Scanned, proofed and corrected from the original edition for your reading pleasure. (Worth every penny!)
An excerpt from the beginning of the:
DURING the past few years we have seen the beginning of a reactionary period in the art creations and in the teaching of the arts and sciences. At such a time, it is to be expected that there will be extremists such as we see among the creators of some of our futuristic products of art and music; but this upheaval is encouraging to those who have seen the futility of many of our pedagogical methods.
Modern psychologists and educators have abandoned the old ways of teaching — the method of starting every student, regardless of age and personality with the rudiments of the mechanism of the subject at hand. It has come to be recognized that very few persons are endowed with sufficient enthusiasm to bridge over this irksome, sometimes almost unintelligible, period of study to the time when, somewhat enlightened, they can appreciate and enter into the attractiveness of the subject.
One of the most conspicuous examples of the old order in pedagogy is in music composition. For fear that a student would make "grammatical" errors, the subject has been taught by a series of rules ingeniously made by academicians — a series of don'ts which too often inhibited all spontaneity in the student. Instead of allowing the student to express himself, and guiding him in his self expression, the old method gave the student his set of rules, and woe to him who disobeyed them whether or not, in so doing, the result was artistic.
This "indirect" method of teaching harmony consists of giving the construction of chords and formulating rules according to their "grammatically" correct progression one to another. Usually a bass part is given and the student writes the chords above the bass. The inevitable result is a mechanical correctness in which the student who is mathematically inclined will be infinitely more successful than the one who is musically inclined. The student writes chain after chain of chords in which there is no meaning, no form, and no sense of relative values. All the vitality and art in music are removed and the student usually becomes, not an artist, but a mechanician. Furthermore, the student learns all the forbidden combinations and progressions of the conservative theorists, but when turning to the works of the modernists and even to the works of the older masters, he is confronted with parallel perfect fifths, cross-relations, augmented progressions, unresolved dissonances, two or more progressions of a fourth or fifth in same direction, et cetera ad infinitum.
Music pedagogs can profit much by a study of the changes going on in the methods of presenting other subjects; of the way many other subjects have benefited by taking cognizance of data which modern psychology and pedagogy have to offer.
The "direct" method in the teaching of music composition is sure to come. Our thesis is, allow and encourage the student to compose. We would not think of forbidding our children to write letters until such time as they had learned the entire contents of an unabridged Webster and had learned all the rules of English grammar. Rather we encourage the child to express himself with whatever vocabulary he happens to have. Although there are approximately 450,000 words in the English language, Shakespeare used but 15,000 and Milton 10,000.
The following text has been written with the above thesis in mind. Rules and don'ts have been avoided in so far as seemed possible. The indirect method has been resorted to only where the direct method fails in print, because in such places the personal factor is often necessary.
All students of composition cannot be composers, but all can be trained to appreciate, understand, and interpret the works of composers. Whether or not the study of music grammar, alone, will bring about such results will not be argued. Grammar has its place in any scheme of procedure; but its place should not necessarily be the initial presentation, nor the most important. Spontaneity, interest, and appreciation are the desired goals and the prevalent method of teaching is a menace to these three qualities. Now and then a genius escapes, but geniuses are in a startling minority.