Courses

Courses Open to First-Year Students

MUSIC

The Music Department welcomes first year students in a broad range of music history, performance, ethnomusicology, and theory courses. A brief overview of the 2014-15 introductory-level course offerings open to first-year students appears below; for more complete course descriptions, students should consult the Williams College Online Catalog or the Williams College Bulletin.

100-level courses suitable for students with little or no previous musical training (an ability to read music is not required):

Fall 2014

  • MUS 101(F): Listening to Music: An Introduction to the Western Classical Tradition aims to refine students’ listening skills and enhance their understanding and enjoyment of music by introducing them to the major composers, styles, and genres of the western classical tradition, from the Baroque period to the present.
  • MUS 102(F): Introduction to Music Theory presents an introduction to the materials and structures of music. Students will develop an understanding of the elements of music (e.g. pitch, scales, triads, rhythm, meter, and their notation) and explore their combination and interaction in the larger-scale organization of works of classical, jazz and popular music (i.e. harmony, counterpoint, form, rhetoric). Practical musicianship skills will be developed through singing assignments and rhythmic exercises.
  • MUS 111(F): Music Cultures of the World introduces a select variety of musical traditions from around the world. Musical genres will be approached within their geocultural contexts, taking into account the interrelatedness of the structural, historical and cultural. The class is designed to advance knowledge of the diversity and unity of the cultures of the world, with music being a point of entry. Thus, case studies will provide insight into distinctions in social and aesthetic values across Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, with the goal of fostering a better appreciation of global diversity. Equally, musical universals will be highlighted with the goal of celebrating our common humanity.
  • MUS 119(F): Popular Music: Revolutions in the History of Rock will trace the history of rock music from the 1950s to the present, focusing on those musicians who revolutionized the genre in various periods. Such “revolutions” are discovered in the use of new sounds and musical forms, in the relationship between lyrics and musical setting, and in the conception of rock’s role in society. Three objectives will underpin our studies: to develop listening skills with music that one often hears, but perhaps rarely listens to intently; to determine in what ways popular music can be interpreted as reflecting its cultural context; and to encounter the work of several of the more innovative musicians in the history of rock. Finally we will interrogate our own activities by asking why the study of the “merely popular” should be pursued in a liberal arts education, whether new approaches can be developed for this endeavor, and what makes music “popular.”
  • MUS 125(F): Music and Social Dance in Latin America offers a full-spectrum introduction to the sounds, movements, and social characteristics of a number of Latin American social dance forms, including samba, salsa, tango, and the Afro-Surinamese genre, awasa. Through critical listening and viewing assignments, performance workshops, and readings from disciplines spanning ethnomusicology, anthropology, dance studies, Latin American studies and history, students will combine a technical understanding of the musical and choreographic features of these genres with a consideration of their social impact.  Among the questions that will drive class discussions are the following: How do sound and movement interrelate?  What aspects of gender, sexuality, class, race and ethnicity arise in the performance and consumption of Latin American genres of social dance?  How do high political, economic, and personal stakes emerge through activities more commonly associated with play and leisure?  No prior music or dance training is necessary, however this course does require regular engagement in interactive and performance-based assignments and workshops.
  • MUS 151(F): History of Jazz – “There are only three things that America will be remembered for 200 years from now when they study the civilization: The Constitution, Jazz Music and Baseball.  These are the three most beautiful things this culture’s ever created.” (Gerald Early) Jazz is the most common name for a great African American Art form that still defies definition.  Over the past century this elastic tradition has laid down firm roots for numerous other American and World musics, while itself in the throes of a seemingly permanent identity crisis.  Jazz is perennially declared dead or dying yet consistently summoned by advertisers to lend vitality and sex appeal to liquor or automobiles.  By any name and regardless of its health status, jazz has a rich  history of conservative innovators, at once restless and reverent, who made fascinating leaps of creativity out of inspiration or necessity.  This “listening intensive” class will look at the past century of jazz music through  20 ideas, “what-if” questions or movements that changed the way the music was created, presented and perceived.  Both musical concepts (such as syncopation and cross instrumental-influence) and cultural connections (jazz as cold war propaganda, jazz as protest music) will be examined, giving us freedom to link similar kinds of musical thought across disparate settings and decades.  Our inquiry will include (but not be limited to) the lives and music of Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Mary Lou Williams, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, John Lewis, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Wayne Shorter.
  • MUS 165(F): Mozart will examine the extraordinary life and musical genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Through lectures, discussion, readings, and guided listening, students will gain appreciation of Mozart’s classical compositional style and familiarity with many of his greatest works. The class will explore Mozart’s pivotal position as a musician in Viennese society; his strange combination of bawdy behavior and sublime artistry; his relationship with his domineering father Leopold, as well as with Haydn, Beethoven, and Salieri; and the myths about Mozart that have sprung up in the two centuries since his death.
  • MUS 174(F,S): The Singing Voice: Styles and MeaningWhat makes an opera singer sound different than a rock singer? Why can’t one convincingly sing in the style of the other? And why is the former granted a higher status and the latter a wider audience? This course examines the world of singing styles and engages these styles from multiple angles: through listening, readings, film viewing and, above all, through singing. The class will learn the basics of yodeling, Tuvan throat singing, Hindustani singing, belting among other styles and will explore the cultural and historical contexts of each.

Spring 2015

  • MUS 113(S): Interculturalism in East Asian Music - Global, Multi-cultural, Intercultural: these are all words used to describe our world today. Yet, perhaps with the exception of the current Global concept of cultural interaction, cultures in various regions of the world have continuously interacted over the course of history. This class will examine such historical interactions in the context of music in Asia. Using China as a focal point, we will examine how cultures and music traditions to the West of China (India, Persia and Central Asia) interacted with one another and eventually came to influence Chinese music via the Silk Road. From this intercultural interaction, we will examine the history of Chinese music and then turn to examine how Chinese culture and music influenced culture and music to the East of China: Korea and Japan. Coming full circle, we will end the semester examining how Chinese culture and music tradition, in the context of today’s world, changes yet again in the context of a new interculturalism. This course satisfies the EDI requirement by exploring the diverse musical traditions of East Asia and the network of cultural transactions that have shaped this music.  Students will cultivate skills in music appreciation that will enable them to become more aware of the boundaries of their own cultural background as well as to become capable of appreciating music from different cultural perspectives.
  • MUS 120(S): Musics of Africa introduces a selection of musical cultures from the geographical breadth of Africa. Following an introductory exploration of the fundamental aesthetic and social parameters governing African musical practice, we will engage in a series of case studies considering a diverse array of musical practices and related social and political issues in specific locales.  Featured countries include Ghana, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Algeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  This course samples a wide range of musical practices from the Ghanaian dance craze, azonto, to Ethiopian liturgical change, to Shona mbira music in Zimbabwe.  Performance analysis and critical reading and listing assignments are combined with a number of hands-on workshops and musical exercises.
  • MUS 138(S): Introduction to Twentieth-Century Music - Twentieth-century Euro-American art music involved a persistent exploration of the limits of musical possibility. Encounters with this music often challenge our ears and musical minds and require us to reconsider fundamental conceptions of music itself. Throughout the course, we will investigate in what ways the basic elements of music (e.g., harmonic organization, rhythm, timbre, instrumentation and performance conventions) were extended and revolutionized. Topics and styles to be discussed include: atonality, expressionism, twelve-tone techniques, neoclassicism, electronic and computer music, stochastic music, minimalism, and neoromanticism. We will also consider the music of this century in relation to contemporary developments in the other arts and to popular musical styles. The syllabus will include works by such composers as Debussy, Mahler, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Webern, Bartók, Weill, Milhaud, Shostakovich, Ives, Copland, Babbitt, Stockhausen, Messiaen, Boulez, Berio, Cage, Górecki, Glass, Gubaidulina, and Tower.
  • MUS 146(S): The Concerto: Dialogue and Discord - The concerto is the musical genre most akin to the novel, and like the novel, explores the individual’s relationship to society. A musical protagonist—a solo instrumentalist or a group of individual players—engages the larger orchestral ensemble, and a story unfolds in a dramatic narrative told in sound. This course will trace the history of the concerto from its beginning in the Baroque period to today. We will explore the spirited exchanges of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti, the urbane conversations of Mozart’s piano concerti, the impassioned struggles of the Brahms violin concerto, the ferocious arguments of the Shostakovitch cello concerto, the polyglot discussions of John Adam’s clarinet concerto, and many more. Along the way we will also investigate transformations in patronage and performance contexts, the cult of the virtuoso, and aspects of musical form and style. Students will experience the excitement of hearing concerti performed on campus by the Berkshire Symphony and student winners of the Department of Music’s Concerto Competition.
  • MUS 163(S): BachJohann Sebastian Bach now enjoys the status of a cultural icon, transcending time and place. But who was Bach, and why do his musical creations continue to fascinate us? This course offers an introduction to the life and music of this iconic composer. We will explore aspects of cultural context (such as the social milieu in which Bach developed his art and the use and perception of his music by his contemporaries), as well develop our listening skills by exploring matters of purely musical content (the styles and forms of his prodigious oeuvre). Both instrumental and vocal music will be surveyed, including the Brandenburg Concerti, the Goldberg Variations, the Magnificat, and the B Minor Mass. The course will conclude with a consideration of Bach’s legacy in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • MUS 174(F,S): The Singing Voice: Mechanics, History and Meaning examines the physiological and acoustical properties of singing and explores the varieties of singing style and function including Western classical, jazz, pop and gospel as well as less familiar approaches such as overtone singing, yodeling and belting. The historical development of singing styles will be considered as will the meaning making of specific vocal qualities. Students will learn the basics of several singing styles.

