Uncovering and Teaching the Process of Analysis to Undergraduate Music Theory Students
This article reports on the results of a three-year teaching and learning inquiry into pedagogical strategies for music analysis in a second-year required music theory course. I used Pace and Middendorf’s Decoding the Disciplines framework as the starting point for the development of a general theory of expert processes of music analysis, and then applied my theory in four pedagogical revisions, two of which were in-class activities and two of which were out-of-class activities. I posit that expert music analysts include performance, listening, contemplation, and revision as part of the process of music analysis, and that music theorists typically include additional elements: gathering musical evidence, formulating an argument, and sharing finished analyses with peers. For each of my four targeted areas for revision, I describe each pedagogical strategy, discuss my revisions, and evaluate the impact of the change on student learning. I conclude with thoughts about how a focus on the process of music analysis rather than the finished product might encourage greater equality and diversity amongst music theory instructors and students alike, and foster both more musical analyses and more musical classroom environments.
Research in teaching and learning is often inspired by observations of particular challenges encountered in one’s own classroom.1This research was completed as part of the Collaborative Humanities Redesign Project (https://cte.ku.edu/chrp) and I am grateful to the support and feedback from all my colleagues in the project, in particular Dan Bernstein and Deandra Little, and to the students I taught during the project. I would also like to thank Brian Alegant for his thoughtful comments on drafts of this paper. In my undergraduate theory courses, an all-too-common observation was that of students struggling with the task of musical analysis, as they frequently submitted analyses that might be informally characterized as “unmusical.” Seeking to uncover their analytical processes, I would ask them: did you play it? did you listen to it? The reply was often no. Why, I wondered, aren’t they doing what I would do?
On reflection, I realized that I had assumed my expertise as a music analyst was a given, forgetting that novice learners do not share my learning and skills. In the classroom, I presented musical analyses as completed products by asking students to submit finished work and then offering feedback by showing them the answers that an expert would obtain. Rarely did I address the process of how to achieve those right answers. Students didn’t use my analytical processes because I hadn’t taught them explicitly.
To address this teaching challenge, I embarked on a three-year teaching and learning inquiry to investigate first, what an expert process of music analysis might entail, and second, how to teach it effectively to undergraduate music theory students. I developed a theory of an expert process of musical analysis by using strategies derived from the Decoding the Disciplines framework, a model for pedagogical interrogation and innovation pioneered by David Pace and Joan Middendorf2David Pace and Joan Middendorf, eds., Decoding the Disciplines: Helping Students Learn Disciplinary Ways of Thinking New Directions in Teaching and Learning 98 (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004). For more on bottlenecks specifically, see Joan Middendorf and Leah Shopkow, Overcoming Student Learning Bottlenecks (Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2017). . Then, I applied this knowledge over three years of teaching the same second-year music theory course (the third in a four-semester required sequence), redesigning, refining, and assessing the effectiveness of my pedagogical practices through evidence-based analysis of student learning. This article summarizes my pedagogical project by proposing a theory for the expert process of music analysis and then demonstrating its pedagogical application through four teaching strategies, two based in the classroom and two based out of the classroom. These strategies can be adopted, wholesale or in part, by instructors interested in enhancing their teaching of music analysis. However, this article is equally beneficial to instructors who seek new methods of self-inquiry in teaching, as I explain specific strategies to evaluate the connection between teaching and student learning in the music theory classroom. Finally, woven throughout the discussion are questions and comments about how my strategies for teaching music analysis also fostered diversity of thought, both within the classroom among students and in academia among theory instructors. I will return to this thread in the conclusion of the article.
I. Decoding Music Analysis
The Decoding the Disciplines framework is a seven-step process (shown in Example 1) that is meant to address the gap between expert and novice problem-solving strategies for what Pace and Middendorf term “bottlenecks to student learning.” A bottleneck can be large or small, course-specific or common within or across disciplines, but it must be something with which learners typically struggle3. For more on bottlenecks specifically, see Joan Middendorf and Leah Shopkow, Overcoming Student Learning Bottlenecks (Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2017). Using the Decoding the Disciplines framework in its entirety can be an effective way to uncover one’s own expert processes, develop strategies for teaching them, and then testing the effectiveness of those strategies4Scholars in various disciplines have reported on their use of the Decoding the Disciplines Framework; see the project’s website (http://www.decodingthedisciplines.org) for an up-to-date bibliography. In music, J. Peter Burkholder has reported on his experiences decoding the discipline of music history in “Decoding the Discipline of Music History for Our Students,” Journal of Music History Pedagogy 1, no.2 (2011): 93-111. However, in this project I found that the earlier steps were most helpful for uncovering my own expert process of music analysis, and that following the later steps explicitly was not a necessary part of my teaching and learning inquiry.
Example 1. Decoding the Disciplines steps. (adapted from Pace and Middendorf 2004):
1. Define a bottleneck to student learning.
2. Uncover the mental task(s) an expert uses to overcome the bottleneck.
3. Model tasks for students.
4. Offer students practice and feedback.
5. Motivate students and lessen their resistance to the bottleneck.
6. Assess student mastery of the process.
7. Share insights with a scholarly community.
I selected music analysis as my bottleneck, and engaged in deep reflection alone and with colleagues to complete step two of the Decoding process: uncovering what an expert would do to solve the bottleneck. This step may seem obvious, since in order to teach expert processes of music analysis, one needs to know what to teach. But given that the process of analysis was often hidden in my classroom, it was also the case that expert processes of analysis were hidden from me as the instructor. A particularly effective way of revealing expert processes is to participate in a formal “Decoding Interview” where the investigator is asked questions by non-experts about what they do to overcome the bottleneck. For instance, in my own Decoding Interview with a psychology professor with little musical background, I began by describing analysis as putting Roman numerals on chords, which immediately led to questions about what chords were, what the Roman numerals stood for, and how one “puts” Roman numerals on something. As I continued self-inquiry after my Decoding Interview, I realized that the process of music analysis was far more complicated than I had originally thought, a common realization since most experts have forgotten the many steps in their own learning that led to the development of expertise in a discipline5Pace and Middendorf, Decoding the Disciplines, 5.
After my Decoding interview and much further reflection, I now posit that expert analysts do not complete their best musical analyses simply by looking at the score, pencil in hand, and making a few one-off annotations. Instead, they typically engage in some or all of the following tasks, in any order:
- listening to the music, either a live performance or a recording or both
- comparing the musical language with previously learned norms for that style, genre, composer, etc.
- playing and singing the music from the score or from memory, likely at the piano but potentially on another instrument
- playing and singing simplified versions of the music, perhaps just the chords or a deeper-level reduction (again, likely at the piano but potentially on another instrument)
- auralizing (hearing in one’s head) the actual music or a simplified version
- writing annotations on the score such as Roman numerals, form markings, metric pulse layers, etc.
