On Thursday 7 May, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) unveiled a new digital conversation; the Illustrated Theory of Music (ITOM). This series of short, informal videos animate the stories behind Western music theory and provoke new questions about what we think we know. What does a ‘quaver’ really mean? Why do we use bars? Why does it have to be so slow? The series is led by the OAE’s dedicated musicians and audiences are invited to ask questions, challenge conventional wisdom and help to build a new understanding of music. 

Cecelia Bruggemeyer, OAE double bass and the star of the OAE’s first ITOM video, says:

The Illustrated Theory of Music is a wonderful opportunity to tell the story of music history and think about what we do: why we play as we play, why we make the choices we do and the theories and ideas that excite and inspire us. ‘Illustrating’ it brings the added bonus of thinking about how to share those ideas in a fun and accessible way with other people, whatever their prior musical knowledge and experience is.

Broadly speaking, the ITOM will cover topics in the Grade V theory syllabus and will be relevant to UK GCSE and A level music students and the American APs  (Advanced Placement) equivalent level of education. The videos will cover a wide range of topics, from intervals and ornamentation to the structure of the trio sonata. Keeping with the OAE’s distinctively playful style, the concepts will be illustrated with stories from music history and impish animations to accompany the accessible and engaging language used by the OAE players.

Crispin Woodhead, OAE Chief Executive, says:

Some people might see our videos and think – ‘that’s not theory’. And in the traditional sense – no, it might not be. But, so what? We’re going to show that there’s no right or wrong way to teach theory and that music history is full of colourful and amusing stories.

While the ITOM has been created with the purpose to teach, the OAE will not place emphasis on the notion that theory has to be learned to pass exams. Rather, the topics covered, which will be contextualised, explained with props and images and dramatised, will serve as the basis of a springboard of ideas to inspire the audience to research further into the topics independently.

Like the history of music, the OAE’s videos will not follow a linear, left-top-right format. Instead, the topics will zoom in and out on interesting and pivotal moments in music history, challenging the notion that history is a straightforward timeline with one right answer for everything.

As their YouTube channel grows, the OAE is ensuring that the ITOM has a place on its platform. Extending far beyond the lockdown the OAE will continue to build on their new educational series and establish it as a core element of the Orchestra’s personality

Watch the Illustrated Theory of Music here:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLa0I2f4DpWlrO9I39t7alez-DZipGMdg-


[Source: OAE press release]