Fall 2024

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 560: 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 548: Creative Practice in Cultural Perspective: Ethics in the Arts

The creative arts are often idealized for their virtue and transcendence, for their ability to enrich and inspire. However, such idyllic notions risk overlooking difficult ethical issues that may arise in artworks, as well as in the arts world. This seminar considers a wide range of artworks to ask, what might truly ethical arts practices look like? Topics are largely student-driven and may include participants’ own creative work. Possible areas of focus include critique and reenvisioning: restaging of canonical works, reshaping the canon, representation of (dis)ability, and inclusion more generally.

MUS 545: Contexts of Composition: Composing for Orchestra

The course investigates available strategies for harnessing the vast potential of the orchestra for an individual and personal vision. Notation, instrumental acoustics, and the psychology of the humans that play them are discussed in the context of score study, compositional exercises in response to prompts and free composition.

MUS 534: Ends and Means: Issues in Composition

In this seminar, we study musical forms and patterns. The topics include existing musical forms like formes fixes, contrapuntal forms, and sonatas; parallels and disjunctures between music and literature in the ways time, perspectives, and narratives are shaped; and music inspired by geometrical shapes and patterns (polygons, fractals, tessellations, spirals, waves, etc.), both man-made and natural. We explore concepts such as self-similarity, (a)symmetry, and exponential changes. The objective is to broaden our understanding of musical form and develop creative narrative strategies.

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 528: Seminar in Musicology: Digital Musicology

Until recently, source scarcity was the norm for the study of early music, and its methods were built to respond to that condition. In the past decade, the situation has been turned on its head; we now have a larger and more various corpus of musical data at our fingertips than we can make sense of. This skills-building seminar draws on campus resources for digital humanities to practice new techniques and approaches to the digital corpus of premodern music, and imagines how these skills change the histories we can tell. Final papers should be historiographically fresh.

MUS 527: Seminar in Musicology: Interdisciplinarity in Music Studies

Is there a music studies? Should there be? How can its various subdisciplines sustain productive dialogue with one another? This course invites students to think about the purposes and practices of music research. In addition to engaging the scholarly literature on music and interdisciplinarity, students also engage in hands-on practicums in reading, writing, and communicating across disciplines. Students are encouraged to bring their own subdiscipline into the classroom – the broader the range of backgrounds in the class, the more successful it will be.

MUS 319: Composition and Improvisation

In this class we will consider a variety of strategies for combining improvisation and notated music, drawing on both contemporary concert music and jazz broadly construed. We will look at the works of musicians such as Butch Morris, Lutoslawski, Shostakovich, Coltrane, and Stockhausen, and will consider how technology might allow us to expand our musical possibilities (e.g. using iPads to facilitate harmonic coordination, or using movies in the place of scores). The ultimate goal will be to imagine hybrid musics drawing on both classical and jazz traditions.

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. Besides active seminar participation, formal requirements include written responses to the listening/viewing assignments, music and dance analyses, and a final research paper on a pre-approved topic.

MUS 400: Opera without the Singing: Fables, Fairy Tales and Narrated Musical Theater

The course will lead students toward the creation of a work of musical theater (for lack of a better term) which will run parallel to the collaboration of the two instructors of the course, Adam Gidwitz and Steven Mackey. Instrumental musical performers of any instrument, composers, writers, actors and others who feel they can contribute to a theatrical presentation are needed. The course will include introducing existing relevant works, the progress and process of the ongoing work of the instructors collaboration and of course facilitation of the student creations.

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 357: Music and Shakespeare

A survey of Shakespeare’s treatment of music in the plays and sonnets. The course is based on primary sources only; images will be provided. It also features multiple original songs. The focus is on their dramatic function within complete scenes. At all times we will engage in close reading. We will address a range of relevant historical themes, including: harmony and unity, sound and spirit, music education, rhetoric and decorum, male friendship, the power of the eyes, the art of letter-writing, Puritans and music, and music and melancholy. The course includes a visit to the Rare Books Room.

MUS 314: Computer and Electronic Music through Programming, Performance, and Composition

An introduction to the fundamentals of computer and electronic music. The music and sound programming language ChucK, developed here at Princeton, will be used in conjunction with Max/MSP, another digital audio language, to study procedural programming, digital signal processing and synthesis, networking, and human-computer interfacing.

