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message 1: by Acer (last edited May 08, 2014 02:03PM) (new)

Acer Pseudoplantatus | 6 comments

As a lover of music and all its aspects (theory and history included) and someone who's goal is to become a composer, so I'm eager to learn as much as possible, I'm alway on the hunt for new sources of knowledge and inspiration. (Currently looking on a good book on harmony, preferably focusing on romanticism)

So, after finding this group I imediately had the idea of compiling a list of the best books on music we've read or are reading.

The ones I can reccomend whole-heartedly so far are the following;
Hearing and Writing Music: Professional Training for Today's Musician
Hearing and Writing Music is a great course for aural skills and music notation. I have not had enough time for all the exercises, but it really helped me develop my skills. It is also a great read; motivational and clear, precise and well structured. The only aspect I dislike would be the print (I'd prefer a smaller/narrower font) and that I couldn't find a hardcover.

Kontrapunkt: Ein Lese Und Arbeitsbuch
(The book is in German, I'm not aware of any translations, sadly)
Diether de la Motte's "Kontrapunkt" is the most interesting book on counterpoint (and its historical developement) I've found so far. It was the first (and so far only) book on the topic I've encountered that was not just a rewrite of Fux's "Gradus". It is written in a great style and with love and it covers not just the rennaiscance (with a focus on the Franco-Flemish school) but also later developement and use (even the Romanticism and 20th century). Tons of examples, great analysis and elegant theoretical models.

Advice to Young Musicians
Reasons to read it; it is entertaining. (If you can, read it in German) It has great advice in it. It was written by Robert Schumann. Enough said

I'm currently reading David Cope's "Techniques of the Contemporary Composer", Michael Cunningham's "Technique for Composers" and Stravinsky's "Poetics of Music". I have not yet formed a "final" opinon of either, but you can expect reviews of those (though because of my tight university-schedule it will take me a while)

My next planned reads would be "Hideous Gnosis", writings from a Black-Metal-Theory Symposium and David Hendy's "Noise". Has anyone read them, by chance?

message 2: by Douglass (new)

Douglass Gaking | 3 comments Check out Harmonic Materials of Modern Music by Howard Hanson. It has some great analysis of 20th century music and great ideas to use when composing. I have found it very inspirational. It is out of print, but there is a full online version here:

message 3: by Acer (new)

Acer Pseudoplantatus | 6 comments Thank you very much! I'll check it out as soon as I can!
Any other books on music you'd reccomend?

message 4: by Douglass (last edited Oct 26, 2014 02:56PM) (new)

Douglass Gaking | 3 comments I don't have a lot more that are theory related, but definitely want to read more. I have been wanting to read Schoenberg's Theory of Harmony and Stravinsky's Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons (did you finish it, is it any good?).

Another one I really like is Effective Performance of Band Literature by W. Francis McBeth. It focuses on concert band, but many of the concepts regarding tuning, blend and balance, rhythm, and interpretation of 20th century music apply to all music. There is a PDF version of the book here.

I recently discovered a music theory textbook that I feel is superior to all the others I have seen. I used Ralph Turek's The Elements of Music: Concepts and Applications, Vol. I and Kostka's Tonal Harmony and Materials and Techniques of Twentieth-Century Music in college. Turek was okay, Kostka was good, but IMO this one is better: The Musician's Guide To Theory And Analysis by Jane Piper Clendinning & Elizabeth West Marvin. There are two excellent aural skills books that go with it. I am supposed to teach AP Music Theory next year and plan to use these books rather than Kostka's Tonal Harmony, which is what most teachers seem to be using.

message 5: by Acer (last edited Oct 27, 2014 04:00AM) (new)

Acer Pseudoplantatus | 6 comments I've not finished it yet, but I'm through most of it. It takes (me) some concentration to read, given that, despite being elegant and at times poetic, the sentences are of baroque proportions.
Not much theory in there, it is mostly about aesthetics and Stravinsky's mindset. A fascinating read for sure, yet long-winded. I'd recommend notating/copying favorite sections, since there are quite a few gems and inspirational sentences in there.

Thank you very much! I've been meaning to get acquainted with concert band, looks like this will be quite helpful.
And thank you as well for the other recommendations!

What I could recommend by now is (although not quite through all of them) Music Theory: Problems and Practices in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, an incredibly fascinating book written by Lloyd Ultan covering the development of musical notation and polyphony and Egon Wellesz's A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography. Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged..

