The course sequence progressively enables students to understand linear and vertical relationships in music and their inspired synthesis in composition. Required courses are supplemented by specialized courses in keyboard studies, orchestration, and score-reading. Solfège provides aural reinforcement of musical techniques taught in the musical studies program. Music history traces the evolution of those techniques.
Entering students are placed by examination. Placement decisions may be subject to review. Tutoring is available. Students of exceptional ability may receive specialized instruction and advanced classes are offered.
The core curriculum takes a minimum of 4.5 semesters and 41 semester hours. For Diploma candidates, a one-semester upper-level elective is required, adding 2 additional hours. Bachelor’s degree candidates are required to choose four upper level electives, adding 8 additional hours: one from music history, one from music performance, one from music theory, and one more from any of the categories. Elements of Conducting is also required for Bachelor's candidates, adding 3 additional hours. Total: between 43 and 52 hours.
Core Studies is a four-semester sequence covering the disciplines of Counterpoint, Harmony, and (in the second year) Analysis. The class will meet for 1.5 hours twice per week.
Core Studies I
As an introduction to counterpoint, students will study the art of melody and the cantus firmus, and begin writing two-voice counterpoint in species one, two, and three. The study of harmony will include the following topics, with the goal of developing speed, accuracy, and confidence:
Core Studies II
The study of counterpoint continues with species one, two, and three, but this time in three parts. Harmony will focus on the following topics:
Core Studies III
The study of counterpoint continues with species four and five in both two and three parts. Harmony will focus on the following topics:
Core Studies IV
The study of counterpoint continues with an introduction to combined species, a reduction of works from the repertoire to reveal the underlying counterpoint, canon and invention. Harmony will focus on the following topics:
Analysis will continue with the analysis and reduction of works from the repertoire by composers such as Debussy, Ravel, Ives, Stravinsky, Bartok, etc.
Accelerated Core Studies*
A two-semester “accelerated” version of the Core Studies curriculum covering basic forms, two- and three-part species counterpoint, and harmony (through chromaticism and 20th-century techniques) will be offered as a non-required “refresher” course for transfer students and as a required course for post-baccalaureate composers and conductors. For the latter, there will be an opportunity to test out of this requirement.
* This class is dependent on need and may not be offered every semester or every year. Depending on the students in the class, more focus can be directed to the subjects that need more attention, such as counterpoint, harmony, or form.
Musical Form and Analysis
At the beginning of a student’s second year, Musical Form and Analysis is a one-semester course covering all elements of musical form, both small and large. Topics to include:
A continuation of the study of 20th-century harmony and beyond. Topics include:
Keyboard Studies for non-keyboard majors takes place over four semesters, and for keyboard players, over five semesters. It serves as a companion to the study of music theory and analyses. All classes are one hour per week. Students will learn how to apply their knowledge of counterpoint, harmony, and voice-leading fluently and confidently at the piano. Exercises include figured bass realization, harmonization of melodies, clef reading, and counterpoint improvisation.
Keyboard Studies I (for non-keyboard majors only)
Keyboard geography and the review of scales, intervals, triads, and 7th chords. Includes an introduction to figured bass, clef reading, and counterpoint improvisation.
Keyboard Studies II
Includes two-part score reading, figured-bass realization of 5/3 and 6/3 chords, short harmonic progressions of tonic expansion and cadences, and harmonization of melodic fragments.
Keyboard Studies III
Continuing two-part score reading, figured-bass realization of 5/3, 6/3, and 6/4 chords, diatonic progressions in different keys, and harmonization of soprano and/or bass melodies.
Keyboard Studies IV
Three-part and four-part score reading, figured-bass realization incorporating suspensions and chromatic harmonies, diatonic and chromatic progressions in different keys including applied dominants, harmonization of soprano and/or bass melodies, and harmonization of folk songs.
Keyboard Studies V and VI
Required for keyboard majors only, and open as an elective for anyone interested with sufficient keyboard skill. Exercises include advanced figured-bass realization, score reading at the piano, and advanced counterpoint.
