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Music and me, Part 2: Enter the snakes

April 26, 2010

I’ve been working on this post, on and off, for a while. It’s hard to figure out exactly what I want to say about such a huge topic in my life, and I’ve been trying to get this less personal and rambling. But, it is very personal, and tangled up in a lot of different things by now. Starting into another series of histamine-triggered “sinus” migraines hasn’t helped my concentration the past week or so, either.

Back to the musical thinking (described some in the first part). What did all this mean, starting out?

Not too surprisingly, a lot of other people thought I showed scads of musical talent when I was a kid. This is not unusual on either side of my family, and I got some encouragement but no pushing. (Though “lack of encouragement”–even saying “you’re good at this” much less “you might want to try this other related thing”–frequently masqueraded as “lack of pushing” at home.) My first elementary school music teacher thought she’d run across a prodigy, and arranged (free) private lessons after school. My aunt* started giving me informal piano lessons when I was 2 or 3, and I started into more formal ones at 6–even though I’m not that fond of piano. 🙂 It was an accessible option.

Not surprisingly, my verbal tics still frequently involve music, and I went around singing/humming/banging on things/otherwise making noise with things half the time when I was a kid–and was mostly very happy doing it. This was very rarely a problem at home; I did get fairly patiently redirected to less noisy activities sometimes, and toy drums (or things I liked to use as drums) had a habit of mysteriously disappearing after a while. Very much like the batteries out of toys that made noise. 🙂

This kind of thing is why I was particularly taken by the Sámi yoik, as mentioned in The “Sacred”. I recognized it as very similar to what I’ve always done:

A yoik is not merely a description; it attempts to capture its subject in its entirety: it’s like a holographic, multi-dimensional living image, a replica, not just a flat photograph or simple visual memory. It is not about something, it is that something. It does not begin and it does not end. A yoik does not need to have words…

A yoik is a thing unto itself for the Sámi. Even if no people existed, the yoik would still exist.

For the singer, the yoik is a way to process and release emotions. It is a release and a cleansing where one can express emotions inexpressible in words.#


The concepts of “music” and “song” in Western culture are not completely applicable to the yoik. First and foremost, a yoik is not a song in the sense that it is about something. Gaski explains the research of Ola Graff:

The reference to the object of a yoik is not something which someone may add to or leave out from the melody…[t]he melody is closely connected to the referential object in an indissoluble relationship. Linguistically this is expressed through the fact that one does not yoik about somebody or something, there is a direct connection; one yoiks something or someone.

Other significant differences between Western and Sami “music” relate to sound and structure…

Another important distinction between the yoik and the Western song, according to acclaimed multimedia Sami artist Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, is that “[t]he yoik was never intended to be performed as art” (Valkeapää, cited in Krumhansl et al. 6)…

The structure of a yoik thus follows the Sami worldview of “No beginning, no end”.

This also describes an awful lot of my apparently spontaneous singing, and to me there has always been a huge distinction between that and music explicitly composed and performed. I am less comfortable with doing music as performing art. It’s somewhat related, but not the same thing. More than occasionally I will work snatches of other people’s performed music into my own personal song, though, based on some quality which seems to fit the situation. I listen to a lot of recorded music, from a variety of genres, and used to catch rather a lot live before I just found the crowds too overloading to enjoy it properly.

Calling this form of spontaneous expression and interaction with one’s environment a kind of tic seems really disrespectful and off the mark, BTW, even when one feels compelled to do it. It feels more like my natural language. I do have “real” tics, and this is very different.

The same applies to “echolalia”, though I strongly suspect that a lot of what gets described that way is carrying tons more meaning than it’s usually interpreted as doing. Especially when one particular style of verbal communication is mistaken for the whole of human communication. (Also see the mention of vocables, in endnotes.****)

BTW, I was interested to see this in the Tourette FAQ I linked to before:

There are favourite swearwords and less favourite swearwords. It seems as if the more common swearwords have certain sound qualities that give them a sharp “edge,” such as plosive consonants and alliteration, etc. These same aspects make them ideal for ticcing. In fact, other vocal tics also often seem to carry a certain rhythmical quality.

Mine certainly always have, including choosing words (on some level) for their rhythmic qualities. I used to compose a lot of poetry, too, before I ran into more expressive language and word retrieval difficulty. It sounds like Jenny Routley’s tics involve rhythm as well, in her Tourette ticking: rhyming, singing and clucking article on the BBC’s Ouch! site, which sounded eerily familiar in general. I’d like to see more discussion of how different thinking styles influence tics, actually.

