Lectures and Courses
Already prior to 1940 Hindemith had given individual lectures, but it was only with the two-part lecture ‹Observations of Today's Music› in April 1940 at Yale University that he presented himself as a musical scholar who developed his own ideas pertaining to composition, music theory and musical aesthetics before the backdrop of comprehensive knowledge in the practice and history of music.
Most of the lectures he gave in America from this time onwards, and in Europe starting in 1948, centred on the «three fundamental questions relevant for the composer: what is our material, how do we interpret it, and what do we do with it,» as he formulated the problems of a present-day composer in 1948. Hindemith especially tried to use his lectures in Europe in order to present and defend his own position within the framework of the discussion flaring up concerning New Music. He was particularly concerned with gaining influence on the younger generation of musicians who, however, had increasingly distanced themselves from his conception of music since the early 1950s.
Nonetheless, he enjoyed an excellent reputation through his intensive lecturing activities, manifested in numerous offerings of teaching positions and ultimately his appointment to the University of Zurich. Here he occupied a chair for music theory, composition and music education from autumn 1951 until summer 1955. He gave lectures on ‹Fundamental Questions of Theory and Composition›, ‹Advanced Music Theory,› ‹Technique and Composition,› ‹Theories and Theoreticians,› ‹Construction and Filling of Musical Forms,› ‹Recent and Most Recent Developments in Music Theory,› ‹The Study and Performance of Early Choral Music,› ‹Canon and Fugue› and ‹Modern Styles and Techniques.› Several of the lectures were supplemented by practical exercises.
He continued to appear as lecturer, most of the time speaking about subjects from his book A Composer's World: Horizons and Limitations, which was published in German in 1959 in an expanded form under the title Komponist in seiner Welt: Weiten und Grenzen. In 1956 Hindemith renounced his chair and was named Honorary Professor. In this capacity, he once again held two three-part lecture series at the University of Zurich in December 1957 on the subjects of ‹Carlo Gesualdo's Madrigals (1560-1613)› and ‹Schönberg's String Quartets.› In addition, he gave a three-hour seminar on ‹Essential Features of Compositional Technique.›
Hans Ludwig Schilling, one of Hindemith's Zurich pupils, reported on his teaching as follows: «Paul Hindemith is a punctual teacher. I never saw him arrive after the sound of the bell, but rather five or ten minutes earlier; on the other hand there is no ‹overtime.› The dialogues are terse, succinct, convincing and always in the character of a fast sentence. Hindemith teaches fluently. He fills holes with unimagined vitality and tempo: a discussion leader par excellence. Then he sings the upper part in a falsetto voice, intervals are logarithmically ‹conjured up› on the blackboard, or a poorly legible student manuscript is played from the score ‹into› the piano.»