100-level courses suitable for students with previous musical training:

  • MUS 103(F): Music Theory and Musicianship I and either MUS 104a (S): Music Theory and Musicianship II or MUS 104b(S): Jazz Theory and Improvisation I are required of music majors and recommended for students (including those not intending to major in music) with a high level of previous training. In these intensive courses, which involve lectures, conference meetings, and musicianship/ear training skills labs, students explore the materials, structures and procedures of tonal music. Students receive extensive practice in ear training, sight-singing, keyboard harmony, and dictation, and develop both an intellectual and aural understanding of music through analysis, arranging, and composition exercises. [Note: Since placement directly into MUS 104 is dependent on a placement exam administered during First Days, students are advised to pre-register for MUS 103, and to drop MUS103 only if placed into MUS 104.]

Students with significant previous musical training (through performance activities or high school courses in music history, literature, or history) are also welcome in upper-level music courses; the Music Department encourages students to move along as fast as their talent and training allows. 200-level courses offer students the opportunity to explore a range of musical topics in greater depth than 100-level courses. Most 200-level courses have no prerequisites but require the ability to read music, and are usually open to all students who can do so, regardless of class year. 200-level tutorials and writing intensive courses have no prerequisites and generally do not require the ability to read music, but the workload and more advanced approach to the subject matter make these courses best suited to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Certain courses may require familiarity with the fundamentals of music theory or permission of the instructor, as indicated in the complete course descriptions included in the Online Catalog and Course Bulletin. 200-level courses for the academic year 2014-15 that are open to first year students include:

Fall 2014

  • MUS 231(F): Music in History I: Antiquity-1750
  • MUS 233(F): Music in History III: Musics of the Twentieth Century
  • MUS 278T(F): Carmen, 1845 to Now

Spring 2015

  • MUS 210(S): Music Technology
  • MUS 211(S): Music, Nationalism, and Popular Culture
  • MUS 232(S): Music in History II: 1750-1900
  • MUS 251(S): Introduction to the Music of Duke Ellington
  • MUS 272T(S): Music and Meaning  

In addition to enrolling in academic music courses, first year students are encouraged to develop their skills in music performance through individual lessons, chamber music, and large instrumental and vocal ensembles. Information about both academic courses and performance activities will be available at the Music Department Open House, scheduled for Wednesday, September 3, 2:30-4:30 pm in Bernhard Music Center.

Lessons and Chamber Music

Individual Vocal and Instrumental Instruction

Course ID: MUS 281-288
Major Status: General Elective
Yearly Schedule: Offered Every Year
Semester Offered: Every Semester
Prerequisite: Permission of the individual instructor.

Individual lessons in voice, keyboard and most orchestral and jazz instruments offered as a partial credit fifth course. Students are encouraged to take this course for a letter grade, but as with all fifth courses, pass/fail is also an option. Students are required to prepare for 10 lessons during the semester with a minimum expectation of one hour practice per day and to perform publicly on at least one departmental studio recital during the semester. Lessons are scheduled TBA based upon instructor schedule. Make-up lessons given at the discretion of the instructor. Grading will be based upon lesson preparation, public performance, and progress throughout the semester.

Specific instrument or voice sections are as follows:

01 Bassoon, 02 Cello, 03 Clarinet, 04 Bass, 05 Flute, 06 Guitar, 07 Harpsichord, 08 Horn, 09 Jazz Piano, 10 Oboe, 11 Organ, 12 Percussion, 13 Piano, 14 Classical Saxophone, 15 Trumpet, 16 Viola, 17 Violin, 18 Voice, 19 Jazz Bass, 20 Jazz Vocal, 21 Trombone, 22 Harp, 23 Jazz Drums, 24 Jazz Saxophone, 25 Jazz Trumpet, 28 African Drumming, 29 Jazz Guitar, 30 Mbira, 31 Vocal/Songwriting, 32 Jazz Trombone, 33 Sitar, 34 Tabla, 35 Erhu, 36 Yangqin, 37 Zheng, 38 Liuqin/Pipa, 39 Zhongruan

Special Note: The Department subsidizes music lesson course fees for all students and fully subsidizes these fees for music majors. The Financial Aid Office further subsidizes currently aided students on a sliding scale based on demonstrated need. To view the fee schedule click on the registration/billing contract link below. The student must sign a contract agreeing to pay this fee and acknowledging that the department subsidy will be lost if the course is not completed. To register for the course, a student must first contact the appropriate studio instructor (see Faculty for list) to determine if there is room in the course and so the instructor can assess student’s ability level. This may require an audition or meeting with the studio instructor. The student must then fill out and submit the registration/billing contract, signed by both teacher and student, and turn it in to Marilyn Cole Dostie, Assistant to the Chair. There is no need to register online as this is done by the Music Department. Registration is for course number 281, with the appropriate section from the list above. Students will be assigned to course numbers 281-288 based on the number of semesters of instruction already taken in one particular section.

Registration for lessons must be completed during the drop/add period of each semester. It is recommended that students wishing to take lessons in the fall semester attend the Music Department open house.

Open to first year students.

Chamber Music Workshop

Course ID: MUS 291-298
Major Status: General Elective
Yearly Schedule: Offered Every Year
Semester Offered: Every Semester
Prerequisite: Permission of appropriate Chamber Music staff.

Chamber Music and other small groups coached by faculty on a weekly basis culminating in a performance. Offered as a partial credit fifth course. Students are encouraged to take this course for a letter grade, but as with all fifth courses, pass/fail is also an option. Students are required to prepare for 10 one hour coaching sessions during the semester. It is recommended that each group rehearse a minimum of 2 hours each week in preparation of the coaching. Each ensemble is responsible for keeping a weekly log of rehearsal times and attendance. The logs are to be handed in to the coaches at the end of the semester. In addition students are expected to practice the assigned music individually and are required to perform on the Chamber Music 291 concert at the end of the semester. The ensembles will be organized based on skill levels and the instruments represented.

To register for the course, a student must first contact the Chamber Music Performance Coordinator, fill out a registration contract signed by both the Coordinator and the student, and turn that in to the Music office. This replaces the need to register on line. Students should register for 291 for their first semester enrolled in this course and should use the numbers 292-298 for subsequent semesters.

Enrollment limits will depend upon instructor availability. Preference given to more advanced students, to be determined by audition as necessary.

Registration for Chamber Music must be completed during the drop/add period of each semester. It is recommended that students wishing to take Chamber Music instruction in the fall semester attend the Music Department open house.

Open to first year students.

Advanced Musical Performance

Course ID: MUS 391, 392, 491, 492
Major Status: Major Elective
Yearly Schedule: Offered Every Year
Semester Offered: Every Semester
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor and music faculty. (Intended primarily for music majors.)

Individual instruction in voice, keyboard, and most orchestral and jazz instruments offered at the advanced level as a regular full credit course. Additional guidelines for full credit lessons can be secured at the Music Department office. Full credit lessons must be approved by the entire music faculty and an audition may be required.

Majors may register for a total of four semesters and non–majors may register for a total of two semesters. The numbers 391, 392, 491, 492 should be used for four sequence courses in the same instrument. If a different instrument is elected, the numbering sequence should start again at 391. These numbers are selected without regard to semester taken or class year of the student.

Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor and music faculty by the day PRIOR to the first day of the semester. (Intended primarily for music majors.) Students must obtain a special form for this course election from the Music Department Office.

Note: Music 391, 392, 491, 492 must be taken as a graded course and it is strongly recommended that it be taken only as part of a four–course load.

Full Course List

About Course Numbering

100-level courses are introductory in nature. They aim to acquaint students with a variety of topics in music, ranging from the materials of music (introductory music theory and musicianship) to various musical cultures (African, American, Asian, Caribbean, and European) and styles within those cultures (classical, folk, and popular). Most 100-level courses are designed for the general student and have no prerequisites; they assume no prior musical training, and are open to all students interested in increasing their understanding and appreciation of music. The two 100-level courses that can serve to satisfy specific music theory requirements for the music major (MUS 103 and104a or 104b) require a working knowledge of musical notation; these courses are geared to potential majors and students with strong instrumental or vocal background, and are particularly suitable for first-year students interested in taking more advanced courses in music.

