From the category archives:

Teaching music

Today we looked at the various components of a [popular] song, as espoused by Wikipedia. We picked our way through the relevant appellations and critiqued the language, spelling, and content. They encouraged me to go in and change it right now, but I declined. I gave them an assignment to analyze a popular song using […]


For the first week of my music theory course, we have focused on songs with falling bass lines. Today, we started with the so-called air on a G string by J.S. Bach. As an amusement, I quizzed what a G string was in context of a strip club, and Marcos correctly answered that it referred […]


What’s new?

March 15, 2009

As I mentioned below, it’s been a busy time — what with the end of the term and other pressing deadlines. Here’s a picture of one of them: Matias and Jenny are staying with us for a while with little Katy (9 mos) who is just learning to crawl. [Daniel is her Godfather; I’m the […]

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I realized that I spend 60 hours per academic year with the Freshman class of Music History, World Music, and Music (performance, MusEd, and composition) majors. [120 hours if I teach them over two years.] Statistically, during the academic year, I probably spend more time with this first year class than they do with their […]


The Visitors

March 3, 2009

Today my music theory class, mentioned below, started with a YouTube playback of Elizabeth (“Liba”) Cotten singing her own “Freight Train.” I was offended to read in the folk music anthology that I own (that the publisher claims that THEY own the right to, which I trust only refers to the imprint — and not […]

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What a mix!

March 2, 2009

Tomorrow in my music theory class, we start with a performance of “Shenandoah” for mandolin and guitar with 3 part harmony; after singing and analyzing “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” we will harmonize a chorale tune in the style of JS Bach. After the break we will do a group sing, with harmony of “Freight […]

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Teaching functional tonality

February 18, 2009

Most theory courses and books gently introduce the notion of secondary dominants, usual V/V, and carefully avoid musical examples that have it until that magical chord is introduced. I find that it keeps popping up and I have to be like the Wizard of Oz and say “don’t pay attention to this chord, we’ll discuss […]



February 15, 2009

I’m getting lambasted by some angry bloggers over a post I made the other day about an admissions issue. Clearly, I didn’t express myself very well. Somehow I gave the impression that our school doesn’t accept MIDI realizations of scores in their applications. For the record, all of our composition faculty use Finale and/or Sibelius […]

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Confession day

February 12, 2009

When I teach a music theory class for a year, that is about 60 lectures over an academic year, I figure that I can devote one lecture to whatever I wish, and usually it’s me. The Roger Bourland show. Today we had The Roger Bourland show. I’m not sure what it is that makes me […]


Why didn’t I get in?

February 6, 2009

A few weeks ago, an applicant to our undergraduate program in music composition emailed me, complaining that he was rejected without an explanation. I wrote him back an email that seemed to answer his questions, but I then did something I had never done: I offered him a free lesson. He came today for his […]