Category Archives: Other-Links-Etc.

What is Music Theory Pedagogy?

This past fall, I was invited to the Society for Music Theory’s conference to present as a member of a panel to the Music Theory Pedagogy Interest Group. Other members of the panel included Mary Arlin, John Covach, Michael Callahan, and Anna Gawboy. Each of us were asked to explore the question “What is Music Theory Pedagogy?”—a question which had not been addressed directly by the Music Theory Pedagogy interest group for many years.

Increasing the diversity and relevance of core courses within contemporary music curricula has been a primary research area of mine for the past decade. My remarks delivered on this panel provide some insight into my developing approach to these issues, as well as a glimpse into my own justifications for, at the very least, seriously considering change.  A video recording of my remarks can be found below.



Rethinking the Theory Classroom

Pedagogy is something that is always on my mind. Questions regarding how, why, and what we teach to student musicians occupy a great deal of my time and research. Most recently, I’ve had some of my work published in the third volume of Engaging Students, an online journal devoted to student-centered learning in music.  Give it a read: “Rethinking the Theory Classroom: Towards a New Model for Undergraduate Instruction.”

Our Winter’s Hero

Under the weathered awning, the vagrant’s joints began
To ache, hiding from the rain, he scratched his
Roughened, feeble knees and cast his sunken eyes
Up and down the thoroughfare. Storm subsiding, and
Then a biting wind. He had sat there long enough
To know a cold snap when he felt it, twitched his
Hirsute upper lip, the rascal chuckled drunk, burped,
Then rose deliberate, striding in his rags, which
Now assumed a formal air, dignified indeed,
Scaling the fire chute to reach his tar-papered
Podium above, four stories up, where he could wreak a
Masterpiece. From there he saw the orchestra
Below his able hands, the soaked and groaning
Road, and willed the fallen rain, Jack helped,
Into a frosty fervor, slick as an Olympic rink.

Raised his arms in upbeat just as the featured first
Came ‘round the bend, solo, a silver-clad sedan,
Emblem donning, ready to perform. Aching forward,
Its arrogance began to show, and with a yawp,
Ha! the conductor thrust his hands into a downward
Beat, to begin his merry symphony. Down the
Gauntlet it lurched into the incline and tracked the
Master’s lead. A gesture, intense, accelerating,
Sliding, brakes be damned! then careening headlong
Into a parked surprise, scintillating, shattered glass
And space-age bumper busts, tickling the street’s
Aesthetic fancy. From there it spun into another
Dizzy trick, a feat that had not been rehearsed, yet
Right in time an icy branch, encased percussive
Batter, a bona fide tempura, cracked off its host and
Thumped our featured friend, centered on the hood!

Above our master danced as more fun turned down
The lane, a large black truck and two compacts, with
Waving arms were gestured into play. Confidence or
Caution makes no difference here! The ice reigns
O’er the righteous and the wicked, my good son.
Scooting on, their fates were sealed and each stole past
The point of no returning, then skated in such silent
Grace down the prepared stage until the wheels would
Lock and, crab-like, gyre sideways to
Hurtle down the hill. Like chromed pucks, yet
Bombillating beautiful and proud, each wrenching smash
Contained a crushing set of high-pitched overtones to
Match, and that truck, God bless! had his windows
Cracked so cursing gasps and expletives rose up and
Punctuated these magic crashing measures.

Fifty wresting minutes the director’s arms invited
Each and every guest to take part in his creation,
Eyebrows tracing paths expressive, of failed conquest
Down the route, following his sweeping knuckle
Lines, twitched wrists, and subtle fingertips, caressing
These, our favorites, through his storied time and place,
A gloried narrative took shape, woven through the
Morn’ and mind. Eyes closed in reverie, arms rest aside
Wet cheeks of joy accomplished, cathartic and
Exhausted, our winter’s hero took stock in what his
Hands had wrought. Such arose in him, his greatest
Work so far! At the bottom, just past the curtain of
Flurried snow, through streaming tears, he counted
Thirteen in all. By Jove, his lucky number!

He rubbed his now warmed hands in humble satisfaction,
Noble now descending, came out the alley, he
Clicked his heels, and thanked God for such a
Syzygy. When he took his place again, beneath the
Awning that fine day, he sat a new and changed man, of
Simple means, but now of work, of vision vast, and
Great creative prowess.

Sam L. Richards, January 2011

No Extra Notes – Composer Takeover Feature

In order to kick off the new year, and to bring in a whole slew of pent-up posts, I wanted to be sure to mention the podcast over at No Extra Notes posted earlier this week. I happen to be one of the invited guests, along with Ryan Brown and Andrea La Rose in “Composer Takeover 05”.

No Extra Notes is a blog which interviews and features a wide variety up and coming composers, and they have  constructed their “Composer Takeover” edition to feature a whopping three composers one after another, in a podcast of mammoth 45-minute proportions! Woot!

Go check out the podcast, and considering that my last name starts with “R”, this week’s 15 minutes of fame can be found, alphabetized, around the 30 minute mark (each composer got 15 minutes each).

A little bit of talk and a little bit of music to begin this year of productivity.