Open Music Theory - Version 2
Publisher: Oklahoma State University
Conditions of Use
OMT2 offers thorough coverage of current topics in music theory, and can easily serve as a textbook for fundamentals courses, standard undergraduate theory sequences, and introductions to post-tonal theory. Not all of its chapters are complete... read more
OMT2 offers thorough coverage of current topics in music theory, and can easily serve as a textbook for fundamentals courses, standard undergraduate theory sequences, and introductions to post-tonal theory. Not all of its chapters are complete (some are short, or lack sample homework assignments), but the authors promise continued revision and expansion, and the book is probably the most extensive OER currently available in music theory. It offers very little material for sight-singing/ear training, but instructors can easily supplement with other free resources (such as freemusicdictations.net) or paid ear training books.
The book seems to be high quality and without errors.
OMT2 combines a variety of current approaches to the field: a traditional (yet relevant and modern) course in diatonic and chromatic harmony, up-to-date research on counterpoint and form, and a digestible introductions to post-tonal and twelve-tone theory. It also includes units on popular music and jazz. The book takes diversity and inclusion seriously, incorporating both canonical names and historically marginalized composers throughout its chapters, workbook, and anthology.
The book is clear and accessible, and flows in a logical and conversational style. It is also full of musical examples, many of which can be clicked on and listened to for immediate clarification and reinforcement. As in any music theory textbook, there is a great deal of technical terminology, but mouse-over links on many terms produce pop-up windows with glossary entries, making the jargon easy to understand.
Where relevant, the book uses terminology clearly and consistently throughout, although its sections are written by multiple authors, and address topics that are separate enough that vocabulary does not always overlap.
The book is broken into short, digestible chapters, which instructors could easily assign and re-order as necessary.
OMT2 includes all the resources necessary to teach a fundamentals course in music theory, as well as common undergraduate courses in tonal theory (including basic diatonic harmony, modulation, and chromatic techniques), and post-tonal theory. The content is organized in broad topics (diatonic harmony, chromatic harmony, form, popular music, jazz), and many instructors will find themselves mixing and matching sections from these different units as they assemble their syllabus: a little bit of harmony, some basic formal archetypes, some popular music, back to diatonic harmony, and so forth.
OMT2 comes in numerous forms, both online and PDF/EPUB formats. I highly recommend the html, web-based forms, which use an expandable table of contents and section directories. The book's interactive resources, musical examples, YouTube videos, and other pieces of media are best experienced online. Its pdf/print versions are somewhat lacking in layout and visual style, and they unfortunately omit the media resources that students will find the most useful and engaging.
OMT2 is well-written and well-edited, though contains the occasional typo.
OMT2 makes a strong effort to prominently include musical examples by women and composers of color, and features them prominently in its structure rather than including them as afterthoughts. The book also includes chapters on popular music and jazz, making its content and coverage a bit more accessible and relevant to students. There is still more that could be incorporated (topics in world music analysis are absent, for instance), but the book clearly strives for accessibility and inclusion, and will help students and instructors to engage with current discussions in the field of music theory.
The original Open Music Theory (https://github.com/openmusictheory) appeared in 2014. A collaborative effort by music theorists Bryn Hughes, Brian Moseley, and Kris Shaffer, the book brought the idea of open educational resources to prominence within the discipline of music theory. Open Music Theory Version 2, which features significant contributions by more than half a dozen scholars, builds on the original text with a mountain of new content, moving beyond the “prose-y lecture notes” of the original to offer a resource that is nearly ready to serve as the core of an undergraduate music theory curriculum. Among the most notable additions are extensive annotated musical examples (which were sparse in the original), even more interactive demonstrations and practice modules, an accompanying workbook, and a growing set of annotated links that function as a distributed score anthology.
