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This page will be updated as new material as needed. Please use the "Contact" button above to let me know if there is something you would like to see added to this site, or future editions of this text. The student area has audio files to accompany the exercises found in the appendix.

Select one of the following:

  1. Errata
  2. How this book differs from other texts on contemporary music





1. Errata

pg. 112: Clefs did not print properly. Click here to download a PDF of the correct page copy.


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2. How this text differs from other texts on contemporary music:


I.    Current and Selective to be Relevant to today’s student and musicians: Most books that cover contemporary music were written in the 1970-90 timeframe, with many being out of print. All of these texts also cover a wide range of notation and techniques, many of which in retrospect were only used by a single composer or two and are no longer common. With the wisdom that time and perspective gives, this book covers the time-tested and commonly found techniques and not only defines them, but places them in performance and philosophical context, making them relevant and applicable for any aspiring musician.

II.    Organized by Topic rather than technique to highlight relationships between techniques: Most other new music books take more of a “dictionary” approach to contemporary music techniques. By covering the material by topics (Contemporary approaches to Time, Pitch, Rhythm, etc.) students can more easily see the relationships between the techniques discussed, and gain a deeper understanding of how musical compositions of the last century and current day are influenced by, and related to. each other. This also allows for a smoother classroom focus and plan for teachers.

III.   Written for the Performer, Conductor, and Composer: As a composer myself, I appreciate the composer-focus of most other books on this topic. However, that vast majority of students are not composers, but instead are performers and conductors who must be able to understand and interpret the techniques of composers, and this is the focus of my this book.

IV.    Practical and Comprehensive: In teaching the Contemporary Music course at SMU I found that I had to put many different books on techniques and history on reserve, plus many more on jazz and improvisation, just to be able to cover the material – and then spend much of the class time answering the confused student’s questions after they read a composer-focused definition - which led me to write Beyond the Common Practice. By keeping the focus on performance practices, the result is a practical, “one text” solution for teaching these essential skills.

V.    Improvisation : Improvisation approaches and techniques, which are not covered at all in most contemporary music techniques or history texts, is required by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) as a part of their accreditation process, is one of the hardest skills for many classically trained students to learn. Almost all of the introductions to improvisation I was able to find were only applicable to Jazz, yet much of contemporary music makes use of improvisation in a different form. This text uses methods and exercises that have been developed through years of successful classroom teaching, and are directed toward the non-jazz oriented student.

VI.    Technology: Every musician today will at some time be required to interact with technology, either by recording practices or by performance of music needing to be amplified or processed by a computer. In my years as the theater manager of the Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia (CEMI) in Denton, Texas, I learned first-hand what caused most of the problems musicians have with this now commonly expected skill: existing music technology texts are written specifically for technicians and recording professionals, not the performers! Even referring a musician to one of the available recording texts leaves most confused and discouraged by the technical language and approach. Beyond the Common Practice is written to show performers and conductors in simple, direct terms, what they need to know BEFORE they interact with a technician... something no other book does. Coverage is general enough to not go out of date, yet specific enough to be useful.


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copyright 2010 by Robert J. Frank