Music History Electives

History of Performance Practice (Fall 2018)
What did the instruments of Bach's time sound like?
Would Beethoven or Mozart have preferred the sound of the modern Steinway over the Pianoforte?
Are modern instruments an improvement over so-called authentic "period instruments"?
Is the modern vocal style really what the great bel Canto singers really had in mind?
What about pitch, intonation or vibrato?

This survey course seeks to open the debate through the study of original source materials and treatises on performance practice. We will study the earliest recordings of legendary performers and composers who hand us an astonishing glimpse into the sound world of the 19th century. This class will not only trace the origins of the so-called early music movement and its effect on the performance of the music of the Baroque, but look at the evolution through the 19th and 20th centuries as well.

Composition Since 1945: Advanced Seminar (Fall 2018)
Designed for third- and fourth-year students with an interest in contemporary music, this course will be focused on major compositional trends from the end of World War II into the present. We will study both writings (aesthetics, analysis, descriptions of techniques) and works (scores and recordings) in order to explore the diverse styles, techniques, and aesthetics of this period. This course will be a seminar format, meaning that students will be expected to make substantial in-class contributions (presentations, research, etc.) on a regular basis. In addition, students will have the opportunity, working in conjunction with the professor, to decide which topics, composers, and works we will study. Prerequisites: Music History I and II.

World Music (Fall 2018)
World Music is a non-technical introduction to musicology. It is an exploration of the musical traditions of indigenous peoples from around the world. Selected cultures will be studied which serve as an overview of the world's musical traditions. Students will be required to do extensive listening, will write about music and familiarize themselves with the broad outlines of the history and geography of the area. They will also have the opportunity to play several of the musics studied under the guidance of experts of that specific culture.

At the conclusion of the course, students will have a clear idea of the geography, culture and musical traditions of the regions studied; develop a familiarity with the indigenous instruments, musical functions and origins of the various ethnic groups, and understand the relationships between concert, folk and popular musics.

Bach and His Contemporaries (Spring 2019)
A deeper exploration of J.S. Bach and 18th-Century Germany's life at court, the church, and the conditions of a professional musician. In addition to Bach and his more famous contemporaries, Handel and Telemann, this course will examine the work of other composers of great fame in their time such as Scarlatti, Caldara, Rameau, Zelenka, Keiser and Hasse.

Sound (Spring 2019)
The great philosopher Francis Bacon once called sound “one the subtlest piece of nature.” Four hundred years later, his description still rings true. Sound remains at once a supremely powerful and evocative phenomenon, and an elusive one. What is sound? How does it achieve its remarkable effects? What is the relationship between sound and music?

In search of as expansive an understanding as possible, we will consider perspectives on sound from a wide range of disciplines. We will combine historical case studies—for example Hermann Helmholtz and the emergence of experimental acoustics, Schoenberg’s idea of Klangfarbenmelodie, and R. Murray Schafer’s project of “acoustic ecology”—and practical exercises in which we investigate and reflect on our own experiences of sound.

This course is intended for advanced students. Weekly assignments will include intensive reading and listening; larger undertakings will include making field recordings, keeping a listening journal, and research and creative projects devised by students.

Prerequisites: Music History I and II.

Late Beethoven (Spring 2019)
Beethoven’s incredibly prolific “middle period” (roughly 1802-12) was followed by seven less productive years during which he was marshaling his internal forces and preparing for something completely different. In the works of his last years (1820-27), he delved ever more deeply into his subconscious while affirming ever more strenuously the artist’s obligation to use self-revelation as a means toward the achievement of worldwide human harmony. His Missa Solemnis, Ninth Symphony, last five piano sonatas, “Diabelli” Variations for piano, and last five string quartets are above all a search for transcendence. The question of whether we ought to read artists’ lives into their works ceases to matter in Beethoven’s last years: his late works were his life. The deaf composer created an ideal “Elsewhere” for himself and for anyone else who was willing and able to enter it. This seminar will first provide a background to Beethoven’s “late period” and then deal with the individual works mentioned above – listening to them, thinking about what others have said about them, and producing our own thoughts about and mental images of them.

Music, Monarchs, and Mad Dictators (Spring 2019)
This course will deal with the difficult but fascinating subject of how musicians and musical institutions survive under politically repressive regimes. Russia provides an excellent point of departure: after 1917, the year of the Bolshevik Revolution, the centuries-old oppression of the tsars was gradually replaced by the new oppression of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party and its leaders – most notoriously, Joseph Stalin. But elsewhere in Europe, too, monarchs’ demands that artists conform to certain standards gave way to even worse offenses, and particularly to the dictates of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party in Germany and Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party in Italy. How was musical creativity and how were individual musicians, conservatories, orchestras, and opera ensembles affected by these situations? These issues will be the subject of this class.