200-level courses offer students the opportunity to explore a range of more specialized musical topics, from performance, technology, and musicianship-based classes to courses focused on specific styles, periods, composers, and examinations of meaning in music. Most regular 200-level courses have no prerequisites but do require the ability to read music, and are usually open to all students who can do so, regardless of class year. 200-level tutorials and writing intensive courses have no prerequisites and generally do not require the ability to read music, but the workload and more advanced approach to the subject matter makes these courses best suited to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The two 200-level courses that complete the music theory requirements for the music major (MUS 201 and 202) have prerequisites; these courses are geared to potential majors, majors, and students with strong instrumental or vocal background.

300-level courses are designed for sophomores, juniors, and seniors with a background in instrumental or vocal performance and fluency in reading musical notation to focus on specialized topics. All require at least one semester of music theory or its equivalent. Some 300-level courses are experiential in nature, including performance-based coursework in conducting, composition, arranging, orchestration, and improvisation. Others are advanced courses in music theory and analysis, musicology, or ethnomusicology, taught in a seminar context that emphasizes original research and analysis.

400-level courses are intended for advanced juniors and seniors, usually music majors, wishing to pursue thesis, independent study, or small seminar coursework in composition, theory and analysis, musicology, ethnomusicology, or performance, under the guidance of an individual faculty advisor.

MUS 101(F)Listening to Music: An Introduction to the Western Classical Tradition

When you listen to music--on the radio, on your Ipod, at a concert--how much do you really hear? This course aims to refine students' listening skills so as to enhance their understanding and enjoyment of music. It also provides an introduction to the major composers, musical styles, and genres of the Western classical tradition. We will study music from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern periods, including works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Stravinsky, and other composers. Genres to be covered include the symphony, string quartet, sonata, opera, song, and choral music. Attendance at selected concerts on campus is required. [ more ]

MUS 102(F)Introduction to Music Theory

The course presents an introduction to the materials and structures of music. Through a variety of practical exercises and written projects, students will develop an understanding of the elements of music (e.g. pitch, scales, triads, rhythm, meter, and their notation) and explore their combination and interaction in the larger-scale organization of works of classical, jazz and popular music (i.e. harmony, counterpoint, form, rhetoric). Practical musicianship skills will be developed through in-class and prepared singing, Keyboard and rhythmic exercises. [ more ]

Taught by: Eric Nathan

Catalog details

MUS 103(F)Music Theory and Musicianship I

MUS 103 and 104 are designed for potential majors and for students with strong instrumental or vocal backgrounds. Students entering MUS 103 should have a solid understanding of musical rudiments (intervals, scales, keys) and reading proficiency in both bass and treble clefs. A short diagnostic exam will be administered at the first class meeting of MUS 103 to determine if a student requires any additional work to complement and fortify course work during the early weeks of the semester, or whether placement in MUS 102 would be more appropriate. Students with a strong background in music theory may take a placement exam during First Days to see whether they can pass out of one or both semesters. MUS 103 and 104 are required for the music major. MUS 103 presents the materials, structures and procedures of tonal music, with an emphasis on the harmonic and contrapuntal practice of the baroque and classical periods (ca. 1650-1825). The course explores triadic harmony, voice leading, and counterpoint with an emphasis on the chorale style of J.S. Bach and his predecessors. Keyboard harmony and figured bass exercises, sight singing, dictation, analysis of repertoire, written exercises and emulation projects will develop both an intellectual and an aural understanding of music of the period. Projects include the harmonization of chorale melodies, the arrangement of classical-- period minuets and the composition of vocal canons. [ more ]

MUS 104(S)Jazz Theory and Improvisation I

The theory and application of basic techniques in jazz improvisation and performance styles, including blues forms, swing, bebop, modally based composition, Afro-Cuban, etc. Appropriate for students with skill on their instrument and some basic theoretical knowledge. Knowledge of all key signatures, major/minor keys and modes, intervals, triads and basic seventh chords and their functions within keys. Students should be able to play and demonstrate these concepts on their instruments-competence on an instrument is essential (vocalists and drummers will be encouraged to study the piano). Pianists and guitarists should be able to sight read chords on a jazz lead sheet. [ more ]

MUS 104(S)Music Theory and Musicianship I

Music 104 continues the practical musicianship work of Music 103, while expanding the scope of harmonic topics to include seventh chords and chromatic harmony. Music 104 further explores the transformation of chorale harmony in contrapuntal works of the eighteenth century. Projects include the composition and performance of preludes, fugues and organ chorale preludes on baroque models. [ more ]

MUS 109Symphony

Not offered this year

A musical and cultural historical survey of music for the symphony orchestra as observed in the late-eighteenth through the twentieth century. Genres to be explored include the symphony, concerto, tone poem, and concert overture, by composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Berlioz, Liszt, Brahms, Mahler, Richard Strauss, Ravel, Bartok, Crumb, Hailstork, and Joan Tower. Emphasis on listening. [ more ]

MUS 111(F)Music Cultures of the World

This course introduces a variety of musical traditions from around the world, from karaoke to reggae and Indian classical traditions. Students develop a working knowledge of musical terms, influential musicians, and concepts relevant to performance genres hailing from the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Beyond engaging with music's sound and structure, we will address its capacity to express personal and group identity, and its ability to both reflect and shape broader social ideas and circumstances. Reading and writing assignments are combined with direct engagement with music and musicians. No prior musical training required. [ more ]

MUS 113(S)Interculturalism in East Asian Music

Global, Multi-cultural, Intercultural: these are all words used to describe our world today. Yet, perhaps with the exception of the current Global concept of cultural interaction, cultures in various regions of the world have continuously interacted over the course of history. This class will examine such historical interactions in the context of music in Asia. Using China as a focal point, we will examine how cultures and music traditions to the West of China (India, Persia and Central Asia) interacted with one another and eventually came to influence Chinese music via the Silk Road. From this intercultural interaction, we will examine the history of Chinese music and then turn to examine how Chinese culture and music influenced culture and music to the East of China: Korea and Japan. Coming full circle, we will end the semester examining how Chinese culture and music tradition, in the context of today's world, changes yet again in the context of a new interculturalism. This course satisfies the EDI requirement by exploring the diverse musical traditions of East Asia and the network of cultural transactions that have shaped this music. Students will cultivate skills in music appreciation that will enable them to become more aware of the boundaries of their own cultural background as well as to become capable of appreciating music from different cultural perspectives. [ more ]

Taught by: Jeffrey Roberts

Catalog details

MUS 114American Music

Not offered this year

This lecture and discussion course focuses on American music in its cultural context. Students will explore a range of issues concerning music's relation to national and ethnic identity, historical events, societal conflicts, and philosophical, literary, and artistic movements. The class will study works from a variety of musical traditions: e.g., Native American, religious, classical, patriotic, blues, jazz, folk, Broadway, rock, and rap. [ more ]

MUS 116Music in Modernism

Not offered this year

The synthesis of the arts was a primary pursuit of modernist composers, artists, choreographers, and writers. Seeking either to realize Wagner's "total work of art" in the theater, or to uncover the more general correspondences celebrated by Baudelaire, modernists consistently looked beyond their own media. Collaborations on works of "total theater" were common: Satie, Cocteau, Massine, Picasso; Brecht, Hindemith, Weill; Stravinsky, Nijinsky, Bakst; Claudel, Honegger, Rubinstein. Modernists explored new connections between music and color (Scriabin, Kandinsky), music and literature (Joyce, Mann), and music and dance (Duncan, Graham). Occasionally, modernists attempted to unite the arts on their own: Schoenberg painted, Pound composed, and Kokoschka wrote. Our focus will be on those works of music, art, dance, and literature that explored new relationships between the arts. One goal will be to investigate whether specific equivalents exist between techniques of modernist painting, poetics, choreography, and composition. Aware of the risks and rewards of interdisciplinary study, we will attempt our own theories of artistic synthesis. This course is designed to bring multiple perspectives to the study of music in modernism. [ more ]

MUS 119(F)Popular Music: Revolutions in the History of Rock

This course will trace the history of rock music from the 1950s to the present, focusing on those musicians who revolutionized the genre in various periods. Such "revolutions" are discovered in the use of new sounds and musical forms, in the relationship between lyrics and musical setting, and in the conception of rock's role in society. Three objectives will underpin our studies: to develop listening skills with music that one often hears, but perhaps rarely listens to intently; to determine in what ways popular music can be interpreted as reflecting its cultural context; and to encounter the work of several of the more innovative musicians in the history of rock. Finally we will interrogate our own activities by asking why the study of the "merely popular" should be pursued in a liberal arts education, whether new approaches can be developed for this endeavor, and what makes music "popular." [ more ]

Taught by: Eric Nathan

Catalog details

MUS 120(S)Musics of Africa

This course introduces a selection of musical cultures from the geographical breadth of Africa. Following an introductory exploration of the fundamental aesthetic and social parameters governing African musical practice, we will engage in a series of case studies considering a diverse array of musical practices and related social and politial issures in specific locales. Featured countries include Ghana, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Algeria and the Democrtic Republic of Congo. This course samples a wide range of musical practices from the Ghanaian dance craze, azonto, to Ethiopian liturgical change, to Shona mbira music in Zimbabwe. Performance analysis an critical reading and listing assignments are compbined with a number of hands-on workshops and musical exercises. [ more ]