- revising analytical decisions, both in the moment of first analysis, and in future engagements with the music
The steps above are likely held in common across musical disciplines and for various analytical purposes and would be sufficient for me if I were preparing an analysis to teach in an undergraduate classroom. However, different disciplines and purposes include additional steps. Professional music theorists, for instance, often use music analysis to build theories about music, using analytical findings as evidence for larger claims. In these cases, an expert music analysis also includes the following elements, again, in any order:
- developing a theory
- seeking supporting evidence in the music, via analysis
- writing about the work in prose, usually with the aim of sharing with others
- performing the analysis in some way, whether literally using an instrument, or figuratively within a public presentation or an article for publication
Analysts with different end goals, such as performance or composition, might replace these steps with others. This variability in the process suggests that attention to the process and purpose of musical analysis can encourage pedagogical and disciplinary diversity in the undergraduate music theory classroom, a point to which I will return at the end of the paper. But regardless of the ultimate purpose of a music analysis, the expert process of music analysis I posit demonstrates that music analysis is not simply a question of looking at a score. It includes a range of ways of engaging with music that unite numerous musical activities: performance, listening, composition, consideration of cultural and historical context, revision and reconsidering, sharing with others, and more.
As a result of this discovery, I now think of this expert process of music analysis as an engagement with my “whole musical self,” an inclusive practice that includes listening, singing, playing, composing, and sometimes movement, as well as the more intellectual (and often silent) practices of thinking about music from various disciplinary perspectives and looking at a score. This conceptualization is different from the connection between mind and body often emphasized in discussions of performance anxiety, musicians’ physical and mental health, and performance pedagogy6See for example the report from the Music Teachers National Association and the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Association 2012 Wellness Symposium in MTNA e-journal 4 no.1 (September 2012), Susan Bruckner’s The Whole Musician, 4th ed. (Santa Cruz, CA: Effey Street Press, 2008), or workshops like that offered by the group Whole Musician (http://www.wholemusician.net/). , but perhaps could be connected to the eighteenth-century partimento tradition’s integration of music theory and performance practice and its recent revival in some music pedagogy circles7. See Giorgio Sanguinetti, The Art of Partimento: History, Theory, and Practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), Robert Gjerdingen, Music in the Galant Style (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007) and Robert Gjerdingen, ed., Monuments of Partimenti, http://faculty-web.at.northwestern.edu/music/gjerdingen/partimenti/index.htm For me, these discoveries serve as a reminder that music theory pedagogy is connected to other musical pedagogies, and that the study of music is a complex one that spans a lifetime. My specialized training as a music analyst comes not just from courses in music theory but is dependent on my training from a young age in piano, voice, ensemble playing and singing, composition, keyboard harmony, musicianship, conducting, history, and critical listening—a list that spans all of the required courses in a standard conservatory-style musical education. While it is not my intent to enter the debate on what a university music curriculum should look like in the 21st century8For one view, see Elizabeth Marvin, “The Core Curricula in Music Theory: Developments and Pedagogical Trends,” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 26 (2012): 255-263. Another is the so-called “CMS Manifesto”; see David Meyers, Patricia Shehan Campbell, Juan Chattah, Lee Higgins, Victoria Lindsay Levine, Timothy Rice, David Rudge, Ed Sarath, “Transforming Music Study from its Foundations: A Manifesto for Progressive Change in the Undergraduate Preparation of Music Majors,” Report from the College Music Society Task Force on the Undergraduate Music Major, http://symposium.music.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=11118:transforming-music-study-from-its-foundations-a-manifesto-for-progressive-change-in-the-undergraduate-preparation-of-music-majors&Itemid=126. Responses from music theory can be found in Jennifer Sterling Snodgrass, “Integration, Diversity, and Creativity: Reflections on the ‘Manifesto’ from the College Music Society,” Music Theory Online 22, no. 1 (2016), http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.16.22.1/mto.16.22.1.snodgrass.html; and Juan Chattah, Melissa Hoag, Steven Laitz, Elizabeth Sayrs, and Jennifer Sterling Snodgrass, “Reflections on the Manifesto,” College Music Symposium 56, https://symposium.music.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=itemlist&task=category&id=287:reflections-on-the-manifesto&Itemid=126. The original CMS report has been refined and updated in Edward W. Sarath, David E. Meyers, and Patricia Shehan Campbell, Redefining Music Studies in an Age of Change: Creativity, Diversity, and Integration (New York: Routledge, 2017). , I note that a broad musical education appears critical to success in specialist musical fields, and also that the activity of music analysis is an intellectual task that includes both music theory and numerous other musical disciplines.
Returning to my own classroom, I realized that many of these processes for music analysis were hidden from students. Rather than designing activities that encouraged students to follow an expert process of musical analysis or demonstrating how the process of music analysis could combine and integrate students’ musical studies, I tended to present analysis as a finished product with right and wrong answers that, presumably, could only be gleaned through careful study and application of music theories and concepts. Any mentions of the diversity of musical skills that feed into an expert analysis were haphazard and unplanned. However, baseline observations of my teaching by colleagues before the project began revealed that my classroom environment was an engaging one, with elements of a flipped classroom, lots of group activities, dedicated time for in-class problem solving and professor feedback, and empathy for novice experiences. I emphasized activities such as listening and singing and was fortunate to teach many of my theory classes in a piano lab where students could use keyboards for assignments and activities. Over the three-year span of the project, I used these solid foundations to focus on four pedagogical revisions, two in the classroom and two out of the classroom. As a group, these revisions make the expert process of analysis visible for students, provide them with numerous learning opportunities for practice and integration, and offer inspiration to music theory instructors interested in achieving similar aims in their own classrooms.
II. Analytical Processes in the Classroom: Think-Aloud Lectures and Peer Learning
The first in-class area I addressed was my content delivery during class. My standard pedagogical practice had been to use lecture only sparingly. I sometimes drew from flipped classroom design by assigning readings or videos to students before a class period focused on problem-solving and application. At other times I gave a brief summary of a concept at the start of class before transitioning to individual or group activities that allowed students to practice, make new insights, and refine and deepen their knowledge while I offered feedback. With regard to music analysis specifically, before this project began I tended to follow one of two strategies. Sometimes I would start a class by giving students excerpts for analysis in groups, playing each example a couple of times before allowing students to collaborate and discuss their work with each other as they proceeded with the task, and then concluded the class by talking through a “correct” analysis, perhaps listening to the piece once more. A second strategy I used was to assign students a piece or excerpt to analyze for homework, and then begin the next class with a lecture discussing the answers as they were displayed, highlighting particular moments of difficulty and fielding questions from students.
While all of these strategies include elements of my expert process (mainly listening and discussion with peers that might include revision), most of the process of analysis is still hidden. I decided to add short lectures to some classes to demonstrate the process of music analysis in a “think-aloud” style9Think-aloud protocols have been used in computer science and cognitive research, where subjects are asked to speak their thought processes aloud for the purposes of modeling artificial intelligence or to understand subject behaviors more deeply; see K. Anders Ericsson and Herbert A. Simon, Protocol Analysis: Verbal Reports as Data (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984). In K-12 education, the use of think-aloud techniques for reading and writing pedagogy is widely recognized as a way for teachers to better understand and assess what students are thinking as they read a text; see the foundational text by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies (New York: Scholastic, 2001). The adoption of these methods in higher education, whether as student or instructor think-aloud, appears to be less widespread. . In these lectures, typically used most in the first weeks of the semester, I modeled my expert process of analysis for students by speaking my thought process out loud as I analyzed a piece of music in front of the class. I used a sample piece that was similar in analytical content and difficulty level to a piece I would be assigning to students. I would start by playing the entire piece or excerpt for the class, to model the importance of listening as well as looking. An unmarked score was displayed on a document camera for me to mark up in real time, and I also used the class piano extensively. I began by describing my decision-making process for beginning the analysis. As an example, in a demonstration of a diatonic Roman numeral analysis, I described my reasons for deciding on a key, and then talked through my decisions about where cadences likely happened, and why. To encourage analytical listening, I would play the piece on the sound system again at this point, asking students to listen to find cadences along with me, thus developing their aural skills abilities as well as modeling the process of analysis.
