereas what seems to have occurred in this thread is a rehash of debates about music theory that occurred in the 1960s and 1980s.

      But, then again, I'm not sure where else it can go, unless we want to talk about Thatcher and UK tuition fees.  The main other element of Pace's critique is itself a review of various aspects from the "New Musicology" debates of 30 years ago.  I'm not sure there's much new to be said there.

    • John, thanks very much for the update on the CMS project, the focus of which has now moved to your campus. This 'summit' makes it abundantly clear that it IS a project, and it's very much alive. I hope you understand that it conflicts with your post concluding that Ian Pace's letter addressing the problem of de-skilling in the UK is not relevant in the US. That conclusion would have to be based on the premise that Margaret Thatcher never talked to Ronald Reagan. But a full fledged discussion of the effects of a triumphant neoliberal dumbing down on the entire education system in the US and UK would again take us too far from our back yard here. Closer to home: As for 'The New Musicology' debates being 30 years old (true) and there's not much new to be said there (I'll grant you that), the idea that it was all settled and not relevant to the current situation is highly debateable. Yes, we're past the initial temper tantrum following SMT's parting of ways with AMS, but morphing and rebranding hides the nature of the current beast. It's sort of like shrugging that it's 1938 and that big nasty war we had is so yesterday. The present eagerness of Music Departments to jump into bed with Business Schools may be music education's Munich Agreement. But back to the CMS Summit.

      The entire CMS Summit site is riddled with the sort of weasle words the world of the business consultant and inspirational speaker is steeped in – the same sort of jargon that made up the CMS' previous 'manifesto' (whether or not CMS has officially adopted the manifesto, the Summit makes clear that they own it nevertheless and are intent on pushing it). The CMS Summit program illustrates that nothing is going to be open to debate at this event. This will be a pep rally based on TED Talks for those who have already bought into the program and want to know how they can implement it at their schools.

      For those who don't care to investigate the CMS Summit site, here are a couple of quotes, the first relating to de-skilling (in my opinion, of course) since that's the main concern of this thread (I think):

      Category: Program Content - What should we teach? ... 'If we add classes or lessons, what aspects of the curriculum can be omitted?' [weasle word: 'aspects' could mean anything, but remember, music theory is not a big seller to the kid who just wants to play the flute]

      Category: Summit Program Format (what you're going to 'experience' at the summit): 'Creativity and design thinking games' ... 'BIG ideas at a Fast Tempo (think TED talks meets music in higher education)' ... 'Role playing games (to address process issues)'.

      I have never met any of the people who wrote the manifesto or who are organizing the summit (a couple are in both lists). The same for all the presenters they list. Possibly all of you at least recognize the names, but I don't. It's become a big marketplace, so that's not surprising. And after reading the names and affiliations on the site, I'm left wondering how an event that boasts such inclusivity is missing so many key players and big institutions. I'd better leave that line of questioning alone.


    • Stephen, I just saw your response.  I wanted to say that at no point did I mean to imply that elements of Pace's argument may not be relevant to the U.S. (and I don't think I said that).  I merely pointed out that there was a larger context to Pace's argument which sheds a bit of a different light on the meaning of your initial quotations.  And my commentary was more about many of the topics brought up in discourse on the present thread, rather than the actual concerns you have outlined (which, I agree, are certainly current).