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Wayne Horvitz

"Steve Treseler has produced a truly brilliant book. His approach is so simple, so common sense, as to seem almost mundane, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Mr. Treseler simply advocates for using the appropriate music theory for the job at hand, whatever that might be. One is tempted to ask why no one thought of this before! Since the book is oriented toward jazz, this means using traditional chord theory for music in earlier musical styles, and applying more modern “chord/scale theory” only when it is applicable. He applies the same accessible, no-nonsense approach to rhythm, ear-training, and more conceptual issues like creativity and expression.


That being said, I think the approach of this book would be useful for anyone teaching or learning music theory, in any style of music, including classical. The critique of certain schools of thought in jazz pedagogy can be applied across the board. Essentially traditional diatonic/tertiary harmony (that is the study of chord structures, chord relationships, chord tones, leading tones, etc.) is still the best tool to approach music from Mozart to Charlie Parker to the Beatles. Then at some point we need new language to describe music that leaves this behind. For the aspiring improviser, songwriter, and composer this is a refreshingly sound approach.


What strikes me is this book's basic premise: the divisions between jazz or rock or classical or country music are, for the most part, stylistic, and they all share a common approach to harmony, and all use slightly different nomenclature to describe exactly the same functions. Where the difference really lies, at least within the confines of music based on equal temperament, is between what one might call “diatonic-based” harmony and “modernism,” be that the music of Stravinsky, Webern, Coltrane, Cage, or Sonic Youth.


Arnold Schoenberg didn’t create an entirely new theoretical approach to be a pain in the butt; he created it in order to facilitate the music he wanted so passionately to compose. Throwing the baby out with the bath water was not the point, and should not be the point of any “modern” theory of music. Mr. Treseler has found a way to explain a tremendous amount of information in a very accessible way. His approach is never simplistic, but always easy to understand."


Wayne Horvitz
Piano and keyboards with John Zorn, Bill Frisell and Naked City