From the category archives:

Teaching music

Perhaps we should add cymatics to our music curriculum.

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Sometimes I’m a bit slow. Two great musicians have been pushed in front of me lately and I don’t know why I never knew them before. Silly me. Peter Kazaras has encouraged me to investigate Bellini in terms of the way he handles dialog vs. arias. On the way I fell in love with a […]

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Being a smart musician

May 18, 2012

There is something to be said for a well-trained musician who shows up on time, shuts up, and performs their part perfectly. But when life gets challenging, working with a smart musician can make all the difference. One such “smart” musician saved my ass several times over the past week, and everyone involved in the […]

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One of the more perplexing moments for beginning music theory students are musical events that are somehow not logical. You ask: what is “logical” in music? The progression of a V chord, also called the dominant, to a I chord, also called the tonic, is the foundation of functional tonality. Every chord in the diatonic […]

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What is the beguine rhythm?

August 27, 2011

I’m orchestrating a piece for guitar and orchestra with music by Kenny Burrell for a November concert. I have learned all kinds of new juicy suspensions common in jazz, and less so in classical traditions. One of the cornerstones of western harmony is resolving leading tones [do re mi fa so la TI has to […]

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Music majors are usually good at understanding musical form, but sometimes folks who are not musicians who want to learn more about music have a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept. They kind of understand verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus in terms of “in this part they sing this and in that part they sing that” but […]

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The Nijinsky of the Viola

April 22, 2011

Last night Richard O’Neill performed my Three Arias for Viola and Piano at a concert of string music by Los Angeles Composers–all performed beautifully by UCLA faculty and student ensembles. On the first half I was surrounded by Stravinsky’s gnarly Double Canon and Three Pcs for String Quartet (1914), and the Joyce-ian masterpiece Op. 45 […]

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Having three premieres in March was thrilling. It corresponded with the end of the academic term. Daniel went skiing, and Mark and I fled the city to Palm Springs, he to finish grading a huge pile of papers, and I to veg. As fate would have it, several “chair bombs” (crises that department chairs have […]

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Today in our freshman music studies we left species counterpoint and entered the world of harmony. Four voices, fewer rules, more expressive possibilities: the students are very happy. For texts, I have, for the past three years, tried to find good online resources or public domain resources for my reading requirements for the class. A) […]

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Many of my students get confused thinking that my instructions in Species Counterpoint is “different” than what they learned in harmony. I remind them that this is not harmony, rather a systematic exploration of two-part contrapuntal textures. Two parts imply harmonies and are often harmonically ambiguous. We (UCLA) find that few schools in Southern California […]

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