Sound Experiments - The Use of Four-Voice Writing in the Study of Twentieth-Century Music

Mark Sallmen

Four-voice writing exercises saturate music theory textbooks devoted to the common practice but play only a minor role in recent texts on the twentieth century. Intrigued by this dichotomy, I have gradually been incorporating more four-voice exercises into the twentieth-century portion of the core music theory course that I teach. I have found that the use of homophonic musical models throughout the undergraduate curriculum promotes continuity, thereby helping to connect the twentieth-century repertoire to its stylistic antecedents. The exercises also provide material for classroom singing, which helps students to connect aural experience to music-theoretic concepts. Further, students gain skill in the manipulation of the materials of extended tonal and atonal harmony, which improves analytic ability and prepares for composition.