Cunningham's Technique for Composers is a great book, though at times the author seemed a bit snobbish and elitist to me (despite me agreeing with most of what he wrote) whilst reading it. Nonetheless a very helpful and inspiring read for me.
Cope's Techniques of the Contemporary Composer I found to be a great source of tools and tricks to overcome writers block, containing great tips and approaches, though not necessarily a structured approach or theoretical depth. Some of the practices though I've implemented in my planning and working phases.

message 6: by Andrei (last edited Nov 01, 2014 08:08AM) (new)

Andrei Pogorilowski (pogorilowski) | 8 comments Hi,
Just stumbled upon this discussion. Mind that right now my (musical time theory) book is available for free, here:
Enjoy the reading!

message 7: by Acer (new)

Acer Pseudoplantatus | 6 comments Greetings!
Damn, that looks interesting. I expect a real mind-bender. I'll have to put some time aside for it during the holidays. Thank you for sharing!

message 8: by Andrei (new)

Andrei Pogorilowski (pogorilowski) | 8 comments You're welcome.

message 9: by Jon (new)

Jon Anderson | 11 comments Hiya Guys!

Wow! No mention of "The Schillinger System of Musical Composition" here yet. That's surprising as it provides the solution as to how all of harmony functions, how to produce perfect voice-leading, melody, endless variation in rhythm, arrangement and form. Almost 80 years since its publication and very few people seem to know much about it. Or even that it exists.

I found copies of Vol.1 & 2 at the Royal Danish Music Conservatorium Library a few years ago (in mint condition) which had been gathering dust there untouched and unread since 1974. What a shame and a waste!

It's true that it's some 1,500 pages are a challenge to absorb. The book was put together after Joseph Schillinger's death by his wife and his publisher (who she'd since married... hmmmm...). Neither had a comprehensive grasp of the theory and seemed to have simply lumped together Schillinger's writings, lessons for his students and other notes into sections and chapters as best they could. So it's no easy read, but is worth the effort.

Some of it is admittedly incomprehensible (to me, at least) and I suspect it is in part due to some ideas being simply speculative nonsense. Some of the stuff on producing counterpoint appears (and sounds) a little dubious, for example.

But on the whole, the "Schillinger System of Musical Composition" is a work of pure genius by an insightful and original thinker who discovered the consilience between science, maths and music. Which is natural enough when considering it after the fact, but which is clearly not blatantly obvious to a culture and society which all too frequently demonstrates a fundamental disconnect with objective reality and truth, logic, and the Universe as it is as a consistent, falsifiable, holistically functioning reality.

Some of Schillinger's students included Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller ("In the Mood" and "Moonlight Serenade" were originally homework exercises), George Gershwin, and Maurice Jarre (the film composer and Jean Michele's dad). It has been the corner-stone for much of the music to come out of Hollywood since the late 1930's, and I suspect has been the tool of trade of such figures as film composers like James Horner, and Leonard and Elmer Bernstein. Even the theme from "The Bugs Bunny Show" demonstrates typical Schillinger harmonic strategies, for God's sake!

I've yet to find problem I wish to solve musically for which it is incapable of producing a satisfactory solution, and I haven't been able to find anything even remotely comparable in the field of music theory. So BIG UP!

Also worth checking is Schillinger's "The Mathematical Basis of the Arts". Wowie-zowie!

message 10: by Andrei (last edited Jun 14, 2015 06:42AM) (new)

Andrei Pogorilowski (pogorilowski) | 8 comments Jon,
I knew of this book(s) for quite some time. Luckily for you, you found a copy in a public library, which is good for you, as the price on Amazon for this title is in the $200-300 range! I wonder why no one contemplated re-editing.
Andrei Pogorilowski ("The music of the Temporalists")

message 11: by Jon (new)

Jon Anderson | 11 comments Hi Andrei!

Thanks for your message.

Actually I was introduced to them by jazz percussionist, Emmanuel Abdul Rahim, who lives just a few suburbs away from me, here in Copenhagen. I had a stewardess friend who was visiting New York in 1995, and she picked up some of the last copies still lying around at the original publisher (Da Capo Press) for me. They weren't SO expensive, as I recall... around $30 or $40 per book.

Re-editing SSMC would be a massive task! MASSIVE!!!!! Trying to connect the dots of the original manuscript (and they're often little more than just dots...) with annotations would require an exhaustive, thoroughly comprehensive understanding of its material in all its mind-bending glory. I doubt that anybody is familiar enough with it to do that objectively. And any attempt on my part could, I fear, lead only to madness. Sort of like compending a work on quantum mechanics. ARGH!!!!

