The role of music theory in professional music education, a historic overview
Patrick van Deurzen
In 2017-2018 I did a research on the role of music theory in professional music education, facilitated by the Royal Conservatoire The Hague. During this year, I was primarily busy with a literature survey, since my knowledge of the history of music theory was rather one-sided. I knew about the relevant steps for the development of music-theoretical thinking, as explained in historical treatises and more recent books, e.g. “Van Aristoxenos tot Stockhausen”. However, I was quite unaware of the role of music theory from the earliest conservatories onwards. Over the past years I did get some clues about this, but never had time to investigate it more closely. I was inspired by the discoveries of partimento-playing by researchers like Sanguinetti, who gave an interesting glimpse of the education at the earliest Italian Conservatoires.
Secondly, I tried to connect some of my findings regarding the role of the amateur musician in relation to professional music, to an artistic project. This project involved a commission to compose a new work for a society of amateur musicians. This project resulted in ten new chamber music works, called Songs & Dances, and was premiered on October 23th 2018 in Rotterdam.
This text only addresses the first part of my research. It offers an overview, which is not complete yet, of the role of music theory in professional music education, as I interpret it from the books I have read. It remains clearly a work in progress. The things I discovered, raised more questions instead of giving me answers, and made me clear that it is a multi-faceted subject, which needs more research. I consider this text to be a preliminary study, pointing out relations between the history of music theory and current issues in music theoretical education, as well as mapping areas of lacking knowledge and a related potential research field.
In the introduction I problematize the growing gap between music theory books and the development of music since the second half of the 19th century. In the next three chapters, I discuss three possible aspects that have a relation with this problem. In the last, fourth chapter, I make a start with describing music theoretical training that has no origin in a compositional practice. I end with a Coda, in which I summarize the findings of this research, how to proceed and what aspects I would like to change in the current curriculum of a conservatoire.
 Since I’am not a native English speaker, I apologise for the fact that the English of my writing will not be perfect. I thank Matthea de Muynck and Paul Craenen for their corrections on the English. Any mistakes in the text are my responsibility.
I would like to thank the Royal Conservatoire The Hague for giving me the opportunity to start this journey. Lector Paul Craenen for the inspiring discussions and insights, and Michiel Schuijer, Paul Craenen and Joao Ferreira Santos for reading and commenting on the text.
 Van Aristoxenos to Stockhausen. L.P. Grijp & P. Scheepers (ed.). Groningen: Wolters- Noordhoff (1990)