In spite of the large motor dyspraxia, I’ve always felt rhythms and moved to them, to the point of getting stuck in them occasionally. I didn’t used to be shy about dancing, either, but only do it in private now. I can’t find the piece now, but I could really identify with one man who said that he doesn’t dance in public because the results too closely resemble an injured turkey. That’s me. I’ve also been told (rarely politely) that I walk and run like a chicken/turkey/ostrich/etc. The Injured Turkey Boogie doesn’t come as a great surprise, but it ain’t pretty. I got this movement style straight from my Nana, who was small enough to look more like a grouse with it–but she didn’t let that stop her from having fun dancing!

Whatever dance I’m trying to do, it winds up looking like a cross between these two videos, but sort of listing to one side. (Note: this is perfectly OK, if you are trying to do that kind of dance!):

A guy doing some kind of flatfoot boogie, in Floyd, Virginia. It made me smile. This must be early in the evening, since the floor is not at all crowded. I couldn’t convince Nigel to stay for one of the music nights when we were in Floyd on a Friday evening and walking past the place–bit of a shame! I have even felt uncomfortable dancing there, watching some of the other people’s, erm, individualistic dances.

Chicken Dance. I couldn’t find a good Turkey Dance video.

One thing I forgot to mention in the first part of this post is something I hadn’t really thought about until I started writing: the apparent differences in my auditory processing where human voices and basically everything else are concerned. I do have absolute pitch, and rarely find music overloading. Unless it’s off key or an instrument is out of tune; that’s physically painful, but more clearly related to the absolute pitch thing. If music (and things I perceive as music) get distorted and garbled, it’s really not obvious. I haven’t noticed any trouble interpreting “nature” and animal sounds, either. Human singing based in words is a completely different matter. No wonder I’ve always gotten a kick out of mondegreens; may as well laugh about it!

Back to the music: time for discouragement. This is the main section I was hoping to condense a bit, but it hasn’t worked very well.

After I started school, things went downhill. My music-inspired behavior did not go over well in a classroom environment, to say the least.

In school, that music teacher I liked left when I was 7, and her replacement was a doozy. She despised me, seemingly for no reason, and went OTT with it to the point of noticing which instruments I particularly enjoyed messing with, and making a point of giving them to other people. She also kept telling me to sing more quietly, and just generally being very critical. (Her behavior seems far more obviously out of line now that it did at the time.) BTW, I think the art teacher Amanda mentioned in her Why I almost didn’t paint post was moonlighting in Virginia, too. {shudders}

Singing was also complicated by all the crap I caught over a mild speech impediment. It was a good excuse to make fun of me, and singing involves words coming out of my mouth. (Though, as I’ve mentioned before, I suspect the unexpected content was more of a problem in getting understood, at least once I was old enough to start school.) That was on top of the perceived oddity of the singing, dancing, rocking, swaying kid.

Around the time I started first grade, my parents split up. My mom and I temporarily moved in with my grandparents, including Narcissistic Grandma, and even after we moved out I stayed with them before and after school. (In a bad school system.) Both my mom and my uncle (a musician) turned out very uncomfortable singing, and convinced their voices are not very good. My mother, the family scapegoat, was hesitant to pursue music at all, though she also seemed to have a good bit of talent.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, having grown up with a pushy, manipulative person left my mom hesitant to offer encouragement or (solicited) advice, not wanting to tell me what to do. A lot of the time, this translated to a lack of encouragement, much less reasonable guidance, and made it harder for me to even recognize that I had certain talents. I still have a hard time figuring out what I might be good at. This was a particular problem in “irrational criticism from multiple sides, silence from others” type situations. Some of those are very relevant here.

My biodad’s mental health and behavior were in serious decline–pretty much the reason for the divorce. He started treating me like a pawn, in common abusive ex-spouse fashion, and behaving more abusively toward me, mostly verbally. In retrospect, I get the impression that, in his own way, he liked me better when I was younger and less able to communicate in ways he understood (which lasted longer than usual, given my developmental trajectory). The cute little princess he liked to show off and spoil in public suddenly didn’t look so cute when she could express herself better.

