John Schlia Photography

Nathan Lam

Assistant Professor of Music Theory
Eastman School of Music

I study scales using a pluralistic approach. Currently, I’m building a theory of diatonic modes that unifies solfège traditions and incorporates elements from set theory, chord-scale theory, and theories of polytonality. My aim is to describe how composers from Franz Schubert to Takashi Yoshimatsu leverage inherit complexities in the diatonic scale for creative expression.

This method has proven useful in other areas. Recently, it has helped me untangle a few knotty problems in 2500 years of Chinese pentatonic theory and expand its explanatory power to recent music.

My own music—including 100+ canonic variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star—extends topics I’m currently researching and engages the wider public in active listening.

Standard 100-word bio


A Unified Theory of Solfège [PDF]
Music Theory Society of New York State (MTSNYS) 2024

Music Theory

Email me if you need a copy of the essays below.

Diatonic Slide Ruler (beta)

Finding Common Ground in the Do-/La-minor Solfège Debate
The Routledge Companion to Aural Skills Pedagogy


Pitch/time permutations of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

77 Canons on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star [Youtube]
piano solo
77 movements in five parts, 1 hour; more to come

Ten Pentatonic Canons [Youtube]
violin and cello
10 movements, 7 minutes

Subtactus Canons [Youtube]
clarinet and bari sax
3 movements, 7 minutes