New Metaphors for 21st Century Harmony

I’ve been dismayed by the degree to which traditional theories of harmony are tangental to the working keyboard practice of a 21st century pianist working in collaborative contexts.  A knowledge of figured bass is fantastic if you are working on the harpsichord with period repertoire, but for most pianists the kinds of harmonic thinking that underpin the repertoire they are asked to perform finds no clear expression in traditional music theory. Today I’ve been mulling on whether our metaphors aren’t the problem. Once upon a time it made perfect sense to say chords have a hierarchy, made up of the most important chord relationships (primary chords), and chords which play a complementary role (secondary chords). And once upon a time the idea of modulating really did describe the journey-like characteristics of the harmonic experience throughout a composition. But for the best part of the 20th century composers have shown remarkably little interest in modulating, and their use of chords suggests

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How I came to compose educational piano music

This blog has been a bit of an experiment so far – an experiment in how-to-blog, as far as I am concerned, and I’ve realised that I probably haven’t included a whole lot of useful factual information about myself so far….. So to rectify a little: I’ve been composing educational piano music since 1995 when an adult student (probably no older than 22 at the time) said to me “But what I really want to do is to play the way you do when you are playing your own music”.  This set me back quite a bit, as I had never given any thought to teaching my students to play the way I did when I wasn’t performing ‘repertoire’.  My teaching was somewhat traditional in terms of content, style, outcomes and expectations.  But my performing life was anything but traditional, and many parents had sent their children to me to have lessons after they had seen me performing. My adult student

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