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Course Offerings and Schedule


Course Offerings and Schedule

Fall 2015 Course Schedule

Fall 2015 Course Descriptions

MUS 84200 Current Trends in Music Theory
Professor Joseph Straus
A survey of recent developments in the field of Music Theory.  Topics may include transformation theory, neo-Riemannian theory, Klumpenhouwer networks, atonal voice leading, embodiment, theoretical approaches to jazz, rock, pop, non-Western, and early music, recent theories of tonal form, semiotics, chromatic harmony, gender and sexuality, analysis and performance, and perception and cognition.  The course will feature guest lectures from within and outside CUNY.

Music 83600 Seminar in Ethnomusicology: Analysis of Sung Verse
Professor Stephen Blum
The seminar considers (1) diverse ways of theorizing interrelationships among words, rhythm, melody, instrumentation, and (where pertinent) other dimensions of musical experience; and (2) approaches to analysis of sung poetry that allow for consideration of different ways of theorizing developed by poets, composers, singers, scholars, and other pertinent social actors. Writings of musicians, music theorists, ethnomusicologists, and linguistic anthropologists are discussed. Work load includes short analytic exercises and a larger analytic project.
**Prerequisite: A strong interest in languages other than English and a reasonable degree of proficiency in at least one of them.
Not open to auditors.**
MUS 71500 D.M.A. Topics
Professor Norman Carey
D.M.A. Topics consists of two main areas: performance/analysis and an introduction to graduate studies aimed at D.M.A. students. The fall semester focuses primarily on analysis, looking forward to the D.M.A. First Exam given in the spring. The course will begin with a review of harmony and counterpoint and continue with form and phrase structure, harmonic rhythm, and some elements of set theory and serialism. We also examine some aspects of text/music relationships and elements of expression. Assignments will consist of analytical exercises and also analytical essays, which will help to focus on writing skills. (The second semester of the course will delve into research skills, leading to a mock dissertation proposal as a final project.

MUS 74100 Post-Tonal Music Theory I
Professor David Schober
Western concert music of the twentieth century (and beyond) represents a tremendous variety of approaches to harmony, rhythm, texture, and form.  While it is not possible in one semester to study every important composer of the period, we will examine a broad selection of these compositional techniques.  It is essential to understand post-tonal languages in relation to earlier music, not in isolation from it; some of these musical styles resemble their nineteenth-century “ancestors” more than others, but all of them are, in some sense, the colorful offspring of traditional tonality.

In addition to the standard topics of set-class theory and classical twelve-tone techniques, we will examine Impressionism, octatonicism, and self-contained “systems” developed by individual composers.  A common theme throughout the term will be the pervasive role of symmetry in post-tonal musical structure. 
Students will regularly produce short model compositions and perform them in collaboration with their colleagues in the class. The principal text will be the scores themselves, supplemented by an assortment of analytical readings.

MUS 74500 Introduction to Schenkerian Analysis
Professor Eric Wen
Introduction to Schenkerian Analysis will aim to develop an understanding of large-scale musical coherence through a study of the voice-leading and tonal organization of selected compositions. 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 the process of doing so, students will be introduced to the analytic system of graphic notation developed by Heinrich Schenker. Beginning with short extracts and themes, by the end of the semester, a complete work will analyzed. There is no textbook for the course, but all the musical works studied will be made available as photocopies.

MUS 82600 Seminar in Music History: Music and Democratic Speech
Professor Greil Marcus
“Poor boy, long way from home” . . . “The cuckoo, she’s a pretty bird, she warbles, as she flies/ And she never, hollers cuckoo, til the fourth day, of July” . . . “Sun gonna shine in my back door, someday/ Wind gonna rise up, blow my blues away”—those lyric fragments and thousands like them are part of a pool of floating lines and verses, melodies and cadences, that form the raw material of the commonplace, commonly-held American song.

Throughout American history people excluded from or ignored by the story the country teaches itself have seized on music to make money, escape work, attract women or men, and to make symbolic statements about the nature of the singer, the country, and life itself.  These are big words for ordinary, anonymous songs like “The Cuckoo Bird” or “John Henry”—but it is in songs that seem to have emerged out of nowhere, and in songs that are self-consciously made to reclaim that nowhere, where much of the American story resides.

This course examines commonplace, authorless songs as elemental, founding documents of American identity.  These songs can be heard as a form of speech that, with a deep foundation, is always in flux—especially in the work of Bob Dylan across the last fifty years.  In that work, a single performer can be seen to have taken the whole of this tradition and translated it into a language of his own.
Extensive reading, with Dylan’s memoir Chronicles, Michael Lesy’s photo-history Wisconsin Death Trip, critical essays from the anthology The Rose & the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad, and, read in full, novels including Colson Whitehead’s John Henry Days, Lee Smith’s The Devil’s Dream, and Percival Everett’s Erasure, with short papers at least every other week.