At its best moments, OMT2 is a fully fledged textbook, easily able to take its place alongside (or, as is often the goal of OERs, to more affordably replace) any of the field’s canonical undergraduate books. It includes content that is appropriate for introductory “Fundamentals” classes, for the three- or four-semester-long sequence of tonal theory classes offered by most institutions, and for the post-tonal theory courses that often end such sequences, or serve as advanced electives. The book also offers some resources that would be useful in advanced counterpoint or analysis courses, though it does not offer enough content to serve as a sole textbook for those topics. Beyond traditional theory and the Classical repertoire, the book offers an excellent chapters on pop-rock harmony (which turn the original OMT’s already-useful unit into a thorough and well-developed resource) and a new chapter on jazz theory. In recent years, such units have appeared (in some form) more and more often in undergraduate courses, and OMT2 might provide the resources necessary to convince interested instructors to take the leap and incorporate them into their own teaching. The book also emphasizes diversity and inclusion, offering strong representation of historically marginalized composers, both in its main body chapters and particularly in its supplemental materials.
The “Fundamentals” section is highly detailed and well-illustrated, offering an accessible introduction to staff notation, rhythm and meter, scales and chords, and other basic topics. It also includes a series of YouTube videos by the chapter author (Chelsey Hamm), helping it to stand as a self-study resource for students who may be preparing for a music theory entrance exam. OMT2 also offers chapters on diatonic harmony (including harmonic function and prolongation, embellishing tones, up through tonicization and modulation) and chromatic techniques that run the gamut from basic chromatic chords (Neapolitans, augmented sixths) through altered dominants, Neo-Riemannian progressions, and fully diminished sevenths). The counterpoint chapter includes not only traditional species instruction and some resources (though not a complete manual) for imitation and fugue, but also more current approaches based on galant schema theory—most notably a concise and very useful guide to common schemas, categorized by their function (opening gambits, sequences, and so forth).
The “Form” chapter might be the best exemplar of OMT2’s ecumenical and modern approach to its reference material. The chapter covers basic concepts such as motive and subphrase, up through periods and sentences, and on to full-movement forms like sonata and rondo. Sensibly, the authors draw from both of the discipline’s most popular recent treatises on form, William Caplin’s Classical Form (1998) and James Hepokoski & Warren Darcy’s Elements of Sonata Theory (2006). OMT2 draws on the strengths of each book, building a theory of phrases up through Caplin’s writings, and then offering a clear and useful digest of Sonata Theory when the time comes to study complete movements. Gathering these resources together without trying to hew to a single approach or reinvent the wheel leads to a chapter which closely resembles how many professional theorists think and talk about form amongst themselves, and offers undergraduates a window onto the current state of the field rather than attempting to distill the parts of the sonata into some simpler form, or attempting to construct a single formal system that can accommodate all levels of phrase and form.
Open Music Theory 2 comes in multiple formats, including EPUB (for e-readers such as the Kindle), a digital-first PDF, and a PDF intended for printing. Perhaps its best and most useful format, however, is simply the HTML format on the text’s website. Online, OMT2 benefits from hyperlinks between chapters and mouse-over glossary entries that quickly introduce or clarify technical terms. Introductory chapters abound with examples in interactive notation (powered by MuseScore), which students can click on and listen to. Later chapters embed PDF scores for perusal, and most of the book’s sections end with links to the book’s own harmony anthology, its workbook, and resources from around the internet. Compared to this, the PDF format leaves out much of OMT2’s dynamic appeal. The PDF versions exclude media examples and interactive modules, replacing them with nondescript boxes that instruct readers to look online. While some instructors who use OERs have them printed and bound for students, I would caution against this approach with OMT2. In its PDF form, the book is nearly 1100 pages, and is laid out much more like a printed website (with large, double-spaced text and mile-wide margins) than a typeset book. While its prose passages wind up the perfect size when printed two pages per sheet, side by side, many of the illustrations end up unreadably small. So while it might be useful for a student or an instructor to have an archival pdf to which they can refer when internet access is unavailable, Open Music Theory Version 2 is best experienced on its website, in HTML format. This format honors the authors’ intentions toward accessibility too; the foreword notes that the text is meant to be legible to screenreaders, and the online version is undoubtedly the best way to take advantage of that commitment.