Next I wrote in the Roman numerals for the cadences and worked backwards and forwards through the score to add Roman numerals for each phrase. I occasionally skipped a chord, explaining the necessity of additional information, and then demonstrated how to acquire that information, usually by playing the tricky progression while reviewing aloud applicable theoretical knowledge (perhaps about chord spellings, typical resolutions, or harmonic syntax). At the piano, I played passages as written and in simplified form as I explored and explained my understanding of non-chord tones and harmonic rhythm. I often played various harmonic possibilities as simplified progressions, demonstrating how to connect what I heard to what I saw on the page in order to make analytical decisions. Since not all of my students were able to perform on the piano at the same level, I also discussed alternative ways to connect theory with practice, such as playing outer voices alone, playing the melody line and bass line on another instrument (separately or together), and singing melody or bass line fragments. I also emphasized to students how practicing at the keyboard as part of music analysis would improve their piano proficiency, a required component of their degrees.
Finally, my think-aloud lectures always included demonstrations of analytical revision, where I reconsidered a particular decision in light of new information, or simply as a result of a typical novice mistake (forgetting about the key signature, for instance, or not noticing the presence of a chordal seventh). As a result of these changes, rather than reviling lectures as engaged learning at its worst I came to see lectures as a valuable tool for making the expert process of music analysis visible for students. I began to use think-aloud lectures at multiple points in the semester to emphasize different parts of the analytical process, rather than trying to include all parts of the process at once. These might include different aspects of analysis (what to do on a first listen, how to use performance to enhance or deepen the analysis), or different concepts (form, Roman numeral analysis, motivic analysis, etc.). The technique is thus adaptable to different situations and pedagogical needs.
My second area of revision in the classroom was to redesign and refocus the existing group activities I used for students. My think-aloud lectures were a helpful top-down demonstration of my expert process for students, but group work encouraged greater self-reflection by students as they uncovered the strategies they were already using for analysis and evaluated whether they were effective. Group work also allowed students to discover and learn from the analytical processes of their peers and helped build a classroom environment with greater diversity of thought as expert processes beyond the instructor’s were shared.
Prior to beginning this project, I would sometimes include a question on assignments asking students to find an example of a particular concept in their own repertoire. In my redesign, I used this question as the basis for classroom activities. In the discussion that follows, I describe a single class period with specific learning goals; instructors in different teaching situations could use the technique of assignment revision in ways that are appropriate to their own teaching environment and goals.
Towards the end of a unit on applied chords, I assigned homework asking students to find a pop song that contained applied chords and then complete a full Roman numeral analysis of the piece, using guitar chords or piano transcriptions as available online. Students were also told to bring their primary instrument to class and told they would also be asked to sing and play on the classroom keyboards. In class, each student gave a short, informal presentation where they played a recording of the song for the class and presented their analysis. To emphasize a variety of strategies for analysis, I asked students to talked through their processes for finding the applied chord(s) in their chosen piece. Students’ strategies enriched those I had already suggested in preceding class periods, and their presentations gave me an opportunity to teach self-awareness about analytical process by highlighting strategies that presenters clearly used but didn’t identify themselves. For instance, a student might give a chord-by-chord presentation of their analysis, but verbally skip some harmonies that were more challenging, returning to them later in the presentation. I would draw attention to their strategy of figuring out easier chords first, and then relate other chords to those benchmarks.
The second part of this classroom activity addressed the extended expert process of analysis particular to music theory’s use of analysis in support of an argument. After each student presentation, I prompted students to consider the effect the applied chord(s) had in the piece as they performed it. Then we performed the song as a group using the score or lead sheet provided by the student (I also participated as a performer), singing or playing keyboards or other instruments to the best of our individual abilities, and with the student analyst leading the group. Peer learning took a turn toward ensemble direction in a pop band setting with a lot of informal banter around each student’s leadership abilities. After each performance, we refocused upon music theory, discussed potential effects of the chord, deepened student understanding of the role of applied harmonies more broadly, and developed new theories about the function of applied chords based in supporting evidence from the analyses themselves.
This activity was particularly valuable for the way it not only made student expert processes visible, but also integrated various forms of musical engagement (listening, analysis, performance, revision) towards a specific theoretical end (the function of applied chords). The peer learning aspect of the activity brought additional benefits. Students were sometimes more inclined to listen to (and trust) their peers’ expert processes, even if they were the same as my own. And peer learning empowered my students to believe they could be, and already were, expert analysts, helping assuage fears and phobias toward music theory and analysis, building student confidence, and promoting greater equality in my classroom and in my discipline.
III. Analytical Processes Beyond the Classroom: Analysis Homework and Prose Assignments
As with my in-class revisions, I targeted two out-of-class activities for revision: short-term music analysis assignments that were worth less in the final grading scheme, and long-term “Writing for Analysis” assignments, more heavily weighted in the final grade, that asked students to complete an analysis and then craft a short analytical essay. Teaching and reinforcing an expert process of analysis on homework assignments is challenging, since the instructor is not physically present with the students. I address this in two ways: first, by crafting assignments that encourage (and sometimes require) students to follow expert processes, typically by incorporating elements of the process into the design of the assignment itself; and second, by using homework assignments as an opportunity for students to develop their own expert processes, which, in the diverse classroom environment I foster, need not be identical to my own.
For low-stakes homework, before beginning this project my typical analysis assignment would likely include minimal instructions, such as “Complete a Roman numeral analysis of Haydn’s String Quartet No.3 in D major, Hob III:3, Menuet II, mm.1-8.” In contrast, after three years of revisions and refinements, my analysis assignments came to look more like the sample shown in Example 2.
Example 2. Sample analysis assignment.
On the library home page, click “Databases”. Choose “Music” from the sidebar. Choose “Naxos Music Library” (the top listing). In the Naxos search box, write “Haydn String Quartet Hob III”. Click on a recording (e.g. the Kodály Quartet). In the resulting track listing, find String Quartet No.3 in D major, Hob III:3. In the tracks listed below that title, find the second minuet track (it may be spelled “menuet” instead of “minuet”, and it’s labeled “IV” as the fourth movement in the quartet). Check the little box next to that track. In the left-hand sidebar, click “Play Selections.” Now, listen to the piece once through without looking at the score. Then, go back and listen to just the opening, following along with the score below.
Haydn String Quartet No.3 in D major; Hob III:3, Menuet II, mm.1-8
Having now familiarized yourself with the sound of this music, answer the questions on the back side of this page.
Identify the key of the music by marking it underneath the first measure of the score.
Complete a Roman numeral and contextual analysis below the score.
Label all cadences (there are two) with name abbreviations (PAC, IAC, HC, DC, PC, Ph.C.)and brackets above the bar(s) in which they occur.
What type of non-chord tone are the A sharps in both violins at bar 4?
If this were an SATB voiceleading exercise, the violins in bar 4 would break a voiceleading rule. What rule?
Why do you think it’s OK for Haydn to break that voiceleading rule here? (Be creative with your answer, but not flippant: “because he can” is not a good answer!)
(continued on next page)
Extra anonymous responses for my research project (not included in grade).
