“In my classes, we ask: ‘How wasn’t this piece written?’ We select a passage, then at the piano I change one element at a time: I invert a certain chord, or I resolve a tension a few beats earlier, or I take out a jump in register. We discuss each compositional choice and how it contributes to making the passage effective.”
“Many times, a great musical moment is at once both surprising and inevitable. How do composers achieve this? By learning harmony and counterpoint, a composer knows how musical patterns and tendencies work: the “rules” of music that most listeners only recognize subconsciously. If you keep enough patterns while breaking others, you can write pieces that 'make sense' on first hearing, pieces that will hold listeners’ interest even as you take them to weird and unexpected places. For performers, knowing how musical expectations work gives you insights like which notes to lean into or where you might want to linger on a phrase.”
"Another theme you will hear in my classes is that some of our reactions to music transcend culture and training. That scary, pounding bass you hear in most movie trailers? That taps into our deepest instincts: all mammals fear loud, low sounds. There are other universal principles, too: reasons that war songs, lullabies, and laments can be recognized as such worldwide. When you put all this knowledge together—human universals plus the principles of common practice music—you have a truly formidable toolbox for composing and interpreting music."