Courses

  • The Music Department welcomes first-year students in a broad range of music history, performance, ethnomusicology, composition and theory courses. A brief overview of the 2024-25 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 2024 
    • MUS 101 (F): Listening to Music LEC – The goals of this course are 1) to encourage active, critical, and comparative listening practices, and 2) to consider the functions of music as an embodied, social, and context-dependent phenomenon. We will encounter music from across history and the globe, engaging with examples from a wide range of musicians and musical traditions.Topics will include political protest music, music in religious contexts, the relationship between music and text, performing gender in music, the meaning of authenticity in musical contexts, and the ethics of musical listening. Through a variety of specific case studies, we will seek to become discerning listeners while also thinking critically about music’s capacities and limitations.
    • MUS 102 (F): Introduction to Music Theory LEC - The course presents an introduction to the materials and structures of music. Through a variety of applied and theoretical exercises and 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 singing, keyboard, and rhythmic exercises in lecture, and through dictation and sight-singing exercises in a weekly aural-skills lab. MUS 102 prepares students for continuation in MUS 103 and 104. Students uncertain about appropriate placement in MUS 102 versus MUS 103 should consult the instructors or plan to take the online music theory placement exam prior to the start of the semester.
    • MUS 119 (F): Rock and Roll Revolutions, 1950-1999 LEC - This course will trace the history of rock music from the 1950s to the end of the 20th century, 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 and shaping its cultural context, particularly in terms of race and gender; and to encounter the work of several of the more innovative musicians in the history of rock.
    • MUS 125/DANC 125 (F): Music and Social Dance in Latin America SEM - This course offers a full-spectrum introduction to a number of Latin American social dance forms, including samba, salsa, tango, and the Suriname Maroon 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 broader contexts and social impact. Among the questions that will drive class discussions are: 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? This class is driven by academic inquiry into these various social dance practices; it does not prioritize gaining performance skills in the genres discussed. While there will be experiential components included throughout the course (for instance music or dance workshops), the majority of the class will be conducted in a discussion/seminar format. While the ability to read musical notation is helpful, it is not required.
    • MUS 149 (F): The Language of Film Music LEC - Filmmakers have relied on music from the earliest days of silent movies (often accompanied by live musical performance) to our present age of slickly-produced online video. Along the way, trends have arisen (and have been artfully thwarted) in countless film scores, whether constructed from preexisting works or specially crafted by composers like Max Steiner, Duke Ellington, Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, James Horner, Mica Levi, or Björk. In this class, we will look at and listen to films from different times and places, observing which techniques evolved, which have changed very little, and considering when an idea is borrowed and when it might actually be new. We will also discuss the impact this language has on the experience of the viewer, and how film music functions in the wider culture. Assignments will consist of listening/viewing, responding in writing, and re-interpreting film clips with music you will compose or borrow.
    • MUS 176 (F): Protest Song LEC - What's in a song? And how might it connect to our disparate cultures, politics, and identities? Throughout history, the genre of song has been a compelling mode of self-expression. It encodes specific elements of identity, emotion, history, and culture by combining the power of lyric poetry with that of the human voice. It is no wonder, then, that it has also functioned as a primary vehicle for expressions of political resistance, protest, and dissent within a range of socio-cultural movements around the world. In this course, we will consider the fundamental question of what makes a song a protest song. We will begin by defining key ideas of resistance and protest within music more broadly. We will then go on to consider what kinds of socio-political meaning can be encoded within a song through its lyrics, musical composition, and performance style. To that end, the class will spend the semester investigating a series of case studies from around the world in historical context, including examples from southern Italy, Mexico, South Korea, Egypt, Ireland, South Africa, and the United States. Examples will include songs by well-known figures such as Big Mama Thornton, Janis Joplin, Kendrick Lamar, Bob Dylan, Umm Kulthum, and Roberto Murolo, as well as anonymous examples from traditions like the Mexican son jarocho, African American spiritual, Irish rebel song, classic Neapolitan song, and South Korean protest song. In addition to weekly reading and listening assignments, students will spend the semester creating curated playlists of songs associated with socio-cultural movements of political protest, resistance, and/or dissent to be presented and discussed during the final week of class.
    • MUS 183 (F): Stage Direction for Opera and Musical Theatre LEC - The course provides an overview of the fundamentals of stage direction for opera and musical theatre. Students will develop an understanding of the basic principles of design and the process necessary for developing an approach to directing a production. They will explore the work of stage directors whose output has been particularly influential and learn about a variety of approaches to process and rehearsal technique. Repertoire studied will include a range of opera and musical theatre from the beginning of the form to its current trends and a broad variety of directorial approaches from traditional to concept productions. Students will complete the process of developing a concept/approach for a production with a title of their choosing.

    Spring 2025 

    • MUS 102(S): Introduction to Music Theory LEC -The course presents an introduction to the materials and structures of music. Through a variety of applied and theoretical exercises and 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 singing, keyboard, and rhythmic exercises in lecture, and through dictation and sight-singing exercises in a weekly aural-skills lab. MUS 102 prepares students for continuation in MUS 103 and 104. Students uncertain about appropriate placement in MUS 102 versus MUS 103 should consult the instructors or plan to take the online music theory placement exam prior to the start of the semester.
    • MUS 106(S): Skills for Singing SEM - Skills for Singing is a course designed for students who wish to develop their skills in vocal technique and reading music. Students will be given an introduction to vocal technique and physiology through vocalises, repertoire, analysis, and studio class sessions. They will engage in group singing and solo presentation in a collaborative, master-class setting. They will also build knowledge of western music notation through basic music theory, score-reading, and sight-singing. Upon completion of the class, interested students will have established the foundational skills necessary to sing more confidently in both solo and ensemble environments.
    • MUS 112/ASIA112(S): Musics of Asia LEC - 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 consider the current musical scene. Encounters with this music will include attendance at live performances when possible.
    • MUS 133/GBST 132(S): Musics of the Spanish Colonial Empire, ca. 1500-1800 SEM - With territories around the globe from the Americas to the Philippines to portions of Western Europe, the Spanish colonial empire was, at its height, one of the largest and most expansive in history. This course explores the myriad ways in which Spanish colonial powers influenced, interacted with, and reacted to the musical cultures of the colonized and how indigenous and/or colonized peoples persisted in asserting their musical voices over the course of several centuries--from the time of the Spanish arrival in the Americas (as well as southern Italy and the East Indies) during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to the empire's eventual decline in the nineteenth century. We will begin by defining the concepts of "colonialism" and "imperialism" in order to understand how such political and socio-economic power structures developed and attempted to exert control and influence over subjugated populations--and consequently over their music. From there, we will investigate some of the musical developments and repertories that resulted from these efforts through a series of modules on various territories colonized by Spain, including the Spanish territories of Naples/southern Italy, New Spain, and the Philippines. Coursework will include discussion-based and written responses to weekly readings and listening assignments and small group presentations on a Spanish colonized space not covered in one of the central course modules. The ability to read musical notation is not required.
    • MUS 151(S): History of Jazz LEC - "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 ideas, "what-if" questions and 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 (racial, technological and economic) 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 102 prepares students for continuation in MUS 103 and 104. Students uncertain about appropriate placement in MUS 102 versus MUS 103 should consult the instructors or plan to take the online music theory placement exam prior to the start of the semester.
    • MUS 173 (S): Music, Medicine and Madness LEC – This class will explore intersections between medicine and music in Europe and the United States between 1750 and 1900, with particular attention to constructions of “madness” as a condition that could be triggered, treated, or expressed by music. Through focused readings, analysis of musical examples, and discussion, we will examine historical discourses concerning music’s ability to influence the mind and body—and through this examination gain perspective on current discussions of both mental and physical health. Topics will include the “mad scene” trope in 19th-century opera, the idea of the suffering genius composer, the history of music as medical treatment, and how factors like race, gender, and ability shaped understandings of musical achievement and medical diagnosis.

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

    • MUS 103(F): Music Theory and Musicianship I
    • MUS 104(S): Music Theory and Musicianship I 
    • MUS105: Jazz Theory and Improvisation I (not offered 2024-25)

    MUS 103 and MUS 104 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: Students unsure about appropriate placement in MUS 102 versus MUS 103 should consult the instructors or plan to take the online music theory placement exam prior to the start of the semester. Students who seek placement directly into MUS 104 should consult the current instructor of MUS 103 for an individual assessment.

