A question was posed during one of our Thursday evening Speaking Schillinger Lectures, that had us all in a buzz. At first what seemed like an innocent remark caused a bit of a controversy. Would the state of music composition and education be any different had Schillinger not been born? You know kind of “It’s a Wonderful Life” but Schillinger playing the George Bailey character.
So the knee-jerk reaction is to say no difference. His teachings and System was just an annotation in the history of music and music education. Then the layers of the onion get peeled back one argument or Schillinger influence at a time. What if:
Gershwin never met Schillinger?
Glen Miller never wrote Moonlight Serenade?
Schillinger House/Berklee College of Music never opened?
Westlake School of Music Never was opened.
Rudolf Schramm, Bob Bianco, Richard Benda, Charlie Banacos never taught the Schillinger System?
Nathan Van Cleave, Leith Stevens, Franklyn Marks, Robert Emmett Dolan, Vic Mizzy, Lyn Murray etc.. never went to LA and Film Composers were never influenced by Schillinger.
Muhal Richard Abrams never learned the Schillinger System? Would the AACM ever have formed?
Charles Stepney never learned the Schillinger System would Earth Wind and Fire, Minnie Ripperton, the Dells, Ramsey Lewis and all his work ever been produced.
What if I never met Lou Pine and Jerome Walman?
Well There is a start. We will investigate these questions and more
Thinking Out Loud.
More Schillinger plays Schillinger
Nicolas Slonimsky was a Russian-born American conductor, author, pianist and composer. He wrote the Thesaurus of Music Scales and Patterns. These music scales and patterns were derived from the Schillinger System of Musical Composition and was used by Rudolf Schramm in his teaching of the Schillinger System at NYU in the 1950’s. Schillinger’s Theory of Symmetric Pitch Scales derives scales by dividing the octave into equal intervals. Those divisions would be in half or 2 Tonics, in thirds or 3 Tonics, 4 Tonics , 6 Tonics and 12 Tonics. The scales are derived by using the same music scale intervals in each tonic. Though Slonimsky’s nomenclature is unique his music scales are derived from this theory. In fact a pamphlet accompanied the first edition that explains the techniques in the Thesaurus that coincides with the Schillinger Books. Below you will find this Pamplet along with the Master Scales.
The thoughts of having a theory of melody brings much skepticism. The thoughts of engineering music has set off ongoing debates that have lasted decades. The truth is, whether we look at music or in this case a melody with tools to analyze them or through trial and error, come up with a melody that our brain has endorsed, the process is the same.
In this Logical Theory of Music, Schillinger reduced music down to terms we can measure. The data he accrued comes mostly from music written by composers who have used their intuition to compose. So the hypothesis that Schillinger sets forth comes from the way composers compose intuitively.
The tools that Schillinger gives us, enhances our own abilities to come up with melodies. Procedures that we can see to write the emotions we want to convey. Almost like when I writer searches for the perfect word or phrase to convey a thought or feeling to his readers.
So takes this journey if you dare.
This has been an ongoing topic on Thursday Evenings at our free Speaking Schillinger talks.
George Gershwin probably the greatest American Composer struggled with the fact that his fame was based on popular tunes. He took lessons with many teachers. The one teacher that is most known as Gershwin’s teacher is Joseph Schillinger. The Gershwin Family discounts the effect of Schillinger’s teachings on George Gershwin but there is no doubt that his style had changed after his lessons began.
Russian Joseph Schillinger‘s influence as Gershwin’s teacher of composition (1932–1936) was substantial in providing him with a method of composition. There has been some disagreement about the nature of Schillinger’s influence on Gershwin. After the posthumous success of Porgy and Bess, Schillinger claimed he had a large and direct influence in overseeing the creation of the opera; Ira completely denied that his brother had any such assistance for this work.
Vernon Duke tells of the impact Schillinger had on Gershwin’s music, In the article” Gershwin, Schillinger, and Duklesky: Some Reminiscence” Musical Quarterly (1947), .
The Rhumba ‘Cuban Overture” is the first piece Gershwin wrote under Schillinger’s tutelage.
There are clear Schillinger permutations, expansions and contractions in Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm Variations”.
I Got Rhythm Variations
Now Porgy and Bess is another story. There have been two scholarly articles written about different Schillinger techniques employed by the composer. Also the orchestration sounds very similar to Schillinger’s own orchestrations.
Ain’t Necessarily So