In the design of this assignment, I tried to get you to listen to the piece before completing the analysis.
Did you listen to the piece before completing the analysis?
If yes, did it change your analysis in any way? (make it easier/harder, clarify a specific passage or question, make the task more/less enjoyable...)
If no, why didn’t you?
Please circle the description below that best matches your typical approach to listening in music analysis:
I rarely listen to the piece I have to analyze
I sometimes listen to the piece I have to analyze
I often listen to the piece I have to analyze
I almost always listen to the piece I have to analyze
Any additional comments?
The value of Example 2 for readers is not in the specific piece or the wording of the questions asked, but in the way that my revision forefronts the notion of analysis as a process rather than a product. My previous assignment design includes specific information on what the student is required to do (a Roman numeral analysis) but assumes that the student knows how to do it. The process of analysis is left unstated. In contrast, the revised assignment includes several cues to guide students toward an expert process of analysis. First, students are directed to listen to the excerpt, even before looking at the score. Since this is an assignment given early in the semester, and since many students may not have used the Naxos streaming service, I include specific instructions for accessing it (thus preventing any claims of “I couldn’t figure out how to listen.”).
The assignment also includes information on how to listen in a way that matches the expert processes previously modeled in class: listen once to the complete piece without the score, then once to the excerpt while looking at the score, both times without making any analytical markings. In this way, I encourage students to cultivate the habit of engaging with the music as sound first and as analytical object second. Assignments given later in the semester would develop the students’ listening habits even further, perhaps by asking them to listen for a particular musical feature (cadences, harmonic rhythm, etc.) or by including a short prose writing question (immediately after the instruction to listen without the score) that prompts students to reflect on the information gained from the first hearing. The graphic design of this assignment also ensures that students will separate listening from analysis, since all the analytical instructions are on the second page.
I also break down the steps of analysis for students much more deliberately in this revision. Moving far beyond my prior instruction to “complete a Roman numeral analysis of this passage,” my questions on this assignment, guide students to enact some of the different steps involved in an expert analysis. These include the application of content knowledge to a particular example (questions 1, 2, and 3), mental simplification of a score to its more basic constructs (question 4), and comparison of a specific example to general concepts and rules (questions 5 and 6). Again, instructors would likely modify the exact questions to suit their own learning goals and students, but could preserve the notion of breaking down the process of analysis through specific and targeted questions.
The final page of the assignment was originally included as a means of data collection within the course of the study; however, it has been pedagogically useful and I have kept it on subsequent assignments. Not only does the third page provide accountability for the listening activity on the first page, it also gives an opportunity for students to reflect on the value of listening during analysis. Whether they listen or not, they are considering the importance of listening and thinking about their own learning and study habits10It follows that focusing on expert process of analysis is one way of introducing metacognitive activities into the music theory classroom; see Anna Ferenc, “Metacognition: An Overlooked Skill in Music Theory Instruction,” Engaging Students: Essays in Music Theory Pedagogy 5 (2017), http://flipcamp.org/engagingstudents5/essays/ferenc.html. Drawing students’ attention to their own learning is important when teaching process rather than product, as my work demonstrates. . This question also gives me insight into some of the barriers to student learning taking place out of the classroom. For instance, one student wrote that she didn’t listen because she completed her homework at her workplace, didn’t have headphones to listen to music without disturbing her co-workers, and couldn’t have listened to music with headphones in any case because it would have prevented her from doing her job at the same time, which she felt was a necessity in her packed schedule. Getting this glimpse into student learning out of class was just as valuable for me as a teacher as reading about students’ experiences with the expert process for analysis itself.
My second out-of-class revision focused on a series of three prose writing assignments I called “Writing for Analysis.” These assignments were course additions I had made prior to beginning this project, coming out of a personal interest in developing prose writing components in the music theory curriculum and my department’s participation in a campus-wide writing initiative11The importance of prose writing in the music theory classroom has been argued by a number of scholars, including Deron L. McGee, “The Power of Prose: Writing in the Undergraduate Music Theory Curriculum,” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 7 (1993): 85–104; Lyle Davidson, Larry Scripp, and Alan Fletcher, “Enhancing Sight-Singing Skills through Reflective Writing: A New Approach to the Undergraduate Theory Curriculum,” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 9 (1995): 1–30; Bruce C. Kelley, “Part Writing, Prose Writing: An Investigation of Writing-to-Learn in the Music Theory Classroom,” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 13 (1999): 65–87; Jan Miyake, “Weekly (or more) Writing in the Music Theory Classroom,” Engaging Students: Essays in Music Theory Pedagogy 2 (2014), http://flipcamp.org/engagingstudents2/essays/miyake2.html; Sara Bakker and Timothy Chenette, “Writing Across the Music Theory Curriculum,” Engaging Students: Essays in Music Theory Pedagogy 2 (2014), http://flipcamp.org/engagingstudents2/essays/bakkerchenette.html; and Robin Attas “Teaching What We Do and How We Do It: Using a Miniconference Assignment to Dig Deep into Musical Analysis” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 30 (2016). . But while the initial motivation for including prose writing in a music theory classroom was not connected to the project, it became clear to me that prose writing does reinforce and teach expert processes for music analysis. My “Writing for Analysis” assignments offered a way to teach a mode of disciplinary thinking; that is, music theory’s use of analysis to develop a theory, support it with evidence from the analysis, and use prose writing to share these ideas with peers.
Example 3 shows the general description of the assignment and a grading rubric that I shared with students and used for all three assignments each semester. The general description is valuable because it tells students how the assignments are connected to prior and future learning and gives them a sense of the purpose of the assignments and the activities they contain. Grading rubrics come in many forms; I am not advocating for widespread adoption of this one in particular, but I find it works for me since it blends specificity, accountability, and transparency for students with a degree of flexibility in the moment of assessment. The categories reflect what I believe to be the most important aspects of the work: a clear thesis statement, a developed argument with ample supporting evidence, application of music theory terms and concepts, and a well-organized paper. Writing mechanics (spelling, grammar, etc.) are mentioned, but for me these are less important.
Example 3. Writing for Analysis Description and Rubric.
Writing for Analysis
Last year, you practiced writing about music in Recital Responses, where you addressed a prompt relating to an aspect of music presented at a live concert. This semester, you will continue to develop your abilities as a music writer by completing three writing assignments. Each will require you to complete a musical analysis, and then write about your findings in professional analytical prose, to share your research with your peers. Completing these assignments will help you develop your critical thinking skills, help you practice expressing what you know about musical mechanics in an engaging and interesting way, and prepare you for longer research assignments in MUS 212 and upper-level music classes.
WA1 Draft (submit by 8am by email): week 5
WA1 Final (submit paper copy in class): week 6
WA2 Draft (email): week 8
WA2 Final (paper): week 9
WA3 Draft (email): week 12
WA3 Final (paper): week 13
Writing for Analysis Grade Rubric
If the paper does not meet this minimum standard, a failing grade will be assigned.
- Length (must be within the upper and lower limits):
WA1: 300-400 words
WA2: 350-450 words
WA3: 450-550 words
- Formatting: 1.5 spacing, title, page numbers
- Citations: Cite specific bar numbers in the score or track timings on a recording, and identify musical events appropriately.
- Comprehensible (if I can’t understand it, I can’t grade it)
- Complete participation in draft and revision process: not participating in any pre-final stage means your final grade will be reduced by one-third of a letter.