    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 24-25 that are open to first year students include:

    Fall 2024

    • MUS 211 (F): Music, Nationalism and Popular Culture
    • MUS 220 (F): African Dance and Percussion
    • MUS 231 (F): Music History I: Music and Culture from Antiquity to 1750
    • MUS 233 (F): Music in History III: Art Music Since 1900
    • MUS 241 (F): German Romantic Song
    • MUS 250 (F): The Musical Language of Louis Armstrong

     Spring 2025

    • MUS 221 (S): African Dance and Percussion
    • MUS 232 (S): Music in History II: Classical and Romantic Music
    • MUS 238 (S): Music in Modernism

     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 4, 2:30-4:00pm.

    See the Music Department website http://music.williams.edu/ for additional information.

    Contact: Ed Gollin, Professor of Music

    email: [email protected]

    phone: 413-597-2127

Lessons and Chamber Music

  • Course ID: MUS 281-288
    Major Status: General Elective
    Yearly Schedule: Offered Every Year
    Semester Offered: Every Semester
    Prerequisite: Permission of the individual instructor; enrollment limits apply to each section based upon studio space and student qualifications

    Individual vocal or instrumental lessons offered as a partial credit fifth course. Students are encouraged to take this course for a letter grade, but pass/fail is also an option. (Note: partial credit music lessons taken pass-fail do not count as one of the three pass-fail options available to students for regular semester courses.) 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. Enrollment in more than one studio must be approved by the chair beforehand.

    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, 26 Euphonium, 27 Tuba, 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

    To register for the course, a student must first contact the appropriate studio instructor to determine if there is room in the course and so the instructor can assess the student’s ability level. This may require an audition or meeting with the studio instructor. An inquiry can be sent using the “Inquiry Form”.

    If you are accepted into the studio the instructor will send a link to an online form to complete registration. The Music Department will submit the registration to the Registrar’s Office. It is not possible for the student to register directly through PeopleSoft. Students will be assigned to course numbers 281-288 based on the number of semesters of instruction already taken in one particular section. Lessons are available to any Williams student based on the student's level of performance and space availability in the various studios. Entrance into some studios (such as piano) is based on competitive auditions, and each studio can only accept a certain number of students. Registration into a second studio must be approved by the chair beforehand.

    The deadlines for lessons registration follow:

    Fall (281) – Registration Deadline: First Tuesday of the semester by Noon
    Spring (281) – Registration Deadline: First Tuesday of the semester by Noon

    Open to first year students.

  • Course ID: MUS 291-298
    Major Status: General Elective
    Yearly Schedule: Offered Every Year
    Semester Offered: Every Semester
    Prerequisite: Permission of the Chamber Music Staff; enrollment limits will depend upon instructor availability

    Classical and Jazz Chamber Music and other small departmental ensembles (including Chamber Choir, Percussion Ensemble, Chinese Ensemble, and Brass Ensemble) coached by faculty on a weekly basis culminating in a performance. Offered as a partial credit fifth course that can only be taken on a pass/fail basis. 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.

    To register for the course, a student must contact the Chamber Music Performance Coordinator. If you are accepted into a chamber group the instructor will send you a link to an online form to complete registration. The Music Department will submit the registration to the Registrar’s Office. It is not possible for the student to register directly through PeopleSoft. Students will be assigned to course numbers 291-298 based on the number of semesters of instruction already taken in one particular section.

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

    The deadlines for registration follow:

    Fall (291) – Registration Deadline: By the end of Add/Drop period
    Spring (291) – Registration Deadline: By the end of Add/Drop period

    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

  • 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. Students are expected to have demonstrated a high level of accomplishment on their instrument/voice, through at least 4 semesters of partial-credit study with their instructor. The completed application, registration and instructor recommendation must be submitted by the instructor by the Tuesday before the first Friday of the semester.

    Individual instruction in instrumental and vocal lessons offered at the advanced level as a regular full credit course. Additional forms for full credit lessons can be obtained through your studio instructor. Full credit lessons must be approved by the entire full-time music faculty.

    Music majors may register for a total of four semesters, non-majors may register for two semesters. A student must submit an application and registration/billing form for each semester. Students will be assigned to course numbers 391, 392, 491, 492 based on the number of semesters of instruction already taken in one particular section. If a different instrument is elected, the numbering sequence should start again at 391. The numbers are selected without regard to semester taken or class year of student.

    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

  • 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. Some 200-level tutorials and writing intensive courses have no prerequisites and 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) LEC Listening to Music

The goals of this course are 1) to encourage active, critical, and comparative listening practices, and 2) to consider the functions of music as an embodied, social, and context-dependent phenomenon. We will encounter music from across history and the globe, engaging with examples from a wide range of musicians and musical traditions. Topics will include: political protest music, music in religious contexts, the relationship between music and text, performing gender in music, the meaning of authenticity in musical contexts, and the ethics of musical listening. Through a variety of specific case studies, we will seek to become discerning listeners while also thinking critically about music's capacities and limitations. [ more ]

MUS 102(F, S) LEC Introduction to Music Theory

The course presents an introduction to the materials and structures of music. Through a variety of applied and theoretical exercises and 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 singing, keyboard, and rhythmic exercises in lecture, and through dictation and sight-singing exercises in a weekly aural-skills lab. [ more ]

MUS 103(F) LEC Music Theory and Musicianship I

Students in MUS 103 study some materials, structures, and procedures of tonal music, with a particular emphasis on subjects like tertian harmony, voice leading, counterpoint, rhythm, and form. Baroque chorales will serve as a central resource for this study, as will musical examples from a variety of times and places. Through a combination of keyboard harmony exercises, sight singing, dictation, analysis of musical scores, written exercises, and emulation composition projects, students will develop an intellectual, aural, and embodied understanding of tonal music. MUS 103 is designed for potential music majors and for students with prior experience interacting with notated music. Students should consult the music department website for information about music theory placement. [ more ]

MUS 104(S) LEC Music Theory and Musicianship I

Music 104 continues and expands the study of tonal music begun in Music 103, focusing particularly on counterpoint, seventh and ninth chords, larger musical forms, and chromatic harmony. The study of these topics is reinforced by musical analysis, written exercises, and emulation composition projects, as well as by applied musicianship work that includes exercises in sight singing, dictation, and keyboard harmony. MUS 104 is designed for potential music majors and for students with prior experience interacting with notated music. Students should consult the music department website for information about music theory placement. [ more ]

MUS 105 SEM Jazz Theory and Improvisation I

Last offered Spring 2024

The theory and application of basic harmonic structures and rhythmic language used in jazz performance. An introductory level course to the practice of jazz improvisation. Blues forms, modal compositions, diatonic progressions, secondary and substitute dominant chords, modulations. This is a performance practice course appropriate for students with basic skill on their instrument and some theoretical knowledge including all key signatures, major/minor keys and modes, intervals, triads and basic seventh chords and their functions within keys. Vocalists and drummers will be encouraged to study the piano; all students will complete jazz-specific piano and percussion lab assignments. Pianists, guitarists and bassists should be able to sight read chords on a jazz lead sheet. [ more ]

MUS 106(S) SEM Skills for Singing

Skills for Singing is a course designed for students who wish to develop their skills in vocal technique and reading music. Students will be given an introduction to vocal technique and physiology through vocalises, repertoire, analysis, and studio class sessions. They will engage in group singing and solo presentation in a collaborative, master-class setting. They will also build knowledge of western music notation through basic music theory, score-reading, and sight-singing. Upon completion of the class, interested students will have established the foundational skills necessary to sing more confidently in both solo and ensemble environments. [ more ]

Taught by: Anna Lenti

Catalog details

MUS 110 SEM Electronic Music Genres, a Creative Approach

Last offered Spring 2024

In this course, students will study the theoretical and practical fundamentals of audio technology, MIDI production, sound design, and interactive composition. Students are not required to have any background in Music Technology. We will start by covering the basics of Electronic Music but the class will move at a fast pace covering more advance subjects in a short period of time. We will go over concepts of Physics acoustic, MIDI (sequencing, etc), Sound editing, Digital Signal Processing Effects, Sound Synthesis, and Interactive electronic music composition using Ableton Live, Max4Live, as well as Max MSP for students to learn how to program their own virtual synthesizers and/ or algorithmic composition to create interactive music in real time. Electronic Music Composition is a central part of the class. Students can choose any aesthetic of their choice for the composition projects, since the the focus of the class is on teaching students the technological tools to create the music of their choice. Students will be encouraged to mix different styles of music creating fusion. [ more ]

