MUS 561: Music Cognition Lab

Under the direction of a faculty member, and in collaboration with an interdisciplinary group of students, visitors, and postdocs, the student carries out a one-semester research project chosen jointly by the student and the faculty. Open to any graduate student in Music, this course provides a hands-on opportunity to learn the tools, skills, methods, and perspectives of music cognition research.

MUS 532: Composition

Emphasis is placed upon the individual student’s original work and upon the study and discussion of pieces pertinent to that work.

MUS 534: Ends and Means: Issues in Composition

This seminar explores the historical and current repertoire for string quartet, accumulates a set of best practices, and applies them to regular sketching assignments to be read by a visiting string quartet. The culmination is a concert in the following semester made of string quartet music produced by the members of the class.

MUS 542: Instrumentation and Performance

Collaborations with varied ensembles and performers from around the world and here at Princeton, presented in concert on the Princeton Sound Kitchen concert series.

MUS 525: Topics in Music from 1400 to 1600: Changing Styles in Sacred Music, 1420-1560

A hands-on encounter with sacred music of the Renaissance, covering the 160-year period 1400-1560. In the Renaissance, the word “music” was synonymous with counterpoint. What wasn’t counterpoint was either Gregorian chant or else a confused din of sounds. Like the word “language” can be synonymous with English in remote parts of the world, and other tongues sound like mere grunting. But within the English language, and within the art of counterpoint, there are vast worlds of meaning and expression to explore. We will be travelling a journey that leads us past some of the most glorious music in history.

MUS 528: Seminar in Musicology: What Makes Music Good? Aesthetics, Value, and Taste

This seminar considers various arguments for what constitutes good music. Emphasis is placed on modern aesthetic theory and its legacies, elaborations, and critiques.

MUS 365: Practices and Principles of Rhythm

This class is centered on the exploration of rhythmic practices and organizational principles in a wide variety of musical contexts: West African Drumming, European Classical Music, Caribbean Traditional Music, American Pop Music, Jazz and Contemporary Experimental
Music. The course will toggle between two major components: 1 – “Hands-On” performance practice 2 – Analysis and comparison of organizational principles of rhythm in a variety of musical traditions.

MUS 501: Musicology as a Profession

This seminar seeks to enhance and refine the skills required for the successful preparation of the general examination in musicology and the oral defense. The seminar also takes up, in hands-on fashion, archival research methods, digital research (including AI tools), interview methods, the writing of the dissertation prospectus, grant applications, conference abstracts and proposals, articles, reviews, and the broader publication process. The seminar is interactive, based on weekly assignments that address both the requirements of Princeton’s graduate program and the challenges of the entire profession.

MUS 521: Topics in Global Music Theory

What is “global” about global music theory? What does this subfield promise for the wider discipline of music studies, for the traditions making up the global musicscape, and for the people behind those musics? This course examines the key questions, methods, and stakes of global music theory through the lens of recent scholarly discourse, with coverage on topics including translation practices, music theory pedagogy, and the perennial debate between universality and cultural relativism. To contextualize the emergence of this subfield, we also discuss relevant literature in world music analysis and comparative musicology.

MUS 338: Music in the Global Middle Ages

Moving from Baghdad to Paris, Jerusalem to Addis Ababa, Iceland to Dunhuang, this course examines the musical cultures of some of the most vibrant centers of the Middle Ages. We consider what it means to study medieval music “globally,” focusing on key moments of cultural contact (trade, pilgrimage, conflict), while remaining attuned to the particularities of specific places. Emphasis is on the physical traces of premodern music, and we encounter the distant musical past in a variety of materials and formats (paper manuscripts, papyrus fragments, parchment rolls, stone steles), meeting weekly in Special Collections.

MUS 344: The Ceremony is You

An exploration of ritual and ceremony as creative, interdisciplinary spaces imbued with intention and connected to personal and cultural histories. A broadening and deepening of knowledge around historical and contemporary ritual, ceremonial, and community-building practices of queer and trans artist communities from around the world, with a deeper focus on the extraordinary history of the queer trans shamans of early 20th century Korea.

MUS 348: Xulgaria: Music, Theatre and Contemporary Ritual Practice

This class will mount a developmental performance of the musical story-work “Xulgaria” inside an intensive ensemble setting. We will research classic Greek choruses and the Eleusinian Mystery rites and explore diaphonic singing. We will use multidisciplinary practices- theatre, experimental movement, symbol-making and more- to explore global mythologies of the “underworld” and devise performance and ritual that can provide a community container for discussing issues around mental health and healing. Performance experience is not required. All who are interested are encouraged to apply, as well as singers, instrumentalists and creatives.

MUS 329: The Composer/Performer

MUS 329 explores connections between composition and performance in group and solo contexts. Student will find his/her optimal and personal balance among concerns including but not limited to: abstract compositional technique and practical performance values; organization and spontaneity, surface and structure, strengths and obligations, material and effect, aural and visual. Class activities include analysis, study of compositional techniques, performing, improvisation, collaboration.

