Music Without Schillinger

Joe playing theremin

A question was posed during one of our Wednesday 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.


Also published on Medium.

16 thoughts on “Music Without Schillinger”

  1. Hal Galper says:

    I studied the Schillinger System at Berklee in the mid 50’s. It taught me that were underlying reasons why some music sounded good and some didn’t. It wasn’t until decades later I realized how much the system had shaped my thinking about music. Schillinger gave me a methodology for analyzing music far beyond mere transcription and copying.

    Hal Galper

    1. Phil says:

      Hi Hal,
      I agree totally! What then begs the question is without this insight would your music have changed?
      I know it is a bit philosophical but an interesting question.


  2. David Kane says:

    All good points- to that I can add that my longtime teacher, Dr. Asher Zlotnik, was profoundly influenced by his Schillinger studies and his students included, Gil Goldstein, Jamie Aebersold, Emil Richards, Paul Bollenback, Chris Bacas and many I’m forgetting. Also, Zlotnik left a permanent impact on the music departments he taught in: University of Indiana, Boston University, Manhattan School of Music, University of Maryland and Peabody Conservatory.

    1. Phil says:

      Absolutely! I believe many of us can add our influences also. I didn’t know about Jamie Aebersold that is also quite an influence on many musicians. Asher Zlotnick has also quite a web of students.

  3. jesscast999 says:

    And what about Dick Groove who studied the Schillinger Boocks for about 9 years and based all his theories on it!!!

    1. Phil says:

      I agree but later on Dick had said Schillinger was not much of an influence. He studied with Earle Brown in Bolder Colorado. I see many Schillinger theories in Dick Groves teachings.


  4. Bobby Sanabria says:

    What if Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri hadn’t studied the Schillinger System?

    1. Phil says:


      Absolutely! Eddie and Tito spoke about the influence Schillinger had on their development. What would their music sound like with out Schillinger’s influence?

  5. Chromatic Cube says:


    Everything would be different!

  6. David Masters Olney says:

    What If…:
    …Pythagoras never knew of Plato – then combining Ethos with Scientia, Properties of Nature, Oracles and Nine Muses?
    There may be no such thing as “attenuative frequency” or “Interrelative Modality.”

    …Cantus Pulchra of ST Cecilia + Cantus Augustus of ST Gregory had never been defined?
    There may be no conventional scale structure – from Ionian to Locrian – upon which to build numerological definitions.

    …J.S.BACH never went into a Church and found an Organ?
    The Choralegesang may have waited another 1,000 years.

    …Martin Luther had never met Gutenberg and Dürer?
    There would (still) be nothing but Roman Rule, and no Gottspiel to attest in German or English.

    …life without Brahms?
    There may be a severe lack of Ravel, Debussey, R. Strauss…Gil Evans… Brian Wilson…

    The generational progression of Musical Freedom and its gift bespeaks the ordination of its’ _Discipline and its’ _Language.
    The true phenomenon of Music may belong to Hegelian revelations and scolarships, while the indispensability of Mind relies on proof – Logos – of which Herr Schillenger’s was a timely + propitiously necessary master with an intrinsic solution.
    The special niche of making connections upon a singular locus [of Geist] is the mete kindred reckoning of Albrecht Schweitzer.
    The great credit may further go to the practitioners and teaching instructors of Berklee who get it.

    1. Phil says:


      That is so true.
      This is telling with regards to everyone’s choices as small and trivial as they may seem.
      With regards to music an infinite amount of outcome of where we might be today.


      1. David Kane says:

        Yep- it’s like the Butterfly Effect in Chaos Theory.

  7. David Kane says:

    We forgot Schillinger-Slonimsky-Coltrane- “Giant Steps”.

  8. Phil says:

    Giant Steps Symmetric construction 4 Tonics.

  9. Michael Redmond says:

    My father, Edgar Redmond, was a certified teacher of the Schillinger System of Composition who used his knowledge of the system to work as a Composer/Arranger/Orchestrator and Musician in Hollywood, California between the years 1959 – 1984. His training and studies of this system allowed him to compose and arrange music of all genres for Artists like Billy Preston, Diana Ross, The Diamonds,
    Sandy Nelson, Fifth Dimension, Jan Davis, Sam Cooke, Jaques Cousteau,
    Edwin Hawkins in performance with the Oakland Symphony, The Los Angeles Philharmonic and many more.
    When it is stated that the system equips Composers for old and new styles of music as well as popular and serious compositions, my dad was a living example and testament to this truth.

  10. Michael Redmond says:

    If Edgar Redmond never studied and became a certified teacher of the Schillinger System of Composition, the anthem song to the Civil Rights movement ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ by Sam Cooke
    might not have become the iconic song it became.
    The credit for arrangement of song was credited to Rene Hall but my research shows where the Arrangement was taken from an Orchestral Suite entitled ‘Transition In Black’ composed by Edgar Redmond in 1961 with Rene Hall Music as Publisher. ‘Transition In Black’ was performed and world premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta as Conductor at the Music Center in Los Angeles on April 7, 1973.

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