All bachelors degree candidates (except piano) are required to pass or place out of four semesters of Supplementary Piano. Undergraduate composition, conducting, and organ majors will take one-hour piano lessons weekly unless they are excused by their major teacher. All other students will take 30-minute piano lessons weekly.
All incoming students are expected to follow the four-semester curriculum below, and pass a piano jury at the end of the fourth semester. Students who do not fulfill the Supplementary Piano requirement by the end of their studies at Curtis will not be able to graduate.
If a student did not fulfill the jury requirement and would like additional piano lessons to prepare for a make-up jury, he/she must petition the Dean and Chair of Musical Studies in writing, which will be approved or denied on a case-by-case basis. For students who show rapid progress during the year and wish to take the jury before completing all four semesters, his/her Supplementary Piano teacher may request an early jury on the student’s behalf.
The curriculum below provides a guideline for beginner piano students to progress to a late-intermediate level. Students who have a piano background prior to coming to Curtis will be given more difficult, level-appropriate pieces and technical components that fulfill and exceed the minimum requirement.
Students will gain familiarity with the keyboard geography and build basic coordination and mobility of the hands. Repertoire includes etudes (e.g. Beyer, Bertini, Czerny Op. 599, Kohler, Duvernoy, Gurlitt, etc.) and character pieces (easy works by Kabalevsky, Bartok, Burgmüller, etc.)
An exploration of articulations, expressivity, and musicality at the piano, with the goal of gaining independence of hands through the study of contrapuntal works. Repertoire includes Bach’s contrapuntal works (e.g. minuets), further study of character pieces (see above), easy Classical pieces by Mozart and Haydn, and short sonatinas by Spindler, Schmitt, etc.
Focuses on left hand accompaniment patterns, such as Alberti bass and Waltz, as well as voicing from melody/accompaniment works and use of the pedal. Repertoire includes sonatinas by Clementi, Kulau, et., more challenging pieces by Bach (e.g. Little Preludes, 2-part Inventions), and children’s pieces by Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, etc.
4th Semester (Jury Preparation)
Students will study more advanced use of the pedal and focus on preparing jury repertoire. Repertoire includes Bach 2-pt Inventions, Scarlatti Sonatas, Beethoven Sonatinas Op. 14 and 79, Mozart Sonatas, and intermediate-level works by Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Schumann, Grieg, Mendelssohn, and others.
Scales, arpeggios, and cadences of all major and minor keys. 4 octaves in 16th notes, hands together.
Two works or movements of contrasting styles and tempo; must reach late-intermediate or higher level (i.e. Bach Invention, Mozart Sonata, etc.). Only one of the two pieces can be a repeat from a previous semester.
SFG 111–132; 2 s.h./term
Sight-singing in treble, bass, alto, and tenor clefs; singing and recognition of major/minor scales, triads in root position, 1st and 2nd inversion, V7 chords and their resolutions, and duets; rhythmic dictation and conducting; interval dictation, 1-voice and 2-voice melodic dictation, 2-voice contrapuntal dictation; singing and playing (at the piano) Bach chorales and Lassus motets in open score; memory projects.
SFG 241–262; 2 s.h./term
Sight-singing in all seven clefs; singing and recognition of diminished 7th and augmented 6th chords with resolutions, melodies and duets, progressing to chromaticism and Modus Novus for advanced sections; rhythmic dictation and conducting, including polyrhythms; advanced 1-voice and 2-voice melodic dictation, introduction to 3-voice melodic dictation, and dictation of harmonic progressions; singing and playing (at the piano) Bach chorales and Lassus motets in open score; memory projects.
Advanced sight-singing in seven clefs, chromaticism, three-part contrapuntal dictation, simple figured-bass dictation, and reading Bach chorales in open score.
Dictation – NOTE: only one semester required
A required one-semester course in the student’s third year including extended 1-voice and 2-voice dictations, more difficult 3-part and 4-part dictations in advanced classes, chord progressions with modulation and chromatic harmony, atonal dictations from one to four voices, and figured bass dictations.
