History and Literature of Music
This course focuses on the great masterworks of Western music. With scores in hand, students will hear and see music ranging from Gregorian chant through contemporary computer music. Selections span wide varieties of forms and genres.
This course will prepare students with analysis techniques, giving them a variety of forms and styles for in-depth study. It is an excellent ancillary to the beginning conducting course.
Class format consists of lectures, intensive listening, and learning to take notes for later exam purposes. Testing is largely based on identification of music heard in class, the composer and the era from which it comes. Class notes will be examined periodically to assure that all students are proficient in note taking. Students prepare and offer seminars on topics of their choice from the class, and also prepare questions for their fellow students -about the material.
Music Theory III (needs adequate enrollment to occur)
Pre-requisites: Theory I & II, or instructor permission. Theory III continues where Theory II left off, with the study of Counterpoint and 4 part harmony, modulation and chromaticism which led to the eventual breakdown of the tonal system in the early twentieth century. This material includes advanced modulation, mode mixture, the Neapolitan chord, and augmented sixth chords. In the last semester, the class will explore musical impressionism and free atonal music. Composition assignments will include a minuet, a theme and variations piece (both for piano), and an atonal piece for a chamber ensemble. Homework assignments will be given approximately every other week in this comprehensive class.
Sight-Reading for String Players
Often the most diligent students can have the most trouble with sight-reading. There are understandable reasons for this.
Consider some behaviors that are obviously good habits in the practice room:
- Being aware of mistakes and always stopping to fix them.
- Never practicing faster than you can play cleanly and musically.
- Working out effective fingerings and bowings ahead of time.
These practices can become detrimental in a group setting when you have to play an unfamiliar piece at full speed. Well-prepared students who study their orchestral and chamber music pieces ahead of time may have rarely experienced such problems. However, in the professional world, these situations are not uncommon. Sight-reading is an important skill that must be developed. Our class provides an environment where students can practice this skill without the guilt of feeling unprepared.
We put special attention on thinking of the meter as more important than individual notes when playing in a group setting. When learning new solo pieces, students in strong studios have usually heard them played several times by their more advanced colleagues at studio recitals. If they do their homework, they have probably listened to several recordings as well. This means they already know the rhythm from hearing it, and are primarily using the sheet music to learn the fingerings and bowings, rather than reading all the information from the page. As a result, metric reading skills can be under used and weaker than pitch reading.
We also drill concepts like reading by interval, reading groups of notes as "words" rather than individual notes as "letters", and reading rhythmic "beat units". Overall, we work towards a mindset for sight-reading that prioritizes different details than are appropriate during individual practice. The expectation in sight-reading should not be to play 100% perfectly. Acknowledging this lets us focus on how to make "better" (or less intrusive) mistakes and
- A bowing mistake is less intrusive than a rhythm or note mistake.
- A rhythm mistake that still fits in the meter is better than one that adds up to the wrong number of beats.
- A note mistake that is in the correct chord is better than one that isn't.
- Knowing when to "fake" a few beats and then continue correctly is more efficient than getting distracted by a short, difficult passage and then missing easy notes after it.
This class can accommodate a wide variety of student levels. Using the same strategies, the more advanced students will have a much higher percentage of accuracy, while the less experienced players can still learn to read along and play as many notes as possible without getting lost even when the music is technically beyond them.
Sonata Collaboration and Literature
No one who has listened to a performance of the Brahms E minor cello sonata or the Beethoven Kreutzer sonata can honestly call these solo sonatas with piano accompaniment. For this music to be successful, it must be played by a truly collaborative ensemble. In this class, we team pianists with other instrumentalists for an in-depth exploration of the instrumental sonata literature, and all that is required to play it masterfully. We will listen to and discuss some of the most famous collaborative teams, such as Arthur Rubenstein & Henryk Szeryng, Bela Bartok & Josef Szigeti, Yo-Yo Ma & Emmanuel Ax. Each sonata movement studied will be analyzed by the entire group; its historic context will be discussed, and contrasting styles of differing pieces examined. Students will learn how to work as collaborative teams; how to discuss and negotiate differences in interpretive ideas; and how to give one another constructive, useful feedback. Over the course of the semester, each team will master a full sonata movement, regularly playing and receiving feedback in class. Sonata partners will also perform publicly.
This can be taught on beginning, intermediate or advanced level, depending on student level. Faculty will decide which level is most appropriate for each student: new or returning. Students advance from basics to higher levels, and are writing pieces throughout the class. We hope intermediate and advanced students will apply to the Seattle Symphony Young Composer Workshop when announced. Students accepted by Samuel Jones, Director, work tog het her for about 4-5 months on a weeknight at SSO, and have their works performed by professional musicians at the ending concert. Dr. Jones was SSO's Composer-in-Residence for several years.
Beginning Conducting (Teacher Acceptance required)
In this course, students will learn how to study and analyze a full score, the basic conducting patterns for both hands, and transposition skills necessary for conductors. Students will prepare to conduct a small ensemble.
This is an advanced-level course. Interested students must have completed both theory and ear-training I & II, demonstrate exceptional ability as musicians on their chosen instruments, be able to read treble and bass clefs fluently, alto and tenor clefs moderately, be able to identify major, minor, and seventh chords in all keys, and show professional and musical maturity. Simple keyboard skills preferred but not required, e.g., being able to play 4-part harmony and do easy transposition.