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Love it. There's also the issue that 'theory' often doesn't very accurately relate to contemporary meaning-making processes in music - so we're using language about music (and rubrics for describing what it does) that are less than optimum for the experiences we are wanting to discuss.

All this energy invested in 'theory' with young instrumentalists would be better redirected into 'audiation' - and the whole theory thing will unfold incredibly easily and naturally from there. If we teach children pattern-perceiving and pattern-reproducing skills first, then the 'theory' work is done. [Some bold generalisations!]


Great discussion! I agree with what you're saying, but perhaps what you are talking about with young children is not an absence of music theory but a reconceptualization of music theory from something that is formally taught through language, to something that is cognitively understood and applied through active music-making. Perhaps the theory is still there, but not in the way that most of us learned music theory through our undergrad classes. Just a thought!

Dr. RizzRazz

Hi Julie,

I appreciate your thought and it made me think about what you were saying. Still, I come back to this:
Theory is usually absent in the "thing" itself. It's a theory. It's an abstraction from the thing you're trying to understand. For example, in music, there is no perfect 5th that actually has any meaning. Even if there were a perfect 5th in a piece, which one is it? C to G? Even that's insufficient information. C to G in D dorian means something quite different than C to G in C major. Theory is imposed to try to make order out of something that isn't already there. Rules are broken all the time. Bach broke voice leading "rules." Analyzing this response (in language) theoretically won't help you understand what I'm trying to communicate. Neither will breaking apart a symphony, or even a song, into its component parts to help you understand what is actually there: the music. Only what hits your ears and makes "musical sense" in your brain—audiation.

Looking forward to rebuttals or more thoughts.

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