MUS 111 LEC Music in Global Circulation

Last offered Fall 2023

This course introduces a variety of musical genres and practices from around the world, alongside a discussion of the processes and politics of their global circulation. Through learning about a combination of contemporary styles and longstanding musical traditions spanning a broad geographical range, students will develop a working knowledge of musical terms, concepts, and influential musicians. 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. In particular, we will consider music's global circulation, and how its contents and meanings reflect those processes. Genres covered in the course vary intermittently but often include: "throat singing" genres in Tuva and Sardinia, Zimbabwean mbira and Chimurenga music, Argentine Tango, Ghanaian azonto and highlife, Balinese gamelan, and North Indian classical music. No prior musical training is required. [ more ]

MUS 112(S) LEC Musics of Asia

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 consider the current musical scene. Encounters with this music will include attendance at live performances when possible. [ more ]

MUS 118 LEC Hearing Race in America, 1890-1955

Last offered Spring 2022

The rise of Rock 'n' Roll in the mid-1950s has typically been viewed as a temporary confluence in American culture, suggesting possibilities for musical and racial integration even as various forms of appropriation and exclusion were perpetuated. This course will explore the earlier multiple musical streams that merged at this moment. We will start by engaging with contemporary and historical perspectives on race, adopting a radically interdisciplinary approach. Our focus will then be on several of the most prominent vernacular and commercial forms of American music during this period: ragtime, blues, early jazz, rhythm and blues, Tin Pan Alley, country and western, bluegrass, Tex-Mex/Tejano conjunto, "Latin jazz," and Cajun/zydeco. Prior to the 1950s, these musical styles were segregated, at least in terms of production and marketing. How did racial assumptions and histories shape the creation, dissemination, and reception of this music? Can we hear the multiple ways in which race played out in American music in the first half of the twentieth century? [ more ]

MUS 119(F) LEC Rock and Roll Revolutions, 1950-1999

This course will trace the history of rock music from the 1950s to the end of the 20th century, 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 and shaping its cultural context, particularly in terms of race and gender; and to encounter the work of several of the more innovative musicians in the history of rock. [ more ]

MUS 120 LEC Musics of Africa

Last offered Fall 2023

This course introduces musical traditions spanning the geographical breadth of continental Africa. We will prioritize hands-on experience and musical practice, critical listening, and deep social and political contextualization as strategies of musical engagement. Following an introductory exploration of overarching aesthetic and social trends in African musical practice, the course will then focus on 3-4 geographically rooted case studies, allowing us to discuss how different musical practices and subcultures (featuring traditional, contemporary, and popular forms) interrelate in a musical soundscape. The geographical focus of the case studies may vary but previous case studies have included: Ghana, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Egypt, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo. [ more ]

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

This course offers a full-spectrum introduction to a number of Latin American social dance forms, including samba, salsa, tango, and the Suriname Maroon 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 broader contexts and social impact. Among the questions that will drive class discussions are: 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? This class is driven by academic inquiry into these various social dance practices; it does not prioritize gaining performance skills in the genres discussed. While there will be experiential components included throughout the course (for instance music or dance workshops), the majority of the class will be conducted in a discussion/seminar format. While the ability to read musical notation is helpful, it is not required. [ more ]

MUS 133(S) SEM Musics of the Spanish Colonial Empire, ca. 1500-1800

With territories around the globe from the Americas to the Philippines to portions of Western Europe, the Spanish colonial empire was, at its height, one of the largest and most expansive in history. This course explores the myriad ways in which Spanish colonial powers influenced, interacted with, and reacted to the musical cultures of the colonized and how indigenous and/or colonized peoples persisted in asserting their musical voices over the course of several centuries--from the time of the Spanish arrival in the Americas (as well as southern Italy and the East Indies) during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to the empire's eventual decline in the nineteenth century. We will begin by defining the concepts of "colonialism" and "imperialism" in order to understand how such political and socio-economic power structures developed and attempted to exert control and influence over subjugated populations--and consequently over their music. From there, we will investigate some of the musical developments and repertories that resulted from these efforts through a series of modules on various territories colonized by Spain, including the Spanish territories of Naples/southern Italy, New Spain, and the Philippines. Coursework will include discussion-based and written responses to weekly readings and listening assignments and small group presentations on a Spanish colonized space not covered in one of the central course modules. The ability to read musical notation is not required. [ more ]

MUS 141 LEC Opera

Last offered Fall 2023

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. [ more ]

MUS 143 LEC The Symphony

Last offered Fall 2022

This course traces the European symphonic tradition from the late eighteenth century through the mid-twentieth century, focusing on works by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Berlioz, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Dvorak, Mahler, Strauss, and Shostakovich. We will examine developments in musical form and harmony, social contexts for listening, and contemporary aesthetic debates about the nature of genius, the idea of musical tradition, and the narrative capacity of instrumental music. [ more ]

Taught by: Benjamin Ory

Catalog details

MUS 146 LEC The Concerto: Dialogue and Discord

Last offered Spring 2016

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 ]

MUS 149(F) LEC The Language of Film Music

Filmmakers have relied on music from the earliest days of silent movies (often accompanied by live musical performance) to our present age of slickly-produced online video. Along the way, trends have arisen (and have been artfully thwarted) in countless film scores, whether constructed from preexisting works or specially crafted by composers like Max Steiner, Duke Ellington, Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, James Horner, Mica Levi, or Björk. In this class, we will look at and listen to films from different times and places, observing which techniques evolved, which have changed very little, and considering when an idea is borrowed and when it might actually be new. We will also discuss the impact this language has on the experience of the viewer, and how film music functions in the wider culture. Assignments will consist of listening/viewing, responding in writing, and re-interpreting film clips with music you will compose or borrow. [ more ]

MUS 150 LEC The Broadway Musical

Last offered Spring 2024

Named for a specific road but enjoying a global impact, the Broadway musical has intersected with multiple styles and societal concerns over the past century. In this course, we explore the American musical theater's roots and relationship to opera, operetta, vaudeville, minstrelsy, and Tin Pan Alley. Traveling through the genre's history, we will encounter a wide range of musical styles, including ragtime, jazz, rock, and hip hop, and will explore several genre transformations, such as movies made into musicals and musicals into movies. We will develop a range of analytical skills as we investigate connections between choreography, lyrics, music, staging, and production. Throughout the semester, we will consider the genre's representations and reflections of ethnicity, race, sexuality, and class. The syllabus includes representative works by Gilbert and Sullivan, Cohan, Gershwin, Kern, Weill, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Bernstein, Sondheim, Lloyd Webber, Tesori, and Miranda, with particular focus on such works as Showboat, Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Hair, Rent, and Hamilton. [ more ]

MUS 151(S) LEC 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 ideas, "what-if" questions and 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 (racial, technological and economic) 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 165 LEC Mozart

Last offered Fall 2023

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. Among the topics we will explore are Mozart's pivotal position as a musician in Viennese society; his childlike nature and exquisite artistry; his relationship with his domineering father Leopold; his ties to Haydn and Beethoven; and the myths about Mozart, including that he was murdered by Salieri, that arose in the over two centuries since his death. [ more ]

Taught by: Marjorie Hirsch

Catalog details

MUS 166 LEC Beethoven

Last offered Spring 2022

This course provides an introduction to the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven. The composer's difficult childhood, loss of hearing, secret affair with his "Immortal Beloved," tempestuous relationship with his suicidal nephew, along with political, philosophical, social, and cultural developments of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, will provide context for our study of his artistic achievements. Students will listen to a broad selection of Beethoven's music, including sonatas, string quartets, symphonies, overtures, concertos, choral works, and opera. Some of the topics we will discuss include the nature of his genius, his compositional methods, his influence on later composers such as Schubert, Wagner, and Brahms, Beethoven in popular culture, and the continuing impact of his music around the globe. [ more ]

