User:Deluno/The Craft of Musical Composition

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The Craft of Musical Composition[edit]


Note: Don't have the title "Introduction" for the intro; just present it at the start without the title, as other Wikipedia articles do..

TODO: Set context for this article (constructive criticism provided by review of the really rough & inadequate verision of this article I submitted recently).

The Craft of Musical Composition is a book by German composer Paul Hindemith, published in 1937. Given the significant departures from the musical conventions of the past, such as the major/minor system and traditional rules harmony, the book attempts to consolidate/integrate recent developments into a system which deals with/includes both the European tradition, and present innovations. The book is organised into 2 parts: Book I, outlining the theory of Hindemith's musical system, and Book II, which consists of exercises for the development of skills of composition according to Hindemith's system.

The book is of interest and significance historically, being by one of the most notable German composers of the era, providing not only a system which he himself followed for the rest of his musical career, but also his perspective and insight into the musical thinking of his times. He wasn't just trying to build a unique system for himself to follow, but rather, as Hindemith explains in the introductory chapter, he was respectfully attempting to follow the excellent example of Fux (mention title of Fux's book on counterpoint) in offering an explanation to students who would otherwise only have their learning passed on by experienced, specialised teachers (quote Hindemith, Ch 1 here), and some order among the "anything goes" attitude in music at the time (ref)., for the benefit of students otherwise barred from the then new thinking in music, their teachers, and also to consolidate and clarify his thinking on new developments in music to himself, for personal use. Hindemith came to re-write his own prior compositions in light of the system presented in the book, and continued to use the system for the rest of his musical career (ref: other Wikipedia article--see whether they have that supported by good citation).

Continued interest in the book in the education of students of music composition (citation) indicates a measure of success by Hindemith in his stated goal of following the example of Fux. Apart from this however, and the historic interest of the perspective of a notable German composer in the midst early 20th century musical developments, the book is at least notable for its importance as an exposition of Hindemith's own paradigm of music theory, and is thus at least of interest as long as Hindemith as a composer is.

Other notable modernist composers who present comparable musical treatises include Arnold Schoenberg, Fundamentals of Music Compostion, and Olivier Messiaen, My Musical Language (or whatever it's called).

Chapter Summaries[edit]

Book I[edit]

Chapter I: Introductory[edit]

Hindemith begins by quoting the eighteenth century music theorist Johann Joseph Fux, whose book Gradus ad Parnassum (1725) ... :

"Perhaps some will wonder at my undertaking to write about music, when there are at hand the opinions of so many excellent men who have written learnedly and sufficiently about it, and particularly at my doing so at a time when Music has become an almost arbitrary matter, and composers will no longer be bound by laws and rules, but avoid the names of School and Law as they would Death itself . . ."

Drawing parallels whith his own contemporary situation, Hindemith states his aim for the book to present a unifying system for the music of his day for which the prior musical system no longer seemed adequate. Hindemith writes:

"A musician who feels called upon in these times to contribute to the preservation and transmission of the craft of composition is, like Fux, on the defensive. He is, in fact, even more so than Fux, for in no other field of artistic activity has a period of overdevelopment of materials and of their application been followed by such confusion as reigns in this one. We are constantly brought face to face with this confusion by a manner of writing which puts tones together according to no system except that dictated by pure whim, or that into which facile and misleading fingers draw the writer as they glide over the keys. Now something that cannot be understood by the analysis of a musician, making every conceivable allowance for individual characteristics, cannot possibly be more convincing to the naive listener." (p. ?, Chapter 1).
"If confusion in the technique of composition is not to increase and spread, if the conflicting results of an outworn system of instruction are not to bring disaster in the wake of uncertainty, a new and firm foundation must be constructed, I propose to attempt the construction of such a foundation. I am not animated by any desire to freeze into permanent shape what Ihave been teaching for years, either to get it out of my system or to be rid of the burden of continually improvising new forms of the material which I have often handed out. Anyone who has for years taught students who wish to know why the masters are free to do what is denied to them, why one theme is good and another poor, why harmonic progressions may be satisfactory or irritating, why sense and order must prevail even in the wildest turmoil of sounds, and why such order cannot be arrived at with the traditional tools; anyone who has not sidestepped this unending struggle with the Why of things, and, at the risk of laying himself bare before his pupils, has taken each new question as a stimulus to deeper and more searching study—anyone who has faced these issues, I say, will understand why I feel called upon to devote to the writing of a theoretical work the time and trouble which I would rather spend in composing living music." (Chapter 1 (p. 4?)).

Book II[edit]


  • Hindemith, Paul (1937). The Craft of Musical Composition.

External links[edit]