In the introduction to his Unterweisung im Tonsatz: Theoretischer Teil (The Craft of Musical Composition: Theoretical Part) Hindemith writes: «I know the needs of the teacher as I do the aspirations of the composer. I have experienced the transition from conservative training into a new freedom perhaps more thoroughly than anyone else. The New had to be cut through if its investigation was to succeed; that this was neither harmless nor without danger is known to anyone who was involved in the conquest.»
The Unterweisung im Tonsatz: Theoretischer Teil was motivated by a variety of factors. Hindemith finds justification as a composition teacher and processes his own pedagogical experiences; he considers his own compositional development and that of the New Music whilst summarising his compositional experiences. And above all, he attempts - during a time of the most vehement attacks against his own music - to find the certainty, in theoretical reflexion, that his music participates in the general rules and principles which are always and everywhere valid under all conditions. It enabled Hindemith, at least for a time, to consciously withstand the political pressure on him to which was exposed in Nazi Germany. Hindemith processed influences of Paul Bekker, Heinrich Schenker, Herman Roth and Hans Kayser, whom he associated with the acoustical research of Friedrich Trautwein at the radio laboratory of the Berlin Music Academy and which related to his own experiences as a musician.
The elaboration of the theoretical part of the Unterweisung im Tonsatz turned out to be unexpectedly difficult and laborious. Hindemith began work on it in November 1935 and submitted a first version in February 1936 that was revised a number of times until 1937. He made as many as four different versions of individual chapters. The work was published in its first edition in June 1937; a second edition, again significantly revised, was issued in 1940. Hindemith planned alterations for a third edition in the 1950s but never carried them out. The second volume of the Unterweisung im Tonsatz, the exercise book for two-part writing, was finished in 1939. Hindemith was unable to bring the third volume, three-part writing, to its final form. Thus Unterweisung im Tonsatz is the only one of his major projects that remained unfinished.