Spring 2020

MUS 545: Contexts of Composition: Musical Instruments, Sound, Perception, and Creativity

Through a series of hands-on labs, we look at a range of topics relevant to how we make and conceive of music, including pitch perception, instrument design, log/linear relationships, spectral analysis, synthesis, resonance, physical modeling, and more.

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 534: Ends and Means: Issues in Composition

We investigate the continuity between tone, timbre, and harmony by studying music by various composers who are touched by spectralism (broadly defined as an attitude encompassing a variety of styles that derive pitch materials from acoustical phenomenon). We begin by looking at examples from Unsuk Chin, Jonathan Harvey, Tristan Murail, Kaija Saariaho, and Chiyoko Szlavnics, among others. Our objective is not only to gain fluency with the materials but also to understand how each composer unfolds their musical ideas to achieve a certain level of structural depth.

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 528: Seminar in Musicology: Music and the Human

This seminar examines the place of the “human” in music discourse. While earlier scholarship assumed a definition of music as “humanly organized sound” (Blacking), recent global developments – from social fragmentation to ecological catastrophe – have put pressure on simple characterizations of both humanity and music. This seminar explores theorizations of the musical human from different disciplines and angles, including biosemiosis, anthropology, and Black critical theory. In addition, we consider the music making capacities of non-human species.

MUS 527: Seminar in Musicology

This class involves an in-depth reading of my manuscript, Tonality: an Owner’s Manual, reading one chapter per week. That book uses geometrical models, corpus study, and schema theory to consider a range of theoretical and analytical issues, including the development of tonal harmony, continuities between modal and tonal styles, the nature of nonharmonic reduction, and hierarchical structure in musical syntax.

MUS 512: Topics in Medieval Music: Charlemagne and the Authentic Antiphonal

It is a well-known problem in Gregorian chant studies that certain concepts (e.g. improvisation, orality, transmission, composition) are so malleable that they can be flexibly interpreted according to what a given theory demands, or what the evidence is hoped to corroborate. In such conditions, theories may lose all semblance of falsifiability, and unwittingly keep it that way by policing the very terms on whose interpretation they depend, or proposing moratoria on discussion. This seminar departs from the position that the problem is partly one of question-framing, and it proceeds by exploring different questions.

MUS 510: Extramural Research Internship

MUS510 is for students in the department who wish to gain experience of central importance to their area of study by working outside of the University capacity. For composition students, this might include working with theater companies, dance troupes, or other relevant organizations. For musicology students this might include archival research or performance. Course objectives and content are determined by student’s adviser in consultation with the external institution. Students submit monthly progress reports including goals and progress to date, and any evaluations received from host institution or published reviews of the final product.

MUS 435: Music and Narrative

This seminar explores a host of questions surrounding music’s capacity to convey and shape narratives. Students will engage critically with literature from psychology, musicology, music theory, and media studies to make sense of narrative perceptions of music–when they arise, why, and what it means for broader theories of communication. The class will consider narrative perceptions in a host of different contexts, including instrumental music, song, film music, and video game music.

MUS 326: How to Build a Ballet from Archival Sources

The seminar is dedicated to the reconstruction of ballets of the 19th century with emphasis on Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Our task is to understand the composition and staging of a select group of ballets from the essential primary source materials, both those that reflect the work of 19th century balletmasters (Saint-Leon, Bournonville, Gansen, and Petipa) and the institutions with which they were affiliated. The course will include visits from the dance notation experts Doug Fullington, Lynn Weber, and Rhonda Ryman, and trips to NYCB and ABT rehearsals and/or productions.

MUS 346: Music and the Early Modern Soundscape: London, Rome, Vienna

What was the soundscape of urban life in Rome, Vienna, and London in the 16th-18th centuries? How might early modern listeners have experienced the sounds of everyday life on the streets (such as carnival celebrations and religious processions) or indoors (theaters, convents, churches)? This course explores historical sound in three remarkable cities whose unique acoustic contexts and expressions of organized sound (music and otherwise) allow us to study the intersections between noise and music within architecture and urban space. Class outings will also include interactions with local soundscapes, trips to concerts, and museums.