MUS 122African-American Music

Not offered this year

This course will survey the history of African-American music in the United States from its beginnings through the mid-twentieth century. Themes include: the continuation of Africanisms in African-American music,transculturation between Black and White American music, and the ever-changing sound of African--American music in the U.S. There will be an emphasis on discussing music, listening to it, and attending concerts of live music for which there may be additional costs. This EDI course explores the experiences and expressions of the culturally diverse peoples of African descent in the New World (and the Old), as well as the myriad ways in which they confront, negotiate, and at times challenge dominant U.S. and/or European hierarchies of race, culture, gender and class. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

MUS 125(F)Music and Social Dance in Latin America

This course offers a full-spectrum introduction to the sounds, movements, and social characteristics of a number of Latin American social dance forms, including samba, salsa, tango, and the Afro-Surinamese genre, awasa. Through critical listening and viewing assignments, performance workshops, and readings from disciplines spanning ethnomusicology, anthropology, dance studies, Latin American studies and history, students will combine a technical understanding of the musical and choreographic features of these genres with a consideration of their social impact. Among the questions that will drive class discussions are the following: How do sound and movement interrelate? What aspects of gender, sexuality, class, race and ethnicity arise in the performance and consumption of Latin American genres of social dance? How do high political, economic, and personal stakes emerge through activities more commonly associated with play and leisure? No prior music or dance training is necessary, however this course does require regular engagement in interactive and performance-based assignments and workshops. [ more ]

MUS 126Musics of Asia

Not offered this year

This course offers an introduction to the great diversity of Asian music. Our survey will span from East Asia (China, Korea, and Japan) to Southeast Asia (Thailand and Indonesia) to the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia (Tibet and Afghanistan), to the Middle East (Iran and the Arabian peninsula), and will end with the extension of Asian music across North Africa and into Eastern Europe. Within this broad survey, we will focus on selected and representative musical cultures and genres. In each section of the course, aspects of cultural context (including music's function in religious life and its relationship to the other arts), will be emphasized. While our focus will be on the traditional and classical musics of these cultures, we will also briefly consider the current musical scene. Encounters with this music will include attendance at live performances when possible. This course satisfies the EDI requirement by exploring how the diverse musical traditions of Asia are shaped by radically different religious beliefs and social norms and by demonstrating how various Asian cultures can be understood through their musical traditions. Much of the music we will encounter presents aesthetics and cultural norms that differ radically from mainstream Euro-American cultural practices. To engage with these traditions students must attempt to place themselves within different cultural frameworks, to hear music that they may find shockingly foreign with a different set of ears. [ more ]

MUS 127Cuban Popular Music and Culture

Not offered this year

This class will cover genres of Cuban folk, and popular music and the impact that Cuban history has had on Cuban music, art, and culture in general. Topics to be discussed will include the African influence on Cuban music between the 15th and 16th centuries, the contemporary coexistence of old African musical practices with new musical manifestations now purely Cuban, and the Spanish influence on the Punto Cubano or Punto Guajiro that flourished at the end of the 18th century as a family-neighborhood activity. We will also discuss the connection between folk music and the utilization of European techniques that gave as a result the danzon, the mambo, the cha cha cha, the Cuban son, as well as multiple genres of the Cuban cancion (song). Other topics of discussion will include the strong bonds between Cuban music and North American music during the 20th century, and how the combination of folk music/professional music imparts a dynamic to Afro-Cuban jazz, and salsa. We will also discuss more recent developments of Afro-Cuban music such as timba cubana, Cuban hip hop, and the social issues represented in their lyrics. A good understanding of Cuban music requires the understanding of Cuban people and their culture. We will discuss how Cuban music is and has been for centuries an expression and part of the religious and political systems of belief of the Cuban people. We will also see how Cuban music is an important part of Cuban identity and their heritage. Class examples will also demonstrate how Cuban music is a force that unifies all Cubans regardless of their social class or political view. This is an EDI course because it will promote empathetic understanding of Cuban experience and identity through its most vital cultural expression in music, and explore ways in which the music reveals interactions and responses to African and North American experiences as expressed in music. [ more ]

MUS 134Myth in Music

Not offered this year

Orpheus, Prometheus, Faust, and Don Juan--these figures have captured the imagination of writers, artists, and composers throughout history. This course explores how prominent myths of western civilization have found expression in a broad variety of musical works, e.g., operas by Claudio Monteverdi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Jacques Offenbach, and Richard Wagner; songs by Franz Schubert, Hugo Wolf, Ricky Ian Gordon, and Adam Guettel; ballets by Ludwig van Beethoven and Igor Stravinsky; symphonic poems by Franz Liszt, Richard Strauss and Alexander Scriabin; Broadway musicals by Richard Adler and Randy Newman; and mixed-media projects by Rinde Eckert. Our inquiry will lead us to ponder an array of questions: Why have certain myths proven especially appealing to composers? What accounts for these myths' musical longevity? How have myths been adapted to different musical genres and styles, and for what purposes? How do the works reflect the historical cultures in which they originated? How have they engaged with different social, political, artistic, and intellectual concerns? [ more ]

MUS 135Storytelling in Music

Not offered this year

Many of the songs we hear on the radio derive their appeal, in part, from the interest of the narratives conveyed by their lyrics. Even without lyrics, however, music itself can compellingly depict characters, emotions, settings, or events in order to relate tales of love, tragic loss, conflict, heroism and victory, transcendence, comedy, adventure, and the exotic. This course explores the various musical means through which composers of the past several centuries have sought to convey such stories in both texted and untexted genres including the sixteenth-century madrigal; opera; the concerto and the symphony; nineteenth-century song cycles, solo piano works, and tone-poems; ballet and film scores; and jazz and rock 'n roll. [ more ]

MUS 138(S)Introduction to Twentieth-Century Music

Twentieth-century Euro-American art music involved a persistent exploration of the limits of musical possibility. Encounters with this music often challenge our ears and musical minds and require us to reconsider fundamental conceptions of music itself. Throughout the course, we will investigate in what ways the basic elements of music (e.g., harmonic organization, rhythm, timbre, instrumentation and performance conventions) were extended and revolutionized. Topics and styles to be discussed include: atonality, expressionism, twelve-tone techniques, neoclassicism, electronic and computer music, stochastic music, minimalism, and neoromanticism. We will also consider the music of this century in relation to contemporary developments in the other arts and to popular musical styles. The syllabus will include works by such composers as Debussy, Mahler, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Webern, Bartok, Weill, Milhaud, Shostakovich, Ives, Copland, Babbitt, Stockhausen, Messiaen, Boulez, Berio, Cage, Gorecki, Glass, Gubaidulina, and Tower. [ more ]

Taught by: Eric Nathan

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MUS 141Opera

Not offered this year

An introduction to the history of opera, from the genre's birth c. 1600 to the present. At various points in its 400-year development, opera has been considered the highest synthesis of the arts, a vehicle for the social elite, or a form of popular entertainment. Opera's position in European cultural history will be a primary focus of our inquiry. We will also study the intriguing relationship between text and music, aspects of performance and production, and the artistic and social conventions of the operatic world. The multidimensional nature of opera invites a variety of analytical and critical perspectives, including those of music analysis, literary studies, feminist interpretations, and political and sociological approaches. Works to be considered include operas by Monteverdi, Lully, Charpentier, Handel, Gluck, Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Wagner, Bizet, Puccini, Strauss, Berg, Britten, Glass and Adams. This course may involve a trip to the Metropolitan Opera. [ more ]

MUS 146(S)The Concerto: Dialogue and Discord

The concerto is the musical genre most akin to the novel, and like the novel, explores the individual's relationship to society. A musical protagonist--a solo instrumentalist or a group of individual players--engages the larger orchestral ensemble, and a story unfolds in a dramatic narrative told in sound. This course will trace the history of the concerto from its beginning in the Baroque period to today. We will explore the spirited exchanges of Bach's Brandenburg Concerti, the urbane conversations of Mozart's piano concerti, the impassioned struggles of the Brahms violin concerto, the ferocious arguments of the Shostakovitch cello concerto, the polyglot discussions of John Adam's clarinet concerto, and many more. Along the way we will also investigate transformations in patronage and performance contexts, the cult of the virtuoso, and aspects of musical form and style. Students will experience the excitement of hearing concerti performed on campus by the Berkshire Symphony and student winners of the Department of Music's Concerto Competition. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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MUS 149The Language of Film Music

Not offered this year

Film composers, once viewed as less serious than their concert music counterparts, have become celebrities today. John Williams, James Horner, Howard Shore, and Carter Burwell are as well known as Stravinsky, Holst, Shostakovich, and Strauss. The only symphony orchestra many people hear today is the one at the movies and when people do attend concerts, the music often reminds them of film scores. The way we perceive cinematic narrative is highly dependent upon the way the composer scores it. We may not always be conscious of the composer's craft, but we almost always know how we are supposed to feel or think about what is going on in a film because of the powerful musical cues. How did this language of film music evolve and where did many of the iconic musical gestures come from? These questions will be explored along with specific techniques film composers have used over the years to manipulate our perception of the visual narrative. We will look at and listen to films from different periods, observe which techniques evolved, which have changed very little, and consider when an idea is borrowed and when it might actually be new. [ more ]