I was working at the Danish School of Contemporary Dance in the late '90'sand started to write a more comprehendable overview of harmony based on the system for my students (THIS is do-able), but only got as far hybrid 3-part harmony. (My wife got sick long-term and I had to leave my job to take care of her and our daughter.) Although I must admit I had done a pretty good job of explaining it up to that point. But it was really only for my students. I thought I might be infringing too much on Schillinger's copyright to hope to publish it. And his wife (Francis) was still alive at the time, and I didn't want some aggressive, old, gold-digger pursuing me for rights & royalties. Schillinger's work has been fairly poorly understood and I just wanted to correct that situation, not necessarily score some big bucks. Or attract unwanted legal attention. I laid it out on a Mac in circa 1997, and all that data is long gone, although the manuscript survives. I may yet do another lay-out on Indesign or something and try to publish the sucker. I don't know who I'd have to contact to get permission, though. Nor if I even NEED permission. But I guess it's too much of a potential cash-cow to not secure some sort of rights to produce it.

I started on an Encyclopedia of Scales, cross-referencing the 2,048 scales that I worked out within an octave with all of the scales I could find (I found several hundred in regular use around the world). This also proved a MASSIVE undertaking, and I only finished North & South India before I got too distracted with music production in my band at the time (Banzai Republic) and my new job at the Royal Danish Ballet (where I've been "pianist-to-the-stars" these last 11 years). So that never got finished either, sadly.

I've also written a book of cross-rhythms extrapolated from the rhythmic techniques of Sub-Saharan Africa, which I could probably finish, lay-out (*groooooan...*) and self-publish this Summer, if I could get my thumb out of my butt.


Check ya later!

- J

message 12: by Andrei (last edited Jun 14, 2015 07:58AM) (new)

Andrei Pogorilowski (pogorilowski) | 8 comments Jon,

1995 is a loooong time ago. People like Schillinger, Jonathan D Kramer or David Epstein worked hard to produced large & comprehensive music theory tomes only to see their work published in limited one-time editions. Like Schillinger's work, Kramer's is now priced on Amazon $350! I know little about functional harmony (although some 30 years ago I studied harmony with two professors while using Jadassohn's, D'Indy's, Alexandru Pascanu's and Martian Negrea's treatises) but I am quite competent in musical time matters. Incidentally the Kindle edition of my book "The music of the Temporalists" will be tomorrow available for free on Amazon. The translation is improper (self-made) but still readable. As you are preparing to launch a book on "rhythmic techniques of Sub-Saharan Africa", give it a try. Sax player Patrick Brennan found my book useful exactly from this point of view (cross/poly-rhythms et al):
My Facebook page is:
If you'd like to hang out on this social media platform you know what to do.
Best regards,
Andrei Pogorilowski ("The music of the Temporalists")

message 13: by Jon (last edited Jun 14, 2015 11:18AM) (new)

Jon Anderson | 11 comments Hi Andrei!

Wow! Super kool! Thanks! I'll check it out.

I just found a copy of Stravinsky's "Poetics of Music" at:
... if you're interested. Nice!

I had a crappy music teacher's education @ QUT in Brisbane, Qld, Australia. The harmony guy there was enthusiastic and a Doctor, no less. But the textbooks we were presented with were infantile, and we HEARD of such texts as Stravinky's, but (God forbid!) we never set eyes on it, or got an inkling of what it contained. I asked various lecturers if there was any accurate comprehensive theoretical text regarding the functioning of music to be found. I was told: "No!" Basta! I realized after 3½ years that I had in no way been equipped with any decent theoretical basis to pass on to the "next generation", and could never be much more than all the other music teachers I met on my travels through the secondary education system: glorified baby-sitters. No thanks! I dropped the whole undertaking like a hot potato. It was only after meeting Abdul-Rahim in 1994 and then reading Schillinger that I realized how impoverished our music education was in Australia, and how lame my own had been in particular. Horrible! Horrible!

C U @ FB!

- Jon

message 14: by Jon (new)

Jon Anderson | 11 comments Hi Andrei!

I just checked the review of your book @ It sounds REALLY, REALLY fascinating. The reviewer obviously did, too. I look VERY much forward to grabbing a copy. The reviewer's comparison of it with "Flatlands" immediately caught my attention. That was a great book. I'll big you up on my FB and alert my friends there about the download from Amazon tomorrow.

