Dissertation Diary 2015-04-14

This week was busy! After meeting with my advisor, I did catch up on my readings some, and then today I moved on to start the second half of chapter 2. I wasn’t planning on starting chapter 2 until September, but professors keep asking about how chapter 3 relates to things that other people are doing, so I’m going to at least try to start there. I also started working up a slightly more in depth analysis of Beethoven Op 31 no 3 (1st mvt) which will go in chapter 3, but I’m not sure where yet. In other news, my wrists are unhappy with the amount of stress I’ve been putting on them, so I’m trying to find different positions to alleviate these problems.

I’m still on the lookout for any sources involving alternative harmonic analysis tools for CPP music.

Here’s what I’ve written for chapter 2.5 so far:

Having reviewed the historical basis and usage of functional terminology in theoretical treatises, I now turn to a discussion of functional ideas in American Music Theory pedagogy. This serves the purpose of showing that the desire to analyze and teach with functional goals is neither uncommon nor new, while also showing that the trend toward functional type analysis is growing more prevalent or at least more overt. Following this survey of texts, I will introduce and comment on two prominent current methods that highlight harmonic function in a different way than I do, being Quinn and Damschroder.

[Survey of textbooks]

Functional harmony is one of those things that few people write about because everyone already knows it. Searches in some of the main music theory journals (Spectrum, JMT, MTO) return very few articles that even include Functional Analysis or Functional Harmony in the full text. Many of these are only mentioning functional harmony to say it does not apply well to whatever chromatic or non-CPP work/genre they are engaging.

There is also no easy way to search for sources of people who are disgruntled with Roman numerals: no club webpage, no articles entitled “Down with Roman numerals!” in bold letters. It is more like a secret conspiracy, when an advisor whispers, “check out this article,” or “what about this method?”

The problem with trying to prove an absence of research on Functional Harmony or Analysis is that lack of proof is not proof of nonexistence. All I can say is that most times that I try to track down articles dealing with function I come up with fewer than 10, and many of them not interested in CPP music. (There is now a growth of using functional analysis or harmony in jazz and pop music, but mostly this is still expressed using Roman numerals as the labels. More on this in Chapter IV.)

Other articles understand functional analysis as antithetical to Schenker, which as discussed earlier in this chapter, I find to be very strange. There is now a growth of music theory history interest in Riemann, but searches for Riemann still commonly lead to Neo-Riemannian and transformational theory, which is excessively complex from the standpoint of basic tonal music.

As demonstrated above, teaching harmony is commonly done from a functional perspective, and has been done that way almost as long as the idea of a music conservatory existed, and that the functional basis is commonly no longer implied through layout or pacing, but explicitly stated as Functional Harmony and using the vocabulary of Tonics and Dominants throughout the texts. Therefore, I am unsurprised to find sources for Functional ideas in materials designed for teaching, and directed at a wider audience than some specialized Music theory papers.

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