La formación musical del oído / The musical training of the ear

(Review of the book of the same title, by Clemens Kühn (1), published in the magazine Doce Notas magazine corresponding to the months of June-September 2000)


The decade of 1990s has meant an earthquake in Spanish musical life, opening large gaps that have separated the different factors that make it up to extreme positions: symphonic activity must be placed on the rise, with the proliferation of orchestras of great quality, for which no means have been spared. In an intermediate zone, because it is still in progress, is education, immersed for almost ten years in a reform that, recently passed its halfway point and a few months after its fireproof -the introduction of higher education-, is still a long way of its culmination. On the downside, unfortunately and despite the titanic efforts of some initiatives, is the edition.
With regard to the latter, it is necessary to remember that at the beginning of the decade, the most traditional Spanish music publisher, Unión Musical Española (former Casa Dotesio), surprised locals and strangers with the sale of its publishing fund to the multinational English Music Sales, Ltd., leaving the then owners as mere managers of the Spanish division of the company, under the name of Unión Musical de Ediciones, S. L., and exclusively entrusting Real Musical, S. A., with the distribution of its publications.
But without a doubt one of the biggest losses that have been recorded in recent years is that of the Barcelona publishing house Labor, in which since the 1920s the best selection of music theory existing in Spanish has been published in its famous Section V. His editorial fund, on this occasion, has traveled further: nothing less than from Florida is necessary to import the famous Treatise on Harmony by Joaquín Zamacois, which until very recently was distributed from a central street in Barcelona's Ensanche.
With the Labor publishing house still clearly Spanish, the Spanish translation of Gehörbildung im Selbststudium, by Clemens Kühn, was published in 1988, slightly betraying, under the title La formación musical del oído -The musical training of the ear-, the original intention that is contained under the German title (literally, The ear education in self-taught training).
It is a short manual, in which, throughout 127 pages, ear training is approached in a lucid way, through a clear exposition based on an abundant exemplification, coming from a varied and complete stylistic panorama that ranges from the Gregorian to twelve-tone music, at the service of a theoretical load as concise as it is successful.
In The Musical Trainign of the Ear it is possible to appreciate some of the methodological successes that will be further explored in the Treatise on Musical Form, which the same Catalan publishing house -whose Section V was a true pioneer in publishing music theory books- put in 1992 at the service of the Spanish-speaking public. Among them, the importance of the double meaning detail-whole/whole-detail stands out, as a training strategy in general, and here in particular, not only for the resolution of certain intonation problems, but also to develop an ear capable of listening beyond the notes, of understand musically: the analytical ear, true ultimate goal of auditory training.
The different exercises are submitted to this general approach, in order of progressive difficulty (single notes, intervals, scales, triads, 7th chords, series of chords, melodies for one and two voices, homophonic phrases, reading and listening), which must be approached through different practices: playing and singing, analyzing, executing in internal hearing, writing by hearth in different keys, etc. (with special emphasis on the problems related to contemporary music, for which to the previous practices is added that of the investigation itself, through the piano, of the new sound universe), in a process that must be continuously adapted and completed with the parallel development of theoretical knowledge of these elements.
What Kühn proposes, in short (and hence the dimensions, more of a handbook than a treatise, of the book), are models of didactic procedures, which can be used throughout the entire learning process, with the appropriate adaptation of the models proposed for the sequencing of the contents that, for their individual or collective application, are planned by the teacher.
For all these reasons, the book, initially aimed at the self-taught, is also a useful tool for the teacher in charge of educating the ear in the different training stages, and especially in the middle grade, in which the Harmony teacher plays in this sense. an essential role, as well as in the higher one, where it is not only possible, whatever is said, but more than necessary to deepen auditory training, sheltered from a phase of learning that is especially rich in experience and analytical maturity.

(1) (Ed. Labor, S.A., Barcelona, 1988)
Translation: Luis Romano Haces, revised by Juan José Olives.