MUS 344: The Expanded Voice

Within the realm of composed music rooted in European traditions, vocal performance tends to be associated with a particular kind of singing often referred to as operatic, classical or bel canto. The 20th and 21st centuries have seen composers and vocalists expanding vocal technique and color beyond this particular approach to singing. This course explores how the voice has expanded through the use of “extended techniques” and influences from folk, non-Western and popular music. We will also examine composed music written specifically for singers working outside of the Western classical realm.

MUS 343: Music through Fiction

The aphorism that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” frames musical writing as an act of absurdity. Yet write about music we do. Focusing on works of fiction that turn musical experience into literary experience and back again, this course explores music writing as a creative activity. How do we write compellingly about the sides of music that seem most technical, hermetic, or ineffable? Can we consider fictional accounts of “real” music to be works in criticism or analysis? How can reading fiction deepen our musical attention, and how do we analyze music in a way that reflects the imaginative endeavor of listening?

MUS 330: Advanced Concepts in Rhythm

Rhythm is music’s heartbeat, vital yet largely invisible to academic discourse. In this class, we will think about rhythm theoretically, analytically, and creatively. The class alternates between theoretical discussions and analytical “case studies” of Western and non-Western music. Since rhythm must be understood with the body, each class will include a hands-on component, to help students embody concepts through performance tricks and techniques related to rhythmically challenging music.

MUS 316: Computer and Electronic Music Composition

A composition workshop class, in the context of the traditional sound studio. Emphasis will be on the student’s creative work, composing both “fixed media” works and live electronic/laptop music.

MUS 311: Jazz Theory through Improvisation and Composition I

An exploration of the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic principles of the bebop paradigm. The course includes analysis of representative works by various jazz masters and will place a strong emphasis on student projects in improvisation, transcription, analysis and composition.

MUS 299: Independent Instruction in Voice or Instrument

Independent instruction in voice or instrument is an intensive immersion in all aspects of recreating music for performance. Lessons are geared towards the development and embedding of solid technique, and the application of this technique to proper style and musical expression. Issues explored include but are not limited to interpretation, stylistic appropriateness, historical context, theoretical/syntactical underpinnings, the avoidance of injuries, audition and performance strategies, and career planning.

MUS 270: Medieval and Renaissance Music from Original Notation

In an age before musical notation, Isidore of Seville could claim that unless sounds are remembered by man they perish, for they cannot be written down. The history of medieval and Renaissance music is largely entwined with the development of a technology that would prove him wrong: the ability to preserve sound in writing. This class explores the profound impact notation had on European musical culture c. 900-1600, from the emergence of musical literacy, to shifting ontologies of sound, authorship, and musical creativity. We learn to sing from dozens of early notations, and use replica tools and techniques to notate our own manuscripts.

MUS 266: Music and Society in France, c.1750 to the Present

From the singing entertainments of Parisian café-concerts, to the historical revisions of grand opera, to the social critiques of banlieue rappers, music has been central to the cultural and social developments of the French nation. This course explores a survey of music across many genres – opera, concert music, sacred music, song, dance music, folk, rock, rap – to investigate how music participated in, shaped, and fueled many debates in French society from the Enlightenment onwards.

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 that has kept jazz alive.

MUS 259: Projects in West African Mande Drumming

Performance course in West African drumming with focus on music from Mandé Empire (Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Senegal.) Taught by master drummer and exponent of Mogo Kele Foli drumming technique. Course provides hands-on experience on two instruments, Djembe and Dun dun. Students acquire performance experience, skills and techniques on Wassolon and Diansa, and develop appreciation for integrity of drumming in daily life of West Africa.

MUS 248: Music Cognition

Music can get your feet tapping, trigger a cascade of memories, mire you in nostalgia, or leave you with an earworm. What happens when tools drawn from cognitive science are applied to understanding these experiences? What can music tell us about the human mind, and what can psychology and neuroscience tell us about music? This course will provide an introduction to music cognition, emphasizing the potential and the challenges that characterize work at the intersection of science, the humanities, and the arts. Students will gain experience posing their own questions at this intersection, and identifying appropriate methods to answer them.

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 225: Instrumental Music: The Symphony from Haydn to Stravinsky

Consideration of the symphony from the mid-eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, both in terms of musical procedures & cultural significance. The course is designed primarily for non-concentrators. The focus will be on intensive listening, minimal ability to follow musical notation helpful.