This is also why the distinction between "triad" and "modality" is rather beside the point, in practical usage. You can hopefully see how the "modal" point of view practically follows from the "triad as a generator of musical content", just as it follows from Schenker's presentation. Indeed, jazz theorists have rediscovered this link in a largely independent fashion, which is why they like to talk about modes so much.
I definitely agree about this, but I'm not quite sure about the implication that non-Schenkerian theorists could not possibly have 'something to protect' of their own. (It's very possible that you're right about most of the 'Penn School', though!) Of course, their underlying interests might not be coincident with the ones Schenker had. They needn't even do em any good, especially in the longer run - as arguably shown by the case of Rameau, who is on record as stating that he cared a lot more about his theoretical pursuits than the (rather impressive) music he actually composed!
(Sure, but the "nonsense" I was talking about is specifically the prescriptivist tendency to take rules from a radically different language, and one that has been dead for thousands of years, viz. Latin - whether involving lexicon, syntax or grammar - and apply them wholesale to English. In this case, using the form "per say" has the benefit of adding some transparency about what the idiom actually means - something like "(just) in accordance with what's being said; as an aside" in a way that just parroting per se doesn't, unless you have studied Latin before!)
comment by komponisto
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This is also why the distinction between "triad" and "modality" is rather beside the point, in practical usage.
Not at all. It strongly implicates the distinction between the chord model and the line model of musical data; thinking of the Stufe as a triad has the severely unfortunate effect of encouraging the chord model. This is why almost no one has noticed that Schenkerian theory, like Westergaardian theory, uses the line model. It is for this reason that I am so insistent on the distinction between Stufen and triads, and what you call the "'modal' point of view".
You're basically trying to argue that Schenker's ideas were already understood in the past by people like Rameau
Um, I'm expressly not trying to say this (i.e., that "Schenker's ideas" as a whole were extant
The phrase "as a whole" is absent from my statement. You were trying to argue that some of Schenker's ideas were extant, and I was disputing this in the important cases that were mentioned, in particular the Stufe as generator of content. While it was certainly related to things that had been said earlier by others (including Rameau), neither Schenker's particular idea of Stufe nor, indeed, his idea of content were part of the standard music theory he inherited; had they been, no one would have been struck by the originality and importance of his Harmony.
In retrospect, of course, it is nearly always possible to trace the ancestry even of original ideas; and, in fact, contrary to the current "historical" Zeitgeist which has so strongly influenced your comments, I think this is exactly how earlier ideas should be looked at -- from the perspective of their later descendants (provided the latter are actually a development or improvement of the earlier, which is markedly the case here). However, the consequence of this in this case is that, to whatever extent (e.g.) Rameau anticipated Schenker, it is a credit to Rameau, not a diminishment of Schenker.
But this also makes the theory historically dependent in a rather unorthodox way for a figure on a par with Darwin!
The reason Schenker is on a par with Darwin is not because of the novelty of his ideas; it is because of their fundamentality. As with Darwin's ideas in the case of biology, Schenker's ideas in music are a starting point, a core background assumption, for any reasonable view of music after him.
For instance, Schenker's ideas in and of themselves have little to say about orchestration and texture. If Schenker's works were all we had to go on, we would never know to hear, say, the start of KV332(I), 1st mvmt., as much more than stereotypically "pretty" music
This is a perfect example of what I am talking about when I say that Schenker's ideas have not been understood.
I could just reply by pointing out that the first sentence is simply false. Read the Ninth Symphony monograph; you will find (just for instance) Schenker arguing at length against Wagner's re-orchestrations of Beethoven. Already at that early stage, Schenker seemed to be under the impression that a lot of specific points about orchestration and texture followed from his ideas.
But really, the correct response is of a more general, meta-level character. The source of this type of complaint is a basic failure to understand what it is that one is supposed to be learning when one reads a music theorist -- most of all Schenker. Even if Schenker had not bothered to spell out the specific orchestrational or textural consequences of his ideas on Beethoven's Ninth Symphony or any other particular work, even if his only surviving writings were those devoted to the general presentation of his "theory" ( Harmony, Counterpoint, and Free Composition), it would still be entirely wrong to make the claim that you have, whether in general or about K. 332 in particular.
Your criticism is basically analogous to telling a nearsighted person that, if their eyeglasses were "all they had to go on", they would never notice the beauties of the landscape. Well, of course, but eyeglasses are never all that a given individual has to go on; they also have the entire human visual system and cognitive apparatus, not to mention a lifetime's worth of experience that will have imprinted itself upon these latter. The problem is that they're nearsighted, and a distant landscape will, by default, appear as a nondescript blur, limiting their ability to make use of their interpretive and appreciative faculties. Hence, what they need most urgently are corrective lenses. Not a verbal description of the landscape, a textbook on natural history, or research in computer vision that might lead to commercially useful animal- and plant-classification algorithms.
Schenkerian theory is a framework. By default, people do not perceive music; they perceive only a distant, distorted shadow that hints at what music might be. A good music theory is like a corrective lens that allows them to perceive music in its full, vivid glory. The difference between perceiving a piece of music only superficially, as opposed to "all the way through" to the Urlinie, is like the difference between seeing a blurry smear of color, on the one hand, and a picturesque panorama of detail, on the other.
This isn't a perfect analogy, but I hope it conveys something of the reason that "Schenker has little to say about orchestration or texture (or rhythm or ...)" is just the wrong type of criticism of Schenker, even if were true (which it virtually never is). If you learn to hear music the way that Schenkerian theory aims to teach (as in, hearing this way is a skill), you notice more about a piece of music, not less.
There seems to be a certain kind of personality trait, a certain kind of over-concrete literal-mindedness, that prevents people from understanding this, in the specific case of Schenkerian theory, and from expecting this kind of thing of a theory in general. What is remarkable about Schenker is that he possessed the kind of personality that did expect this of a theory, and, as a result, presented a theory of this kind. This is what I mean by he knew how to theorize.
One could also perhaps make an analogy to programming. A theory of music should, in fact, be something like a programming language for music. Saying something of the form "this theory has nothing to say about orchestration (etc.)" is like criticizing a programming language on the grounds that it lacks good libraries. This is a superficial criticism, because if the core of the language is well designed, good libraries can always be written. Similarly, if you have a good theory of music, understanding the various details that might be involved in a given piece of music, such as orchestration, texture, or any number of other things, will take care of itself in the hands of a dedicated listener.
Sure, but the "nonsense" I was talking about is specifically the prescriptivist tendency to take rules from a radically different language, and one that has been dead for thousands of years, viz. Latin - whether involving lexicon, syntax or grammar - and apply them wholesale to English
That's not what was going on here. I wasn't doing something like advocating against "split infinitives" on the grounds that infinitives are a single word in Latin (actually they're a single word in English as well and do not include the word to, a point that few understand but that can be confirmed by comparison with German, where the English preposition to corresponds to the German preposition zu, not to the infinitive ending -en).
Rather, I was correcting apparent ignorance of an actual piece of Latin being used in English. It is a feature of literate discourse that phrases from other languages are used; in such a speech community, one is expected to either have familiarity with the languages, or to learn the foreign vocabulary items (ahem) ad hoc. Something like "per say" is the result of somebody unfamiliar with the phrase in Latin misconstruing it as a phrase in English; this is simply a failure of literacy, nothing more -- which can, of course, be easily corrected (even without studying the rest of Latin). As you may be able to gather, I am rather big on literacy. (As I have already indicated, I am not a fan of Richard Taruskin's version of music history, but his framing of the nature of art music as being basically about a kind of literacy is something I find more or less spot on.)