Dissertation Diary 2014-04-28

Last week continued to be kinda blah. I did eventually get about 15 pages of SFD for the second half of chapter 2, but it felt really forced and not very good. However, I met with my advisor yesterday and have a plan for the rest of the quarter. He also loaned me a book, which I discovered this morning was exactly what I needed. David Damschroder’s Harmony in Schubert is where he outlines his new(ish) use of Roman numerals. It turns out that Damschroder’s philosophy of voice-leading and prolongation are not unrelated to mine and quite useful. He does have some ideas that I find to be a little strange, but mostly it seems like we are aiming at the same goal from a slightly different angle.

This week we have a visiting lecturer and midterns, and next week we’ll have another, so I may not get as much done as I want to.

While I’m waiting for my advisor to get edits back to me, I’ll be catching up on my reading list; I’m pretty behind. Hopefully I’ll still be able to have something interesting to say about what I’ve been reading every week.

Here’s part of what I was writing about current pedagogical perspectives that help reinforce functional ideas. It’s still pretty sketchy:


Around the turn of the 21st century, Theorists started to become interested in the pedagogy of Music Theory and books such as Karpinski’s Aural Skills Acquisition (2000) and Rogers’ Teaching Approaches in Music Theory (2004 2nd Ed) became staples in the academic higher degree curriculum.

To begin with Aural Skills, Rogers writes, “No job in ear training is more difficult than taking harmonic dictation.”[3] He advises making AS easier using a T –P-D model, making some chords more likely to be heard in certain contexts, and using harmonic dictation as a tool to zoom in and out of the musical surface, first identifying large functional areas and then adding detail.[4] Karpinski, in a section on absolute pitch, also places function in high regard, “Functional strategies are particularly important: tonal music derives a great deal of meaning from these functions, identifying a series of unrelated pitches does not promote the understanding of this meaning.”[5] Many of his ideas are well adapted and easily used with Functional Analysis, including chunking (“chunking obviously increase listeners’ ability to remember music…. listeners who chunk are thinking analytically, functionally, and structurally.”[6]) and bass orientation (“The bass line plays a central role in a long tradition as a foundation of harmonic function.”[7])

Karpinski is an advocate for scale degree approaches and movable do solfège and has many references to their link to functional thinking and hearing.

On the topic of theory and harmonic analysis, Rogers explicitly names showing function as an important job for the Roman numeral labels, “[the students] move to the next stage and put this information [labels] to some worthwhile purpose. … we can probably say that [RNs] most important duty is to bear harmonic function. … These relationships, not the chords themselves, are responsible for our sensations of tonal centers and the establishing of keys.”[8] And later, describing Roman numerals as a link from music fundamentals to harmony and harmonic analysis “…functional analysis , in turn is the link from harmony to musical form.”[9] William Caplin has written extensively on the functions of larger formal units of a piece, but also has some ideas on harmonic function in that link from harmony to form. Because formal sections that function as endings must have a cadence, it is necessary for Caplin to define harmonic functions in order to show these cadential progressions. Caplin’s definitions of Tonic Dominant and Predominant are a mix of scale-degree ideas (Predominant is based on the fourth degree of the scale) and functional ones (Dominant progresses to Tonic).[10]

[2] Michael Rogers, Teaching Approaches in Music Theory, (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2008).

Gary Karpinski, Aural Skills Acquisition, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

[3] Rogers, 120.

[4] Rogers, 122-4.

[5] Karpinski, 58.

[6] Karpinski, 77.

[7] Karpinski, 120.

[8] Rogers, 45-46.

[9] Rogers, 48.

[10] William Caplin, “Harmonic Functions,” Classical Form, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 23.

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