From the category archives:

Teaching music

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 […]


Students in music theory classes around the world study a kind of “counterpoint with training wheels” called Species Counterpoint. There are five species: note against note, two notes against one note, four notes against one note, a study in suspensions, and finally free or florid counterpoint. Students put their own contrapuntal melodies against a given […]


For we sentimental types who, during our last days at work, or our last few weeks at an apartment or home, or one’s last few months in a job, think to ourselves: Gee, this will be the last time that I [do something]. Little mournings, and little celebrations. After seeing my teaching schedule for my […]


Notating vocal music

December 30, 2010

When music students learn species counterpoint or Renaissance polyphony, we usually have them notate in time signatures like 4/2, 3/2 or 2/2, so the page is full of half notes and quarters–rarely will one see eighth notes. Since Stravinsky, composers have dropped the typical individual flag notation, common in Italian operas from the 18th and […]


Stretching your brain

June 16, 2010

The final project for Music History, Culture and Creativity is to orchestrate a small piano piece by Stravinsky, Satie or Schumann. The students were furious at me, especially because papers and other final exams were happening at the same time. I remember the first time I tried to “think” for orchestra–my brain hurt. Then after […]

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Being busy is

June 6, 2010

Diary entry: This is a busy time of the year for teachers. Final lectures, final exams, final meetings, deadlines for various and sundry things, parties, and grading papers. I lectured last week, the last week or the term, in MUSIC HISTORY, CULTURE and CREATIVITY about orchestration. The class must orchestrate a little piano piece I’ve […]


I have time

April 25, 2010

This week, friend, colleague, and expert in the Alexander Technique, Jean-Louis Rodrigue, visited our class to give an overview of that discipline. In the course of his overview he talked about musicians needing to come to grips with the fact that their art unfolds over time, and that we must give ourselves permission to enjoy […]

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80 new cues

March 18, 2010

Our students in the Music History, Culture and Creativity have a final project that involves providing music to a one minute clip of film, excerpted from the actual working print from which Paul Chihara worked. The excerpt is from a famous anime film and has SMPTE time-code streaming on top. The class of 80 each […]


Yesterday Profs Bourland, Stulberg, Lindemann, Dean, Snow, Rice, Lysy(s), and Loza flew up to Emoryville, CA to meet with future UCLA applicants and their parents, give overviews of our program and answer questions. Kavin and Laura were there to answer all the nuts and bolts and deadline info. This is, of course, recruiting. Even though […]


Today I lectured about what I’m now calling “chord cycles”–a series of chords that repeat over and over. In the Baroque, these types of compositions were called “chaconnes.” Composers think of any repeated set of chords as a chaconne, but historians are sticklers about that progression being a set progression. There are more arguments about […]