Fall 2020

MUS 548: Creative Practice in Cultural Perspective: Cultivating a Humane Arts Practice

The creative arts are often idealized for their virtue and transcendence, for their ability to enrich and inspire us. However, the canon we still study was made possible by various forms of dominance, including racism, misogyny, and imperialism, and even now, artists experience bias and exclusion in our professional community. We cultivate creative thinking about a more just and sustainable arts world, as we live through the pandemic and imagine what lies ahead. Cultivating community within the seminar, we ask, what would a truly humane arts practice look like? Can we even imagine it?

MUS 204: Musical Instruments, Sound, Perception, and Creativity

Musical instruments reside at the intersection of varied topics: sound, perception, embodiment, music theory, social values, and more; how has their design influenced the development of music and how might they be reinvented to spur new ideas? We will explore these questions through readings, listening, analysis, labs, and composition. Specific topics include: harmony and the keyboard; tuning and temperament; preparing the piano, digital and analog. More generally, we will consider the productive tension between qualitative and quantitative understandings of musical concepts.

MUS 527: Seminar in Musicology

Seminar in musicology consists of two distinct six-week modules, one focusing on Music and Digital Culture (with guest speakers) and a second focusing on Francesco Cavalli’s opera La Calisto (1652), considering as well the virtual production being produced this semester by MUS 219 (taught by Wendy Heller). Both units will be continued in the spring semester in MUS 528.

MUS 531: 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

Our focus is on writing new works for percussion quartet, with a level and depth of engagement which resembles So’s process of commissioning major new works. The spring course challenges composers to consider aspects of percussion writing which are peculiar to percussion chamber music, as well as writing etudes for instruments they are less likely to be familiar with such as steel drums. After the semester course, S works individually with each composer to workshop and premiere a new 8-12′ long work for percussion quartet.

MUS 545: Contexts of Composition: Composing concertos: the individual and the group

This seminar is a follow up to composing for Orchestra and covers some of the same issues of writing for a large conducted ensemble, but now that ensemble shares the stage with a soloist or small group of soloists and the focus is on the relationships between and among the many and the few.

MUS 312: Jazz Theory through Improvisation and Composition II

This course intends to expose the student to the harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic concepts of the modal jazz approach in an effort to formulate a basis for self-expression as improvisers and composers. The course includes analysis of representative works by various jazz masters and will place a strong emphasis on student projects in composition. Two 90-minute classes. Prerequisite: 105 or instructor’s permission.

MUS 513: Topics in 19th- and Early 20th-Century Music: Abstraction

This semester explores the origins and exploitation of the concept of abstraction in music from circa 1910. There is some discussion of the articulation of the term in the visual arts (Kandinsky, Klee), but the seminar centers on the syntax of the modern, late modern, and after modern periods in 20th century music history. Repertoire discussed includes Schoenberg, Babbitt, and Feldman, and both ‘dissonant’ and ‘consonant’ abstraction.

MUS 524: Collisions

This seminar examines the role of key controversies and debates within music studies over the past few decades. What leads to scholarly confrontation, and what comes out of it? How do bouts of discord shape the field? What makes some scholarly clashes more productive than others? What does the field look like when mapped around its points of highest contention? Readings trace key debates up to their moments of conflagration and out to their eventual consequences. We also consider what might be worth fighting about now and in the future.

MUS 525: Topics in Music from 1400 to 1600: Polyphonic Mass Composition in Europe,1440-1540

Chronological survey of the changing styles of Mass composition in the period 1450-1550,
beginning with the anonymous English Missa Caput and Petrus de Domarto’s Missa Spiritus
almus, and concluding with the Missa Ecce quam bonum by Jacobus Clemens non Papa.
Focus is almost entirely on scores.

MUS 105: Music Theory through Performance and Composition

Music 105 is the first of a two-semester course on introductory music theory of Western classical music. We will study various ways a diatonic scale is used to structure melodic and harmonic directions, and further, to govern phrases and musical forms. After an in-depth review of the rudiments– scales, intervals, chords–we will proceed to examining counterpoint, harmonic function, and phrase structure. The course is designed to help you develop your understanding of music, analyze existing musical works, and compose your own.

MUS 205: Species Counterpoint

To lay the foundation for a thorough understanding of the principles of linear structure and voice-leading through the study of 16th-century counterpoint. Includes weekly composition and transcription exercises. Students will produce a 4-5 voice Mass movement as a final project, which will be presented in a public reading session.

MUS 223: The Ballet

A history of ballet from its origins in the French courts through its development into a large-scale theatrical spectacle in the 19th century and its modernist re- and de-formation. Emphasis will be placed on seminal dancers, choreographers, and composers, nationalist tradition, and socio-political context.

MUS 234: Music of the Baroque

A consideration of baroque music in early modern Europe, and its circulation across the globe through colonization and exploration. Beginning with the birth of opera and ending with the legacy of J. S. Bach, other topics include performance practices through the ages, the castrato, the reception of antiquity, the representation of gender, nationality, race, and class in theatrical music. Classes will include virtual visits from prominent scholars and performers; breakout groups; some short asynchronous lectures.

MUS 259: Projects in West African Mande Drumming

A performance course in West African drumming with a focus on music from the Mandé Empire (Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Senegal.) Taught by master drummer Olivier Tarpaga, the course provides hands-on experience on the Djembe drum. Students will acquire performance experience, skills and techniques on the Djembe Kan, and develop an appreciation for the integrity of drumming in the daily life of West Africa.

MUS 261: Introduction to Jazz Arranging, Composition and Harmony

In this course, we’ll examine how horizontal activity (melody) in multiple voices generates vertical structure (harmony), and how horizontal and vertical activity combine to yield musical architecture (form). We’ll explore the building blocks of melody, harmony, counterpoint, rhythm, and form using practical examples, exercises, transcriptions, and composition/arranging projects as a means to internalize concepts. We’ll examine representative works by important jazz composers and arrangers, and develop strategies for writing idiomatically for jazz ensembles of up to 9 musicians.

MUS 300: Junior Seminar

This course introduces students to key methodological, technical, creative, and disciplinary issues entailed in the study and making of music. Co-taught by a composer and a musicologist, the class will involve making, writing about, and analyzing music. The seminar is also intended as a space for music concentrators to convene and collaborate.

MUS 306: Understanding Tonality

In this course we will try to understand the complex phenomenon of “tonality.” We will theorize about harmony, voice leading, and scales, studying works by Gesualdo, Beethoven, Wagner, Debussy, Stravinsky, Ravel, Reich, and contemporary jazz musicians.

MUS 310: Advanced Workshop in Musical Composition

This course is aimed at nurturing the compositional interests and aspirations of the individual participants. The class will include students of different backgrounds and interests. While each student will be working on projects of their own design there will occasionally be a listening and/or reading assignment of mutual interest. Since live acoustic presentation of work is not possible at this time, incorporating self recording on instrument(s), Logic Pro (editing software), Sibelius (notation program) will be important parts of the creative process and their use as well as their products will be discussed.

MUS 103: Introduction to Music

MUS 103 is an introduction to Western art music, featuring works from around 800 to the mid-20th century. The course explains the basic elements of Western music, introducing them in the order in which they developed in history- rhythm, pitch, melody, harmony, form- and the historically significant styles and genres of composition.