Talk:Walter Piston

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Piston's Harmony[edit]

I am not a "know-it-all" on the subject by any means, but when I bought Piston's book Harmony, I was adviced to get an older version of it as, if I remember the details right, the 4th edition and up to the present edition were rewritten by a different author, who really botchered it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 82.147.62.2 (talk) 11:34, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

The Fourth (1978) and Fifth (1987) editions were revised by Mark DeVoto. Whether or not he "botchered" it may be a matter of opinion, but it is important to understand the reasons for revising a classic text like this one. The most thorough review of the Fourth Edition is the one by Christopher F. Hasty, in the Journal of Music Theory 26, no. 1 (Spring, 1982): 155–65. Hasty is certainly critical of many choices made by DeVoto, but he is also clear about the fact that the teaching of music theory—at least in the United States—had changed significantly since the publication of the Third Edition of Piston's text in 1962. In particular, an emphasis on linear strategies (influenced by Schenker's theories) made Piston's chord-based thinking very out-of-date. Secondly, DeVoto attempted to bring Piston's thinking more to bear on 20th-century literature. Finally, Piston's music examples had always been notorious for their obscurity, and this applied also to many of the exercises he offered. Hasty's judgment is mixed. For example, he particularly faults DeVoto in the area of application to 20th-century literature, but praises his choice of replacement examples from the traditional repertory. As a dyed-in-the-wool Schenkerian, Hasty is bound to find problems with DeVoto's attempts to stretch Piston's conceptions to encompass such linear thinking, but has to concede that the framework of revising Piston (as opposed to discarding him entirely and writing a new textbook) places extreme constraints on the editor. Two other reviews, of the Fourth and Fifth editions, respectively, are by William Drabkin, in The Musical Times 120, no. 1636 (June 1979):485–86, and by Roger Graybill, in Music Theory Spectrum 15, no. 2 (Autumn 1993):257–66. On the whole, if you want a Schenkerian-based theory of harmony, you are probably better off using Aldwell and Schachter. Ironically, however, if it is a more old-fashioned approach you seek, the revised Fifth edition of Piston is liable to prove more satisfactory than the earlier Piston editions, mainly due to the improved examples and exercises.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 17:25, 7 February 2008 (UTC)