"Theory and Composition" is an occasional column for Capitol Music that I'll be putting together. It is intended to give me an outlet for some of my musical thoughts, and maybe to tell you something about music you didn't know. I hope to range all over the place, so sometimes it might be really simple, sometimes hard, sometimes in between.
All my degrees are in composition, starting with a B.M. from Berklee College in 1977, an M.A. from Mills College in 1982, and a D.M.A. from the University of Washington in 1993. All that education has left me fantastically ignorant; I find I am learning things as much if not more than when I was in school. While I am happy about all the great stuff school taught, I am surprised by all the important stuff it didn't teach. So my life as a musician has been rich in learning.
Some of what I've learned since finishing school at first seems unrelated to music - like how to get along with other people. How composition is both perfectly personal and ultimately collaborative. Or how most people want something other than your music; you have to trick them to like something new. I've learned lots of stuff like that.
Or this one: being left-handed is (mostly) an advantage for a musician.
I am particularly attracted to the beauty of harmony. In all my music I am working with the tension between a linear melodic imperative and the exquisite beauty of harmony that makes you just want to stop and listen.
OK, piano players: here are some examples of startling harmony from the classical repertoire. Do you know who wrote these?
The first one is without any context, the other two I provided a little bit of a clue, but what would be the analyses? Solutions next time!