If the answers to all of these questions is “yes,” a grade of C or better is possible. If the answers to one or more questions is “no,” a lower grade will be assigned.
- Does the paper have a thesis statement that clearly answers the prompt?
- Does the paper substantiate claims through use of appropriate musical-analytical evidence?
- Are the ideas organized logically, including an introduction and conclusion and topic sentences for most paragraphs?
- Is the writing mostly polished (very few spelling/grammar/word choice issues) and appropriate for an audience of intelligent peers?
- Does the paper use music theory terms discussed in class?
- Does the final version demonstrates substantial revision from the draft version?
Going Above and Beyond
If all of the above criteria are met, papers can qualify for a B or A grade by meeting some of the following criteria.
- Does the paper have a complex and original thesis statement that clearly addresses the prompt?
- Is the argument clearly supported by compelling evidence described in detail, with many specific analytical references to the assigned music?
- Does the paper have a compelling argument that flows logically from start to finish?
- Does the paper use clear, concise, powerful, and complex language?
- Does the paper integrate concepts and terminology from class into a meaningful musical discussion?
Example 4 shows a sample Writing for Analysis assignment, typically given sometime in the first two weeks of the semester. At this point, students have reviewed the foundations of diatonic harmony and voice leading taught in the previous two semesters but have not yet spent much time with the beginnings of chromatic harmony and voice leading or with musical form. This assignment is meant as a means of reviewing, synthesizing, and deepening students’ knowledge in concepts studied thus far. At the same time, it expands their repertoire knowledge and helps develop intercultural awareness that the conventions, rules, and norms of Western art music are not the only possibilities for musical composition.
Example 4. Sample “Writing for Analysis” assignment.
Writing for Analysis 1
In class on Sept.15:
bring a thesis statement and bullet points of musical examples to class for peer review
By 8am on Sept.20:
email a draft of WA1 to Dr. Attas
Meet individually with Dr. Attas to discuss revisions to your draft.
By 8am on Thursday Sept.29:
Submit hard copy of WA1 to Dr. Attas.
What’s a way that composers of the 20th and 21st century have expanded on harmony and voice leading conventions from the 18th and 19th centuries?
To begin, complete the following steps:
1) Decide which piece you will analyze (see choices on following pages).
2) Listen, look, play your selected piece to get a feel for its language.
3) Consider the following starting points as places to begin your analysis. (Any one of these might be a good basis for a thesis statement.)
are chords built in stacked thirds?
is harmonic syntax (order of harmonies) the same?
is there a T-PD-D-T progression?
are all chord tones drawn from a major or minor scale?
which chord tones are doubled?
is the leading tone raised?
does the leading tone resolve to the tonic?
does the chordal seventh resolve down by step?
are there parallel fifths?
are there parallel octaves?
does the notated key signature match the implied key?
is there a single pitch that is most stable (heard as tonic)?
could the piece/passage be heard in more than one key?
4) Develop a more specific thesis statement, and find musical evidence to support it.
Musical excerpts for analysis:
- Claude Debussy, Arabesque no.1, mm.1-38 (score included for students)
- Sufjan Stevens, “Chicago,” first verse (transcribed for students)
My revisions to this assignment were focused on breaking down the analytical process needed to successfully complete the assignment, revisions which I argue positively impacted the quality of student work. My pedagogical strategy for all three assignments is shown in Example 5. Here, I made the steps of an expert process of research-focused analysis required components of the first assignment. For subsequent assignments, I gradually gave students more and more agency over the process, encouraging them to continue following my suggested steps and reminding them to seek help if necessary, but also allowing them to use their own expert strategies. I also included several highly-regarded pedagogical practices for writing, including the use of peer review, multiple drafts, and instructor feedback before the due date12There are many wonderful sources discussing writing pedagogy; my personal favorite is John C. Bean, Engaging Ideas, 2nd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011). . Short (5-10 minute) individual meetings were required for the first draft, which might at first glance seem a daunting time commitment for the instructor. However, with such short meetings, even a large class could be accommodated within one or two hours of regularly scheduled office hours. Moreover, the pedagogical benefits made the time commitment worth it. Required individual meetings gave students more opportunity to ask questions to clarify my feedback and gave me more opportunity to guide students’ thinking toward the kind of disciplinary work I was expecting. They also gave students a chance to see the value in office hours and individual appointments outside of class time, something I felt was still necessary even among second-year students with at least a year of exposure to university educational practices.
Example 5. Pedagogical strategies for Writing for Analysis assignments.
Writing for Analysis 1
In class Sept.13:
posted assignment, did a ‘think-aloud’ lecture to demonstrate an expert process for figuring out a thesis statement that answered the prompt (using a different piece than those on the assignment)
In class Sept.15:
students brought a thesis statement and bullet points of musical examples to class for peer review
By 8am Sept.20:
students emailed me a draft
scheduled individual meetings with students to discuss feedback
By 8am on Thursday Sept.29:
students submitted hard copy in class
Writing for Analysis 2
In class Oct.11:
gave a lecture on phrase structure in popular music and told them this would be needed for their WA2
In class Oct.20:
had time for discussion of WA2 prompt if necessary (normally this would happen more quickly, but a midterm exam and break made the timeline longer)
Required by 8am on Oct.25:
students emailed me their chosen piece and a sound file
Optional by 8am on Oct.25:
students emailed me a thesis statement and musical examples to support it
Required by 8am on Oct.27:
students emailed me a draft
offered the chance to meet with me or to go to the Writing Center to discuss feedback and revisions
Required by 8am on Tuesday Nov.8:
students submitted a hard copy in class
Writing for Analysis 3
In class Nov.10:
students gave presentations on songs that contained applied chords and discussed their analyses as a group. I told students that WA3 would have a similar topic, and that they could use the same song (and the in-class discussion) as starting points.
Required by 8am on Nov.29:
students emailed me a draft
Required by 8am on Dec.6:
students submitted hard copies in class
To understand some of the effects of my assignment design and delivery on student learning, I followed strategies of close reading to analyze student work on the first and last Writing for Analysis assignments13Randy Bass and Sherry Lee Linkon, “On the Evidence of Theory: Close Reading as a Disciplinary Model for Writing About Teaching and Learning,” Arts & Humanities in Higher Education 7, no. 3 (2008): 245-261. . Evaluating the effectiveness of a pedagogical change is challenging, but this strategy proved effective, and is replicable in other classroom contexts. After the semester was finished, I grouped the assignments into three categories: students whose grades improved from the first to the third assignment (about half the class), students whose grades remained consistently excellent (several students), and students whose grades remained consistently poor (a few students). For those students whose grades improved, I used a revised version of my grading rubric to analyze their work, in an attempt to understand what aspects of their work improved. I found that most students improved their ability to use relevant musical details as evidence to support increasingly specific arguments about the pieces under study. These students’ language choices also suggested greater use of their whole musical selves in the process of analysis, with more references to listening, playing, auralizing, and conceptual thinking in addition to descriptions of visual information from the score, which to me demonstrates that my revisions were effective at improving students’ use of the expert process of analysis, even on a homework rather than in-class assignment.