MUS 151(F)History of Jazz

"There are only three things that America will be remembered for 200 years from now when they study the civilization: The Constitution, Jazz Music and Baseball. These are the three most beautiful things this culture's ever created."-- (Gerald Early) Jazz is the most common name for a great African American Art form that still defies definition. Over the past century this elastic tradition has laid down firm roots for numerous other American and World musics, while itself in the throes of a seemingly permanent identity crisis. Jazz is perennially declared dead or dying yet consistently summoned by advertisers to lend vitality and sex appeal to liquor or automobiles. By any name and regardless of its health status, jazz has a rich history of conservative innovators, at once restless and reverent, who made fascinating leaps of creativity out of inspiration or necessity. This "listening intensive" class will look at the past century of jazz music through 20 ideas, "what-if" questions or movements that changed the way the music was created, presented and perceived. Both musical concepts (such as syncopation and cross instrumental-influence) and cultural connections (jazz as cold war propaganda, jazz as protest music) will be examined, giving us freedom to link similar kinds of musical thought across disparate settings and decades. Our inquiry will include (but not be limited to) the lives and music of Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Mary Lou Williams, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, John Lewis, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Wayne Shorter. [ more ]

MUS 152A Composer's History of Jazz

Not offered this year

This course will provide a chronological survey of jazz composers, beginning with the pre-jazz era and continuing through the present day. Students will be required to do assigned listening and read related criticism and biographical material. In addition, students will write several responsive papers summarizing these listening and reading experiences. Each student will also write a biographical paper about a composer (or composer/arranger) of her choice, and participate in a collaborative presentation at the end of the semester on a composition or set of compositions from a list of possibilities provided by the instructor. Midterm and final examinations will focus on analytical aural skills developed during the semester, both in terms of formal analysis and composer identification. Composers whose work will be covered will include: Scott Joplin, James P. Johnson, Jelly Roll Morton, George Gershwin, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Benny Carter, Ernie Wilkins, Quincy Jones, Gil Evans, Frank Foster, John Lewis, Dave Brubeck, Oliver Nelson, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Hermeto Pascoal, Eddie Palmieri, Thad Jones, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Yusef Lateef, Bill Evans, Maria Schneider, Billy Childs, and others. This course will be writing intensive. As an EDI offering, the course materials will be designed not only to expose the student to the music, but also to provide an examination of the relationship between jazz composers and the historical and cultural worlds in which they created their Art. Readings will include the perspective of musicians, audiences and critics, as well as an examination of who they were and what agendas and prevailing societal attitudes may have shaped their reactions to the music. Comparisons between the experiences of composers and their listeners in different eras will provide additional perspective. [ more ]

MUS 163(S)Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach now enjoys the status of a cultural icon, transcending time and place. But who was Bach, and why do his musical creations continue to fascinate us? This course offers an introduction to the life and music of this iconic composer. We will explore aspects of cultural context (such as the social milieu in which Bach developed his art and the use and perception of his music by his contemporaries), as well develop our listening skills by exploring matters of purely musical content (the styles and forms of his prodigious oeuvre). Both instrumental and vocal music will be surveyed, including the Brandenburg Concerti, the Goldberg Variations, the Magnificat, and the B Minor Mass. The course will conclude with a consideration of Bach's legacy in the 19th and 20th centuries. [ more ]

MUS 164Bach and Handel: Their Music in High Baroque Culture

Not offered this year

This course explores the lives and music of two great composers of the High Baroque, Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. We will examine their dramatically contrasting life experiences and musical pursuits within the larger social and cultural framework of the period: Bach as a provincial composer, servant to minor German aristocrats and the Lutheran Church, virtuoso organist and pedagogue; Handel as a cosmopolitan celebrity and entrepreneur, creator of operatic and instrumental entertainments for both the Italian and English nobility and the paying public. Development of listening skills and understanding of Baroque music styles, genres, and forms will be stressed. Bach's Brandenburg Concerti and Mass in B-minor, and Handel's opera Giulio Cesare and Water Music Suite are just a few of the works to be discussed and enjoyed. [ more ]

MUS 165(F)Mozart

This course will examine the extraordinary life and musical genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Through lectures, discussion, readings, and guided listening, students will gain appreciation of Mozart's classical compositional style and familiarity with many of his greatest works. The class will explore Mozart's pivotal position as a musician in Viennese society; his strange combination of bawdy behavior and sublime artistry; his relationship with his domineering father Leopold, as well as with Haydn, Beethoven, and Salieri; and the myths about Mozart that have sprung up in the two centuries since his death. [ more ]

MUS 166Beethoven

Not offered this year

This course provides an introduction to the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven. The composer's difficult childhood, tragic loss of hearing, clandestine affair with his "Immortal Beloved", and tempestuous relationship with his suicidal nephew Karl, together with the French Revolution and emergence of Romanticism, will form the backdrop for our investigation of his artistic struggles and monumental achievements. Students will listen to a broad cross section of Beethoven's music, including piano sonatas, string quartets, symphonies, overtures, concertos, choral works, and opera. We will explore a range of topics, including the nature of his genius, his relation to composers such as Haydn and Mozart, and his impact on posterity. [ more ]

MUS 174(F, S)The Singing Voice: Styles and Meaning

What makes an opera singer sound different than a rock singer? Why can't one convincingly sing in the style of the other? And why is the former granted a higher status and the latter a wider audience? This course examines the world of singing styles and engages these styles from multiple angles: through listening, readings, film viewing and, above all, through singing. The class will learn the basics of yodeling, Tuvan throat singing, Hindustani singing, belting among other styles and will explore the cultural and historical contexts of each. [ more ]

MUS 201(F)Music Theory and Musicianship II

Music 201 continues to greater degrees the study of music techniques from the common practice period by means of analysis, composition, written exercises, sightsinging, and dictation. We will expand our understanding of chromaticism. We will learn how chromaticism is used as a voice-leading tool, and how it participates in music even at deeper levels of the structure. We will learn about innovations that occurred from the early 19th century through the beginning of the 20th century and will trace the origins for these new harmonic tendencies. We will also learn how composers create larger formal structures. [ more ]

MUS 202(S)Music Theory and Musicianship II

Music 202 explores twentieth-century practices including harmony, scales and modes, rhythmic techniques, new formal ideas, serial procedures, and set theory. It also covers more recent musical developments including aleatorism, minimalism, electronic music, post-modernism, eclecticism, and other techniques. [ more ]

MUS 204Jazz Theory and Improvisation II

Not offered this year

A continuation of Music 203, this course builds upon theoretical knowledge, performance and aural skills developed previously. Students will deal with more complex theoretical and performance issues, such as modal interchange and minor key harmony, use of symmetric scales, commonly-used reharmonizations of the blues and "I Got Rhythm" chord progressions, and Coltrane's "Three Tonic" harmonic system. [ more ]

MUS 205 T(F)Composition I

Beginning courses in musical composition taught in tutorial format. Size and number of required projects will vary from 4 to 5. Each assignment will represent 25% of the student's final grade. A group meeting per week will deal with the presentation of the student's work in progress, analysis of models for composition, performance of work in class, and critiquing of work. There will be a weekly individual meeting with the instructor to discuss each students progress. Students must also be available for performances and reading of work outside normal class time and the instructor and students will work together to insure that all work written during the semester is actually performed. [ more ]

MUS 206 T(S)Composition II

Beginning courses in musical composition taught in tutorial format. Size and number of required assignments will vary from 3 to 6 in addition to a possible full semester composition project. One to two group meetings per week will deal with the presentation of new assignments, analysis of models for composition, performance of work in class, and critiquing of work. Individual meetings may be added to deal with individual needs. Students must also be available for performances and reading of work outside normal class time and the instructor and students will work together to insure that all work written during the semester is actually performed. [ more ]

Taught by: Eric Nathan

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MUS 210(S)Music Technology I

Designed for students with some music background who wish to learn basic principles of Musical Technology and practical use of current software and hardware. Topics include acoustics, MIDI sequencing, digital recording and editing, sampling, analog and digital synthesis, digital signal processing, and instrument design. Lectures will provide technical explanations on those topics covered in class and an historical overview of electronic music. [ more ]

Taught by: Jeffrey Roberts

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MUS 210 TAmerican Pop Orientalism

