Music Theory

 chattah juanJuan Chattah, University of Miami
CMS Board Member for Music Theory

Music Theory as a research discipline is expanding in every conceivable direction. There is a growing involvement with the non-Western canon. Diversity in all its facets is much valued. There is a fluid conversation with other disciplines accompanied with an awareness of methodological advances in other disciplines, and discourse within Music Theory that reflects an epistemological shift towards inclusion of context and interpretation.

As a reflection of these developments, the Advisory Council for Music Theory organized the session “Integrating New Analytical Paradigms within the Undergraduate Music Theory Curriculum” presented at the 2015 CMS National Conference in Indianapolis, in which a panel of scholars explored novel and productive modes of inquiry applicable to widely diverse repertoires. Former SMT President, Poundie Burstein, surveyed current scholarly approaches to form, navigating his way through the writings of William Caplin, and James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy, applying a flexible notion of form to the common practice repertoire and taking excursions onto Blues and other popular styles. Brenda Romero brought to focus various analytical approaches to world music through various case studies taking place at University of Colorado, Boulder. Matthew Shaftel investigated the music of Cole Porter via his own his model for the song repertoire, highlighting intersections between analysis, performance, and context. And I drew on theoretical and empirical research from Embodied Cognition as investigative shell to describe, categorize, and therefore more deeply understand the function of musical temporality within the cinematic experience.

To counterbalance the exposure to innovative paradigms presented at 2015 CMS National Conference, the Advisory Council for Music Theory has proposed a session for the 2016 CMS National Conference in New Mexico that offers a fresh perspective on well-established theoretical frameworks applied to alternative repertoires. The ultimate goal is to illustrate that, although most traditional musico-analytic paradigms were developed for the analysis of music of the common practice, these analytical frameworks provide sophisticated tools that may elucidate new complexities in repertoires not associated with the common practice. The proposed session will feature (contingent upon acceptance by the program committee, of course) four outstanding theorists offering a nuanced examination of contrapuntal gestures in Jazz, formal processes in Video Game music, motivic development in Pop and Rock, and dodecaphonic undertones in Film Music. Engaging critically (and creatively) with traditional paradigms, identifying their potential as well as their limits, will suggest novel curricular strategies to embrace a body of knowledge and analytical skills that maintain continued traction within the music theory curriculum.

Music Theory plays a vital role in the academic and cultural life of a young generation of students. The CMS Advisory Council for Music Theory actively seeks to establish a fluid conversation with sister organizations that share this conviction, in particular the Society for Music Theory. We are thrilled to continue to work with our president, Betty Anne Younker, who truly understands the value of expanding the opportunities for crosscollaborations, in establishing an even greater synergy between The College Music Society and the Society for Music Theory.