Example 6 gives the first and third assignments from one of the students in the group whose grades improved (used with permission). I judge the first paper as average in the student’s use of analysis as supporting evidence in an argument. The student outlines several possibilities for the piece’s key, each supported by musical evidence, but the quality of that evidence is weak. This may be in part because the prompt assumes knowledge of key finding from prior semesters which the student may not possess. But my close reading suggests that the student also appears to have difficulties connecting her score-based analysis with her listening experience. She outlines several possibilities for key based on visual evidence alone (the key signature, presence of accidentals, presence of particular pitches that combine to form particular chords). She does suggest another possibility based on her listening experience (“After listening to the piece it appears to be in A minor”) but doesn’t support this intuition with evidence drawn from analysis. Similarly, in the conclusion she mentions the experience of playing the piece, but then returns to notation as a reason for theoretical decisions (“I would try and think of it as G Major so that I wouldn’t have to include any accidentals”).
Example 6. Student work samples for WA1 and WA3.
a) Writing for Analysis 1
Prompt: What’s a way that composers of the 20th and 21st century have expanded on harmony and voice leading conventions from the 18th and 19th centuries?
Ambiguous Key Signatures
The key signature for Chicago is ambiguous. Looking at the sheet music of the piece, the key appears to be one thing, but when hearing the piece it seems to be in a different key. There are many different possibilities of keys depending on who is analyzing the piece of music.
Because there is no key signature given it is up to the viewer and listener to figure out. If you look at the piece of music you see an F sharp at both the beginning and at the end. In the key of G Major the only note that is flat or sharp is F sharp, which is what is pictured. This would leave one to believe the key of this piece is G Major.
Along with the F#, the starting chord and ending chord is a D Major. D Major consists of the notes D, F sharp and A. These notes make up the V (five) chord in the key of G Major. It is normal for a piece of music to start on the V (five) chord, in fact it is heard in a lot of music, as it is the Dominant chord. It is common in 18th/19th century music for a piece to start on the Dominant.
Because the starting chord is D Major, and there is no key signature given, the piece can also be seen in the key of D Major. The key of D Major contains both an F sharp and a C sharp in the key signature. While Chicago contains an F sharp, it also contains a C natural, although it is acceptable to lower the seventh scale degree.
After listening to the piece it appears to be in A minor. Despite what the sheet music looks like, our ears hear a different key. Hearing Chicago, everything seems to center around A and A appears to be Do. In the sheet music, the electric sound stays mostly around the notes D and A, and the other instruments also incorporate the notes of a D Major chord throughout the measures. For instance, in measure one, the electric sound has the notes A and F sharp, which then repeat throughout the piece, while the keyboard has a system which starts on the notes D and F sharp. Together the electric sound and keyboard make a D Major chord.
After viewing the piece, listening to the piece and speaking with my peers, the key signature really does seem to be ambiguous and confusing to many. Many of the people I have spoken to about the piece say they thought it was in one of the keys listed above, but each seemed to have a different answer than the next. I believe the piece, Chicago, is in A minor, however if I were to play the piece I would try and think of it as G Major so that I wouldn't have to include any accidentals.
b) Writing for Analysis 3
Prompt: What purpose do applied chords serve in a pop song?
Applied Chords in “The Longest Time”
In music there are often encounters with chords that include non-diatonic pitches. Tonicization is the process of momentarily emphasizing a non-tonic chord by using chords borrowed from the key in which that chord is tonic. In this new key there is no cadence (that would be a modulation), rather there is a short progression borrowed from another key. The song, ‘The Longest Time’ by Billy Joel, in Eb Major, consists of many applied chords that pull the song in different directions.
Music can make people feel a certain way and can evoke a very emotional response. This is due to the quality of chords in a piece of music. The way the chords pull a song makes one feel a certain way. Applied chords always resolve to tonicized chords, which give the tonicized chord a strong feeling. This makes the tonicized chord to feel like a temporary home. The chromatically altered chord will function as a dominant chord in the key of the chord that follows it.
In the first verse of ‘The Longest Time’ at the lyrics “Now I know that happiness goes on,” we have a I, V, V/V and a V. The V/V is the applied chord and the V is the tonicized chord. The V/V resolves to the V making the V feel as though it is the tonic. This then gives the line a dominant feeling and complete feeling, which adds power to the strong lyrics. If you listen to the first line of the verse, “Once I thought my innocence was gone” it goes I V IV V. This phrase does not incorporate an applied chord. Not only can you see this when looking at sheet music but ther are audible differenced, [sic] as well. When you listen to the two lines together, “Once I thought my innocence was gone” and “Now I know that happiness goes on” the first line feels open, due to a half cadence, while the next line feels complete. Even though both lines end on a Bb chord (the V chord of Eb Major), the second line feels more complete because the applied chord draws you to a temporary home of Bb Major.
Without the applied chords, the piece of music would not have an emphasis on specific lyrics or pulls to other keys. Applied chords add dissonance, and help make a piece of music what it is. If you write out a chord chart without using applied chords you will get a lot of accidentals that are not in the key signature, which would make the music more complex and significantly harder for a musician playing the piece to follow. The use of applied chords gives a sense of organization to the music. This adds a strong sense of structure to movements, which we see in the case of Billy Joel’s ‘The Longest Time’.
In contrast, the student’s final “Writing for Analysis” assignment demonstrates a deepening in her understanding of music-theoretical concepts, a more sophisticated integration of analytical evidence in support of an argument, and a more convincing use of various musical experiences to add greater meaning. The student is working toward a more complex thesis that integrates new knowledge about tonicization and modulation with her ideas about the purpose of applied chords. The third paragraph, which I read as the analytical core of the essay, includes analytical details, text-music connections, and information from the score and the listening experience. Clearly, the student has learned a framework for expressing complex ideas about music in prose, a skill that she can carry forwards to later courses and apply to other disciplines. And as an instructor, I learned that my assignment revisions that broke down the analytical process helped at least some students to learn.
IV. Conclusions: Assessing Process, Building Diversity
Assessing the effects of my teaching strategies on student learning was a challenging part of this project. Since this is a study rooted in close observation of teaching practices in a single classroom, and not a large-scale, longitudinal study with control groups, it is impossible to make clear correlations. A further challenge is knowing what to measure. Students do not need to follow my expert process in order to get the right answer on an analysis assignment; indeed, as an expert there are many times when I myself do not follow the full process outlined above, and yet still produce an acceptable analysis. Therefore, the quality of submitted analysis assignments cannot be a useful indicator. Another strategy, requiring students to follow a single process and then assessing their use of it, would undermine the diversity of thought and approach that I want to emphasize in my classroom.
Beyond the use of close reading for assessment prose writing assignments as previously described, in my final semester in the project I used two class activities as a way to measure student awareness of processes of music analysis, both their own and that of experts. In the first class of the semester, I gave the students the following prompt for class discussion:
Imagine you’re talking with a friend on campus who has no musical background. They ask you the following questions:
What is music analysis?
How do you do music analysis?
Why should you do music analysis?
The class struggled to answer all of these questions, and their answers describing the process of music analysis focused almost exclusively on looking at the score and reducing music to its structural components. In the final class, I gave students an informal and ungraded writing prompt, asking “What advice would you give next year’s students about the best way to analyze music?” Of nine student responses, six mentioned looking for different concepts at different times, five mentioned listening, three mentioned coming to class, two mentioned playing, two mentioned revising or deepening previous work, and one mentioned asking peers for help: in sum, a much more diverse range of activities than were mentioned at the start of the semester. I also noted that every student, even a student who clearly resisted the activity (and the course) by writing “show up to class/know how to do music theory/that’s pretty much it/practice” recognized that there were steps to music analysis, a point that is perhaps the most fundamental learning goal of this endeavor. For me, these results, along with observations of in-class discussions and analysis of writing assignments, proved that the strategies I developed to emphasize the process of analysis resulted in greater student engagement, more deeply-considered analytical work (particularly in writing assignments), and a greater presence of music, in all its forms, in the classroom.