Not offered this year

This tutorial will investigate the representation of Asians and Asian Americans in American popular culture since the late nineteenth century. Our focus will be on music's role in Orientalist representation in a wide variety of media, including Hollywood film, television, popular song, Broadway musicals, and novels. We will begin with major texts in cultural theory (Said, Bhabha) and will attempt throughout the semester to revise and refine their tenets. Can American Orientalism be distinguished in any fundamental way from nineteenth-century European imperialist thought? How does Orientalist representation calibrate when the "exotic others" being represented are themselves Americans? Our own critical thought will be sharpened through analysis and interpretation of specific works, such as Madame Butterfly, "Chinatown, My Chinatown," The King and I, Sayonara, Flower Drum Song, Miss Saigon, Rising Sun, M. Butterfly, Aladdin, and Weezer's Pinkerton. We will end the semester by considering the current state of Orientalism in American popular culture. This course satisfies the EDI requirement by considering diversity in relation to the representation of specific minority groups within American popular culture and the attempts by members of those minority groups to participate in mainstream culture. We will also engage with critical theories offered by scholars for understanding the dynamics of these representations and this cultural participation. [ more ]

MUS 211Arranging for Voices

Not offered this year

What is gained -- or lost -- when music is arranged for voices? How does one create music that has something to say when using something already said? Arranging for Voices addresses these questions through study of arrangements and regular arranging projects. Students will work in multiple styles, making use of numerous compositional strategies and techniques. All student arrangements will be read and discussed in a seminar-type setting. [ more ]

MUS 211(S)Music, Nationalism, and Popular Culture

This course surveys the manner, function, and contexts through which sound and ideas of national belonging are linked. We will consider influential and iconic musicians (Umm Kalthoum, Amalia Rodriguez, Bob Marley, Carlos Gardel, Joao Gilberto, Youssou N'dour), international forums for the expression of national sentiment (the Olympics, Miss Universe and Eurovision competitions), and a wide range of instruments, genres, and anthems that are strong conduits for national sentiment. Drawing on the work of critical theorists including Benedict Anderson, Michael Herzfeld, and Ernest Gellner, we will pursue a number of analytical questions: What parallels exist between musical and political structure? How do nations adjust as their policies and demographics change? How are cultural forms implicated in postcolonial nation building projects? What marginal populations or expressive forms are included, excluded, or appropriated in the formation of national identity? Finally, what differences emerge as we change our focus from a national to an international perspective, or from officially endorsed representations of national culture to unofficial popular forms of entertainment? Owing to its global focus and attention to power and privilege in political and musical structures, this course meets the EDI requirement. [ more ]

MUS 220(F)African Dance and Percussion

This course focuses on selected dance and music forms from the African continent for example, Kpanlogo from Ghana, Lamban from Guinea, Senegal and Mali or Bira from Zimbabwe. We will examine their origins (people, history and cultures) and influence beyond geographic perimeter to more fully understand the function of these forms in contemporary times. Students will study movement and percussion and are evaluated on the quality of progress with the selected forms throughout the semester. Forms may not be the same every semester. This course can be taken for academic and/or PE credit [ more ]

MUS 221(S)African Dance and Percussion

Course continues the investigation of selected music and dance from the African continent. Advancing dance and music skills, deepening understanding of history and context of the material are focus of readings, discussions and projects throughout the semester. Questions we will address include the impact of religion, colonialism, travel, immigration, media tradition and the continued emergence of new forms. Material may include Gum Boots (Isicathulo) from Southern Africa, Juju in Nigeria or Hip Hop in several nations. This course can be taken for academic and/or PE credit. [ more ]

MUS 222Politics of Performance/Performing Politics in Contemporary Africa

Not offered this year

Using select examples from throughout Africa, this course highlights genres, artists, and works that engage with social and ideological change. Students practice critical listening and performance analysis, while also considering the social contexts that render these performances meaningful and provocative. Topics include: challenges to mass mediated stereotypes of African populations, the social and economic impact of cultural tourism, music as a form of social critique, changing attitudes toward women and the LGBTQ community, music and global aid organizations, issues of migration and displacement, and the changing roles of traditional musical occupations. Popular genres--among them Afrobeat, kwaito, soukous, rai, mbalax, Chimurenga music, and a variety of rap and hip-hop styles--are discussed alongside numerous traditional and ceremonial genres, national/political anthems, and concert pieces. Active participation in class discussion is an important component of this course. [ more ]

MUS 231(F)Music in History I: Antiquity-1750

This course explores 1000 years of music-making in Western European culture, beginning with the philosophical and theoretical origins of that music in ancient Greece and extending to the life and music of J.S. Bach. Topics covered will include how the sound of music changed over a millennium; the different functions it served and how genres developed to serve these functions; the lives of the men and women who composed, performed, and wrote about music; and how the changing notation and theory of music related to its practice over the centuries. At the same time, the course provides an introduction to the modern study of music history, sampling a broad range of recent scholarship reflecting an array of critical approaches to the study of early music in our own day. [ more ]

MUS 232(S)Music in History II: 1750-1900

This course explores the development of classical music from 1750-1900 through the study of works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Verdi, Wagner, Brahms, Mahler, and other composers. Musical styles of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries will be examined in conjunction with Classical and Romantic aesthetics. We will probe a range of topics, including the changing role of music and musicians in society, music and narrative, music and philosophy, operatic traditions, and musical nationalism. [ more ]

MUS 233(F)Music in History III: Musics of the Twentieth Century

A survey of musics in both Western and non-Western society from the close of the nineteenth century to the present. Emphasis will be on the contextual study of the music of major composers of Western art music, on the musical expressions of selected areas of world music such as Africa, Asia, India, and the Americas, and on the intermingling of musical influences of pop, jazz, and art music of the electronic age. [ more ]

MUS 236The Romantic Generation

Not offered this year

This course explores Romanticism in music through the lives and works of Franz Schubert, Frederic Chopin, Robert Schumann, and Franz Liszt. Music by these composers will be examined in connection with political, societal, philosophical, and aesthetic developments of the first half of the nineteenth century. The class will cover a broad range of Romantic topics, including the sublime, fantasy, myth, the exotic, rebellion, and intersections among music, literature, and painting. Musical works to be studied include songs, piano pieces, chamber music, choral music, opera, and orchestral music. [ more ]

MUS 241Introduction to the Music of John Coltrane

Not offered this year

This course offers the serious music student an opportunity to study the unique body of work produced by saxophonist and composer John Coltrane (1926-1967). The course traces the evolution of Coltrane's compositional and performance styles in the context of the musical and cultural environment in which they developed. Emphasis placed on Coltrane's musical style, representing a unique synthesis of influences, including jazz, world, and European Classical music and spirituality. Substantial reading assignments, including a biography and related criticism, as well as detailed score analysis and study, are required. [ more ]

MUS 245 TMusic Analysis: Music with Text

Not offered this year

The course explores the ways in which musical structure interacts with, can comment upon, and can influence one's reading of a text set to music, and similarly, how texts set to music can exert influence upon and guide one's understanding of the musical structure. Using scenes from Mozart operas and selected songs of the 19th and 20th centuries (by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Schoenberg), the course will examine the bearing specific aspects of a text (voice, person, time, alliteration, meter, and so forth) have upon the musical domain, and conversely, how musical structures have the ability to project or allegorize actions in the text. We will observe the often amazing ways composers of texted music use the tonal system to create musical desires--desires that may be fulfilled, withheld, delayed, redirected, and so forth, in ways that enhance, or enact the desires of characters in a drama or poem. In addition to the specific issues involving texted and dramatic works, the course will introduce certain techniques and insights of linear analysis--one of the most profound developments in tonal analysis during the last century. Analysis assignments, based on the student's close study of texted musical works, will offer the opportunity to apply these techniques. The course will also confront the difficult issue of writing about music and will help students define and clearly express ideas about music. [ more ]

MUS 251(S)Introduction to the Music of Duke Ellington

This course will survey the career and compositional style of Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington (1899-1974). Students will learn to listen to and analyze music from throughout Ellington's five-decade career as a bandleader, composer, arranger, and writer. Particular emphasis will be placed on development of aural analysis skills, in terms of form, style, orchestration, and the ability to identify the individual sounds of key Ellingtonian soloists. Ellington's importance as a key figure in American cultural history, and relationships between his music and parallel stylistic developments and influences from both within and outside of the jazz tradition will be discussed. [ more ]

MUS 254Charlie Parker and the (R)evolution of Modern Jazz

Not offered this year

In the 1940s, Jazz turned a corner, transitioning from the functional and popular music of the swing era to the increasingly complex art music known as bebop. The practitioners of this new sub-genre were seen not as showmen or entertainers, but (in the words of poet Ralph Ellison) as "frozen faced introverts, dedicated to chaos." This class will survey the life and music of that decade's most pivotal figure, the brilliant alto saxophonist Charlie "Yardbird" Parker (1920-1955). The ubiquitous graffiti slogan "Bird Lives" that heralded his untimely death still rings true today, as his influence remains undimmed. In recent decades his music has become a cornerstone of jazz pedagogy, and increasingly is considered to represent more of an evolution than a revolution in jazz history. We will focus on Parker's musical development, with a particular emphasis on his study and musical apprenticeships with some of the major soloists of the swing era. Through score study, guided listening and composition assignments, the class will examine and practice applications of Parker's melodic, harmonic and rhythmic innovations. We will evaluate, compare and contrast examples of contemporary theoretical scholarship concerning his improvisational vocabulary. Parker's broader cultural significance and the intersections between his music and parallel artistic, social and political movements will also be addressed. While our focus will be on Charlie Parker, the class will also discuss the contributions made to modern jazz by his most prominent collaborators, including Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Bud Powell. Additionally, we will consider his influence on subsequent generations of musicians by investigating personal anecdotes as well as the work of several "first generation disciples," such as Cannonball Adderley, Jackie McLean and Ornette Coleman. The class will culminate in a final multimedia project in which the students will explore Parker's musical influence on contemporary jazz musicians. [ more ]