MUS 172 SEM Early Modern Music and Spectacle

Last offered Fall 2023

Nuns, shepherds, demi-gods, tyrants, warriors, angels, and saints. No matter what story you tell, spectacle is never just spectacle. Whether in an opera, a pageant, or a comic play, the costumes, stage machinery, and visual effects are deeply encoded with political, religious, and cultural meanings. In this course, we will explore how music and spectacle worked together to create complex layers of meaning in various cultural contexts throughout the late medieval and early modern world (ca. 1400-1750). In doing so, we will consider how the magnificent representations of aristocratic, imperial, and colonial power central to such dramatic performances reveal wider cultural issues of gender, race, and religion. The course structure will follow a series of thematic modules, each addressing several case studies, on topics such as colonial power, women and madness, religious fervor, political propaganda, and patronage. Each week, students will take an active role in analyzing, discussing, and presenting on these topics and their related case studies both in and outside of class. For the final project, students will work in groups to develop fictional podcast interviews between historical spectators of an early modern musical-dramatic performance of their choosing. The ability to read musical notation is not required [ more ]

MUS 173(S) LEC Music, Medicine, and Madness

This class will explore intersections between medicine and music in Europe and the United States between 1750 and 1900, with particular attention to constructions of "madness" as a condition that could be triggered, treated, or expressed by music. Through focused readings, analysis of musical examples, and discussion, we will examine historical discourses concerning music's ability to influence the mind and body--and through this examination gain perspective on current discussions of both mental and physical health. Topics will include the "mad scene" trope in 19th-century opera, the idea of the suffering genius composer, the history of music as medical treatment, and how factors like race, gender, and ability shaped understandings of musical achievement and medical diagnosis. [ more ]

MUS 176(F) LEC Protest Song

What's in a song? And how might it connect to our disparate cultures, politics, and identities? Throughout history, the genre of song has been a compelling mode of self-expression. It encodes specific elements of identity, emotion, history, and culture by combining the power of lyric poetry with that of the human voice. It is no wonder, then, that it has also functioned as a primary vehicle for expressions of political resistance, protest, and dissent within a range of socio-cultural movements around the world. In this course, we will consider the fundamental question of what makes a song a protest song. We will begin by defining key ideas of resistance and protest within music more broadly. We will then go on to consider what kinds of socio-political meaning can be encoded within a song through its lyrics, musical composition, and performance style. To that end, the class will spend the semester investigating a series of case studies from around the world in historical context, including examples from southern Italy, Mexico, South Korea, Egypt, Ireland, South Africa, and the United States. Examples will include songs by well-known figures such as Big Mama Thornton, Janis Joplin, Kendrick Lamar, Bob Dylan, Umm Kulthum, and Roberto Murolo, as well as anonymous examples from traditions like the Mexican son jarocho, African American spiritual, Irish rebel song, classic Neapolitan song, and South Korean protest song. In addition to weekly reading and listening assignments, students will spend the semester creating curated playlists of songs associated with socio-cultural movements of political protest, resistance, and/or dissent to be presented and discussed during the final week of class. [ more ]

MUS 177 SEM Gender and Sexuality in Music

Last offered Spring 2024

This course explores key themes in the expression of gender and sexuality through music. It draws from primarily 21st century examples, across cultures and genres, ranging from pop boy bands to Indian bhangra dance to the musical avant-garde. Themes will include: communicating gendered ideals, dance and embodiment, transgressive performances, biography and subjectivity, intersectionality, music and sexual violence, and marketing. We will explore the ways that ideas and identities related to sex and gender are formulated and mobilized in music's performance and consumption. Inevitably, issues of sound and stagecraft intersect with factors such as race, age, and class, further informing these experiences. Students will consider their own processes of identifying and interpreting expressions of gender and sexuality in sound and movement, and contemplate the role of culture and society in informing those interpretations. [ more ]

MUS 178 TUT Music and Politics

Last offered Fall 2016

This course examines how musical sound and musical discourse change, enable, and inhibit citizen formation and the functioning of a well-ordered society. We will take a very wide definition of "politics," as music can have political meaning and effects far beyond national anthems and propaganda. For instance, musical sound is often read as a metaphor for political structures: eighteenth-century commenters pointed out that string quartets mirrored reasoned, democratic discourse, and twentieth-century critics made similar arguments about free jazz. Beliefs about music can serve as a barometer for a society's non-musical anxieties: Viennese fin-de-siècle critics worried that the sounds and stories of Strauss's operas were causing moral decline, an argument that should be familiar to anyone who reads criticism of American popular music. Finally, a pervasive strand of Romantic thought holds that (good) music, by its nature, is apolitical-what might it mean to deny social relevance to an entire field of human expression? We will read classic philosophical texts on art and politics by Schiller, Kant, Schopenhauer, Marx, Adorno, and others, and pair them with contextual studies of works of Western classical music from the last two hundred years and popular music of the last hundred years. [ more ]

MUS 179(S) TUT James Baldwin's Song

"It is only in his music [. . .] that the Negro in America has been able to tell his story. It is a story which otherwise has yet to be told and which no American is prepared to hear," wrote James Baldwin in Notes of a Native Son in 1955. In this course, we strive to listen more closely to racialized experience through James Baldwin's musical literature. Through analysis and creation of music, we hope to better understand cultural difference and collective humanity. In this course, we closely analyze James Baldwin's use of song names, creation of musician characters, and replication of musical elements in his writing. Baldwin's musical word play crosses historical and genre boundaries. So we will explore texts from his early to late career, such as the gospel music of his youth in the semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It on the Mountain, the metaphor of the blues in the play written during the civil-rights movement Blues for Mr. Charlie, the jazz musician protagonist in "Sonny's Blues" written after World War II in Paris, and his only musical recording in A Lover's Question set down near the end of his life. In addition to closely analyzing James Baldwin's attention to music throughout his literature, students will learn basic music writing and production skills. The tutorial will draw on a range of musical resources, including playlists, music workshops, guest lectures and performances. All of these resources will guide students to a more attuned hearing not only of music but also of the African American experience it reflects. By the end of the course, students will have written several short 1-2 page close analysis essays and song lyrics. For their final project, students will produce an original song based on key insights from the course. No musical experience is required, though an openness to learn and practice songwriting is expected. [ more ]

MUS 183(F) LEC Stage Direction for Opera and Musical Theatre

The course provides an overview of the fundamentals of stage direction for opera and musical theatre. Students will develop an understanding of the basic principles of design and the process necessary for developing an approach to directing a production. They will explore the work of stage directors whose output has been particularly influential and learn about a variety of approaches to process and rehearsal technique. Repertoire studied will include a range of opera and musical theatre from the beginning of the form to its current trends and a broad variety of directorial approaches from traditional to concept productions. Students will complete the process of developing a concept/approach for a production with a title of their choosing. [ more ]

MUS 201(F) LEC 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 the19th 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) LEC Music Theory and Musicianship II

Music 202 examines the materials and structures of atonal and post-tonal music from the 20th and 21st centuries, and it develops musicianship skills to aid in the perception and performance of these materials and structures. Topics include set theory, serial techniques, referential collections, post-tonal pitch centricity, new rhythmic and metric techniques, new formal structures, and the intersection of tonal and contextual structure. [ more ]

MUS 205(F, S) SEM Composition I

Beginning courses in musical composition. Size and number of required projects will vary from 3 to 5. A group meeting per week will deal with the presentation, performance, and critique of the student's work in progress, analysis of models for composition, and discussion of topics in composition. There will be a weekly individual meeting with the instructor to discuss each student's 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 ensure that all work written during the semester is heard/performed. [ more ]

MUS 206(F, S) SEM Composition II

Beginning courses in musical composition. Size and number of required assignments will vary from 3 to 5 in addition to a possible full semester composition project. A group meeting per week will deal with the presentation, performance, and critique of the student's work in progress, analysis of models for composition, and discussion of topics in composition. There will be a weekly individual meeting with the instructor to discuss each student's 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 ensure that all work written during the semester is actually heard/performed. [ more ]

MUS 210 LEC Music Technology I

Last offered Spring 2020

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 ]

MUS 211(F) SEM 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 (e.g. Umm Kalthoum, Amalia Rodriguez, Bob Marley, Carlos Gardel), international forums for the expression of national sentiment (the Olympics, World Cup, 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 Homi K. Bhabha, 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? [ more ]

MUS 214 SEM Divas and Dervishes: Introduction to Modern Arab Music and Performance