Music History I
MHS 101–102; 3 s.h./term
Music History I surveys the history of Western music from Antiquity through the Baroque in the first semester, and continues through the early Romantic period in the second semester. The course emphasizes hands-on, project-oriented learning, engaging the material through primary source readings, listening, writing, group projects, class discussions, and coordinated online activities. The emphasis is on understanding the political, social, and religious trends that influence and shape music from one era to the next, and on using that knowledge to enhance the student’s and the audience’s performance experience.
Music History II
MHS 201–202; 2 s.h./term
Music History II is intended as an introduction to the most important trends and themes of the European classical music tradition. The first semester of Music History II spans the nineteenth century, beginning with the emergence of the Romantic movement and ending with the fin de siècle. Major topics include: Romanticism and its offshoots, the debates over program music, nationalism, the emergence of the classical canon, the development of compositional technique and instrumental technologies, and the role of music in society. Above all, students will study the historical continuity between the music of the nineteenth century and that which preceded and followed it, with the goal of better understanding music both familiar and strange.
Elements of Conducting
Elements of Conducting is a one-semester course focusing on developing the practical skills required to lead an ensemble from beginning to end of the performance process. Aspects of conducting to be covered will include technique, score reading and analysis, principles of interpretation, rehearsal techniques, and orchestration from a conductor’s point of view. Students will be given classroom conducting opportunities necessary to gain a functional understanding of the above topics.
Advanced Conducting (Elective)
This course is designed to offer hands-on experience in developing the skills necessary to become a conductor. Course goals include a better understanding of the following: the role of the conductor, conducting technique, score preparation, and concert programming. Course material includes discussions of these topics as well as evaluations of conductors the student works with or observes in rehearsal and performance. In addition, students will conduct various small ensembles over the course of the semester, which will include direct feedback from the other students in class as well as from the players. Prerequisite: Elements of Conducting.
MUS301-5 Music of the Medieval Period (Fall 2016)
“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there,” wrote the British novelist L. P. Hartley. The music of the medieval period, from the emergence of notation in the 9th century to the beginnings of the Italian Renaissance around 1400, is a good example of the strangeness of the past. But although it is unfamiliar to most modern people in so many ways—its notation, its instruments, its compositional forms, its social functions—this repertoire contains timeless and beautiful works of art capable of speaking to us across great historical distances. In this course, we will explore the world of medieval music through intensive reading, listening, analysis, and discussion. Learning objectives will include understanding the various forms and genres of the period, perceiving the music’s relationships to the social life of church and court, and appreciating the age’s distinctive aesthetic sensibility. We will also consider such topics as the “early music revival” beginning around 1900, problems of performance practice, and the influence of medieval music on newly composed music in the 20th century.
Prerequisites: Music History I and II
MUS301-1 The Life and Music of Stravinsky, the “Anti-Darmstadt” (Fall 2016)
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) moved away from his native Russia when he was a young man. He traveled the world, spoke many languages, lived in four different countries (and held citizenship in three of them), and died in New York City. Likewise, he belonged to no single “school” of composition: in his early years, up to and including the creation of his first great success, The Firebird ballet, he was heavily influenced by the coloristic writing of Rimsky-Korsakov, but immediately afterward he began to create such great, revolutionary works as Petrushka, The Rite of Spring; The Song of the Nightingale, and Les Noces. Then came his long, neo-classical period, which also produced numerous masterpieces (Oedipus Rex, the Symphony of Psalms, the Symphony in C, the Symphony in Three Movements, and The Rake’s Progress, among many other works); and in the last phase of his creative life he created a highly personal approach to the twelve-tone system. He was familiar with the “Darmstadt composers” – especially Pierre Boulez – but he accepted no orthodoxies of any sort. Like Picasso, his friend and contemporary, he was open to influences from everyone, everything, and everywhere. This course will survey Stravinsky’s life and his nearly 70-year-long career, making use not only of the music but of the many extant films and recordings of this most powerful force in 20th-century music.
