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date: 17 May 2021


  • David Carson Berry
  •  and Sherman Van Solkema


An area of study that tends to focus on musical materials per se, in order to explain (and/or offer generalizations about) their various principles and processes. It investigates how these materials function (or, in a more speculative vein, how they might function), so that musical “structure” can be better understood. More broadly, in the United States, music theory refers to an academic discipline with a dual focus on research and pedagogy. Regarding the latter, especially at the undergraduate level (and earlier), theory is often coterminous with a program for teaching a variety of skills, from the rudiments of melody and rhythm, to harmony, counterpoint, and form (along with their attendant “ear training” or aural perception). Related to but standing apart from these fundamentals of praxis are the various research areas of modern theory, as described under §5 below. It should be noted that music analysis plays a major role in this agenda. Although conceptually separate from theory, in that analysis often focuses on the particulars of a given composition whereas theory considers the broader systems that underlie many such works, in practice the two have a reciprocal relationship....

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