The Major

Learning Objectives

Students majoring in music will:

  • cultivate the full range of their skills as performers, composers, and scholars through course work, performances, attendance at concerts and lectures, and participation in workshops and master classes.
  • develop pluralistic and open-minded perspectives by pursuing a range of approaches to the study of radically diverse forms of music from across history and around the world.
  • examine music in relation to its cultural, social, political, and historical contexts, and its role in contemporary society.
  • study the development of musical styles, genres, and forms, and compare critical perspectives on major figures, trends, and musical innovations.
  • study and apply a variety of theories and techniques to the analysis and interpretation of music.
  • learn to listen critically to, understand, and communicate about music in both writing and oral presentations.
  • consider musical production, circulation, and consumption as social and political phenomena, drawing from related fields including anthropology, critical race theory, media studies, sociology, and women and gender studies.

Major Requirements

A minimum of ten courses are required for the major, as detailed below. Four courses in Music Theory and Musicianship to be taken in sequence:

Music 103
Music 104a (Music Theory and Musicianship I) or Music 104b (Jazz Theory and Improvisation I)
Music 201
Music 202

Three courses in European and American Music History: Music 231, 232, 233
Majors may choose to replace a maximum of any one of these three specific courses with a course in music history covering aspects of the same period. The courses that may substitute for MUS 231, 232, and 233 are listed below.
Music 231: 163, 164, or 261
Music 232: 165, 166, 236, or 266T
Music 233: 119, 138, 151, 238, 239, 244, 251, 252, or 254
One course in World Music/Ethnomusicology from the following: Music 111, 112, 113, 117, 120, 125, 126, 211, 220 (formerly 212), 221 (formerly 213), 222, 225, 226, 230, 330

Two electives: One must be taken in the senior year and at the 400-level to serve as a capstone course. (The second semester of a year-long honors thesis, MUS 494, will satisfy the 400-level elective requirement.) The other elective may be fulfilled in any semester by any Music course but must be taken in addition to courses selected to satisfy the history, theory, and world music/ethnomusicology requirements detailed above.

Majors are required to participate in faculty-directed departmental ensembles for at least four semesters.

Majors must enroll in partial credit music lessons for at least two semesters.

The Degree with Honors in Music

Three routes provide the opportunity for honors or highest honors consideration in the Music major:

a. Composition: A Composition thesis must include one major work completed during the senior year supported by a 10- to 15-page discussion of the student’s work or analysis of a major 20th century or contemporary work. The student’s general portfolio of compositions completed during the junior and senior years will also be considered in determining honors.

b. Performance: A Performance thesis must include an honors recital given during the spring of the senior year supported by a 15- to 20-page discussion of one or more of the works performed. The student’s general performance career will also be considered in determining honors.

c. History, Theory and Analysis, or Ethnomusicology: A written Historical, Theoretical/Analytical, or Ethnomusicological thesis between 65 and 80 pages in length. A written thesis should offer new insights based on original research. A public oral thesis defense is also required.

In order for a thesis proposal to be approved, a student must have at least a 3.3 GPA in Music courses (this GPA must be maintained in order to receive honors), and must have demonstrated outstanding ability and experience through coursework and performance in the proposed thesis area. Students are encouraged to seek the advice of their potential thesis advisor early in the junior year and no later than the first month of the second semester. A 1- to 2-page proposal written in consultation with the faculty advisor must be received by the Music chair by the end of spring break.

Honors candidates must enroll in Music 493(F)-W31-494(S) during their senior year. A student who is highly qualified for honors work, but is unable to pursue a year-long project for compelling reasons, may petition the department for permission to pursue a WS/one-semester thesis. The standards for evaluating such a thesis remain the same. Completed thesis is due by April 15.

Lessons

See Music 281–288 and Advanced Musical Performance 391, 392, 491, 492 for further information on vocal and instrumental lessons.

Starting Fall 2015, no student enrolled in music lesson courses at Williams will be charged anything beyond the College’s comprehensive fee. All students taking these courses will now receive a full subsidy so that their fee will be $0.

Study Abroad

One study abroad course may satisfy the one free elective requirement for the major, if approved by the department. A second study abroad course might satisfy any one of the specific required courses if the proposed course is clearly equivalent and if the substitution is approved by the department. Majors planning to study abroad should meet with the department chair to propose specific study abroad courses that might be approved to satisfy major requirements under this policy. No more than two courses taken abroad may count toward the major. Music lesson courses and ensemble participation pursued while studying abroad may count toward the performance requirements with approval of the department.