MUS301-6 The Master Builders: Ibsen, Brahms, Cézanne (Fall 2016)
What did the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), the German composer Johannes Brahms (1833- 1897), and the French painter Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) have in common, apart from being contemporaries? All three were heirs to the High Romantic tradition, but all three were – or became – fundamentally classicists in their approach to form, and all three exerted strong influence on the following generations of artists in their respective fields. Each of them was a master at developing minute elements – a few words, a two- or three-note melodic motif, a small group of flecks of paint – into large, powerful structures. In short, each of them was a master builder of works that continue to stimulate our minds and grip our emotions. Through readings and videos of two of Ibsen’s plays (A Doll’s House and The Master Builder), recordings of some of Brahms’s most significant compositions, and viewings of several of Cézanne’s finest paintings in one of Philadelphia’s great collections, this seminar will deal with important questions about the nature of artistic creativity, including the confluence of method, instinct, and genius.
MUS302 The Golden Age of the Renaissance: The 16th Century (Spring 2017)
The 16th century saw a great diversity of styles and genres ranging from the invention of the Protestant chorale of the Reformation, the great masses and motets of the Counter-Reformation, the development of instrumental music to highly chromatic and experimental madrigals, and the invention of opera. All of this was influenced by a changing political and religious climate, the struggle between medieval superstition and rational scientific thought, and a full on rediscovery of ancient Roman and Greek culture.
MUS302 Darmstadt in Retrospect: Influences and Reactions (Spring 2017)
During the period following the end of the Second World War, countries, societies and the arts attempted to find a path forward– away from the horror that war had wrought but still under the over-arching threat of nuclear destruction. Within this environment composers, many of whom had grown up listening to and evolving from the musics of their parents’ generation, found themselves torn between the various “-isms” of mid-20th century music. Influences ranged from the intellectual discipline of serialism to the extended exploration of microtonal tunings and acoustical experimentation. Also present were the philosophical challenges of randomness, organic sounds generated by the incorporation of non-Western aesthetics and electronic sound sources. Certainly, some of this focus on arcane structuring and the (often disliked by the audience) results was– on some level– escapism that included various examples of retreating from order, from chaos, from reality and/or from mass depression and angst. Looking back from the perspective of one who lived through these times, the students and the teacher will explore some of the unique events of the period and attempt to place then into perspective from the vantage point of the second decade of the 21st century.
Among the events to be discussed will be the development of electronic music, the works of Harry Partch, HPSCHD, The Ghent Conference on New Musical Notation, the exploration of microtonal music and the schism between academic music and music for the concert hall. Not to be overlooked will be the marketing ploy that systematically separated listening audiences for purposes of focused advertising that has lead to a marginalization of “serious” music in contrast to commercial music. The instructor will offer a personal insight into the events and the times referenced above and will encourage the students to research selected topics. Individuals will be asked to critique these events in light of our current understandings of their significance, influences or lack thereof. The class should meet once a twice a week and will include, as appropriate, readings, performances and discussions. As much as possible, the curiosities of the students will assist with the final structuring of the experience.
MUS302 Exploring Electronic Music (Spring 2017)
Music and technology have been intertwined since the prehistoric invention of the bone flute, but in the last 100 years, concurrent with the emergence of the concept of “electronic music,” the two have attained an unprecedented intensity of mutual influence. In this class we will explore both the technologies and the aesthetics of electronic music from the first electric instruments of the early twentieth century to the ubiquitous devices of today. Although the class will be structured primarily as a historical survey, we will also engage directly with various instruments and compositional/performative approaches in order to better understand how the technologies of electronic music create new possibilities for musical experience. As befits a course offered for conservatory students, we will pay special attention to questions of performance: the influence of electronic sound on instrumental technique, various forms of live electronic music, and the prospect of computers and robots as performers and composers. Outside of class, students will complete weekly assignments involving reading, writing, listening, and analysis. Finally, students will be required to complete a substantial final project, which can take many forms, including creative work.
