From the category archives:

Teaching music


February 7, 2010

Mark Carlson and I attended a concert given by the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA). My high school days are a very long time ago (1967-71), and I don’t spend any time around high schools these days, so I was prepared for a culture shock. From a school of 579 students […]

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Melodic gravity

January 26, 2010

There is a melodic principle, or tendency in melodies from the Renaissance; we teach it in counterpoint exercises known as species counterpoint. The rule I’m thinking about right now is that of gravity. After the melody leaps up––say the interval of a fourth to an octave––the tones after said leap must recover in the opposite […]

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Waking up in 7/8

January 20, 2010

This morning I woke up in 7/8. [For non-musicians repeat over and over: 1212123 and accent the ones a little bit and you’ll get the feel.] It was the Bulgarian Radio State Vocal Choir (from “Le mystere des voix bulgares”) on the Johnny Carson Show. Take a listen and focus on two things: the time […]


Hearing simultaneities

January 17, 2010

This quarter, in our Music History, Culture and Creativity class, one of our themes is the notion of aural simultaneities. We chose this word as a substitute for the more traditional appellation, “harmony.” The term “harmony” tends to call up the Western notion of functional tonality, where every (or most) chord has a function. The […]


Excerpts from final projects for M87. © UC Regents [Audio clip: view full post to listen] Our experimental class, Music History, Culture and Creativity, is now over. I’ve graded all 91 final projects. Their assignment was to write a composition in any style, for any instrumentation, using elements we discussed in class this term and […]

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I have been grading my class’s assignments where they were to record original compositions that include a drone and a melody, for any instrumentation and in any style. I have been very happy with the results. I know of no existing theory books where students are asked to compose such exercises. I think it’s an […]

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Drones and pedals

November 18, 2009

This week in Music History, Culture, and Creativity, our students must compose, record, convert to mp3 and upload their compositions to the class website. Their compositions are to feature a drone (a sustained bass note throughout a section or an entire piece of music), or pedal (as in when an organ holds down a PEDAL, […]


Cool opportunities

November 12, 2009

After decades of wishing, the composition program at the UCLA Department of Music now has a Composition for Visual Media track in its Masters degree. In its second year, we have started slowly and accepted only two per year–although we plan to expand to eight or so. And after decades of wishing, we now have […]


Embellishing the world

November 4, 2009

Last week in our MUSIC HISTORY, CULTURE, AND CREATIVITY class, we talked about musical embellishments. Robert Winter spoke at length about melodic embellishments in classical music–a rich resource to be sure. As A.J. Racy has been demonstrating Arab melodies for the past few weeks, virtually every phrase is filled with embellishments, and ones that are […]


Learning microtones

October 27, 2009

The students in our fab new Music History, Culture and Creativity class have a challenging assignment this week. They are required to compose and record a one minute melody that includes microtones. Last week one of the three teachers, AJ Racy, was on the stage with three students, a bassoonist, a bass clarinetist, and a […]