Last offered Spring 2024

From Sufi rituals to revolutionary uprisings, music has long played a central role in the social, political, and religious life of the Arab world. This is especially audible in the modern era, when new technologies and institutions began to record, amplify, and broadcast the region's sounds, preserving centuries-old traditions while also producing new forms of popular music. This course introduces students to Arab musical genres and practices as they developed from the late nineteenth century. We will cover a broad geographical range, exploring the classical Andalusian repertoires of Algeria, ecstatic dervish chants in Egypt, patriotic pop tunes from Lebanon, and other topics. To highlight connections between musical traditions as well as their unique local features, we will ask questions such as: What can music tell us about interactions between sacred and secular life? How is music used to define social groups and negotiate identity, gender, and class? Which musical characteristics are associated with Arab "heritage" and "modernity," and how are these performed? In what ways does music shape everyday life in the Arab world? Class sessions and discussion will be based on academic readings and at-home listening assignments. No previous knowledge of Arabic or Arab music are required. [ more ]

MUS 217(S) SEM Hip Hop Culture

The course examines how young people of color created hip hop culture in the postindustrial ruins of New York City, a movement that would eventually grow into a global cultural industry. Hip hop music producers have long practiced "diggin' in the crates"--a phrase that denotes searching through record collections to find material to sample. In this course, we will examine the material and technological history of hip hop culture, with particular attention to hip hop's tendency to sample, remix, mash-up, and repurpose existing media artifacts to create new works or art. We will use a media archaeological approach to examine the precise material conditions that first gave rise to graffiti art, deejaying, rapping, and breakdancing, and to analyze hip hop songs, videos, and films. Media archaeology is a critical and artistic practice that seeks to interpret the layers of significance embedded in cultural artifacts. How does hip hop archaeology remix the past, the present, and the future? How do the historical, political, and cultural coding of hip hop artifacts change as they increasingly become part of institutional collections, from newly established hip hop archives at Cornell and Harvard to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture? [ more ]

MUS 220(F) STU African Dance and Percussion

We will examine two forms that embody continuity of tradition or the impact of societal, political or economic change. Lamban was created by the Djeli, popularly called Griots served many roles in the kingdoms of Ghana and Old Mali from the 12th century to current times. This dance and music form continues as folklore in modern day Guinea, Senegal, Mali and The Gambia where it is practiced by the Mandinka people. Bira is an ancient and contemporary spiritual practice of Zimbabwe's Shona people. While these forms are enduring cultural practices, Kpanlogo from the modern West African state of Ghana represents the post-colonial identity of this nation's youth and their aspirations for independence at the end of the 1950s. We will also consider the introduction of these forms outside of their origin. This course can be taken for academic and/or PE credit. [ more ]

MUS 221(S) STU African Dance and Percussion

Before the 20th century, the African continent was the source of dance and music that influenced new forms rooted on and off the continent. These forms are shaped by the impact of religion, colonialism, national political movements, travel, immigration, and the continuing emergence of technology. In South Africa, the labor conditions of miners instigated the creation of Isicathulo, Gum boots, and in Brazil the history of colonialism is a factor that anchors Samba as a sustaining cultural and socioeconomic force. The birth of Hip Hop in the 20th century finds populations across the globe using its music, dance, lyrics, and swagger as a vehicle for individual and group voice. Hip Hop thrives as a cultural presence in most countries of the African continent and in the Americas. We will examine the factors that moved this form from the Bronx, New York, to Johannesburg, South Africa, and Rio, Brazil. We will examine at least two of these forms learning dance and music technique and composition material that will inform their practice. Each of these genres generated physical practices, new and enduring communities while continuing to embody specific histories that have moved beyond their place of origin. What is their status in this century? [ more ]

MUS 222 SEM Politics of Performance/Performing Politics in Contemporary Africa

Last offered Fall 2019

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 LGBTQIA 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, raï, 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 225 LEC Musics of the Caribbean

Last offered Spring 2017

From witty and politically charged calypsos to soulful bachatas, from folkloric displays that advertise a country's cultural diversity to ritual performances that facilitate communication with the spirit world, the music of the Caribbean is astonishingly diverse, both sonically and in its social application. This course serves as an introduction to a wide spectrum of Caribbean music in its broader social and historical context. Through engaging with audio and video sources, readings, performance exercises and workshops, students will learn to identify distinguishing features associated with particular countries and regions, while also exploring the sounds and musical structures that are shared between them. Featured genres include reggae, steel pan, calypso, zouk, Maroon music from Suriname and Jamaica, chutney, salsa, merengue and music from Haitian Vodu and Cuban Santería religions. Interlaced with discussion of musical genres and innovative musicians are a number of central questions about the social role of music within the region: How has slavery and colonial enterprise shaped the musical landscape of the Caribbean? How do the realms of sacred and secular performance relate to each other? What role does tourism and global circulation play in influencing musical tastes and practices? Finally, how do music and dance interconnect? [ more ]

MUS 23 Gaming Renaissance Europe: Music and Culture in the Illustrated World of Pentiment

Last offered NA

This course features an experiential approach to life in 16th-century Europe through the virtual world of Obsidian's historically focused video game Pentiment. Pentiment centers on the fictional character of master artist Andreas Maler, who works as an illustrator and scribe at the Kiersau Abbey in early-16th-century Bavaria and becomes caught up in a series of scandalous intrigues in the Bavarian Alps. The game features an original, historically informed soundtrack by the medieval and Renaissance music group Alkemie, as well as a wide range of vivid illustrations based on illuminated manuscripts and early printed books and incunables from the late medieval and Renaissance periods. Over the four weeks of winter study, students will play through the game both in and outside of class in order to explore topics in European music, art, book-making, theology, medicine, and the occult at the turn of the 16th century. Students will also listen, respond to, and research the game's soundtrack, both as an original musical work and as the product of a historically informed approach to performance and composition. Additional hands-on workshops will be held on manuscripts, calligraphy, and visual arts at Special Collections and WCMA to bring key elements of Pentiment's virtual world to life. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

MUS 230 LEC Musical Ethnography

Last offered Spring 2016

Music provides a constant accompaniment to most of our lives, from mundane activities to personal or collective moments of celebration and grief. Often, we experience music's impact on us without fully considering how it shapes our ideas and experiences. Drawing on ethnomusicology, anthropology, and related fields, this course explores how music can illuminate people's practices of being-in-the-world. Musical ethnography describes both the means by which scholars pursue this line of questioning, and also the written work that results from such an investigation. This course features a hands-on approach to musical ethnography. Students will each conduct ethnographic fieldwork in a musical community within Williamstown and the surrounding area. Coursework will survey approaches to methodology (modes and degrees of researcher involvement, practical skills related to documentation), issues of ethics, and social and musical analysis. [ more ]

MUS 231(F) LEC Music in History I: Music and Culture from Antiquity to 1750

This course explores over 1500 years of music-making in (and around) Europe and the Americas from antiquity to 1750 through an investigation of significant musical styles, forms, and theories in cultural and historical context. Our primary inquiry will be to consider how and why these musical styles and forms were created and circulated--through both oral performance and the written medium--by considering the major historical, cultural, technological, and aesthetic issues surrounding them. We will further contextualize these developments within a deeper consideration of the political, religious, racial, and gender-based interactions and divisions throughout history. In doing so, the course introduces 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. Weekly coursework will include readings on music historical topics, as well as listening and score analysis of key repertory in modern transcription. Assessments will take place throughout the semester through listening/score quizzes, exams, primary source presentations, and a research-based essay project focused on repertories and practices outside of the traditional musical canon. [ more ]

MUS 232(S) LEC Music in History II: Classical and Romantic Music

MUS 232 traces the development of Western art music from 1750 to 1900. Through listening, reading, and score analysis, we will study a broad range of composers and genres, Classical and Romantic aesthetics, and connections between music and political, philosophical, social, and cultural developments of the period. Composers include Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Berlioz, Chopin, Liszt, Verdi, Wagner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and others. Some of the topics we will discuss include the changing role of composers in society, music's relationship to the other arts, challenges faced by female composers, controversies surrounding music and meaning, the interaction of music and drama in opera, and musical nationalism. [ more ]

