Editor's Message

  1. Twentieth Anniversary Plenary Session (1977-97)

  2. Virtual Poster Session: A Note from the Manager

[Contents of vol. 4.2]

1. Twentieth Anniversary Plenary Session (1977-97)

This issue of MTO is devoted to the papers delivered at the Plenary Session of last year's annual SMT meeting, held in Phoenix. The session carried the title Music Theory: Practices and Prospects, and consisted of an introduction, given by then president Joseph Straus, and six invited papers, by Robert D. Morris (Eastman School of Music), Patrick McCreless (University of Texas, Austin), Judy Lochhead (SUNY, Stony Brook), Richard Cohn (University of Chicago), Joel Lester (Mannes College of Music), and Janet Schmalfeldt (Tufts University), the Society's new president.

As Straus pointed out in his introductory remarks, a review of a relatively small number of dominant research directions in 1997 was no longer possible, as it had been at the Plenary Session held ten years earlier at the Eastman School. Research initiatives and the types of music studied have broadened considerably over the past decade, reflecting new music-theoretical and anlytical interests stimulated in many cases by interdisciplinary studies, which have provided fresh insights and new research paradigms. In its diversity, vitality, and openness to future possibilities, the Society has never been in better intellectual health.

Schmalfeldt points out a number of innovative approaches in music analysis that have enriched and opened doors for our field. In "Keeping the Score," she praises the work of several authors (among others, Maynard Solomon, Susan McClary, Lawrence Kramer, Carolyn Abbate, Jeffrey Kallberg, Marion Guck, Marianne Kielian-Gilbert) as being tremendously creative and having a liberating effect on music theory. While acknowledging the value for music analysis of taking cultural and social issues into account, and arguing that it is precisely such music-analytical innovations that have stimulated and benefitted us most significantly in the recent past, she maintains nevertheless that "we theorists have not only the right but the obligation to 'keep [to] the score'," without feeling the need "to apologize for our interest in close readings of musical scores," or "to justify our love of musical details, our endless fascination with compositional craft and musical coherence."

Richard Cohn's essay on "Music Theory's New Pedagogability" discusses breaking down barriers between introductory teaching of music theory and scholary research, thereby broadening the content of such teaching by breaching boundaries between different repertorial segments of Western art music, art music and popular music, and between music and other human activities. Joel Lester reminds us in "How Theorists Relate To Musicians" of missed opportunities in making connections with performers, and cautions of the consequences of an ivory-tower mentality. Indeed, if such a mentality continues, Lester warns, it could lead to a crisis in the training of the next generation of musicians. "We must find ways of communicating with other musicians," he writes, "not merely by announcing our positions, but by engaging other musicians on level playing fields." Related to Lester's concerns is Judy Lochhead's discussion of the kind of language we employ as theorists. In "Retooling the Technique," based on writings of philosophers Martin Heidegger and Don Ihde Lochhead urges a rethinking of fundamental terms, concepts, and symbols in order to achieve a technical language "retooled to meet the demands of the experiential turn of the twentieth century," one that builds upon "the practical terms of experiential engagement," both in the making of and listening to music.

McCreless, a past president of SMT, widens the scope of our concerns as theorists beyond our own comparatively small academic group, and even beyond that of musicians to encompass the larger community of the educated and cultivated. In an enlightening "thought experiment," where music theory is imagined as the hub of the world, McCreless alerts us to our insularity. To what extent, he asks, is our work just for ourselves, and to what extent for others. "We will do well," he counsels, "not only to reach out to expand our world of music theory, but also to reach out into the world--whether of performers, other musical scholars, other scholars, or members of other musical communities--through music theory."

Among these thought-provoking Plenary Session contributions, Robert Morris's "Introduction to Panorama of Music Theory, 1987-97" stands out as being the most novel. It is a musical composition played while several recorded speakers offer a ten-year retrospective of music theory by reading selected quotations--all salient thoughts and ideas-- excerpted from the music-theoretical literature published since 1987. Morris's work has been prepared by Aleck Brinkman, Networking Committee Chair, in two versions, both Real Audio files, one for high-speed reception (ISDN or T1 connection for best results), the other for low-speed reception (28.8 modem connection).

I am pleased to have the opportunity to publish the 1997 Plenary Session papers and hope that our readers enjoy and are stimulated by them. In the retrospective spirit that is gradually taking hold of our consciousness as we approach the end of a millenium, perhaps the ideas and challenges put forward by the authors will inspire us to explore new avenues of pedagogy, angles of research, connections with performance, and conceptual and verbal modes as ways of reaching out to surrounding communities, scholarly, musical, and otherwise.

Back to Menu

2. Virtual Poster Session: A Note from the Manager

Submitted by Dave Headlam, VPS Manager

I am happy to take over the SMT Virtual Poster Session from my predecessor, William Renwick, whom I thank along with Lee Rothfarb and Aleck Brinkman for giving me this opportunity. I have been working with multimedia, first in CD-ROM development then for the WWW, for a couple of years and I am very interested in finding solutions to the problems of creating effective presentations of musical materials for both pedagogical and research purposes on the Web. With the multiple platforms and different levels of access out there it is a challenge to make materials in as widely accessible yet sophisticated formats as possible. I'd like the VPS to be a place where interested readers go to find information and solutions as well as demonstrations of materials, and the latest in people's ideas for effective use of the computer in music research and teaching. I've put up an initial project: a sample on-line homework assignment, using Macromedia Director. I look forward to hearing from as many people as possible with ideas for the site. The Virtual Poster Session is a WWW forum for sharing work in progress and techniques for designing effective pedagogical and research presentations on the Internet. This site is open to anyone who wishes to demonstrate or learn about multimedia options for musical materials, including sound files, animation, Java Applets, Macromedia Director movies, and digital video. Please address questions or comments to Dave Headlam, vps-manager@smt.ucsb.

Visit the VPS at http://locutus.esm.rochester.edu/~dhlm/vps

Dave Headlam, VPS Manager

Back to Menu

[Contents of vol. 4.x]

Lee A. Rothfarb, General Editor
Music Theory Online
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-6070

voice: (805) 893-7527 (with voice mail)
fax: (805) 893-7194

Updated 03 July 2013
Brent Yorgason