Revisiting the Future

The Schillinger System of Musical Composition

It was over eighty years ago the music world was a buzz with a new approach to music theory. All genres of music were affected. Major magazines such as: Downbeat, International Musician and Music Quarterly each had articles of explanation of this new technology. Early adopters and critics alike lined up on both sides to offer their opinions. George Gershwin led the charge of early adopters while Elliott Carter lead the opposition. One obvious fact was Joseph Schillinger’s System of Musical Composition influenced the majority of music heard.

Schillinger touched the sounds from Broadway to L.A. Leaving his mark from live radio to the big band dance halls to smokey jazz clubs across this nation.

The first two schools of jazz theory opened on opposite coasts. On the West Coast Westlake School of Music and on the East Coast the Schillinger House later to be renamed Berklee School of Music; each centered their curriculum on the theories of Schillinger. The Schillinger System of Musical Composition is a mathematical theory of music. Its logic and problem solving is what draws musicians to study this system.

After Joseph Schillinger’s death a number of missteps caused this theory to go into hibernation. Over 1600 a page in two volumes of poorly edited lessons of Schillinger’s survived. Carl Fischer Publishing understood that these volumes could not stand on their own merit and promoted schools throughout the country to teach the Schillinger System. Carl Fischer also certified teachers and proctored examinations in an attempt to have the two volumes used as textbooks.

After the system fell out of favor all that was left were unusable 1600+ pages of lessons. After a short reprieve in the late 1970’s, the Schillinger System drifted again into obscurity.

A resurgence of interests appeared with the formation of the Schillinger Society in 2005. It’s memberships now reaches 13 countries, its students once again are the early adopters of this new wave of technology. The Practical Schillinger Online School is offering Schillinger’s cutting edge studies that have transformed the students’ way of looking at music. Schillinger challenged the status quo and we believe in taking to its next incarnation.

Schillinger solved problems then, as he is doing today over 80 years later.

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Philip DiTullio