MUS 87500 The “Invention” of Opera
Professor Emily Wilbourne
Once upon a time (ca. 1600) in a far off kingdom (known as Florence, Italy), an elite group of courtier-scholars were inspired by Ancient Greek teachings and devised a new musical language. They called themselves the Camerata, and their new music came to be known as opera. This, at least, is the story as related by most music history survey texts. The truth is somewhat more complicated.
The rise of dramatic monody in early modern Italy parallels the increased professionalization of the act of singing, a growing interest in instrumental specificity, and a push towards the musical processes known as tonality. The beginnings of opera mark the beginning of the Baroque, yet many of the “new” musical innovations disseminated around 1600 were new only in terms of their transcription and publication, not in terms of their sound. Music historians learned of the importance of the Florentine Camerata from the writings of the Camerata members themselves, and many scholars have confused the Camerata’s boosterism with an objective account of the facts. In order to disentangle political inflections from the surviving record, it is necessary to approach the period from a broad, interdisciplinary perspective, focusing, in particular, on questions of reception history, performance context, and embodiment. In this class we will situate the “invention” of opera within a welter of contemporaneous musicking practices, including improvised song, the vernacular theatre of the commedia dell’arte, court spectacle, plainchant singing, virtuosic professionalism, and participatory amateur musical performance. We will address the stylistic features of early operatic music, as well as broader historiographical questions, such as how to write about improvised or lost performances and how to integrate conflicting historical sources. Students will complete a research project; this project may take the form of a written paper or, in consultation with the instructor, may include original compositions or other alternate formats. All required readings will be in English.

MUS 85900 Advanced Schenkerian Analysis
Professor William Rothstein
Prerequisite: Intermediate Schenkerian Analysis or consent of the instructor.
An advanced course in the theory and practice of Schenkerian analysis. Close readings of writings by Schenker and others will supplement intensive work in analysis. An oral presentation and several written assignments will be required.

MUS 70000 Introduction to Musicology
Professor Janette Tilley

Prerequisite: Faculty Permission required

This course is intended to serve as an introduction to the discipline of musicology: its history, methodologies, resources, and debates. It is also intended to introduce the skills and habits of mind necessary for graduate work in musicology, including research and writing skills, the peer review process, and specific writing projects in our discipline including abstracts, proposals, and thesis-driven essays.

MUS 83500 (Ethno)musicology and Social Theory
Professor Jane Sugarman
An introduction to some classic and contemporary schools of social thought that music scholars have drawn on in recent decades.  Over the course of the semester, theoretical writings in sociology, anthropology, philosophy, history, cultural studies, feminist and postcolonial studies, and related fields will be paired with case studies that situate the creation, performance, circulation, and reception of music, and of sound more broadly, within the unfolding of societal processes.   Writings that have been of particular interest  to ethnomusicologists will be emphasized, but the case studies illustrating them will be drawn from all branches of music scholarship.  We will begin with Marxist and Marxian approaches, continue with structuralism and semiotics, interpretive anthropology, and poststructuralism, and conclude with a selection of recent writings that point to emerging directions in music studies.

MUS 86100 Reading Late medieval Song
Professor Anne Stone
At some point in the later Middle Ages people stopped learning music exclusively through oral transmission and started learning it (sometimes) by reading musical notation. Obviously a change like this evolved unevenly over a long period in different social and institutional contexts, in tandem with developments in musical notation, and changes in musical literacy and musical practice. Written music was circulated first in religious contexts, recording Christian plainchant and polyphony, and was used only much later for secular song that circulated in courtly and literate subcultures of France and Italy. What is certain is that by the latter portion of the fourteenth century, there was a musically literate “reading public” for song and a repertory of songs designed to be learned from musical notation. Songs, in turn, began to be composed with their written iterations in mind.

This seminar will offer a view of late medieval song from inside its notation: we will begin by learning the black mensural notation used in the fourteenth century and then use that knowledge to investigate how composers exploited notation to make meaning in their songs. Some of the most spectacular examples of notation-driven songs are Guillaume de Machaut’s canonic Ma fin est mon commencement, whose presentation as upside-down, incomplete notation contributes to the reader’s understanding of its text; Baude Cordier’s Tout par compas, presented in a circular form, and Solage’s Fumeux fume, a dazzling display of chromaticism that pushes the limits of the pitch universe as it was then conceptualized. But many more less well known examples use musical notation in innovative and self-conscious ways to enhance the reading pleasure of their literate audiences, and the focus of the seminar will be to get to know these pieces by reading and interpreting them from their original notation. We will also read primary and secondary literature on medieval reading and court culture, on rhetoric and memory, and on the medieval book. Seminar requirements include a short midterm paper focusing on the notation of one song, and a longer paper considering some aspect of late medieval lyric in its context.

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