Prerequisites: Music History I and II
MUS302 Historical String Recordings (Spring 2017)
Thomas Edison’s discovery in 1877 of the process of capturing sound waves on foil wrapped around a cylinder, which he called the “phonograph” (a combination of the Greek words for sound and writing), was one of the most significant developments in the history of musical performance. Nearly a decade later, Emile Berliner invented a method of engraving sound on a glass disc, which he dubbed the “gramophone.” This invention established the flat disc – in its various incarnations from acetate and vinyl records to the digital CD – as the standard document for musical performance that has remained until today. Although two of the greatest violinists of the 19th century – Henri Vieuxtemps and Henryk Wieniawski – were alive when recording was in its infancy, sound recordings were not conceived as documents of musical performance until after their deaths. The first recording of a serious concert artist was not made until 1888 (by the 12-year-old prodigy pianist Josef Hofmann). Among the notable musicians documented in the early history of recordings are the composers Brahms, Grieg, and Saint-Saens. And at the beginning of the 20th century, the legendary violinists Joachim and Sarasate, both at the end of their respective careers, made several recordings.
This course examines the development of string playing through a survey of recordings made by the most eminent violinists, violists and cellists in the first half of the 20th century. Beginning with Joachim and Sarasate, this course will examine the different playing styles of such major figures as Ysaÿe, Huberman, Elman, Kreisler, Thibaud, Kreisler, Casals, Tertis, Szigeti, Heifetz, Primrose, Feuermann, Menuhin, Milstein, and Francescatti.
Historical and analytical readings will be drawn from The Great Violinists (Campbell), Violin Virtuosos (Roth), and Great Masters of the Violin (Schwarz), and students will be expected to give a presentation on one historical string player through their recordings.
THY Improvisation: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Fall 2016)
Looking back at the history of Western art music, we can see that “there is scarcely a single musical technique or form of composition that did not originate in improvisatory practice” (musicologist Ernst Ferand, 1961). In this course, we will explore the cross fertilization between improvised and composed music, from major improvisers such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, to twenty-first century trends and innovations. Relating to the all-school project, the Darmstadt School, attention will be given to aspects of chance and aleatory that became important in the avant-garde of the 1950s and 1960s, and the free improvisation movement that emerged as a result. Other topics will include the influence of improvisation on the compositional process and planning versus spontaneity in music performance. The historical exploration will be complemented by a practical component, involving short examples of in-class playing and improvising by the students.
On a personal note: having written my doctoral dissertation on this topic, and having lectured on it internationally, I noticed that while most musicians recognize there have always been a connection between improvisation, composition, and performance, normally they do not have the opportunity to explore this relationship on a deeper level, something which I hope we will be able to do in this course.
THY 20th and 21st Centuries Performance Practice (Fall 2016)
In performing music from the last hundred years, there are several special challenges: the musical language of each composer is more individual than in the common practice era of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and requires extra study time; in many recent styles there are innovations in instrumental techniques and in notation; and the type of expression and sense of time in modern works are often of revolutionary nature, thus influencing important interpretive decisions. Also, in performing brand new pieces, there is no existing performance tradition, so that the performer is responsible for introducing the piece and its meaning to the public. This course will address all these aspects, while covering a wide range of works, relating both to the students’ own repertoire, and to the allschool project of the Darmstadt School. As students gain skill in deciphering the context, expression, and performance challenges of new works, they will develop authority as musical thinkers and confident interpreters of a wide variety of recent styles.
THY Harmonic Thinking in Performance (Spring 2017)
This course offers tools that translate harmonic awareness into making informed interpretive choices. The harmonic component of music relates to many other parameters: melody, rhythm, texture, form, instrumentation, performance markings, expression, and character. Preparing harmonic reductions at various levels of passages from the students’ own repertoire will serve as a basis for understanding the harmonic structure of music: chromatic notes that deserve special attention; the presence of forward-moving or ambiguous progressions; mid-phrase expansions versus cadential punctuations; issues of harmonic rhythm and hyper-meter; and so on. At the concluding phase, the students go back to the original piece and think about possible interpretive possibilities, based on increased harmonic awareness. As they learn to analyze the music, they gain authority and become more informed performing artists.
THY The String Quartet (Spring 2017)
The most celebrated type of chamber music ensemble in the past three centuries, the string quartet has given rise to numerous masterpieces. Many composers dedicated to this intimate medium their most personal and inspired ideas, and for many performing groups presenting a complete cycle of the Beethoven or Bartók quartets is a major artistic statement. This course will combine a historical survey of the string quartet literature with a practical discussion of the necessary ensemble skills for playing in a quartet, including in-class demonstrations by the participants. Topics include: relationship between the full score and the individual parts; insights gained from analysis of the music to its performance; and finding how to translate the ideal of chamber music as conversation into practice. Among the pieces studied, attention will be given also to those that relate to the all-school project. Students can sign up as a pre-formed quartet, or as individuals.