MUS 233(F) LEC Music in History III: Art Music Since 1900

A historical survey of European and American art music from the early twentieth century to the present. 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 pursue a contextual approach and will investigate this music in relation to contemporary developments in the other arts, to popular musical styles, and to global intersections. We will carefully consider the ways in which evolving conceptions of race, ethnicity, and gender shaped this music history. Topics and styles will include: modernism (atonal expressionism, twelve-tone techniques, neoclassicism); new technologies (electronic, multimedia, digital); the impact of jazz at home and abroad; American experimentalism; postmodernism (minimalism, neoromanticism); nationalism (Eastern European, Latin American, East Asian); and the impact of geopolitics on musical composition (totalitarianism; World War II; Cold War). [ more ]

MUS 234 LEC Soundscapes of Renaissance Europe

Last offered Fall 2022

What was the sonic experience of living in late-medieval and early-modern Europe? This course will explore the sights and sounds of daily life for cultural elites as well as the average urban resident. Although it is often vocal polyphony that first comes to mind when thinking about Renaissance music, acoustic environments were complex, noisy, and diverse. This course aims to reflect that heterogeneity: topics include bells, processions, music and architecture, instrumental music, plainchant, visual depictions of music-making, and uses of music to project power, as well as sacred and secular vocal polyphony. Students will zoom in on cities, courts, and churches, especially the musical centers of Bruges, Florence, Ferrara, the Imperial Court of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and Bavaria. The course will examine music by some of the most important composers of the era, including Guillaume Du Fay, Josquin des Prez, Philippe Verdelot, Nicolas Gombert, and Orlando di Lasso. [ more ]

Taught by: Benjamin Ory

Catalog details

MUS 235 TUT Music in the Global Middle Ages, ca. 500-1500

Last offered Spring 2024

Spanning 1000 years, the period encompassing the Middle Ages (ca. 500-1500) was a time of experimentation, exploration, and growing interconnection around the world. From economic expansions to developing trade routes and from violent religious crusades to flourishing universities, cities, and courts, opportunities for cultural investment and exchange among regions in Western Europe, North Africa, and Central and East Asia were plentiful, if not always peaceful. In this seminar, we will consider how a global historical perspective shifts our understanding of music in the Middle Ages from one based on hegemonic European progress in isolation to one that reveals a multitude of influences, interactions, and interconnections among people of various cultures, races, and religions both within and outside of the European continent. In this tutorial, we will investigate a series of case studies in order to address how and where these global interconnections took place and what musical practices flourished as a result. We will give special consideration to the following topics: orality and literacy, race and difference, the politics of religion, economic power, and manuscript culture. In grappling with these topics, students will engage in weekly readings on musical and broader historical topics, listening and score analysis of key repertory in modern transcription, and study of original notation through manuscript facsimiles. [ more ]

MUS 238(S) LEC Music in Modernism

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 239 LEC Music in the Global Cold War

Last offered Spring 2024

Throughout the Cold War (1947-1991), music was deployed as a weapon, as a source of nationalist and ideological inspiration, as a form of political protest and resistance, and as propaganda. Music both echoed and helped shape political views and, therefore, prompted various forms of regulation and censorship (McCarthyism in the U.S.; the Union of Soviet Composers). To counter Soviet claims of American cultural inferiority and racism, the U.S. sponsored numerous musical diplomacy efforts showcasing both jazz (Armstrong; Ellington; Brubeck) and classical musicians and composers (Bernstein; American orchestras). Cold War politics and the threat of nuclear war influenced musical styles (Copland; Soviet Socialist Realism; the popular American folk music revival; serialism; rock behind the Iron Curtain), specific musical events (Tokyo East West Music Encounter; concerts celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall), and individual careers (Shostakovich; Robeson; Van Cliburn). To investigate music's political roles and capacity for expressing communist and democratic capitalist ideologies, we will adopt a case study approach. The Cold War was a global political and, frequently, militaristic struggle. Though our focus will be on music in the U.S.S.R. and U.S.A., we will also consider musical developments impacted by the Cold War throughout Western and Eastern Europe, in Latin America, and in East Asia. [ more ]

MUS 24 How to Grow a Band: Collaborative Writing and Performance with Darlingside

Last offered NA

As a band, we love to use writing exercises to generate material and to get past our pesky inner critics. These collaborative exercises will serve as the foundation for the class. As instructors, participate in group writing exercises with students. We will also discuss strategies and references we use when writing. Once we generate some material to work on together, we will move on to the secondary focus of the class: performance and arrangement for small ensembles. The class will culminate with a public performance of some of the music written over the course of the class. Depending on time and interest, we will also discuss the basics of touring, booking, management, and navigating today's music industry. Attendance at classes and the final performance will be mandatory for all participating students. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

MUS 241(F) LEC German Romantic Song

An emblem of Romanticism. A mainstay of recitals. A public performance of interior feeling. Why is it that the Lied, a short song for piano and solo voice, remains such an enduring musical genre? This course explores this question by focusing on the key repertoire and the history of German Romantic Lieder. We will begin by studying some of the most influential composers of German Lieder during the nineteenth century (including Franz Schubert, Clara and Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf, and Gustav Mahler), analyzing how these composers experimented with the interplay of music and text. We will also examine the social contexts in which Lieder were composed and performed, with particular attention to factors like gender and class. Finally, we will explore varied approaches to Lieder in contemporary performance culture in order to consider what the genre means for performers and audiences today. [ more ]

MUS 250(F) SEM The Musical Language of Louis Armstrong

"You know you can't play anything on a horn that Louis hasn't played"- Miles Davis 1958 The study of jazz language inevitably involves back-scrolling through generations of progenitorial influence, and most of these paths lead back to Louis Daniel Armstrong 1901-1971. Arguably the most historically important musician in American and modern world history, Armstrong is widely credited as being responsible for popularizing the concept of the jazz "solo," as well as marrying the materials and performance traditions of the Blues and American popular song, and forever changing the aesthetic of vocal performance across a wide swath of Black American genres. By virtue of being so studied and imitated, his personal musical vocabulary as a trumpeter and vocalist can be seen to have informed all jazz music that followed in his wake, from stride piano and early big band arrangements to Parker, Davis, Coltrane etc. More than any other individual, his rhythmic language exemplifies the popular but definition-resistant language of "Swing." This listening and performance intensive seminar will be an opportunity for committed students of jazz music to absorb this language in a focused way. Seminar meetings are anchored by weekly transcription projects sung and played individually and collectively, informed by occasional lectures and readings from biographical, but also and especially Armstrong's own voluminous autobiographical writings. We will focus in particular on the "Rosetta Stone" of jazz recordings, the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens sessions of 1925-29, and in so doing also study the work of selected Armstrong collaborators of the period including Earl Hines, Johnny Dodds, Lil Hardin Armstrong and Kid Ory. We will also cover earlier periods of his career, with ensembles led by King Oliver and Fletcher Henderson, and study the work of other significant early jazz soloists who performed with and mutually evidenced influence on/by Armstrong including Sidney Bechet, Bessie Smith, Fats Waller, and Coleman Hawkins. [ more ]

MUS 252 LEC Introduction to the Music of John Coltrane

Last offered Fall 2023

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 listening and reading assignments, including a biography and related criticism, as well as detailed score analysis and study, are required. [ more ]

MUS 254 SEM Bebop: The (R)evolution of Modern Jazz

Last offered Spring 2023

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 music was simultaneously old and new, a musical evolution interpreted through the lens of cultural revolution. This class will survey the lives, music and continuing impact of bebop's most pivotal figures: Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke among many others. Through score study, guided listening and performance, the class will examine the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic innovations associated with this pivotal era in jazz history. We will evaluate, compare and contrast examples of contemporary theoretical scholarship concerning this musical vocabulary and it's evolution. Intersections between the music and parallel artistic, social and political movements will also be addressed. [ more ]

MUS 272 TUT Music and Meaning

Last offered Spring 2021

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 determine the meaning(s) of a work? Should we concentrate on formal processes within the music? Consider socially constructed meanings? Seek the composer's intentions? Emphasize our personal responses? 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 TUT Dangerous Music

Last offered Fall 2021

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 276 LEC Music and the Internet