MUS 261The Saint and the Countess: The Lost Voices of Medieval Women

Not offered this year

Very few female voices from the Middle Ages are audible today; most of the music, poetry, and other writings that survives reveals the creativity and expresses the attitudes of men. This course will explore the experiences and viewpoints of medieval women through the lens of the poetry and songs of two exceptional 12th-century figures: the German abbess Hildegard of Bingen, whose long and immensely productive life was shaped by the requirements of monastic culture; and the French Countess of Dia in Provence, whose elusive life and works exemplify the dynamics of aristocratic court culture. We will ask how these and other musical women active in both the sacred and the secular spheres (such as the nun Birgitta of Sweden, and Queen Blanche of Castile) negotiated their places and made their voices heard within the patriarchal society of their time. We will examine the ways in which these contrasting environments informed the different outlooks, ideas, and aesthetics expressed in the words and music of their songs. Along the way we will critically assess how these lost voices have been recreated to speak to us today through recordings and film. [ more ]

MUS 266 TVerdi and Wagner

Not offered this year

Born in the same year (1813), Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner stand as the two central figures of nineteenth-century European opera. Their divergent approaches to the genre provoked heated debate that continues today. Both composers not only transformed the operatic forms they inherited, but they also had a significant impact on the cultural and political histories of their emerging nations. Throughout the semester we will juxtapose major works by these composers in order to investigate such topics as opera's relationship to its literary sources; the staging of opera; intersections between opera and film; connections between opera and political context; and biographical influences on the creation of opera. Our final meeting will be devoted to the broader operatic and cultural legacies of these two composers. Focusing on one opera per week, we will study Verdi's Nabucco, Il trovatore, La traviata, Aida, Otello, and Falstaff, and on Wagner's Tannhauser, Lohengrin, Die Walkure, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, and Parsifal. When possible, this tutorial will include field trips to live performances and/or live HD broadcasts of these operas. [ more ]

MUS 272 T(S)Music and Meaning

Nearly everyone finds music meaningful, but what exactly does it mean? Without the help of words, this largely non-referential art presents special challenges to interpretation. While most would agree that musical sounds can do such things as mimic the rumbling of thunder, evoke the countryside, suggest the act of chasing, or express rage, the capacity of music to convey meaning remains controversial among scholars, performers, and listeners. Some, following music critic Eduard Hanslick, assert that musical works are essentially "tonally moving forms"--patterns of sound with no reference to the world outside themselves; a work's meaning derives solely from the interplay of musical elements. Others counter that music can signify aspects of human experience, its sounds and structures not merely referring to the outside world but even relating complex narratives. Certain writers have argued that, without the assistance of language, what music signifies remains vague, while others insist that the meaning of music is actually more precise than that of words. In this tutorial course, we will explore a range of questions regarding musical meaning. How can combinations of pitches, rhythms, and instrumental timbres signify something beyond themselves? Is the subject of musical meaning more relevant to some historical styles or genres than others? How can we glean the meaning(s) of a work? Should we concentrate on formal processes within the music? Consider socially constructed meanings? Seek the composer's intentions? What makes some interpretations more convincing than others? In grappling with these questions, students will engage with writings by Agawu, Cone, Hanslick, Kramer, Langer, Lewin, Newcomb, and Schopenhauer, among others. Music to be studied includes works by Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, Stravinsky, Glass, and Adams. [ more ]

MUS 273 TDangerous Music

Not offered this year

As a largely non-referential art whose meanings are far from transparent, music might seem to pose little danger. How could mere sounds represent a threat? Yet precisely because its meanings can be obscure, enabling it to achieve its ends surreptitiously, music has intertwined with danger throughout history. With its power to stir the emotions, stimulate bodily movement, encode messages, and foment rebellion, music has often been perceived as an agent of harm. Plato claimed that too much music could make a man effeminate or neurotic, and warned that certain musical modes, melodies, and rhythms promote licentious behavior and anarchic societies. Puritans, Victorians, and Totalitarians, as well as opponents of ragtime, rock 'n roll, and rap, have also accused certain musical genres or styles of exerting dangerous influences, and sought to limit or suppress them. In Afghanistan, the Taliban banned music altogether. While music has often been unfairly accused, its potential for placing people in actual danger is undeniable. Works that are played at ear-splitting decibel levels, that call upon performers to injure themselves, that are used as a form of psychological torture, or that incite violence demand reconsideration of the widely shared view that music is fundamentally a form of entertainment. [ more ]

MUS 277Men, Women, and Pianos

Not offered this year

This course takes the piano, its repertory, and its performers as focal points for a social history of Western music, treating the piano as a locus around which issues of gender, class and race are played out in musical life from the Classical period to our own time. In addition to exploring works by canonical composers such as Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms, we will consider parlor music, virtuoso showpieces, and experimental work by such figures as Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Frank Liszt, and Henry Cowell. The style and technique of a broad range of classical and popular performers will be examined, ranging from Clara Schumann, Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubinstein, and Glenn Gould to the phenomena of Liberace and Yanni. Finally, we will analyze several films in which the piano plays a central role, including Robert Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces from 1970, and Jane Campion's The Piano from 1993. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

MUS 278 T(F)Carmen, 1845 to Now

The story of the gypsy femme fatale Carmen has endured for over 150 years. In Western culture she exemplifies the seductive, exotic, independent, and forbidden woman who drives an upstanding man to a life of crime and finally murder. This course explores a broad array of treatments of this archetypal narrative, starting with Prosper Merimee's 1845 novella on which Bizet based his beloved 1875 opera Carmen. We will consider various staged and film versions of the opera itself, including Francesco Rosi's stunning 1984 movie, and discuss various other film transformations of the story, from DeMille's 1915 silent film through Hammerstein's 1954 all-black musical Carmen Jones, to the MTV version A Hip Hopera of 2004. Comic approaches will also be assessed, from Charlie Chaplin's Carmen Burlesque of 1915 through Spike Jones' 1952 Carmen Murdered! and The Naked Carmen of 1970. We will explore remarkable dance interpretations ranging from Carlos Saura's 1983 flamenco version through David Bourne's choreography in his 2001 gay reading called The Car Man. This course satisfies the EDI requirement through a critical examination of the way in which the Carmen story has served as a stage on which multifaceted textual and musical constructions and conflicts of individual and group identities, encompassing gender and sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, and class are played out. [ more ]

MUS 281(F, S)Individual Vocal and Instrumental Instruction

Individual lessons in voice, keyboard and most orchestral and jazz instruments offered as a partial credit fifth course. Students are encouraged to take this course for a letter grade, but as with all fifth courses, pass/fail is also an option. Students are required to prepare for 10 lessons during the semester with a minimum expectation of one hour practice per day and to perform publicly on at least one departmental studio recital during the semester. Lessons are scheduled TBA based upon instructor schedule. Make-up lessons given at the discretion of the instructor. Grading will be based upon lesson preparation, public performance, and progress throughout the semester. All individual instruction involves an extra fee, partially subsidized by the department. To register for the course, a student must first contact the appropriate teacher (see Music Dept. for list), fill out a registration/billing contract, signed by both teacher and student, and turn that in to the Assistant to the Chair. This replaces the need to register online. Registration is for course number 281, with the appropriate section number from the following list. Students will be reassigned to course numbers 281-288 based on the number of semesters of instruction already taken in one particular section. Specific instrument or voice sections are as follows: 01 Bassoon, 02 Cello, 03 Clarinet, 04 Bass, 05 Flute, 06 Guitar, 07 Harpsichord, 08 Horn, 09 Jazz Piano, 10 Oboe, 11 Organ, 12 Percussion, 13 Piano, 14 Classical Saxophone, 15 Trumpet, 16 Viola, 17 Violin, 18 Voice, 19 Jazz Bass, 20 Jazz Vocal, 21 Trombone, 22 Harp, 23 Jazz Drum, 24 Jazz Saxophone, 25 Jazz Trumpet, 28 African Drumming, 29 Jazz Guitar, 30 Mbira, 31 Vocal/Songwriting, 32 Jazz Trombone 33 Sitar, 34 Tabla, 35 Erhu, 36 Yangqin, 37 Zheng, 38 Liuqin/Pipa, 39 Zhongruan [ more ]

