20th-Century Theory It's about Time: The Compositional Techniques of Maurice Ravel

By Menard, Tonya | American Music Teacher, April-May 2013 | Go to article overview

20th-Century Theory It's about Time: The Compositional Techniques of Maurice Ravel


Menard, Tonya, American Music Teacher


The disciplines of piano lessons, traditional music theory and 20th-century composition are typically separated from one another. The culmination of all three in one private lesson is quite rare since, all too often, a student's repertoire and technique is challenging enough alone. How is it possible then, to approach the topic of 20th-century techniques with any consistency? In recent years, piano teachers have included more contemporary music in their studios; however, the theory within the music is often neglected. This progressive music is complicated to learn and tricky to memorize; therefore, most of the lesson and practice time is spent simply trying to prepare a piece for performance. In fact, teachers sometimes believe they barely have time to teach the fundamentals. But this approach leaves serious students with inadequate training.

Twentieth-century composers, like Maurice Ravel, have a rich array of repertoire that, when understood theoretically, is much more interesting than simply learning to play the pieces. The illumination of this composer's theoretical language could be enjoyable and motivating to pre-college students, resulting in a more competitive product in auditions for higher educational institutions. For those pianists who do not intend to major in music, musical satisfaction increases. Private music teachers and university professors who include theoretical study of contemporary pieces (most of which are not so contemporary anymore), develop their students' appreciation and understanding of the composers' ideas. In addition, their own musicality is richer and their intellectual level rises. In this way, the techniques of 20th-century masters would be common knowledge to young students everywhere and would allow for more intensive score study and understanding in the college piano studio.

In my personal experience with the Virginia MTA, I have felt pride as my students participated in the state theory testing. Its high standard has kept them in a constant state of progression. The vigilance of my local and state organizations to foster improvement in theory and other areas made me feel secure in our ongoing progressiveness. Although I began this project with the knowledge that VMTA did not include 20th-century techniques in its 13 levels of testing (primer through level 12), subsequent discussions have prompted a resolution to add them into the theory syllabus.

In my research, I conducted a survey in 2011-2012 of MTNA state affiliates that participate in regulated theory testing for pre-college private students. Of the 50 states, 33 responded stating they do have some type of leveled testing. Only six states (New Hampshire, Texas, Tennessee, California, Illinois and Kansas) include the past century's techniques in their tests, and most of those are quite limited. The following chart shows the type of content each of the six states includes:

PARTICIPATING   20th-CENTURY THEORETICAL CONCEPTS
STATE EXAMS     INCLUDED IN STATE THEORY

New Hampshire   Definitions: Level 6

Texas           Bitonality: Level 11

Tennessee       Terms and Composers in Music History
                Portion of Exams: Level 7 + 8

California      Styles, Scales, Rhythmic and Harmonic
                Elements, Percussive Elements, Textures,
                Listening Skills, Serialism, and Composers:
                Level 8 and up

Illinois        Rhythmic and Harmonic Elements:
                Level 10 and up

Kansas          Styles, Scales, Rhythmic and Harmonic
                Elements, Textures: Level 7 and up

Some of Ravel's compositional techniques appear in the tests above, while others, such as contrametrics and pitch counting, are nowhere in the mix. To the credit of the states' exams, they do include concepts not discussed here (polyrhythms, atonality, 12 tone/tone row and avant-garde). Virginia is actually contemplating the addition of prepared piano as well. All of these suggested terms are teachable concepts that can be addressed in both private and group lessons alike. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

20th-Century Theory It's about Time: The Compositional Techniques of Maurice Ravel
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.