Faculty of Music

Don Wright Faculty of Music mourns the loss of Richard Parks

richard parksWith deep sadness, we share news of the death of Richard Parks, Professor Emeritus of Music Theory at Western University. Richard passed away peacefully at his home in Shaker Heights, Ohio, on July 5, 2017. Richard received a BM from Baldwin-Wallace College in trumpet performance (1964) and a MM in trumpet performance from Northwestern University (1965). He held several positions as an instructor of trumpet and music theory before turning to the scholarly study of music theory, a decision that has benefited all of us. After receiving his PhD in music theory from The Catholic University of America (1973), he held academic positions in music theory at the University of Denver, Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan), Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Texas), and, finally, the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario), where he taught from 1986 until his retirement in 2011. At Western he will be fondly remembered as an outstanding scholar of music theory, an exceptional teacher and mentor, and an inspirational model of collegiality and leadership. Those who knew him will always remember his ability to listen carefully, his sharp wit, his humanity, and his grace.
Richard’s scholarly work focused on the music of Debussy, in particular his book The Music of Claude Debussy (Yale University Press, 1989), and articles in Music Theory Spectrum, Music and Letters, Debussy in Performance (James Briscoe, ed., Yale University Press, 1999), and A Debussy Companion (Simon Trezise, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2003). Richard’s theory of pitch-class set genera, which first appeared in his Debussy book, was the subject of a symposium devoted to the genera theories of Allen Forte and Richard Parks at the 1997 Cambridge University Music Analysis Conference. Papers from this symposium were published in Music Analysis 17/2 (1998). Richard was also the author of 18th-Century Counterpoint and Tonal Structure (Prentice-Hall, 1983).
Richard was a charter member of the Society for Music Theory, and served as SMT Newsletter Editor from 1982 – 85. He also served as a member of the SMT Nominating Committee (1989 – 90), a member of the SMT Committee on the Status of Women (1988 – 90), and member-at-large on the SMT Executive Board (1986 – 89).
He made enormous contributions to the Don Wright Faculty of Music, and will be deeply missed by all who knew him.