MUS 330: Composing for Film

Composing for Film is a hands-on, practical introduction to film scoring. The course is designed to help the students develop the skills required in a contemporary professional setting by modeling the assignments after a realistic scoring process. We will take a brief look at the rudiments of film scoring, then dive right into the main focus of the course – the electronic and compositional tools and techniques. All examples are drawn from media music from the 21st century.

MUS 308: Contemporary Music through Composition and Performance

Enrolled students will form a flexible composer/performer collective that will workshop new music being written over the course of the semester. By participating in a synergistic musical community, students will learn from each other through experimentation and collaborative refinement. In addition to exploring contemporary performance practice and composition techniques, a broad range of existing repertoire will be investigated to provide creative inspiration and analytical insight.

MUS 316: Computer and Electronic Music Composition

A composition workshop class, in the context of the modern sound studio and electronic music production. Emphasis will be on the student’s creative work, composing both electronic and electroacoustic pieces to be presented in class.

MUS 263: Arranging and Composing for Large Jazz Ensemble

In this course, we’ll explore key concepts in arranging, orchestrating, and composing for large jazz ensemble through close study of representative works by important composers and arrangers, including Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Mary Lou Williams, Gil Evans, Carla Bley, and others, and develop strategies for writing idiomatically for large jazz ensembles of between 13-20 musicians. The final project is an original arrangement or composition for large ensemble, recorded by professional musicians.

MUS 264: Urban Blues and the Golden Age of Rock

A survey of American popular music in the 1920s to 1960s. We will start with the early history of three major streams of music: Country & Western, Rhythm & Blues, and Popular music. The critical year in that history was 1954, when the streams fused into a volatile mixture that detonated with the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll. From the beginning this was a story about race, politics, money, generational divides. The songs themselves will guide us on our path. And this course aims to guide our ears to a deeper understanding and appreciation of them.

MUS 306: Understanding Tonality

Music 306 will explore advanced tonal procedures from standard triadic harmony (modal and functional) to chromatic voice leading, nondiatonic scales and modes, and “playing outside.” We will study music by composers like Gesualdo, Strozzi, Chopin, Hensel, Wagner, Debussy, Clarke, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Coltrane, and Tyner. The text is my book A Geometry of Music (Oxford, 2011), supplemented by newer work extending those ideas.

MUS 259: Projects in West African Mande Drumming

A performance course in West African drumming with a focus on music from the
Manding/Mali Empire. Taught by master drummer Olivier Tarpaga, the course provides
hands-on experience on the Djansa rhythm. Students will acquire performance
experience, skills and techniques on the Djansa rhythm, and develop an appreciation for
the integrity of drumming in the daily life of West Africa.

MUS 262: Jazz History: Many Sounds, Many Voices

This course will examine the musical, historical, and cultural aspects of jazz throughout its entire history, looking at the 20th century as the breeding ground for jazz in America and beyond. During this more than one hundred year period, jazz morphed and fractured into many different styles and voices, all of which will be considered. In addition to the readings, the course will place an emphasis on listening to jazz recordings, and developing an analytical language to understand these recordings. A central goal is to understand where jazz was, is, and will be in the future, examining the musicians and the music keeping jazz alive.

MUS 235: Operatic Cultures in Dialogue: An Introduction to Sinitic and Italian Opera

What makes a beautiful voice? How does spoken and sung language relate across cultural spaces? How are musical and bodily gestures codified differently across music theatrical traditions? This course takes a deep dive into these questions through a comparative exploration of two global manifestations of opera: Italian opera and Sinitic (Chinese-language) xiqu. We will consider such topics as gender and sexuality; nationalism and identity; scenic design, gesture and choreography; transmission and global circulation. Students will have the opportunity to attend at least one performance at the Metropolitan Opera or other venues in the area.

MUS 242: Music After Modernism, 1945 to the Present

A survey of concert music from the middle of the twentieth century through the present day. During this time, Eurocentric models gave way to a dizzyingly diverse array of styles and attitudes, calling the very identity of concert music into question. Topics include high modernism; experimental explorations; noise and silence; technology; spirituality; music for film and dance; interculturalism and cultural appropriation; commodification; acoustic ecology; politics; and identity and diversity. We ask, where does concert music ‘fit’ in today’s cultural landscape? What is its nature, and where do its boundaries lie? And whose music is it?

MUS 216: Music Production: Principles and Practices

An introduction to working with digital sound, from capture (microphone techniques), through processing (Digital Audio Workstations and mixing/signal processing techniques), to reproduction (speakers/headphones). Listening and ear training for sound production will be a central theme, with the aim of improving our ability to connect control parameters with perceptual experience. Broader questions about the relationships between production tools and the creative process will also be considered. Approach will be genre-agnostic, and principles and practices should be relevant regardless of aesthetic.