At the same time as this project provoked greater self-reflection from students about their own analytical practices, it also provoked greater self-reflection from me about my teaching practice, my analytical habits, and my perceptions about the discipline of music theory. This project reminded me of one of my fundamental goals in the theory classroom: to make music theory open and accessible to all students, from all backgrounds and abilities and with all career goals. Making my expert process of musical analysis visible is part of my pedagogical belief that everyone can be an expert music analyst. This perspective is strengthened when I allow students to share their own expert processes in the classroom and when I highlight their strategies as equally valid to my own. Typical student anxieties about not being “good at” music theory may still be present, but my approach actively works to dispel those anxieties. In future studies, I will investigate how students perceive this shift, and what other strategies might build a greater sense of equality in the classroom.
I also note that my prior tendency to focus on analytical products rather than process, to present complete analyses as finished works, is a typical rhetorical strategy in my discipline (and, I suspect, most academic disciplines). Rare is the conference paper or journal article that provides a blow-by-blow of all the failures, the missteps, the trials and errors, that eventually led to a particular interpretation. Would such information be valuable or interesting? In my classroom, there was great pedagogical value in making the process of analysis visible. Could there be research value in making it visible among colleagues on campus or at conferences? Or pedagogical value at other points in higher education, such as with upper-level undergraduates or graduate students?
Making an expert analytical process more visible might also increase the diversity of scholars and approaches in the field of music theory. Assuming that every music analyst comes to a piece with different sorts of expertise, goals, and purposes, each analyst’s expert process will be slightly different from the one I proposed at the beginning of this article. My own expert musical process is guided by my musical training since childhood, and by my present profession of music theorist in a North American university. What would the expert process of analysis look like for an Indigenous drumming group preparing to perform at a powwow? For an Indian Classical musician? For a contemporary art music composer in New York City? Returning to my aim of empowering students to believe that they, too, are music analysts, I wonder if this aim could be extended to a belief that all musicians, or even simply all those who engage with music, are music analysts. This might open up the discipline of music theory too much for some, but a focus on expert processes of musical analysis could enhance and celebrate the already-present diversity of backgrounds amongst music theory instructors in higher education, who include composers, performers, historians, music technologists, and more14Jennifer Sterling Snodgrass provides an overview of music theory demographics, including the academic background of current instructors, in “Current Status of Music Theory Teaching” College Music Symposium 56 (2016), DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18177/sym.2016.56.fr.11135. Current demographics from the Society for Music Theory do not include a category for members to indicate degree earned or to self-identify their disciplinary specialization. . Just as our students have different analytical aims and goals as musicians, so too do music theory instructors, and bringing these diverse views into the classroom would benefit student learning and the discipline at large.
In my experience, emphasizing expert processes of musical analysis in the undergraduate classroom not only makes the music theory classroom a more musical and engaging space, but fosters greater diversity of thought, deeper reflection, and a stronger sense of purpose about the entire endeavor of music theory and analysis. For me, uncovering the steps of music analysis resulted in a music theory classroom that is more musical, and that fosters engagement with music in diverse ways. Before this project began, student analyses tended towards “unmusical” products and “unmusical” processes. By bringing music back into the process of music analysis, I have re-emphasized and returned music into the music theory classroom, to the benefit and enjoyment of both students and myself. I hope that by adapting my classroom techniques and assignment designs to their own classroom contexts, readers do not merely replicate my successes but uncover and deepen the analytical processes of both their students and themselves, and in so doing, diversify the academic study of music theory and music itself.
1 This research was completed as part of the Collaborative Humanities Redesign Project (https://cte.ku.edu/chrp) and I am grateful to the support and feedback from all my colleagues in the project, in particular Dan Bernstein and Deandra Little, and to the students I taught during the project. I would also like to thank Brian Alegant for his thoughtful comments on drafts of this paper.
2 David Pace and Joan Middendorf, eds., Decoding the Disciplines: Helping Students Learn Disciplinary Ways of Thinking New Directions in Teaching and Learning 98 (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004).
3 For more on bottlenecks specifically, see Joan Middendorf and Leah Shopkow, Overcoming Student Learning Bottlenecks (Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2017).
4 Scholars in various disciplines have reported on their use of the Decoding the Disciplines Framework; see the project’s website (http://www.decodingthedisciplines.org) for an up-to-date bibliography. In music, J. Peter Burkholder has reported on his experiences decoding the discipline of music history in “Decoding the Discipline of Music History for Our Students,” Journal of Music History Pedagogy 1, no.2 (2011): 93-111.
5 Pace and Middendorf, Decoding the Disciplines, 5.
6 See for example the report from the Music Teachers National Association and the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Association 2012 Wellness Symposium in MTNA e-journal 4 no.1 (September 2012), Susan Bruckner’s The Whole Musician, 4th ed. (Santa Cruz, CA: Effey Street Press, 2008), or workshops like that offered by the group Whole Musician (http://www.wholemusician.net/).
7 See Giorgio Sanguinetti, The Art of Partimento: History, Theory, and Practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), Robert Gjerdingen, Music in the Galant Style (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007) and Robert Gjerdingen, ed., Monuments of Partimenti, http://faculty-web.at.northwestern.edu/music/gjerdingen/partimenti/index.htm
8 For one view, see Elizabeth Marvin, “The Core Curricula in Music Theory: Developments and Pedagogical Trends,” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 26 (2012): 255-263. Another is the so-called “CMS Manifesto”; see David Meyers, Patricia Shehan Campbell, Juan Chattah, Lee Higgins, Victoria Lindsay Levine, Timothy Rice, David Rudge, Ed Sarath, “Transforming Music Study from its Foundations: A Manifesto for Progressive Change in the Undergraduate Preparation of Music Majors,” Report from the College Music Society Task Force on the Undergraduate Music Major, http://symposium.music.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=11118:transforming-music-study-from-its-foundations-a-manifesto-for-progressive-change-in-the-undergraduate-preparation-of-music-majors&Itemid=126. Responses from music theory can be found in Jennifer Sterling Snodgrass, “Integration, Diversity, and Creativity: Reflections on the ‘Manifesto’ from the College Music Society,” Music Theory Online 22, no. 1 (2016), http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.16.22.1/mto.16.22.1.snodgrass.html; and Juan Chattah, Melissa Hoag, Steven Laitz, Elizabeth Sayrs, and Jennifer Sterling Snodgrass, “Reflections on the Manifesto,” College Music Symposium 56, https://symposium.music.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=itemlist&task=category&id=287:reflections-on-the-manifesto&Itemid=126. The original CMS report has been refined and updated in Edward W. Sarath, David E. Meyers, and Patricia Shehan Campbell, Redefining Music Studies in an Age of Change: Creativity, Diversity, and Integration (New York: Routledge, 2017).
