Robert Gjerdingen, Danuta Mirka and William Caplin

The Oslo lectures in Music Theory Pedagogy

Curious students and teachers will have noticed that the Norwegian Academy of Music has hosted a number of outstanding international scholars in the field of music theory and its pedagogy over the past several years. Between 2018 and 2022 CEMPE has organized lectures by guests, such as Prof. Robert Gjerdingen, Prof. William Caplin, and Danuta Mirka.
As part of the project “Current Trends in Music Theory Pedagogy (CTMTP)” two of the Oslo Lectures have now been published.

You can read the full articles on the Leuven University Press website

Music Theory Pedagogy: What Paul Taught Nadia

Prof. Robert O. Gjerdingen (Northwestern University, Evanston, USA)

Abstract: The teaching of harmony in the United States, if judged objectively, has been a massive failure, even though a dedicated corps of fine musician-scholars labors to impart the curriculum to eager if not always adequately prepared students. These students are taught “about” harmony, as if the topic were really about tonality or the imaginary desires of chords. The only students who can perform and create harmony at a professional level are those who learned such skills outside the academy. The situation was not always so bleak. Nadia Boulanger, for example, learned the art of harmony from her teacher at the Paris Conservatory, Paul Vidal. Even though she was not taught roman numerals or chord functions, she learned harmony as a performative art, as something to express what was implicit in a given melody or bass. The article describes what Paul taught Nadia, and how the incredibly high standards for crafting harmonic-contrapuntal musical fabrics at the Paris Conservatory could be mastered by students willing to memorize the intricacies of a centuries-old art.

Robert O.Gjerdingen, “Music Theory Pedagogy: What Paul Taught Nadia,” Music Theory & Analysis: International Journal of the Dutch-Flemish Society for Music Theory. Volume 6, # ii, october 2019, 230–253.

Cadence in Fugue: Modes of Closure in J. S. Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier

Prof. William Caplin (McGill University, Montreal, Canada)

Abstract: In the traditional theory of fugue, the issue of cadence is normally relegated to a minor role, with only cursory attention given to how cadences articulate various modes of closure within a fugue. This article offers new perspectives on cadential practice in fugue based on a comprehensive examination of J. S. Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier. Using some fundamental concepts of tonal cadence in general, including a strict delimitation of its harmonic content, a consideration of its formal scope of closure, and a set of cadential deviations, I investigate how cadence operates both to articulate formal boundaries and to realize potentialities for cadence that may not have a clear formal role. The study relies extensively on a distinction between subject-ending cadences (of limited formal scope) and independent cadences (not associated with the end of the subject)—the latter, more than the former, being responsible for major points of formal closure. I explain why a fugue’s exposition rarely ends with a cadence and consider those exceptional cases where the end of the fugue brings a subject-ending cadence. The article concludes with analyses of cadential practice in three complete fugues (in D major, E♭ major, and G♯ minor, all from book I of the WTC).

William Caplin, “Cadence in Fugue: Modes of Closure in J. S. Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier.” Music Theory & Analysis: International Journal of the Dutch-Flemish Society for Music Theory. Volume 7, # i, april 2020, 118–177.

Danuta Mirka’s article will be published in volume 8/1 of the abovementioned magazine. The forthcoming public lecture in this series will be by Prof. Robert Hatten from the University of Texas at Austin (USA), expected in the spring of 2021.

Last updated: 22. June 2020