Teaching Undergraduate Music Theory Through World Music
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Living in an era of highly networked technology, twenty-first century musicians have the advantage of accessing music from all over the world with just a few taps on their electronic devices. They are fascinated by these exotic sounds, but at the same time they find these foreign musics challenging to understand. Most current undergraduate music theory curricula spend the majority of time teaching students how to analyze music from the Western common practice era. Only a small percentage of curricula cover music from the twentieth century onward, not to mention music outside of the Western tradition. Students are not getting the analytical tools that they need from their theory classes to look at the diverse music they listen to outside of class. This essay proposes a six-semester theory curriculum that aims at bridging the disconnection between ideas taught in theory class and students’ application of that knowledge outside the classroom. Its emphasis is on stimulating students’ activity and their awareness of the value and uniqueness of their musical culture. The first two semesters of the curriculum introduce students to a series of fundamental concepts that are applicable to organizing music of any given genre or culture. Students will practice their music organizational skills through analyzing the structure of pieces from a list of music around the world, including Western music. In semesters 3-6, students will refine these concepts through applying them to music from the Western tradition. Lesson plans for teaching a specific topic in different stages of the curriculum will be included to demonstrate how the fundamental concepts taught in semesters 1-2 support and remain relevant to the concepts introduced in semesters 3-6. The lesson plans also show how the increasingly sophisticated concepts of Western music theory derive from these fundamental concepts.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Some issues with current curricula -- Goals of proposed curriculum -- Proposed curriculum: pedagogic roots -- Proposed undergraduate music theory curriculum -- Proposed lesson plans -- Conclusion -- Appendix: Selected Musical Examples