1. I’m also a big fan of Goetschius, who I often describe as my theory teacher hero. I actually do use the Theory and Practice of Tone Relations for beginning theory. The thing that’s great about Goetschius (and can’t be at all said for, for instance, Kostka and Payne) is that you can tell that every one of the exercises has been thought about and has a pedagogical purpose and a considered outcome–it’s not just there for no particularly good reason, and the exercises are what are important about text books–they’ve got me to explain things, after all. I also think that the best way to learn harmony is to harmonize tunes. I also think the way the progress is laid out is wonderful, and really does reflect how tonal music is organized, even though there are situations that are overrides for practically every rule. The rules still exist as underlying precepts. (I think the only rules that don’t have overrides are the ones about parallel fifths and octaves.) (I have to say, the second part of The Theory and Practice of Tone Relations is not so usable–the way of thinking about augmented sixths chords (which he never names as such), for instance,is just too old fashioned.
    I also use the counterpoint book for teaching tonal counterpoint.
    My friend the violist John Ziarko studied with Eugene Lehner (the great Eugene Lehner), who told him that the older you get the more time you have for Dvorak. In my experience that’s true (try looking at the C major String Quartet, or the E major–especially the slow movement), although I don’t think I’m ever going to get old enough for the Dumky Trio, which is at the top of my list of pieces I hope to go the rest of my life without ever hearing again.
    KG replies: Thanks, I’ll try using some of the exercises this year.

  2. And, incidentally, (even though I’d probably be the last to know) I don’t think my students feel like they’re on a chain gang.

  3. Aw, be nice to Dvorak! Despite his issues with continuity and form, one skill that makes him shine out above the luminaries you listed is his knack for writing beautiful, shapely, simply affecting tunes so memorable they bury themselves in your ear for ever after, like the famous moon aria from Rusalka. Then again, one of my earliest music making experiences was as first horn in Dvorak’s sprawling, messy, gorgeously melodic cello concerto, a piece I grew very fond of, so maybe I’m coming at from a more sentimental perspective. But I tend to view Dvorak as one of the few 19th-century composers who could pull off folksy charm with sincerity, and without being cutesy, stuffy, or ironic about it.

  4. I adore Dvorak also, almost everything he wrote. I totally agree with Matthew about his melodic genius and distinctiveness. He’s not as “sophisticated” as Brahms, and has suffered unfairly from the comparison, but to hell with that – Dvorak has a knack in piece after piece of writing those tunes, and harmonies, that make your heart melt and leap with joy at the same time. My all-time fave is the second theme from the scherzo of his eighth symphony, but there are so many others I don’t know where to begin!

  5. Percy Goetschius is wonderful. “The American pedagogue Percy Goetschius used to play the C major scale for his students and ask them a rhetorical question. `Who invented this scale?’ and answer it himself. `God!’ Then he would play the whole-tone scale and ask again, `Who invented this scale?’ And he would announce disdainfully, `Monsieur Debussy!'” [Slonimsky, Nicholas, Encyclopedia of 20th Century Music, 3rd Edition, 1984, pg. 1168]
    As Erv Wilson said of David Doty, “It’s absolutely marvelous to encounter such a pure specimen of hidebound fanatic. It’s like stepping into the woods outside your house and coming face to face with a brontosaurus.”
    As for Dvorak, Leonardo Da Vinci said it best: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

  6. Never underestimate Dvorak ! The problem is that most people know only a handful of his works, the ones which are played over and over to the almost criminal neglect of his other works.
    The New World symphony is so familiar that it’s easy to take it for granted; it’s a
    genuine masterpiece,and deservedly popular.
    The first two Dvorak symphonies, though somewhat immature, are fascinating and strikingly original works, and already show Dvorak’s prodigious melodic invention.
    They’re totally wrongheaded and hopelessly incorrect by the traditional standards of
    orthodox form, but chock full of interesting ideas and they grow on you with repeated hearings.
    The Devil and Kate ,available on Supraphon, is one of the funniest comic operas ever written,
    and hugely entertaining. It ought to be more popular. Dimitrij is fascinating; it’s the sequel to Boris Godunov, and the story of what happens to the pretender after the death of Boris,and is also on Supraphon.
    And there’s absolutely no excuse for the neglect of his magnificent Requiem.

  7. Nice coinage, Kyle: chord teleology.
    KG replies: When I was a student in the ’70s, the word teleology got thrown around a lot in music theory circles, but it seems to have disappeared. So I’m surprised you even think it’s my coinage. Another word that disappeared was “fauvism,” used for the “primitive” style of Stravinsky’s early ballets. It’s a mystery to me.

  8. On the subject of Percy Goetschius—my grandmother Lela Mae (Hemphill) Neely had a copy of a Goetschius introductory text about how to write four-part harmony. I had started to compose at the age of nine, but my music teacher in elementary school said I needed to study theory. I asked Granny about this and she gave me the PG book. She had done a few of the exercises in what was clearly her handwriting from much earlier in her long life. There was plenty left for me to do. I did the exercises and taught myself four-part harmony. I learned very little about the practice afterward that I didn’t already know from having worked my way through Goetschius at the age of ten.
    On the subject of Antonin Dvorak—I don’t have much to add to this discussion. I can see both sides of this and he’s certainly a mixed bag. (My favorite AD symphony, BTW, is the Eighth.) But the really interesting thing about him, to me, is the end of his life, when he moved to NYC and became for all intents and purposes an American composer. It’s very significant how his pedagogical example played out in the careers of our early twentieth century forebears like Arthur Farwell, Harry Burleigh, and lots of others.
    On the subject of rhythmic freedom—I too abhor the tyranny of the bar line, though it has its uses. It’s hard to imagine most minimalism without bar lines. Not to mention just about anything that has lots of people playing and singing at the same time. We should remember that bar lines were invented to make operas possible.
    KG replies: I rarely compose without bar lines – I don’t mean obliterate them literally. But I think of the meter as a grid across which to paint melodies freely, and then the performers use the grid to know where the melodies go. I don’t generally want to *hear* the grid unless you’re writing a march for marching band or a square dance fiddle tune. Even a nice waltz can wander around the meter and de-emphasize it. Minimalism sometimes destroys any sense of the bar line by making every beat the same for long periods.

  9. I’ve always regarded Dvorak rather highly, and after hearing one of his chamber pieces (which escapes me at the moment), I remember feeling indefensibly in favor of it. I had liked it but couldn’t exactly say why. I gave it some thought and I think the best way to put it is that listening to Dvorak is like hearing a really good story teller. Even if you know the story, the telling can be enthrall you, and that’s what he does for me, every phrase comes out meticulously crafted to carry you along with every note. It’s never a blur or wash of sound.
    The piano quintet I think remains my favorite of his pieces.