I got on both their nerves in many, many ways, and they were not shy about letting me know this. My incessant noise was frequently mentioned. It was a bad situation all around, and a very abrupt change. All in all, I assumed that there was suddenly something very, very wrong with me. An awful lot of people were suddenly telling me so.

Yeah, this general pattern had a lot to do with the reactions I described some in comments on another recent post at Ballastexistenz, starting out very exuberant and ending up more frequently coming across as stiff and formal out of self preservation.

Besides the usual narcissistic projection, my biodad more directly tried to scuttle my musical pursuits. That was more specific projection, actually. He really freaking despised his younger sister, the pianist I mentioned earlier.** He clearly resented the attention she got for being talented, did not have any comparable talents which got recognized, and also blamed her for the piano grating on his sensory sensitivities. Again, just being wired in an autistic way doesn’t mean you can’t also be a jerk, and blame other people for your own difficulties in life.

Guess what? I reminded him of her, with the music, and I was gobsmacked to figure out as an adult that he was probably jealous of my abilities too.

So he ran me down, every chance he got. The last straw, when I was 8? In the middle of verbally lashing my mother in front of me, he threw in the gem that the music lessons were a waste of “his” money, especially given my complete lack of talent.*** I’m not even going to repeat what he had to say about the dance lessons, in the same “conversation”. 😐 I recall pigs in leotards and tap shoes were mentioned.) It was really scathing, and he had a dubious talent for finding just where to insert the knife. (Another family legacy there, but I keep it in check–even mostly as directed toward myself, these days.) My mom tried to reassure me, but I never went for another lesson. I think I have touched piano keys once in the intervening 25+ years.

Not long after that, Stepdad showed up. He finds any music more soulful than Musak “raucous”, and doesn’t hesitate to tell people about it. He also has sensory issues, but there are ways to handle things, and then there are ways. Did I mention his penchant for pointing out everything he thinks another person is doing wrong, to the point of physically taking things away from people to show them how to use them “properly”? That can include musical instruments he has never played. Let’s just say that he did not offer a lot of musical encouragement. When my mom was terminally ill, she would not listen to music to try to calm herself and manage pain, for fear he’d act like a complete ass about it. She was fond of music, too. Granted, a series of mini-strokes intensified and exaggerated her fear responses, but it did not create new triggers.

I can still barely stand to listen to recorded music, much less sing or try to play an instrument, around Nigel. If he walks in while I’m singing, I will choke back a full chest voice into a wonky, cramped, trying-to-be-quiet head voice, which sounds absolutely horrible; then I further react to its sounding awful, and quickly shut up. Rationally, I know he is not going to react like Stepdad, but it’s a thoroughly conditioned response by now. They have enough surface behaviors and traits in common, with different motivations, that I had a real PTSD crisis a couple of years after we got married. That at least prompted me to see that a lot of Stepdad’s behavior was, indeed, really out of line, the way it scared me when I half-projected it onto Nigel! I am trying to defuse this music-related reaction. A lot of the other stuff proved easier to work out.

I did a little singing in high school and college (with consistently positive feedback, actually), even a brief stint at musical theatre, but gave it up because I could not take the scrutiny. I found myself caught up in waiting for the other shoe to drop. I also tried to bull through, and learn to play a few instruments, sometimes with more than one attempt; I also resentfully gave that up, since I had anxiety attacks every time I tried to practice if there was any possibility whatsoever that someone else could hear the (expected, useful) mistakes that go along with learning an instrument. I cringed every time I really fumbled something, even when alone in the house. One time I even tried doing group guitar lessons with a friend who was trying to learn, but had to stop going to them.

Needless to say, I can’t play any instruments now. I sing when I’m alone, but still feel pretty self conscious. I sing very quietly in public some, also using it as an unaccountably more socially acceptable tic substitute for muttering to myself. For some reason, not as many people give me odd looks when I’m singing under my breath. I still compose things in my head a lot–couldn’t stop if I tried! The idea of public scrutiny still scares me, which is kinda inconvenient if you’re interested in the performing arts.

I would like to get over this.