I haven't checked for a Kindle emulator for PC, but I trust there's something like that out there. Otherwise, we must work out a barter. I think you might be amused by my recent (and first) finished publication (check my profile for a pdf of extracts), although it's WAY off our current subject matter. (WAAAAY off...)


- Jon

message 15: by Jon (new)

Jon Anderson | 11 comments Hi Andrei!

Consider yourself BIGGED UP! at:


- Jon

message 16: by Andrei (new)

Andrei Pogorilowski (pogorilowski) | 8 comments Hi Jon,

Just woke up and saw your Facebook BIGGUPPER! Thanks a lot for that! And yes, Kindle books can now be read on any device. I will look for your publication right now.

message 17: by Jon (new)

Jon Anderson | 11 comments HI Andrei!

You're welcome!

I googled "Kindle for PC" and there it was.

I'm off to Amazon! d=(^_^)


- Jon

message 18: by Andrei (new)

Andrei Pogorilowski (pogorilowski) | 8 comments Excellent. The promotion just started!

message 19: by Andrei (new)

Andrei Pogorilowski (pogorilowski) | 8 comments Jon wrote: "Hi Andrei!

Wow! Super kool! Thanks! I'll check it out.

I just found a copy of Stravinsky's "Poetics of Music" at:"

Oh, that is a wonderful series of lectures! I read the Romanian version some 30n years ago, along with Roman Vlad's biography. Plus I enjoyed in the early 90s Robert (?) Craft's interviews.

message 20: by Jon (last edited Jun 17, 2015 02:14PM) (new)

Jon Anderson | 11 comments Hi Andrei!

Damn! I had all sorts of problems trying to download your book yesterday and eventually had to leave Amazon disappointed. It had been so many years since I'd used the site that I thought my profile would have been long gone. So I tried to make a new one, but no, my old one was still there, but I didn't know my code. After much stuffing around with emails, verifications, codes, and things, when I finally managed to get into Amazon and I clicked on the link to your book, I was continually sent to some sort of Kindle advertisements that didn't seem to have anything to do with your book. I tried all sorts of stuff, including trying to import it onto some sort of Cloud thing (where you could perhaps read it in a browser window), but nothing seemed to function like I thought it oughta (when do things ever...?). Eventually I had to give up as I was pressed for time and had to leave for an appointment. As I didn't get home til well late in the night, I'm afraid I missed the promo. Damn!

What gives with stinky old Amazon? It seems way less than user-friendly.

All the best!

- Jon

message 21: by Andrei (new)

Andrei Pogorilowski (pogorilowski) | 8 comments Jon,
All this summer the Kindle edition costs 99 cents (plus VAT). So, make this nickle&dime investment or wait until July 1st when a new free promotion will take place.
Take your time,

message 22: by Acer (new)

Acer Pseudoplantatus | 6 comments The "Encyclopedia of Scales" and book about Sub-Saharan rhythmic techniques sound most interesting.

I did find Schillinger's "The Mathematical Basis of the Arts" online and I'll check it out when I have more time, but to be honest, I'm very sceptical of the Shillinger-system.
The only things I could find is overpriced books, paid online courses, very vague and short attempts of a "description" of this system and ridiculously over the top seeming praise.
Pardon, Jon, but your statement that it would provide "the solution as to how all of harmony functions, how to produce perfect voice-leading, melody, endless variation in rhythm, arrangement and form" is part of that.

I'm even more skeptical, because I am a mathematician in the making.

But your statement of him being someone "who discovered the consilience between science, maths and music" really bugs me. Firstly, because mathematics is pretty much the "language of nature" and can be used to describe almost anything and secondly because ideas of this kind have been around since antiquity.
Philosophically speaking "objective reality" is rather tricky a concept as well, given that our perceptions and thought patters are limited and subjective. And I'm not sure of what you're trying to express with the statement that the universe is "falsifiable" and a "holistically functioning reality".

I hope I'm not sounding dickish, but the implied argument from authority (about the quality of his system) after commenting on society's disconnection from logic is a bit amusing. (Also, none of the composers listed could sell me on the system, and neither could what little of his music I could find online)

message 23: by Jon (last edited Jul 07, 2015 12:00PM) (new)

Jon Anderson | 11 comments Hi Andrei!

