Music Theory

boge_claireClaire Boge, Miami University
CMS Board Member for Music Theory

During 2012, the primary focus of Music Theory Advisory Committee was twofold: 1) to research and prepare for our panel on “Music Theory in the New Millennium” and 2) to think about our focus for the 2013 conference. 

We added a new member to the advisory board: Melissa Hoag (Assistant Professor, Oakland University), and welcomed Juan Chattah (Assistant Professor, University of Miami) and Mark Lochstamphor (Professor, Capital University) to our development group. This keeps our Advisory Board growing but also retains the diversity of membership among all ranks and university types (since we anticipate that Melissa will join the ranks of the tenured this year).

The panel in San Diego was organized to focus on three aspects of music theory pedagogy of concern to most everyone: 1) the goals and objectives of the music theory core, 2) the new crop of textbooks utilizing contemporary theoretical research and recasting former top picks, and 3) the ever-increasing concerns of assessment – both within classes and in the larger political context. Each panel member chose one area to present on for 6-8 minutes, and together we worked on additional questions to start the subsequent discussion with audience members in attendance. The panel and audience had what appeared to be smooth interaction, and in addition to the general discussion, we asked if there would be an interest in a follow-up session in 2013, which would include an open exchange of “best practices” among the attendees, not just the panelists. This suggestion was enthusiastically welcomed, and we began planning for Cambridge.

Combining ideas gathered at the Open Forum for Music Theory in Richmond 2011 with the insights gathered in the 2012 panel research, we also drew on our experiences as members of the SMT Professional Development committee (involved in new and different conference formats) to propose a panel/forum on assignments and assessment for 2013. Our proposal involves a blending of the more traditional panel format with that of the open forum, committing some time within the session for open exchange and “seeding” interest tables with panelists and sample practices. Additionally, since SMT meets the same weekend as CMS, but in a different location, we plan to interact via Skype with the members of the SMT Pedagogy Interest Group, whose membership has crossover with CMS panelists and Theory Advisory Board members. We hope to continue the interaction among the CMS members informally during the following dinner hours.

This will take some intricate planning, but we think it adds an exciting societal interaction and takes some of the pressure off those young scholars who by necessity must attend SMT, but who maintain interest in developing the pedagogical part of their careers. We also hope that it will spark more interest in CMS among those SMT members who have traditionally been involved in the more specialized learned society.

We do feel that this is a timely moment for serious consideration of the music theory curriculum, materials, and assessment. With many senior members close to retirement, many new faculty still developing their pedagogies, and continuing financial and political pressures in higher education in general, we need a place where these interest groups can interact for the benefit of the next generation of music students. CMS is well suited to serve that function.

In summary, we hope that the focus and continuity of this term on the Executive Board continues to be responsive to the pedagogical interests of the CMS theory membership, while also maintaining ties with SMT and following developing trends in theory pedagogy research. This should be apparent in both our participation in the Open Forum of 2011 and our panel and blended panel/forum proposals in 2012 and 2013.

Our ability to fully serve theory at large in the coming year is admittedly complicated by the fact that CMS and SMT are meeting on the same dates in different cities in 2013 -- forcing most to choose between the two. But we do hope to be able to build a bridge through our blended conference session – one of the first of its type. It is worthy to take the risk and make the effort to involve populations who might not otherwise be able to interact due to scheduling, financial constraints, or disabilities.

We also would like to find additional ways to involve two populations traditionally underrepresented in CMS: the adjunct professorate (where many theorists will probably find themselves in the immediate future) and the discipline of Music Cognition, whose research has burgeoned in the past decade and whose insights would be of great interest to those teaching in the aural skills areas. Should the blended format be successful, this could seed a path for outreach to those populations.

And, as always, we continue to encourage all interested parties to become involved in advisory roles and all members to continue to contribute their ideas and desires concerning theory’s role in The College Music Society.

As a footnote for continuity: our report last year mentioned that we intended to propose a session in the analysis of North Asian identity in song for the 2013 meeting. Unfortunately, the scholars involved are obligated to attend SMT; we hope that we will be able to reconsider this possibility at a later time and perhaps as early as 2014.