The cumulative effects of the discouragement became even clearer when Nigel and I were spending some time at my maternal uncle’s house, the last time I was back in Virginia. He’s a very good guitarist (bass by preference), and has encouraged my younger cousins to do music. (He also tried to encourage me, and I appreciate that even more now.) They have a practice and recording space in their basement, and sometimes play together. When we were there, they treated us to a performance, with my uncle on bass and some vocals, Younger Brother on drums, and Older Sister on guitar and vocals. Besides their all being talented, I was struck by how comfortable and natural they seemed doing it, because nobody had made them feel self conscious. It also struck me that, yeah, I’ve probably got as much raw talent and interest as any of them, but haven’t been able to develop and pursue it. I couldn’t help but think about how different things might have been had I grown up in a different environment–but it’s still not too late to work on changing my attitudes.

Another thing I’d like to do? Try to work on learning music theory again, on my own. Having given up on formal music education, I am very aware that I just don’t have the words to describe things. That makes it hard to talk about music, not to mention how other people will dismiss you as not knowing what you’re talking about if you don’t have the right terminology. It’s sometimes hard for me to match up the terminology with what I am experiencing. I didn’t even get as far as the chord theory which hung Amanda up. Or if I did, I managed to forget all about it. I’ve run into some weird comprehension problems, trying to map music theory terminology onto what I’m experiencing, and what I can recall is pretty spotty.

One fairly extreme example, from yesterday: I hadn’t put together that Danzig incorporated a lot of blues elements until I looked at their artist wiki. I knew how my own mind was linking up similarities, but not what terminology (even down to the “type of music” level) other people would hang on those similarities. Now, I’ve found the twisted blues riffs and vocals compelling enough to get past their tired old imagery, but wouldn’t have known to describe what I was hearing that way. It has more to do with physical and emotional sensations than words, to me, anyway. Hard to describe, in itself. 🙂 At least I’m no longer as embarrassed to admit this. It would not be surprising if I really were experiencing music in some rather unusual ways.

I’d also like to relearn musical notation; as I mentioned in Abilities and burnout, I’ve learned to read music repeatedly, and lost it to varying degrees. Before looking into this a few days ago, I had no idea that there were so many notation systems other than the common one based in European classical music, some of which might work better for me. (It would still be handy to be able to read that ubiquitous one consistently, though.) An important realization there? Maybe one of the reasons I’ve had trouble using that notation system is that it isn’t well-suited to most of the music in my head.

That actually briefly occurred to me before, reading through George Herzog’s Transcriptions and Analysis of Tutelo Music****. Not surprisingly, the common modern notation seems to work best to represent the kinds of music it was developed for. Very little of my stuff resembles European classical music, which may well be why music teachers have consistently called my compositions “unusual”. Some have seemed to get what I was trying to do, some were just put off by the difference.

Sounds like reactions to a lot of my writing, for that matter, and very similar to what Amanda described with visual art. If it’s obviously based in very different perceptions to what they’re expecting, some people react badly. I have been gratified to run across artists (in various media) whose brains seem to work in some similar ways–and who turn out great work which has gotten some recognition as Real Art.

One example who pops into mind: beadwork artist Martha Berry. We seem to have similar senses of color and motion–it’s hard to describe some of the similar feel to some of the things I want to do. (Rebecca Ore came pretty close metaphorically with characters’ “geometric minds” coming out through quilting. Martha Berry and I seem to have similar “geometric minds”.) I also prefer more kinesthetic media, such as beads or textiles.

With a sufficient gap between what you’re doing and what is apparently expected–and sufficiently variable (and frequently negative reactions) over a sufficiently long period of time–it’s all too easy to get way past the point of “oh, everyone runs into criticism sometimes, you just need to get thicker skin”. After a while, it’s even possible to stay pigeonholed as an “artsy” person, while unable to turn out much of what gets called “art”.

At the moment, I’ve got a bunch of different “art” and “craft” (don’t see the distinction, in a lot of cases) supplies which I’ve bought but barely used, if at all. I’ve got unopened acrylics and colored pencils, and a bunch of seed and larger beads I haven’t made much use of. I’d like to make and sell jewelry again (yes, I have before), on Etsy or similar, and have gotten as far as making and photographing a couple of beaded necklaces–and have consistently found excuses not even to set up an Etsy account. This is all coming from similar stuff to the musical hesitation.

I also have a couple of instruments, picked up in fits of optimism and “Just Need to Try Harder”, which I have barely touched.

Part of my problem here has come from trying to do things “right”, instead of however does the job for me, even if it requires coming up with my own notation system. This kind of thing has discouraged me in a lot of artistic endeavors, besides the fear of scrutiny.