9 Think-aloud protocols have been used in computer science and cognitive research, where subjects are asked to speak their thought processes aloud for the purposes of modeling artificial intelligence or to understand subject behaviors more deeply; see K. Anders Ericsson and Herbert A. Simon, Protocol Analysis: Verbal Reports as Data (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984). In K-12 education, the use of think-aloud techniques for reading and writing pedagogy is widely recognized as a way for teachers to better understand and assess what students are thinking as they read a text; see the foundational text by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies (New York: Scholastic, 2001). The adoption of these methods in higher education, whether as student or instructor think-aloud, appears to be less widespread.
10 It follows that focusing on expert process of analysis is one way of introducing metacognitive activities into the music theory classroom; see Anna Ferenc, “Metacognition: An Overlooked Skill in Music Theory Instruction,” Engaging Students: Essays in Music Theory Pedagogy 5 (2017), http://flipcamp.org/engagingstudents5/essays/ferenc.html. Drawing students’ attention to their own learning is important when teaching process rather than product, as my work demonstrates.
11 The importance of prose writing in the music theory classroom has been argued by a number of scholars, including Deron L. McGee, “The Power of Prose: Writing in the Undergraduate Music Theory Curriculum,” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 7 (1993): 85–104; Lyle Davidson, Larry Scripp, and Alan Fletcher, “Enhancing Sight-Singing Skills through Reflective Writing: A New Approach to the Undergraduate Theory Curriculum,” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 9 (1995): 1–30; Bruce C. Kelley, “Part Writing, Prose Writing: An Investigation of Writing-to-Learn in the Music Theory Classroom,” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 13 (1999): 65–87; Jan Miyake, “Weekly (or more) Writing in the Music Theory Classroom,” Engaging Students: Essays in Music Theory Pedagogy 2 (2014), http://flipcamp.org/engagingstudents2/essays/miyake2.html; Sara Bakker and Timothy Chenette, “Writing Across the Music Theory Curriculum,” Engaging Students: Essays in Music Theory Pedagogy 2 (2014), http://flipcamp.org/engagingstudents2/essays/bakkerchenette.html; and Robin Attas “Teaching What We Do and How We Do It: Using a Miniconference Assignment to Dig Deep into Musical Analysis” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 30 (2016).
12 There are many wonderful sources discussing writing pedagogy; my personal favorite is John C. Bean, Engaging Ideas, 2nd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011).
13 Randy Bass and Sherry Lee Linkon, “On the Evidence of Theory: Close Reading as a Disciplinary Model for Writing About Teaching and Learning,” Arts & Humanities in Higher Education 7, no. 3 (2008): 245-261. 14 Jennifer Sterling Snodgrass provides an overview of music theory demographics, including the academic background of current instructors, in “Current Status of Music Theory Teaching” College Music Symposium 56 (2016), DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18177/sym.2016.56.fr.11135. Current demographics from the Society for Music Theory do not include a category for members to indicate degree earned or to self-identify their disciplinary specialization.
Attas, Robin. “Teaching What We Do and How We Do It: Using a Miniconference Assignment to Dig Deep into Musical Analysis.” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 30 (2016).
Bakker, Sara and Timothy Chenette. “Writing Across the Music Theory Curriculum.” Engaging Students: Essays in Music Theory Pedagogy 2 (2014). http://flipcamp.org/engagingstudents2/essays/bakkerchenette.html
Bass, Randy and Sherry Lee Linkon. “On the Evidence of Theory: Close Reading as a Disciplinary Model for Writing About Teaching and Learning.” Arts & Humanities in Higher Education 7, no. 3 (2008): 245-261.
Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011.
Bruckner, Susan. The Whole Musician. 4th ed. Santa Cruz, CA: Effey Street Press, 2008.
Burkholder, J. Peter. “Decoding the Discipline of Music History for Our Students.” Journal of Music History Pedagogy 1, no.2 (2011): 93-111.
Chattah, Juan. Melissa Hoag, Steven Laitz, Elizabeth Sayrs, and Jennifer Sterling Snodgrass. “Reflections on the Manifesto.” College Music Symposium 56. https://symposium.music.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=itemlist&task=category&id=287:reflections-on-the-manifesto&Itemid=126.
Davidson, Lyle, Larry Scripp, and Alan Fletcher. “Enhancing Sight-Singing Skills through Reflective Writing: A New Approach to the Undergraduate Theory Curriculum.” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 9 (1995): 1–30.
“Decoding the Disciplines – Improving Student Learning.” http://www.decodingthedisciplines.org.
Ericsson, K. Anders and Herbert A. Simon. Protocol Analysis: Verbal Reports as Data. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.
Ferenc, Anna. “Metacognition: An Overlooked Skill in Music Theory Instruction.” Engaging Students: Essays in Music Theory Pedagogy 5 (2017). http://flipcamp.org/engagingstudents5/essays/ferenc.html.
Gjerdingen, Robert. Music in the Galant Style. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
_____, ed. Monuments of Partimenti. http://faculty-web.at.northwestern.edu/music/gjerdingen/partimenti/index.htm
Kelley, Bruce C. “Part Writing, Prose Writing: An Investigation of Writing-to-Learn in the Music Theory Classroom.” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 13 (1999): 65–87.
Marvin, Elizabeth. “The Core Curricula in Music Theory: Developments and Pedagogical Trends.” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 26 (2012): 255-263.
Meyers, David, Patricia Shehan Campbell, Juan Chattah, Lee Higgins, Victoria Lindsay Levine, Timothy Rice, David Rudge, and Ed Sarath. “Transforming Music Study from its Foundations: A Manifesto for Progressive Change in the Undergraduate Preparation of Music Majors.” Report from the College Music Society Task Force on the Undergraduate Music Major. http://symposium.music.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=11118:transforming-music-study-from-its-foundations-a-manifesto-for-progressive-change-in-the-undergraduate-preparation-of-music-majors&Itemid=126.
McGee, Deron L. “The Power of Prose: Writing in the Undergraduate Music Theory Curriculum.” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 7 (1993): 85–104.
Middendorf, Joan and Leah Shopkow. Overcoming Student Learning Bottlenecks. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2017.
Miyake, Jan. “Weekly (or more) Writing in the Music Theory Classroom.” Engaging Students: Essays in Music Theory Pedagogy 2 (2014). http://flipcamp.org/engagingstudents2/essays/miyake2.html
Music Teachers National Association. MTNA e-journal 4, no. 3 (2012).
Pace, David, and Joan Middendorf, eds. Decoding the Disciplines: Helping Students Learn Disciplinary Ways of Thinking. New Directions in Teaching and Learning 98. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004.
Sanguinetti, Giorgio. The Art of Partimento: History, Theory, and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Sarath, Edward W., David E. Meyers, and Patricia Shehan Campbell. Redefining Music Studies in an Age of Change: Creativity, Diversity, and Integration. New York: Routledge, 2017.
Snodgrass, Jennifer Sterling. “Current Status of Music Theory Teaching” College Music Symposium 56 (2016). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18177/sym.2016.56.fr.11135.
_____. “Integration, Diversity, and Creativity: Reflections on the ‘Manifesto’ from the College Music Society.” Music Theory Online 22, no. 1 (2016). http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.16.22.1/mto.16.22.1.snodgrass.html
Wilhelm, Jeffrey D. Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies. New York: Scholastic, 2001.
Robin Attas is a music theorist and an educational developer at the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Her music-theoretical research focuses on popular music, with analytical methods including rhythm and meter, form, text-music connections, cross-cultural comparison, and connections between analysis and social justice; pedagogical research interests include writing pedagogy, decoding the disciplines, and curricular revision focused on decolonization and Indigenization.