Music Theory is Dominated by White, Christian Male Writers

Teaching today is strictly on the basis of  mindless memorization of artificial elements created only by men of unquestionable ‘authority’, that began with the religious philosophy of various nations. Women have always, and even to this day, been regarded as ‘impure’, therefore should not be a part of the religious, political, nor musical experience. Unfortunately race has also been entered into the foray, with people ‘of color’ as ‘illiterate’, ergo unacceptable. Musically, it is the white male European music that dominates as the only ‘acceptable’ music; that of JS Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, et.al., but certainly not ‘people of color’, female, or non-Christian: Fanny Mendelssohn,Clara Schumann, George GershwinJohn Mehegan, Hoagy Carmichael,George WalkerLudmilla Ulehla, Leonard Bernstein, et.al.

One of the first theorists that gave rise to our academic theory was Jean-Philippe Rameauwhose ‘Treatise on Harmony’, published in 1722 remains as  “…the definitive authority on music theory, forming the foundation for instruction in western music that persists to this day.” (Wikipedia) Music theory is dominated by white male authors… exclusively.  In addition, certain authors and texts are omitted from consideration, examination, or even reference in texts from all major publishing houses of music theory.  These include Ludmilla Ulehla’s ‘Contemporary Harmony’, Hermann von Helmholtz’s ‘On the Sensations of Tone’, and Giuseppi Tartini’s ‘Trattato di musica secondo la vera scienza dell’armonia’.

Theories covered in these texts published by major publishing houses of music theory texts by their hired PhD’s do not mention these important theories, nor the authors mentioned above.  One wonders, why?  Why are traditional theories of ‘types of cadences’, ‘key circle’, ‘figured bass’, ‘secondary chords’,  ‘tone-row’, et. al. given pages of space, but not one sentence to the afore mentioned theories or theorists?  Why is the woman theorist Ludmilla Ulehla, chairman emeritus of the composition and theory department of the Manhattan School of music not included in the list of music theorists on the web?  Unfortunately it is racist, gender, political, and financial.  The ‘PhD’ in music theory is supposed to know the literature and include theories regarding the music of Bach, Mozart, Debussy, Bill Evans, et.al. It isn’t there. Only the ‘acceptable’ is included in these texts, and ‘acceptable’ is not a yardstick for texts of instruction.

Ralph Carroll Hedges, B.Ed., B.Mus., M.M.

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