MUS 291(F, S)Chamber Music Workshop

Classical and Jazz Chamber Music and other small departmental ensembles (including Chamber Choir, Percussion Ensemble, Chinese ensembles, and Brass Ensemble) coached by faculty on a weekly basis culminating in a performance. Offered as a partial credit fifth course. Students are encouraged to take this course for a letter grade, but as with all fifth courses, pass/fail is also an option. Students in ad hoc groups organized each semester by the director of the chamber music or jazz programs are required to prepare for 10 one-hour coaching sessions during the semester. It is recommended that each group rehearse a minimum of 2 hours each week in preparation of the coaching. Each ensemble is responsible for keeping a weekly log of rehearsal times and attendance. The logs are to be handed in to the coaches at the end of the semester. In addition students are expected to practice the assigned music individually and are required to perform on the Classical or Jazz Chamber Music concert at the end of the semester. The ensembles will be organized based on skill levels and the instruments represented. For students in continuing departmental small ensembles, students are expected to practice the assigned music individually and keep a log of their practices, attend all rehearsals, and participate in all concerts presented during the semester. To register for the course, a student must first contact the Chamber Music Performance Coordinator, fill out a registration contract signed by the Coordinator, the coach, and the student, and turn that in to the Assistant to the Chair. [ more ]

MUS 301(F)Modal Counterpoint

Counterpoint, the study of the ways independent melodic lines can be joined in music, has been essential to musical and compositional instruction for centuries. Counterpoint was taught by Mozart, studied by Beethoven, and to this day remains an integral part of compositional training. The course will introduce students to species counterpoint in two and three voices--exercises that develop discipline in polyphonic writing, hearing, and thinking. The exercises will focus on the constraints of sixteenth-century vocal polyphony (music of Palestrina and Lassus) but will illustrate how such contrapuntal discipline is also manifest in music of Bach, Brahms and Debussy. The species exercises will lead to a final composition project, such as the emulation of a motet in sixteenth-century style. [ more ]

MUS 305 T(S)Jazz Ear Training Tutorial

This tutorial is designed for jazz performers, composers and arrangers who have taken Music 212 or 104b and who seek further work in the area of aural development. The focus of the tutorial will be on the development of advanced aural skills specific to the disciplines of jazz performance and arranging/composition. Its format will involve two weekly meetings. In the first, tutorial pairs will meet individually with the instructor to present transcriptions of approved improvised solos, which will be thoroughly notated and performed by the students. A critique of both the performance and notation of these transcription projects will be offered by the partnered students for one another, as well as by the instructor, with revisions and corrections incorporated into an edited performance for the entire class the following week. In the other weekly meeting, all of the tutorial pairs will meet jointly with the instructor in order to do group assignments involving sight-singing (both rhythmic and melodic), and advanced harmonic and melodic dictation. During these sessions the instructor will offer a critique of the past week's performances as well, based on the following criteria: 1.) notational technique, 2.) observations relating to performance practice, 3.) how such factors contributed to the evolution of the given soloists' style, and, 4.) historical significance of the given performance and its relationship to the overall evolution of the given performer's personal voice. [ more ]

MUS 307(F, S)Composition III

Advanced individual instruction in composition. Projects will be initiated largely by the students with guidance from the instructor. Student is responsible for arranging performance of his/her own work. Student may enroll for up to four semesters by taking these courses in sequence, with the lower numbered course being the prerequisite for the next higher numbered course. May not be taken in conjunction with Music 493 or 494, the honors courses in composition. [ more ]

MUS 308(F, S)Composition IV

Advanced individual instruction in composition. Projects will be initiated largely by the students with guidance from the instructor. Student is responsible for arranging performance of his/her own work. Student may enroll for up to four semesters by taking these courses in sequence, with the lower numbered course being the prerequisite for the next higher numbered course. May not be taken in conjunction with Music 493 or 494, the honors courses in composition. [ more ]

MUS 309Jazz Arranging and Composition

Not offered this year

This is a course designed to acquaint the student with the basic principles of composing and arranging for Jazz Ensemble, beginning with the quintet and progressing through the big band. Intensive score study and some transcription from selected recordings required. Evaluation will be based on the successful completion, rehearsal and performance of original arrangements and/or compositions during the semester, to include at least one transcription of a recorded arrangement, one quintet or sextet arrangement, and one arrangement for big band. Performances by the Jazz Ensembles, as rehearsed and prepared by the students of this course, are also expected. Students must attend small ensemble rehearsals when work is being rehearsed, and end of semester small ensemble recital. [ more ]

MUS 381Choral Conducting

Not offered this year

Choral conducting techniques will be developed through exercises and projects that encompass the many facets of this activity. Using the class as the primary practice choir, students will focus on conducting patterns applied to elements of interpretation, keyboard and vocal skills, issues of tuning and blend, rehearsal techniques, score study, and style and repertoire. Regular videotaping of conducting sessions will provide opportunities for students to study themselves. Repertoire will include works from the early Renaissance through the late-twentieth century, accompanied and a cappella, and issues of conducting ensembles at various skill levels will be addressed. [ more ]

MUS 382(F)Orchestral Conducting

This course will introduce and develop a broad range of subjects associated with conducting, including: leadership, rehearsal techniques, physical and aural skills, interpretation, performance practices, and programming. Related areas to be discussed include: balance, intonation, rhythm, articulation, bowings, and complex meters. Weekly conducting and score reading assignments will form the core of the workload. Larger projects may include conducting existing instrumental ensembles, and along with score reading, will be the basis of the midterm and final exams. This course includes instrument demos, conducting videos and a trip to audit a private Boston Symphony rehearsal at Symphony Hall in Boston. [ more ]

MUS 391(F, S)Advanced Musical Performance

Individual instruction in voice, keyboard, and most orchestral and jazz instruments offered at the advanced level as a regular full credit course. Additional guidelines for full credit lessons can be secured at the Music Department office. Full credit lessons must be approved by the entire music faculty and an audition may be required. [ more ]

MUS 392(F, S)Advanced Musical Performance

Individual instruction in voice, keyboard, and most orchestral and jazz instruments offered at the advanced level as a regular full credit course. Additional guidelines for full credit lessons can be secured at the Music Department office a. Full credit lessons must be approved by the entire music faculty and an audition may be required. [ more ]

MUS 394(S)Junior Thesis: Music

This course involves independent study in history or theory of music, under the supervision of a member of the department, as preparation for the senior thesis. [ more ]

MUS 402(S)Senior Seminar in Music: Timbre

This seminar, the culminating course in the major, will focus on musical timbre. Timbre is central to the experience of all music and often enables us to identify styles and cultures nearly instantaneously. However, timbre is not commonly discussed in detail since our technical vocabulary for describing this musical element has been comparatively limited. Our work in this seminar will involve readings in music theory and history, ethnomusicology, and cognitive studies as well as in the emerging field of sound studies as we attempt to define timbre, explore its manifestations in a wide variety of music, and develop an analytical approach and descriptive vocabulary tooled specifically to this musical element. We will consider how composers and performers of both art and popular musics have wielded timbre as an expressive device and how technology may allow us to analyze details of timbral performance and perception. We will investigate the relationship between timbre and orchestration, from the rise of Haydn's orchestra to the Klangfarbenmelodie of Schoenberg. We will consider extremes of timbral distortion in both vocal and electric guitar effects in rock music as well in such traditions as Korean p'ansori and will explore various forms of speech music and the work of composers of spectral music to expand our case studies. Finally, our own experiments with timbral effects will bring our seminar to bear on our musical performance. [ more ]

MUS 491(F, S)Advanced Musical Performance

Individual instruction in voice, keyboard, and most orchestral and jazz instruments offered at the advanced level as a regular full credit course. Additional guidelines for full credit lessons can be secured at the Music Department office. Full credit lessons must be approved by the entire music faculty and an audition may be required. [ more ]

MUS 492(F, S)Advanced Musical Performance

Individual instruction in voice, keyboard, and most orchestral and jazz instruments offered at the advanced level as a regular full credit course. Additional guidelines for full credit lessons can be secured at the Music Department office. Full credit lessons must be approved by the entire music faculty and an audition may be required. [ more ]

MUS 493(F)Senior Thesis: Music

Music senior thesis. Required for all students approved for thesis work in music. Please refer to "The Degree with Honors in Music" for deadlines and other requirements. [ more ]

MUS 494(S)Senior Thesis: Music

Music senior thesis. Required for all students approved for thesis work in music. Please refer to "The Degree with Honors in Music" for deadlines and other requirements. [ more ]

MUS 497(F)Independent Study: Music

All independent study proposals must be approved by the entire music faculty. Proposals must be completed and signed by faculty sponsor, and submitted to department chair, by the day PRIOR to the first day of classes of the semester. No proposals will be accepted or considered if this deadline is missed. Proposals for full-year projects must be complete at the beginning of the fall semester. [ more ]

MUS 498(S)Independent Study: Music

All independent study proposals must be approved by the entire music faculty. Proposals must be completed and signed by faculty sponsor, and submitted to department chair, by the day PRIOR to the first day of classes of the semester. No proposals will be accepted or considered if this deadline is missed. Proposals for full-year projects must be complete at the beginning of the fall semester. [ more ]