MUS 310: Advanced Workshop in Musical Composition

A composition course for independent, self-directed composers who will present their work to the class weekly or biweekly. So Percussion, the department’s Ensemble-in-Residence, will do a reading of the compositions during Reading Period on December 9, 2024. Students will submit final scores and parts on Dean’s Date. The compositions will also be played by So Percussion in a public concert early in the spring semester.

MUS 300: Junior Seminar

The Junior Seminar is designed to introduce music majors to the study of music, conceived broadly. What kinds of questions might we ask about music, and what methods and materials can we use to explore these questions? What skills might you develop over the course of the semester that will both allow you to explore your interests and contribute to your professional life in the future? In addition to focusing on composition and musicology, we will also explore other aspects of the music business, such as arts administration, production, editing, performance, music education, and music criticism.

MUS 243: Music in the Mediterranean

This course examines musical culture at the geographical juncture of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The busy exchange of people, goods, and ideas across the sea uniting these regions is reflected in the musical heterogeneity of the Mediterranean littoral. We consider how social and cultural forces and conditions within the Mediterranean – diaspora and migration; cosmopolitanism, commerce, and exchange; ethnic, religious, and linguistic difference – have historically shaped its music and musical communities.

MUS 230: Music in the Middle Ages

A survey of the history of music in Europe between about 600 and 1400. The course is structured in five big subject areas: (1) plainchant: from St Gregory the Great to St Hildegard of Bingen, (2) the earliest polyphony, from the 8th to 12th centuries; (3) the tradition of the troubadours and trouvères, from the 11th to 14th centuries; (4) the Ars Antiqua: polyphony in the 13th century; (5) the Ars nova, polyphony in the fourteenth century. As much as possible, materials for discussion in class consist almost wholly on primary sources (in reproduction), modern recording, and musical scores.

MUS 225: Instrumental Music: The Symphony from Haydn to Florence Price

This course examines the development of the symphony from the eighteenth to the middle of the twentieth century, particularly in terms of musical procedures, composer background, and cultural contexts. Repertory studied includes creative voices beyond the traditional symphonic canon. The course is designed to be accessible to non-majors with a focus on listening, and the ability to follow musical notation is quite helpful. Supplemental readings reinforce technical discussion and broaden historical context introduced in lectures.

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 205: Species Counterpoint

A hands-on, practical course in 16th-century (primarily sacred) vocal music composition. The motivations are numerous: the music is beautiful and pre-functional. In a tonal sense, it provides rich perspective historically, technically, and conceptually upon music of later centuries, including our own. Learning to compose in the style is a deep and challenging way to understand it, and understanding is meaningful beyond the confines of the music itself. In addition to composing, we will spend time singing music from the period and your own projects. This helps us get the sound of the music into our ears and bodies.

MUS 203: The Great Conductors; the Canonic Repertory

A survey of the canonical symphony and opera repertory as performed by the important conductors of the recording era (roughly 1930s to the present). How did these conductors shape performance practice through the 20th and 21st centuries?

MUS 105: Music Theory through Performance and Composition

The intent of this course is to understand the fundamentals of tonal music by creatively using the theoretical concepts explored in class. The student will write melodies, harmonize and arrange both their own music and already existing songs and instrumental music. Voice-leading will be examined in context as students gain a more detailed understanding of the basics. We will place a lot of emphasis on listening to music and attempting to understand what we’re listening to, so as to better enable model composition and theoretical understanding of tonal music.

MUS 355: Thinking with Bad Bunny: the Cultural Politics of Race, Language, and Empire

This interdisciplinary course examines the cultural and political significance of Puerto Rican
mega star Bad Bunny who has transcended musical genres to become a global phenomenon.
Through an interdisciplinary lens, students will engage in a critical analysis of his music, lyrics,
aesthetics, activism, gender non-conforming performances, and savvy business strategies. We
will examine how Bad Bunny/Benito uses his platform and artistry to negotiate the complexities
of being both a global Latinx icon and a child of Puerto Rico’s colonial context.