THY475-2 Schenkerian Analysis (Fall 2016)
This course will aim to develop an understanding of large-scale musical coherence through a study of the analytic method developed by the Viennese theorist Heinrich Schenker (1868-1935). Many celebrated performers have advocated Schenker’s theories. The conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler was one of Schenker’s most ardent champions; not only did he consult Schenker about pieces he was to conduct, but he also helped finance several of the theorist’s publications. Many other prominent musicians, such as Bruno Walter, George Szell and Carl Flesch, were also interested in Schenker’s work. In Bruno Walter’s autobiography, the conductor wrote that “under the influence of the writings of the profound theorist and musical philosopher Heinrich Schenker, I became aware of what I had missed and began to grasp the theoretical problems; or rather they grasped me, they even fascinated me.” Through the analytic techniques learned in this course, students will gain a deeper understanding of how the principles of harmony and counterpoint operate in tandem, and determine the criteria for structural coherence in music of the common-practice period. In doing so, students will be introduced to the analytic system of graphic notation developed by Heinrich Schenker. They will not only gain an understanding of graphic analysis, but also learn how to relate musical analysis in helping to make interpretive decisions. There will be weekly homework assignments and a final exam based on analytic techniques learned from course.
THY 475-3 The Life and Works of J. S. Bach (Fall 2016)
No other composer has influenced the course of western music as much as J. S. Bach. This course offers an overview of his work: chamber music, cantatas, concerti, the great Passions, as well as an exploration of the times and conditions in which he worked and the role of a musician in the 18th century.
THY Analysis Seminar: Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky/Ravel) (Spring 2017)
In-depth analysis & historical background of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition along with Maurice Ravel’s orchestration. Students will receive both piano and orchestral scores to facilitate work done in class. Students will learn about the history and the context of the work, and do a complete, page-by-page analysis.
THY Mozart’s Chamber Music (Spring 2017)
Mozart's contribution to the genre of chamber music is unparalleled. Beginning with the early string quartets written in Salzburg, this course will focus upon the “10 Celebrated Quartets” from the composer’s years in Vienna. Influenced by the masterpieces of Haydn, Mozart’s string quartets remain the most frequently heard chamber works of the Classical era performed in concert halls today. In addition to these groundbreaking works, this course will look at Mozart's two duos for violin and viola, the Divertimento for string trio (K.563), and the six string quintets. This course will look at Mozart’s chamber music in terms of their formal design and tonal structure, and examine the many novel ways in which he treats the Classical sonata principle. Readings from biographies, as well as contemporary accounts of the composer, will add to our understanding of the different works in light of the composer’s career, as well as build a bibliography of Mozart resources. Finally, this course will discuss issues of performance styles as exemplified by the vast recorded legacy of interpreters, especially historical performances by the Budapest, Busch, Capet and Pro Arte String Quartets, as well as more modern performances by Guarneri, Juilliard and Tokyo String Quartets. Students will write a final paper (approximately 1500 words) on a single chamber work by Mozart.
THY Understanding Climax through Analysis and Performance (Spring 2017)
Building a climax is a fascinating challenge for both composers and performers. Using examples from the orchestral and chamber literature, with special emphasis on the students’ own repertoire, in this course we will explore the structural means by which composers approach climaxes in their music. We will decipher the harmonic, thematic, rhythmic, and textural elements that shape climaxes, and see how these elements contribute to the overall form and expressive content of the music. Learning the language of the composer under discussion is part of the process, including: tonal centers, modulations, chordal vocabulary, and voice leading elements. Students taking this class will have an enhanced understanding of the architectural aspects of musical form, and the hierarchy of various compositional elements. This will help them in developing their concept of performance as a single unity from beginning to end, and contribute to their artistic growth as informed interpreters.