Publications

The Norton Guide to Teaching Music Theory, coedited with Rachel Lumsden. New York: W. W. Norton, 2017.

This will be the first printed collection of its kind: over 20 essays by scholars from across the discipline on all aspects of theory pedagogy, including social equality in the classroom, theory and performance, aural skills, music cognition, movement, improvisation, model composition, and much more.

Chapter 22: Teaching by Example: Experiential Dimensions of the Theory Classroom


Performative Analysis: Reimagining Music Theory fPA-BookCoveror Performance. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2016.

Analytical insights are artistic interpretations, not scientific, objective facts.  As such, the performance need not somehow express or communicate them in order to prove its validity.  The imperative, rather, is to respond to such insights in various creative ways.

Performance Examples


swinkin-teachingperformanceTeaching Performance: A Philosophy of Piano Pedagogy. Switzerland: Springer, 2015.

Treating the process of learning a piece as a means to an end diminishes the means and thus ultimately the end.  Conversely, treating the means as autonomous in relation to the end result develops an interpretation more fully and thus ultimately produces a better result. In this sense, the distinction between autonomy and utility is specious.

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“‘About a Key’: Tonal Reference in Beethoven’s Sonata-Form Works.” The Journal of Musicology 34, no. 3 (2017).

In the sonata practice of the mid-eighteenth century, composers frequently asserted the minor dominant prior to the major dominant in the second part of the exposition.  Beethoven dramatized this technique, graduating from using the “wrong” mode to using the “wrong” key.  In many such circumstances, the result for the recapitulation is that the tonic arrival in the secondary theme is deferred, such that when the tonic does belatedly arrive, the listener is more cognizant of it.  In this way, Beethoven brings the resolution of large-scale tonal dissonance to the fore.  I suggest that such a tactic is metamusical—that Beethoven was in a sense writing music about music.

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“Teaching by Example: Experiential Dimensions of the Theory Classroom.” In The Norton Guide to Teaching Music Theory, eds. Rachel Lumsden and Jeffrey Swinkin. New York: W. W. Norton, 2017.

In teaching concepts, one can go beyond merely referring to them (denoting them) in order to exemplify them—to exhibit in one’s very discourse and class structure some of their underlying characteristics.  One can do this because theoretical concepts are metaphorical for more fundamental human experiences—social, emotional, and psychological.  One should do this because it makes otherwise abstract concepts more concrete, otherwise esoteric ones more familiar, and thus instills them in the student in a deeper, more intuitive way.

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“An Account of Emotional Specificity in Classic-Romantic Music.” Current Musicology 94 (2013): 97–126.

The relatively generic emotions that music expresses via foreground gestures and topics and the like are considerably specified by deeper motivic and voice-leading structures and by how foreground and deeper structures interact.

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“The Middle-Style/Late-Style Dialectic: Problematizing Adorno’s Theory of Beethoven.” The Journal of Musicology 30, no. 3 (2013): 287–329.

The organic unity that Adorno declares a hallmark of Beethoven’s middle style can, with a Schenkerian lens, also be seen in the late style.  Conversely, the fragmentary quality that Adorno declares a hallmark of the late style can be seen in the middle style.

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“Variation as Thematic Actualisation: The Case of Brahms’s Opus 9.” Music Analysis 31, no. 1 (2012): 37–89.

In many sets, the titular one included, variations do not primarily decorate their theme but rather expose dimensions of it that might otherwise remain latent.  In this sense, such variations effectively define the theme, in retrospect.

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“Schenkerian Analysis, Metaphor, and Performance.” College Music Symposium 47 (2008): 76–99.

Schenkerian tools and concepts are metaphors for physical and emotional experience.  It is the latter, not the former per se, that are fruitful for the performer.

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“Keyboard Fingering and Interpretation: A Comparison of Historical and Modern Approaches.” Performance Practice Review 13 (2007).

Some fingerings are more gestural than others, more congruent with the articulation and phrasing they are meant to execute.  Other fingerings are more conducive to long lines and thus indifferent to localized articulations.  The fingerings of C.P.E. Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and Schenker tend to fall into the former category.

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“Teaching Piano With Structure.” American Music Teacher (2006): 14–18.

One can teach a studio lesson with a sense of structure in multiple ways and on multiple levels—from attending to a piece’s form (inner and outer) to actually structuring and unifying the lesson itself.


“Reference and Schenkerian Structure: Toward a Theory of Variation.” Indiana Theory Review 25 (2004): 177–222.

Variations often bring deep-seated, Schenkerian features to the surface, a process I liken to Nelson Goodman’s notion of exemplification.  One instance of musical exemplification is motivic parallelism, as when the Urlinie is transferred to the foreground.

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