Howard Hanson in Theory and Practice

by Allen Cohen


Examines the relationship between theory and the employment of that theory in the works of Howard Hanson, prominent twentieth-century composer, conductor, educator, and champion of American music.

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December 2003


Pages 304
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Popular Culture/Music and Performing Arts

In this exciting new study of a largely overlooked but nevertheless extremely important figure in American music, author Allen Cohen explores the relationship between theory and practice in the works of Howard Hanson, a prominent twentieth-century composer, conductor, and educator. In Hanson's book Harmonic Materials of Modern Music, he proffered a theory of classification of all possible pitch-class collections in the chromatic scale, showing ways of deriving larger collections from smaller ones, and demonstrating significant relationships among them. This theory anticipated in many ways the standard formulations of music set theory, while also influencing Hanson's own compositions.

Following an introduction and biographical overview, Howard Hanson: Theory and Practice summarizes its subject's theoretical writings, examines their usefulness for both musicologists and composers, and analyzes in particular two of Hanson's musical pieces. In this way, Howard Hanson represents an exciting and highly educational look at a man and his work, both unacknowledged for too long.

Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroductionThe Background: Hanson's Life and CareerA Summary of Harmonic Materials of Modern MusicThe Theory Considered as a SystemThe Theory Considered as a Method of AnalysisThe Two Demonstration PiecesThe Influence of the Theory on Hanson's Later CompositionsCoda: The Elements of StyleAppendicesNotesSelected BibliographyIndex



[T]he book is clearly written, with measured evaluations of both Hanson's theory and set theory. With this book, Cohen makes a significant addition to the study of music theory. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; professional musicians.—Choice

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