Thanks for your comments and critique. Sorry I haven't replied. My internet situation has been a bit tricky. I've been holidaying on the Danish island of Samsø where the internet was intermittent, and things are not much better back home at our summer house. So I've not been online so much, and not here at Goodreads at all. :( This note must be short, too, as my wife is returning from Germany today with a carload of goodies and I have much to do before she returns... :)

I must echo your frustration at the lack of info online, and the outrageous cost of the original textbooks, online courses, etc. It really is total bastardry! I will happily share my notes with you, if you are interested. There's a lot of them... (a LOT!) ...but we have our whole lives ahead of us! Wot?

I have my own take on the Schillinger System and what it's all about. I need a little time to formulate a brief summary which might help communicate the foundation for my enthusiasm. If I may over-generalise, I could say that it provides technique for producing (in theory) all the music that there can be written using an octave divided into 12-tones. The thing is: not all of that music could be considered "good music", as taste is a purely subjective affair. But you can find out what's right for you without too much effort. It's not rocket science. Many of things you may know beforehand (it is an 80-year-old text after all, and some ideas have been absorbed into the mainstream), or you may have sensed the logic in form / harmony / rhythm / voice-leading but could never put words to it. My own "teacher", Emmanual Abdul Rahim, told me that when he explained it to Duke Ellington, Duke said that he had been using these ideas/techniques all his life but had never really been able to put words to it.

I struggle, too, with putting words to how I see this system's connection to universal functioning, and I obviously have failed yet again given your questions about my language in trying to qualify all this. It's a little difficult - like trying to describe a spiritual vision or insight to someone. Or your own personal sense of the grandeur of the Universe.

You do not sound dickish. Have no shame! I can only speak from an authority informed by the fact that I would not have my splendid job improvising my way through classes at the Royal Danish Ballet every day if I hadn't gotten anything out of Schillinger. It blew my mind when I encountered it, and it continues to do so. Every time I sit down at the piano is a learning experience as it entails a never-ending exploration of what is possible weighed against what I can imagine in real time versus my technical capacity to play it on the fly.

Re: "society's disconnection from logic". I don't find people very rational in their thinking. Maybe it's just the people I know. Or the news media I follow. As I may have mentioned, I've tried to explain the system to a few people, with varying results. Some people simply don't want to know, fearing it will crush their precious creativity or stifle their "personal voice". It won't. Or they think it's just too big a job to embark on. Well, they may be right when it comes to Schillinger's books. They are a nightmare to make sense of. But the underlying principles are just a few simple and quite elegant rules and concepts which will hold true in the vast majority of situations. Some of it is, indeed, CRAP as far as I can see (although this could be a failing on my part - 'tho' I fear not). But some of it is shear genius.

I wish I had time for more, but must cut this one short. Please message me a contact email here or at and I'll post you some stuff when I have the good fortune to be back online.

All the best! And keep up that critical thinking! BIG UP!

- Jon

message 24: by Jon (new)

Jon Anderson | 11 comments Oh! Hi Acer!

Sorry, Dude! I thought that was Andrei who had written the post prior to mine. But it was you. My comments apply nevertheless.

Did you find the "Mathematical Basis of the Arts" online as a pdf? If so, where? I'm sick of dragging these books around with me sometimes, as they weigh as much as a brick each.

All the best!

- Jon

message 25: by Jon (new)

Jon Anderson | 11 comments Andrei wrote: "Jon,
All this summer the Kindle edition costs 99 cents (plus VAT). So, make this nickle&dime investment or wait until July 1st when a new free promotion will take place.
Take your time,

Hi Andrei!

Hope you are kool! Oops! I missed July 1st. Will dig a dollar out soon-ish. I'm only 3½ weeks into a 9½ weeks holidays and I am outrageously poor this year, now that the ballet season is over. ...Outrageously poor! I often get a shitload of royalties and stuff in June, but I didn't get so much at all this year. The music business is drying up. Boo-hoo... (;_;)

Gotta fly! Check ya later!

- Jon

message 26: by Acer (last edited Jul 11, 2015 03:23PM) (new)

Acer Pseudoplantatus | 6 comments Greetings, Jon!

You have neither reason to thank me for or apologize! As you see, I'm not visiting this site regularly either.

I would be really interested in those.
Although I fear my idea of the system has only become a bit vaguer.

Now that was the proper praise to hook me!

And I'm even more interested in your notes now.
I'll be sending you an email of mine in a couple of seconds!

Again, nothing to be sorry for!
I found it on as a pdf, which you can find here:

Best regards!

edit/P.S.: I've not had much luck finding the message-sending function on this site, oddly

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