Sanja Kiš Žuvela

Structural Analogies between the Arts in Teaching Music Theory

Music theory students are frequently confronted with a sort of music that represents an incomprehensible and complicated “semiotic system without a semantic level“ (Eco 1979: 11). One of the main tasks of education in music theory is to teach future consumers of art music how to isolate such semiotic fields from the musical texture as a whole and to attribute an adequate musical meaning to them. Traditional teaching activities such as musical dictation, sight-reading, graphic and aural analysis or compositional exercises may be significantly enriched by introducing intermodal correlation based upon structural analogies between music, visual arts and literature. Such analogies can reduce an array of difficulties that arise from the manifold levels of abstraction in musical art. The author's approach is based on interdisciplinary and intermodal apprehension of universal structural categories such as positive and negative, identity and contrast, complementarity, symmetry, asymmetry, circularity, unambiguity, ambiguity and polysemy, closed and open forms, evolution, addition, gradation, intensification, integration, fragmentation, variation etc. Musical rhetoric may also represent a rich source of analytical tools in music theory class. Structural analogies between the arts are introduced with special regard to the identity and specific features of every art form, enhancing the interrelation between music and other arts, as well as establishing correlation between musical and non-musical disciplines. Such an interdisciplinary approach may improve students’ mnemonic competencies, enrich their imagination and enhance their ability of structural hearing. In addition, it encourages critical thinking and qualifies students for independent and competent reception, reflexion and reproduction of works of (musical) art. The presentation will include the author's examples in teaching music theory and ear training in elementary music schools (grades 1-6) as well as harmony, counterpoint and formal analysis at secondary music school level (grades 7-10).