EL LENGUAJE DE LA MUSICA, AL DESCUBIERTO: Un Método Tan Fácil Que Cualquier Persona Es Capaz De Aprender A Leer Y Escribir Música. By Barry Araújo Kolman. Trans. by Maria Eugenia Melerio. Editorial Seleer, 2013, 294 pp. Paperback: $21.95
The overabundance of books, articles, and writings about the fundamentals of music theory makes the information available to every curious human being, musician or not. Payne-Kostka, Benward, and music theory.net are only a handful of examples of the most popular materials that—in most cases—make noticeable terminological stretches in order to differentiate themselves from each other. This fact considerably narrows the amount of freedom for a writer who wants to make a contribution in the realm of music theory. Rivers of ink have been invested in this topic, pages and pages that tackle the same subject have changed the focus of readers that do not expect to find any revelation within the pages. Instead, such readers seek a useful tool for classroom and self-teaching that is engaging and practical while offering an original perspective on the subject. Barry Aráujo Kolman decided to face all those challenges with El Lenguaje de la Musica, Al Descubierto. This review covers the Spanish language version of the book. This book is also available in English, titled THE LANGUAGE OF MUSIC REVEALED: A Real Easy Way for Anyone to Learn to Read and Write Music. The English language book is also reviewed in this issue.
The overall organization of the book does not differ much from its predecessors. It is divided into two main sections (basics and “more advanced” stuff) plus a series of appendices that provide an introduction to four-part chorale writing, scales, and an answer key. The organization of each section promotes clarity and ease of understanding. The first section is dedicated to “the basics” and starts with the fundamentals of music theory: melody, rhythm, and harmony. The presentation of these subjects renders them accessible to self-taught musicians, and a useful aid to teachers introducing students to music theory. The chapters provide a general introduction, which is then developed thoroughly. At the end of each chapter, the book offers an evaluation point with exercises and a general review of the newly acquired vocabulary. This structure recalls the checkpoint quizzes in Tonal Harmony by Payne-Kostka, only to reaffirm their effectiveness. The quizzes’ keys are provided in the last appendix, so, if you are a patient student, you can easily double-check your performance during the self-assessments (all that in the same book, which is important).
Plenty of musical excerpts are used to illustrate the different topics, especially in the more advanced section that deals with concepts of harmony. Despite the value of seeing the actual music scores, I believe that there is an intrinsic need for listening to those fragments. A music student—self-taught or not—should be able to link the visual element of music with its parallel aural component. A former music theory teacher of mine always returned to a vital concept: “Do not try to explain in your analysis things that you do not perceive aurally.” Occasionally, the book becomes too visual (without any use of color codes!), and seems to demand prerecorded examples. That could perhaps simply be an addendum to this first edition, maybe a companion CD with the examples? Or an online archive with the fifth appendix?
Written in a friendly way, El Lenguaje de la Musica, Al Descubierto presents a thorough introduction to music theory that does not overlook any of the fundamental topics. This book could be a useful tool for the music enthusiast who is curious to probe certain concepts and a handy resource for the classroom music teacher. Jorge Variego