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O sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His Name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Psalm 96, 1-2

The tones of air, I know not how they flow; where'er they move, all things melodious grow.
Faust PT II, Goethe

Recent
Recordings

Lost World Tango

Two Lonely People

Galaxy

Elysium

Blues for Zarathustra

Wings of the Morning

Cycles

Doloroso

17 Solo Piano Improvisations

Music in Three Parts

House of Counted Days

Voyage to Arcturus

Ron Thomas performances, recordings, teaching, composition and essays.

A Brief Survey of
My Music Theory Studies

. . . My involvement in composition and compositional-performance has always required an exploration and analysis of issues and problems related to Music Theory. My connection with it, therefore, is principally practical.

. . . During High School I took two years of theory with Vincent Scelba. When admitted to the Manhattan School of Music in the Fall of 1959 as a Piano Major, my high school work was sufficiently advanced to place me ahead of the normal Theory placement for Freshmen. When I changed majors in the Spring semester of 1960 to Composition, of course, my work in Theory changed significantly since composers follow a different Theory track from the other majors.

. . . . At the MSM I met M. William Karlins who was at work on a Masters in Composition. He went on to a distinguished career as composer and educator; most recently on the faculty of Northwestern University. I was led to study privately with Bill during most of my time at Manhattan. My goals were specific. I wanted to pursue my interest in Stefan Wolpe’s work (with whom Bill was then studying); to learn principles of Serial or Row Composition which Bill knew; and to carefully go through with him Hindemith’s Traditional Harmony Book I. I composed official early works with Bill, and covered Hindemith’s study not once, but twice. During the early 1970’s, I adapted Hindemiths text for use with my own students.

. . . While attending Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, in 1968, I was required to study Counterpoint with Robert Lincoln. I did not complete my Graduate studies at Rutgers, but I did continue to work with Lincoln privately, studying tonal principles in the music of Chopin and Ravel, principles to which Bob had introduced me. He tutored me in the analysis of these composers along those lines. Bob had studied with Nadia Boulanger and passed along to me many of her concepts and particularly her approach to compositional pedagogy andtwentieth century tonal music. We continued to meet regularly while he was Chairman of Music at Douglass College (also in New Brunswick, NJ) until his retirement when he moved to Portland, Oregon.

. . . . I must here jump back to my studies with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the Spring of l964. Karlheinz was hired by the University of Pennsylvania to cover George Rochberg’s composition classes. (Rochberg was, during that period, in Buffalo NY as a Visiting Professor). Karlheinz came to Philadelphia weekly and taught a morning class in Composition and an afternoon Analysis class in which he played tapes of and analyzed from the scores of, his own compositions. It would hardly be an exaggeration to note that these studies were a refined and high-level examination of modern theoretical concepts of musical structure, concepts that he himself had been instrumental in creating. To the surprise of many, I discovered that Stockhausen had a serious and sober regard for the whole tradition of musical composition and considers his own music (as Schoenberg also did before him) a logical and natural expansion of earlier principles.

.. . . In 1992 I began to work again with Ludmila Ulehla with whom I had studied at the MSM. My purpose was to review Species Counterpoint with her in order to produce a teaching manual for my own use. I had originally studied this with Vittorio Giannini, as had Ludmila. All too briefly, here is the main reason I wanted to do this. There are two common versions of this specialized compositional training device. One is purely historical (the modal 16th century procedures), the other is a transformation of 16th century techniques into an eighteenth century chord based affair. Vittorio’s approach was neither. He maintained the linear melodic emphasis of the modal practice but in a non-modal tonal harmonic context without permitting the lines to be chord based.

.. . . Roland Hanna is one of two names who figure in my Jazz studies; the other being Art Murphy, former member of one of Phillip Glass’ performing groups. My friend and colleague Herbie Hancock recommended Roland to me in 1969. Using the works of Ravel, Chopin, Scriabin and Rachmaninov, Roland taught me how to abstract harmonic information from these composers and “deploy” it in the context of “compositional extemporization” (also known as Jazz playing!). With Roland’s help I was at last able to understand how to apply my compositional knowledge to my studies and work as a Jazz musician. This problem was perhaps the most agonizing of all the issues that have risen up during my artistic life. I owe much to him for his careful work with me in bringing me to understand how to do this.

. . . The completion of my Master’s degree in Composition from C.W.Post College required that I study privately with Stefan Wolpe. It was my very good fortune to be among the last of his many students. There is no composer of the stature of Wolpe who thought about and taught more about music theory than he. Our discussions were largely about the possibilities for non-serialized formal designs in our music, and his remarks were liberally sprinkled with the most astonishing piano demonstrations. A book of reflections on his teaching is being compiled to which I have contributed. Stefan wrote an amazing variety of styles and types of music as was revealed by the enormous quantity of music he left behind unedited. (A task being completed by Austin Clarkson at York University in Canada.) My involvement in Jazz and my previous contacts with the Stockhausen-Boulez-Cage aspect of Post WWII music provided much material for discussion in our lessons.

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