Last offered Fall 2017

Since the release of Napster in 1999, the Internet's relationship with music has been sometimes elevating and sometimes adversarial. While it has granted listeners access to broad music libraries and musicians access to large audiences, the Internet has also exposed listeners to legal action, taxed artists with dwindling royalties, and disrupted and reshaped the recording and publishing industries. This course examines how the Internet has affected music at every level, from its creation to its distribution and consumption. Topics will include music written for online spaces, musical performances that take place online, music and online gaming, live music that refers to the Internet, the financial and philosophical background of music file formats, changing notions of musical ownership, censorship of music online, music's place in memes, and the user experience in (and attitudes toward music projected by) services like iTunes, YouTube, Spotify, and musically. [ more ]

MUS 279 TUT American Pop Orientalism

Last offered Fall 2020

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 and genres, including Hollywood film, television, popular song, music videos, Broadway musicals, hip hop, 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," 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. [ more ]

MUS 280 TUT Dancing the Score/Scoring the Dance

Last offered Spring 2019

This course is designed for students interested in intensive collaborative composition work in dance and music. Students in dance will be paired with students in music; both students will be supported in creating in collaboration by practicing composition in their respective disciplines while working closely with each other in a structured, intimate setting. Any genre or style of music or dance may be explored. Projects will allow students to practice methodologies of collaboration and creation. Groups will evolve, and document procedures unique to their group. Students are expected to rigorously build upon and revise their work(s) by making active use of feedback sessions. Studying historic and contemporary dance and music collaborations in a variety of genres will give further context to our work. Weekly presentation of assignments, active participation in feedback sessions, identifying to the group what the next steps are, written reflection on sessions, and final showing will be required. Creating in collaboration trains students to articulate vision and intention while enabling the instructors to differentiate their aesthetic values from those of the students. It also trains students to collaborate with other disciplines during the creative process. The format allows class members to receive undivided focus on their processes, while also challenging them to assess their own abilities, create their own next steps, and discover how movement can inspire music as well as music inspiring dance. This tutorial provides a crucial central aspect of the creative arts: a space for ongoing feedback driven by the questions arising for the students, rather than specific aesthetic preferences or working practices. Investment in the work of one's group is central, sharing responsibility for the development of others' as well as one's own work. [ more ]

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

Individual vocal or instrumental lessons offered as a partial credit fifth course. Students are encouraged to take this course for a letter grade. (Note: partial credit music lessons taken pass/fail do not count as one of the three pass/fail options available to students for regular semester courses.) 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 are given at the discretion of the instructor. Students taking courses in individual vocal or instrumental instruction must agree to meet the 10-week lesson commitment. There is no registration via Williams Student Records. To register for the course, a student must first contact the appropriate teacher; they may do this using the inquiry form. The inquiry form, an outline of the registration process, and the lesson registration deadlines are available on the Music Department website at https://music.williams.edu/courses/#individual-vocal-and-instrumental-instruction. 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, 26 Euphonium, 27 Tuba, 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) LSN Chamber Music Workshop

Classical and Jazz Chamber Music and other small departmental ensembles (including Chamber Choir, Percussion Ensemble, Chinese Ensemble, and Brass Ensemble) coached by faculty on a weekly basis culminating in a performance. Offered as a partial credit fifth course that can only be taken on a pass/fail basis. 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. To register for the course, a student must contact the Chamber Music Performance Coordinator. If you are accepted into a chamber group the instructor will send you a link to an online form to complete registration. The Music Department will submit the registration to the Registrar's Office. It is not possible for the student to register directly through PeopleSoft. Students will be assigned to course numbers 291-298 based on the number of semesters of instruction already taken in one particular section. [ more ]

MUS 301 LEC Counterpoint

Last offered Fall 2020

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 Corelli, Bach, Brahms and Debussy. [ more ]

MUS 307(F, S) SEM 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 their 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) SEM 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 their 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 316 SEM Music in Asian American History

Last offered Fall 2022

Is "Asian American music" all music made by Asian Americans, music by Asian Americans specifically drawing on Asian heritage, or music engaging with Asian American issues? This course embraces all three definitions and the full diversity of Asian American musical experience. We will study the historical soundscapes of immigrant communities (Chinese opera in North America; Southeast Asian war refugees) and how specific traumatic political events shaped musical life (Japanese American internment camps). We will encounter works by major classical composers (Chou Wen-Chung; Chen Yi; Tan Dun; Bright Sheng) and will investigate the careers and reception of prominent classical musicians (Midori; Seiji Ozawa; Yo-Yo Ma). Afro-Asian fusions, inspired by civil rights protest movements, manifested in jazz (Jon Jang; Fred Ho; Anthony Brown; Hiroshima; Vijay Iyer) and hip hop (MC Jin; Awkwafina; Desi rappers). Asian Americans have been active in popular music at home and abroad (Don Ho; Yoko Ono; Wang Leehom; Mitski). Finally, we will investigate communal forms of Asian American music making that have crossed racialized and gendered boundaries (taiko drumming; Indonesian gamelan; belly dance; Suzuki method). This seminar is designed to develop research skills, as we pursue original fieldwork, archival research, and oral history interviews. [ more ]

MUS 323 SEM Arts Organizing in Africa and the Diaspora

Last offered Spring 2024

At the heart of this class is the question, how do artists and organizations use the performing arts to effect social change in their communities? Drawing from a number of case studies from throughout Africa and the African Diaspora, we will first endeavor to understand and contextualize issues related to education, social uplift, the environment, and the economy as they relate to specific communities. We will then examine how a series of organizations (from grassroots campaigns to multinational initiatives) utilize the performing arts in response to those issues. Among the issues we will discuss at length are: -How do performers and organizations navigate the interplay between showcasing the performance talents of individuals and groups and foregrounding an issue or cause? More broadly, what dilemmas emerge as social and aesthetic imperatives intermingle? -What are the dynamics between people acting on a local level within their communities and their various international partnerships and audiences? -How can government or NGO sponsorship help and/or hinder systemic change? By the end of the semester, students will be equipped with conceptual frameworks and critical vocabularies that can help them ascertain the functions of performance within larger organizations and in service to complex societal issues. Throughout the course, we will watch and listen to a variety of performances from traditional genres to hip-hop, however this class is less about learning to perform or analyze any particular genre than it is about thinking through how performance is used as a vehicle for social change. Case studies will include youth outreach and uplift in Tanzania through the United African Alliance, campaigns to promote girls' education in Benin and Zimbabwe, community-wide decolonizing initiatives through the Yole!Africa Center in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the cultural reclamation of a mining town in Suriname through the arts organization, Stichting Kibii. [ more ]

MUS 330 STU Modern Folklore: Postcolonial Dance and Music in Africa

Last offered Spring 2019

"Folklore is a mixture of traditions, poems, songs, dances and legends of the people, it can be no other than the reflection of the life of the country and if that country develops, there is no reason why the folklore which is the living expression, should not develop as well. Modern folklore in present Africa is as authentic as the Africa of old." --Keita Fodeba, founding Artistic Director of Les Ballet Africain, Guinea, West Africa. This course will involve intensive dance and musical practice that is rooted in traditional and contemporary/forms from the African continent and the Diaspora. We will examine the international impact of countries who achieved independence from Europe in the late 1950's-1990s such as Les Ballets Africain, National Dance Company of Senegal, Bembeya Jazz, Ghana Dance Ensemble, and the national dance and music companies of Zimbabwe, Jamaica, and Cuba. Our study will include the impact of artists such as James Brown, Miriam Makeba, Michael Jackson, and Youssou N'Dour, as well as Hip Hop culture and the emergence of new forms of music and dance or modern folklore. [ more ]

MUS 381 SEM Choral Conducting

Last offered Spring 2024

The purpose of this course is to become fully acquainted with the fundamentals of conducting gesture, score study, and rehearsal technique as it relates to the choral rehearsal. Using the class as the primary practice choir, students will learn to express specific musical ideas and concepts through conducting patterns and body language, and will develop fluency and ease in these mediums through the study of varied repertoire and techniques. Regular videotaping of conducting sessions will provide opportunities for students to study themselves. Repertoire will include a broad survey of works from the early Renaissance to early 21st century, accompanied and a cappella, and issues of conducting ensembles at various skill levels will be addressed. [ more ]

Taught by: Anna Lenti

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MUS 382 SEM Orchestral Conducting

Last offered Fall 2021

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, and conducting videos. [ more ]