Another revelation I had a few years back, based in lack of musical education? My mind seems to default to the pentatonic.

One of the major things nearly all the apparently varied types of music I enjoy have in common is that they’re based on pentatonic scales. (I also use a few other, apparently less usual scales regularly, which I don’t have the names for right now. I’m sure they do have “proper” terminology attached.) Diatonic? My brain just doesn’t like it much.

An awful lot of the music in the world uses pentatonic scales, not to mention the other possibilities there. There seems to be some snottiness about it, though, in Western musical education. A taste:

The pentatonic scale plays a significant role in music education, particularly in Orff-based methodologies at the primary/elementary level…

Children begin improvising using only these bars, and over time, more bars are added at the teacher’s discretion until the complete diatonic scale is being used. Orff believed that the use of the pentatonic scale at such a young age was appropriate to the development of each child, since the nature of the scale meant that it was impossible for the child to make any real harmonic mistakes.

(Diatonic: “These scales are the foundation of the European musical tradition.”)

Then there’s this:

One very interesting point that was made was the pentatonic scale is pervasive throughout all human cultures and times. It could be genetically “hardwired” in us… He showed how the scales developed, too, from the basic pentatonic through the modes (aeolian, dorian etc) to the highly structured 12-tone scales used in Western music. Scales in other music cultures have many more notes in their scales, sometimes as many as 24.

Not to mention this (WTF?!):

Brent Michael Davids (Mohican) maintains that there is no such thing as generic Indian music. “Hollywood might lead you to believe that the sound is of a pentatonic scale. That’s from the Plains tribes, as are the headdresses, moccasins, horses that Hollywood depicts, but there are over 500 different tribes in the country,” Davids explains, and the fact is that most Native music is very sophisticated and complex.

There’s cultural diversity and musical complexity, and then there’s snottiness. Hard to work out if it’s the author or Davids being so condescending, though the composer does ignore/gloss over some facts in that statement. Eastern Siouan (including Tutelo–Herzog recorded 27 scales used in a small sample of music, many but not all of them pentatonic) and Iroquoian music also use pentatonic scales a lot. So do Algonquians, including the Mahicans. That’s just in one non-Plains broad cultural area, the one including the composer’s folks!

I’m not even going to try to unpack this stuff, but it helps explain some attitudes I have run into, about what and how music “should” be (usually not what I was doing). Also why practical music education based in diatonic scales as Real Music (never even an Orff-like approach) did not work as well for me as it could have, when my brain was mostly doing other scales–and I bailed on theory before much structural stuff on even this level came in.

At any rate, I’m trying to find ways to work around and eventually defuse some of the crap that’s been getting in the way of my doing “artistic” stuff. Not only is that letting destructively unbalanced people continue to have way too much influence over me, there’s the fire in the head.

As Amanda described it:

The thing is, though, that creativity feels like this force inside of me that needs to have some kind of outlet or it will burn me to a crisp. But I’d been making do with writing. And even though I was writing, I’d still feel like there was this white-hot thing inside of me trying to force my body to let it do something, anything other than just sit there. And writing and painting and music all still feel like something doing me instead of me doing something, and like my consent is only a formality on the way to these things happening.

Exactly. Call it awen, imbas, hózhó/duyukta/tathātā trying to make itself known–whatever. This has always been a very real experience for me.

It need not be wrapped in woo, though it has strongly influenced my “spiritual” approaches. (Which have tended more toward direct experience, which I am learning to balance a bit.) As Treesong expressed it:

The third aspect of Brighid’s fire is the fire in the head. Since before I even knew Brighid, I have felt the fires of poetry and philosophy burning brightly in my heart and mind. There are simply no words for the ferocity of the passion that burns in my blood when I embrace these poetic fires of inspiration. These fires are all-consuming. They’re not something that happens to me; rather, they’re something that I am.

Yes. This does not only apply to poetry (and philosophy); the fire in the head is different for each person, depending on our talents and understandings of the world. For me, it’s frequently musical. I was also drawn to Brigid; again, this can be totally metaphorical or not (or anywhere in between), and it still works. By blocking/redirecting this inspiration, I’m also taking away some important methods of communicating.

