Dissertation Diary 2015-02-17

The past week was busy. We hosted a conference (ocgm.uoregon.edu) here at school, so that took up some of my time and brain power. I had a productive editing meeting with one of my advisors and started on the pedagogical section (at this point, I’m going to call it Chapter 3.5). Mostly I’ve been making outlines and thinking about what needs to go in this chapter/section, but I did start writing a bit too. Below, I included the prose I started on how Functional Analysis might fit into collegiate music curricula.

The other accomplishment of this week was to create a rough-draft reading schedule, so that if I don’t feel like writing I can go back and read things I’m going to need for later (and so I can not get behind next fall). If I actually cross things off this list/schedule remains to be seen, but having a list is a pretty good start for me.

I’m taking a break from Chapter 3 until I get more comments on it, mostly so I can come back to it with a more distanced view of it. I do hope to do a fairly significant round of edits on it before the end of the quarter (mid-March).

Motivation is tricky right now; I’m much more interested in shenanigans for spring break than sitting at a computer.

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Integration into curricula

I believe Functional Analysis can easily fill goals already present in the standard college Musicianship curriculum. The majority of music students use Theory primarily to further other interests in performance or teaching, and Functional Analysis is designed with these types of musicians in mind. The simplicity and additive nature of Functional Analysis was in part design as a reaction to freshmen issues, allowing students to tell me what they know and not worry about what we may not have gotten to yet. An ambitious program could use Functional Analysis for the entire Theory core program, but I imagine that it may first find a home in graduate theory review courses or theory intensive seminars.

As the name implies, Graduate Theory Review courses are designed for Master’s and Doctoral students who need some refresher on skills they are assumed to have learned in the Theory Core curriculum, most often not Theory majors. This would be an ideal place, because Functional Analysis provides an easy to learn vocabulary for these students who are concentrating on other highly developed skills. Functional Analysis can help bring Theory to relevance for these students, and if they no longer remember Roman numerals, they are unlikely to ever be tested on that again, so there is no downside to using a non-standard system.

Theory majors uninterested in pedagogy would mostly likely be interested in Functional Analysis as it works in conjunction with other, more advanced theories. I have yet to formally teach a seminar on such a topic, but in Chapter IV I will show experiments with these hybrids and extensions.

For students wishing to learn Functional Analysis after they have already learned Roman numerals, there are some short cuts that can be taken. Since most will already be familiar with some functional concepts and chord membership, many of the beginning topics (Cadences, primary functions) can be introduced as review. However, topics that are conceptually different for those who learned Roman numerals first might bear a more careful look, like P6 or reversed secondary relations in minor.

For students who learn Functional Analysis from the beginning, but then must be conversant in Roman numerals to attend or communicate with a different school, Roman numerals and figured bass can be taught as historical practices after a solid analytical foundation is built. Since Functional Analysis works well with moveable-do solfège, helping students draw a connection between root solfège and Roman numeral would be straightforward enough. Once the functional, analytical foundation is built, and the second naming system introduced, it’s just a matter of reminding students to watch carefully for chords that are different between the systems – ii6 and viiº6 are ones I personally botch consistently.

I find that Functional Analysis has many advantages. Most were discussed at the beginning of Chapter III, but the flexibility of analysis, both for personal interpretation and for amount of detail is one of the biggest for me. The logical clarity/fewer levels of remove from discussion and the flexibility make for much faster analysis, which is a plus for busy people and short attention spans. Additionally, as I will cover more in Chapter IV, the different levels of functionality provide a basis to work from for Schenkerian Analysis, now one of the most common advanced tonal analytic techniques.

Some disadvantages that might be brought up, but I believe they can be mitigated; these include lack of linearity or horizontality for some, flexibility, constrained repertoire, and simple inertia. Some find systems other than Roman numerals to not have enough vertical logic, and some may find that Functional Analysis stresses harmony more than they like. In some cases, the flexibility of multiple right answers could be distressing or difficult as well. Functional Analysis is also designed primarily for Common Practice Period tonality and it is up to debate whether it is worth spending so much time on such a small period of history at all. Finally, Theory exists partially or primarily to help musicians communicate. If some of us use an entirely different system, Theory no longer meets that goal.

We are never going to please everyone, and Functional Analysis may not be as logical to some other people as I find it to be for me. Even if it does not become everyone’s preferred system, I still believe that looking at music in more than one way is fruitful. I have already listed flexibility as a positive aspect, and I cannot determine what music is relevant to study for whom. However, much modern and pop music is related or directly in dialogue with Common Practice Period tonality, and as I will show in Chapter IV, there are interesting connections to be drawn between traditional functional harmony and how we feel function in other idioms. As for inertia, I can only encourage as many musicians as possible to learn Functional Analysis in hopes that it does become a common vocabulary for musicians to communicate with.

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