Another interesting aspect of OMT2 is the book’s “Harmony Anthology,” a resource based on contributing author Mark Gotham’s Open Score Lieder Corpus. As its name suggests, the collection is based on a broad body of art songs, mostly from the nineteenth century. The collection is extensive and diverse, presenting music by Johannes Brahms, Cecile Chaminade, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Fanny Hensel, Johanna Kinkel, Franz Schubert, Clara and Robert Schumann, and others. It makes use of links to the Internet Score Library Project (IMSLP) to provide complete scores for the included works, and often points to multiple examples of a given concept within the same work. Unfortunately, the Harmony Anthology is somewhat limited: like some other aspects of the book, it is incomplete, and it tends towards the kinds of advanced topics that might be encountered in a third-semester theory class (including augmented sixth chords, augmented triads, mode mixture, and Neapolitan chords). Unlike some anthologies of musical examples, however, the noted phenomenon is clearly identified by measure number, making it ideal for instructors who want to collect potential examples quickly. If and when it is eventually made more comprehensive, OMT2’s harmony anthology will be a truly exceptional resource. A parallel anthology of rhythmic and metric examples is similarly promising, though even less complete, serving only as a collection of interesting and suggestive examples for analysis.
OMT2 is explicitly a work in progress, and its team of authors promise continued updates (though not, notably, during the school year when the book might be in active classroom use). While many sections are complete, others are less developed; towards the second half of some units, assignments are marked “coming soon,” and there is a varied collection of chapters marked “in development” at the end of the book. These promise greater coverage of sight-singing; new topics that are often addressed in undergraduate theory but not always present in textbooks (like hypermeter); and more advanced topics that might be suitable for form & analysis or a proseminar setting (such as “metrical dissonance”). It already offers strong coverage of commonly taught music theoretical topics, and an extensive resource of example that serves as a useful supplement to other resources already available in print and online. As its authors continue to develop and revise it, OMT2 will continue to become ever more useful, and even more attractive, for both instructors and students.
Table of Contents
- Statement on Spotify Usage
- Instructor Resources
- Für Deutschsprachige
- I. Fundamentals
- II. Counterpoint and Galant tSchemas
- III. Form
- IV. Diatonic Harmony, Tonicization, and Modulation
- V. Chromaticism
- VI. Jazz
- VII. Popular Music
- VIII. 20th-and 21st-Century Techniques
- IX. Twelve-Tone Music
- X. Orchestration
- Chapter in Development
About the Book
Open Music Theory Version 2 (OMT2) is an open educational resource intended to serve as the primary text and workbook for undergraduate music theory curricula. As an open and natively-online resource, OMT2 is substantially different from other commercially-published music theory textbooks, though it still provides the same content that teachers expect from a music theory text.
OMT2 has been designed inclusively. For us, this means broadening our topics beyond the standard harmony and atonal theory topics to include fundamentals, musical form, jazz, pop, and orchestration. And within those traditional sections of harmony and atonal theory, the authors have deliberately chosen composers who represent diverse genders and races. The book is accessible. And perhaps most importantly, the book is completely free and always will be.
The text of the book is augmented with several different media: video lessons, audio, interactive notated scores with playback, and small quizzes are embedded directly into each chapter for easy access.
OMT2 introduces a full workbook to accompany the text. Almost every chapter offers at least one worksheet on that topic. Some chapters, especially in the Fundamentals section, also collect additional assignments that can be found on other websites.
Version 2 of this textbook is collaboratively authored and edited by Mark Gotham, Kyle Gullings, Chelsey Hamm, Bryn Hughes, Brian Jarvis, Megan Lavengood, and John Peterson.
About the Contributors