Not only is it painful on multiple levels to ignore this fire in the head, or even to try to channel it into other forms of expression–it’s not conducive to a well-balanced life, much less being and developing you. And it doesn’t just hurt you when you hold back expression of your own gifts and ways of perceiving things. Some of the practical effects on the people around you are pretty obvious, but IMO it goes further than that.

Not too surprisingly, I think it’s a huge mistake to somehow split “music” and “art” off from the rest of life and the world–sort of the hózhó model of reality. That’s before you even get to designating “musical” or “artistic” people, and by extension those who are just not able to access music or art in a valuable and meaningful way. On some level, those things are part of life for everyone, and splitting human beings like that doesn’t help anybody. Not even the one doing the splitting.

I can’t help but think of Blackfire’s “What Do You See?” (seemingly run-on presentation from that CD booklet):

you can go as far as any road you take how can you get anywhere if you stand in your own way…
it’s your choice to carry on it’s a part of who you are sometimes we need to live a little more than we dream

For some time now, I’ve recognized that this is a huge self-perpetuated obstacle. Figuring out how to comb the snakes out and work toward some balance here has proven more difficult.


* An excellent pianist who didn’t get to pursue things as she’d have liked. She tried doing the conservatory thing, but had trouble dealing with all the change, and came home after a couple of months. She does office work, and teaches piano (and horse riding–we do have a lot in common!) on the side. She is also autistic–still undiagnosed AFAIK, though she didn’t talk until after she started school and is still not as verbal as a lot of the rest of us. At that time, it was probably better she didn’t get diagnosed. 😐

** And I do mean despised, to the point that when they were both in their 30s, he went up to her stables to start an argument with her–then, after she thought he’d stomped away, sneaked up behind her with a shovel and tried to brain her with it. If her husband hadn’t seen that and tackled him, she probably wouldn’t be here.

*** Actually, he even quit a well-paid job, then took off when that didn’t work, to avoid garnishment for years of unpaid child support once the court got serious. That was in 1986, and I can’t say I’m sorry not to have seen him since. We have known where he is most of that time, and I’d rather not poke at a hornets’ nest.

**** Very condescending in a 1930s way, but interesting. The copy I have is an appendix to Frank Speck’s The Tutelo Spirit Adoption Ceremony. In it, he admits that “[i]t is difficult to represent Indian singing with our conventional music notation”, so he had to use a lot of additional signs and generally jigger with the notation.

I had to howl at one bit (emphasis mine):

The rhythmic patterns of the Tutelo melodies are regular in the sense that for the most part they remain the same while the song is repeated over and over; proof that the patterns are intentional even if not conscious. They do not, however, have running through the song the simple, mechanical regularity of identical measures which has become the predilection of our classical music.

Herzog had some serious trouble describing (much less appreciating) a very different approach to music, based in nesting sets of balancing patterns and variations. Not to mention things like scale and metric changes. Basically, he seemed uncomfortable with some of the complexity.

No, I’m obviously not doing traditional Tutelo stuff, but a number of the same factors apply. I just don’t do “simple, mechanical regularity of identical measures”; one of the things I’ve enjoyed about Jimi Hendrix’s work, for that matter, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s attracted some similar criticisms. See also some of the discussion of how Sámi music differs structurally from Western music. There is also a lot of similarity in the treatment of “meaningless syllables” (vocables); there is plenty of meaning involved, even if someone unfamiliar with their use–and a whole different approach to “meaning” in music–may not recognize it.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2010 10:09 pm

    Regarding chord theory — I tried to start at chord theory. I don’t know what’s supposed to come before it.

    • urocyon permalink
      April 27, 2010 11:48 am

      Aha. Sorry I missed that part. I think it usually comes after “this is the staff, these are the notes and other symbols”, and “these are major and minor scales”, which makes some sense. Especially if they’re stressing learning notation.

      Looking at some online lessons, I’m sure I tried to figure it out before. The teaching approach probably turned me off–firmly connecting it to what I’m hearing before pointing out what it looks like on paper (under that one notation system) would probably work better. “Diatonic triads” with Roman numerals attached and “seventh chord inversions”, unconnected to anything else? Gives me a headache.

      So does trying to figure out what approach might *not* give me a headache, by this point. 😉 But it seems worth it.

      I wanted to thank you for one thing I forgot to explicitly mention in the post: the insights about what might be motivating some hostile/critical teachers. I hadn’t thought about it in those terms, which sound all too plausible. That would help explain a lot of behavior.

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