MUS 391(F, S) IND Advanced Musical Performance

Individual Instruction in instrumental and vocal lessons offered at the advanced level as a regular full credit course. Intended primarily for music majors, full credit lessons must be approved by the entire music faculty. Students are expected to have demonstrated a high level of accomplishment on their instrument/voice, through at least 4 semesters of partial-credit study with their instructor. MUS 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; 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; numbers are selected without regard to semester taken or class year of student. To register for the course, a student and their instructor must submit an application to the assistant to the department chair by the Tuesday before the first Friday of the semester. Forms for full credit lessons can be obtained from a student's instructor, or from the assistant to the chair. Information on the registration process is available on the music Department website https://music.williams.edu/courses under "Advanced Musical Performance." [ more ]

MUS 392(F, S) IND Advanced Musical Performance

Individual Instruction in instrumental and vocal lessons offered at the advanced level as a regular full credit course. Intended primarily for music majors, full credit lessons must be approved by the entire music faculty. Students are expected to have demonstrated a high level of accomplishment on their instrument/voice, through at least 4 semesters of partial-credit study with their instructor. MUS 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; 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; numbers are selected without regard to semester taken or class year of student. To register for the course, a student and their instructor must submit an application to the assistant to the department chair by the Tuesday before the first Friday of the semester. Forms for full credit lessons can be obtained from a student's instructor, or from the assistant to the chair. Information on the registration process is available on the music Department website https://music.williams.edu/courses under "Advanced Musical Performance." [ more ]

MUS 471 SEM Timbre

Last offered Spring 2021

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 472 SEM Bach's Legacy

Last offered Spring 2019

How have composers after Bach engaged with his legacy? This seminar will trace the course of the Classical and early Romantic period "Bach Revival" through Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Clara and Robert Schumann, and explore how he was venerated in the later Romantic era by Brahms and Busoni. Our main focus, however, will be on how composers of the modern era have viewed him and used his music. We will test critical conceptual frameworks offered by David Lowenthal's "The Past is a Foreign Country" and Harold Bloom's "The Anxiety of Influence," using them as lenses through which to view contemporary classical composers' Bach-inspired creations, ranging from Schoenberg and Webern through Sophia Gubaidulina, George Crumb, and David Lang. Finally, we will consider both the musical techniques and meanings of reworkings and quotations of Bach's music in film, jazz and popular music. [ more ]

MUS 473 SEM Process Music

Last offered Spring 2018

The course explores process music--music organized by the unfolding of various mathematical or mechanistic procedures--as defined by Steve Reich's "Music as Gradual Process." The seminar centers upon Reich's process music, placing it in the context of its intellectual and musical precursors, the process and minimalist music of his contemporaries, and the subsequent generations of composers who built on Reich's foundation. The course will develop analytical tools to both define the processes that composers use in their music and to explore the particular relation between the musical materials (melodic, rhythmic) a composer chooses and the processes to which those material are subject. Reich's process music and its techniques will serve as both a lens and mirror to examine and reflect upon precursor repertoires, including the contrapuntal music of Bach, isorhythmic motets of the middle ages and their cyclic counterparts in the music of Messiaen, serial procedures of the 1950s, and Ghanaian ensemble drumming. Contemporary musicians/composers to be explored as lecture topics and student projects will include Riley, Glass, Tenney, Lang, Tom Johnson, and Radiohead. [ more ]

MUS 474 SEM Music and Corporeality

Last offered Spring 2022

Music is often said to derive its own special quality from the fact that it exists outside of visual representation and is not contained within a physical form, yet musical sound and practice are created through and act upon bodies in numerous ways. This course aims to address how music and bodies shape and respond to one another. Drawing from sources across musical sub-disciplines and extending to fields including cognitive science, sound studies, performance studies, and anthropology, we will follow four lines of inquiry related to music and corporeality: 1.) Embodied practices: techniques and pedagogies in performance and in listening (including praxis [Bourdieu], Deep Listening [Oliveros, Becker], Alexander Technique); 2.) Music's physical effects and affects: pleasure and pain, the vocalic body [Bonefant, Connor, Barthes], cognitive processes; 3.) Ideological moves: questioning the universality of music and of bodies and Cartesian dualism; 4.) Music and bodies at their limits: cyberfeminism, futurism, disembodiment, ecstasy, questions of artificiality/virtuality. Musical examples will be drawn from classical and popular sources from Euro/American idioms and beyond, predominantly from the late 20th and 21st centuries. [ more ]

MUS 475 SEM Hearing Through Seeing: Music and Visuality

Last offered Spring 2024

We hear music, but seldom is the experience purely aural -- the visual also plays a crucial role. Sound and sight converge when we observe musicians performing in concert venues, patterns of notes and rhythms on the musical score, pictures and text on album and sheet music covers, moving images on screens in films, music videos, and video games. A programmatic work conjures specific images, even whole narratives, in our "mind's eye," or imagination. A work of absolute music, such as a fugue or symphony, can do so as well, although what we envision here may be largely abstract. With hybrid genres, such as opera, musical theater, and dance, the musical and the visual jointly command our attention, often in a spectacular display. This seminar explores myriad ways that "seeing" mediates our experience of hearing, making, and understanding music. We will examine a broad range of topics, including synesthesia; visuality in performance and interpretation; visual metaphors such as line, color, and space in music analysis and criticism; music and representation; intersections between music and painting, sculpture, and architecture; operatic staging; illuminated music manuscripts; eye music and graphic notation; and sound and image in digital media. [ more ]

Taught by: Marjorie Hirsch

Catalog details

MUS 476(S) SEM Orality and Literacy in Historical Musical Practice

Music is an inherently oral/aural, ephemeral art form. Music history is reliant upon, and tends to privilege, its symbolic rendering in fixed notation. Yet, notated music--described by musicologist Nino Pirrotta as "the visible tip of an iceberg... seven-eighths of [which] remain submerged"--tells only a fraction of the story we seek to understand when studying musics of the past. In this seminar, we will address the unique challenges of studying the relationship between orality and literacy in historical musical practice. We will begin by considering the creative role of memory and embodied ritual in oral musical performance and transmission, as well as the ways in which various cultures have attempted to preserve such practices and the inherently transformative process they undergo when fixed in notation. We will then explore the range of theories and methodologies that scholars and performers have taken in approaching oral musical practices of the past in relation to varying levels of textual and musical literacy. Topics may include studies of epic poetry, jazz improvisation, medieval plainchant, troubadour song, improvised counterpoint, son mexicano, Neapolitan lyric song and dance, Ethiopian Christian chant, medieval and early modern instrumental music practices, Arab-Andalusian music, music in the commedia dell'arte, and various examples of contrafacture. Over the course of the semester, students will develop and present their own independent research aimed at producing a collaborative mock conference/performance as a final project for the class. [ more ]

MUS 491(F, S) IND Advanced Musical Performance

Individual Instruction in instrumental and vocal lessons offered at the advanced level as a regular full credit course. Intended primarily for music majors, full credit lessons must be approved by the entire music faculty. Students are expected to have demonstrated a high level of accomplishment on their instrument/voice, through at least 4 semesters of partial-credit study with their instructor. MUS 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; 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; numbers are selected without regard to semester taken or class year of student. To register for the course, a student and their instructor must submit an application to the assistant to the department chair by the Tuesday before the first Friday of the semester. Forms for full credit lessons can be obtained from a student's instructor, or from the assistant to the chair. Information on the registration process is available on the music Department website https://music.williams.edu/courses under "Advanced Musical Performance." [ more ]

MUS 492(F, S) IND Advanced Musical Performance

Individual Instruction in instrumental and vocal lessons offered at the advanced level as a regular full credit course. Intended primarily for music majors, full credit lessons must be approved by the entire music faculty. Students are expected to have demonstrated a high level of accomplishment on their instrument/voice, through at least 4 semesters of partial-credit study with their instructor. MUS 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; 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; numbers are selected without regard to semester taken or class year of student. To register for the course, a student and their instructor must submit an application to the assistant to the department chair by the Tuesday before the first Friday of the semester. Forms for full credit lessons can be obtained from a student's instructor, or from the assistant to the chair. Information on the registration process is available on the music Department website https://music.williams.edu/courses under "Advanced Musical Performance." [ more ]

MUS 493(F, S) HON Senior Thesis: Music

Music senior thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). 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(F, S) HON Senior Thesis: Music

Music senior thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). 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, S) IND 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(F, S) IND 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 ]