A Different Species of Counterpoint

Author(s): 
Justin London
Volume: 
12
Year: 
1998
Material: 
Abstract: 

FROM THE CLASSROOM A Different Species of Counterpoint by Justin London A few years ago my colleague here at Carleton College, Stephen Kelly, wrote an article for the College Music Society newsletter about effective teaching in the music history classroom. In that article Steve makes a convincing case that the best way to teach music history is to have students "do music history and be music historians, rather than just accumulate facts and observe scholarly controversy about the music of the past" (CMS Newsletter (March 1992), 1). In a similar fashion I believe that the best way to teach music theory is to have our students do music theory and be music theorists, rather than just learn about music theory, and be told how various pieces of music purportedly work. Of course, the special challenge for the theory teacher is that we are not only engaged in the teaching of music theory, but also the teaching of the prerequisite skills necessary for any analysis or theoretical work - score reading, score hearing (i.e., solfegge and ear training), the fundamentals of tonal syntax, and so forth. And by the time we have finished with these fundamentals there is no time left to have any fun with them, to use them to do some real theory (or so one would think). One can, of course, ask whether or not all of these fundamentals are truly necessary. But one may also try and combine the acquisition of various skills and basic concepts with the activities of making and critiquing music theory. What follows is intended to be an example of such a synergistic lesson.