January 28, 2017

The Reality of Music Theory

“Piano reading skills is most important,” asserts Tomoko. But this reading goes beyond just following the notes, just as cooking transcends reading the recipe. Cooking follows certain protocols based on the science of food; so too does music follows the theory of music.  

Music reveals patterns of sound, and music theory codifies those patterns. Music theory covers not just the elements of composition, but also studies the writing of music. Over the ages, composers create new patterns, which shape music theory and makes it truly dynamic.

When Tomoko studied music, she had to take music theory along with instrumentation and composition. Her own students also complement piano lessons with music theory. Furthermore, Tomoko incorporates music theory into her lesson. “Students need to know the vocabulary of music and the inner workings of music in order to perform knowledgeably.” Tomoko says, “It’s like an English teacher explaining grammar.”

Tomoko also talks about composers and their music, including how they manifest music theory. How are composers identified by their musical forms? How does Bach’s compositions reflect mathematical knowledge? Why was Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique so revolutionary? How does music theory inform Bartok’s use of folk melodies?

Like the master chef, the master pianist knows and appreciates the theory behind of music, and applies that knowledge to enrich the performance – and the listener’s experience.