Spring 2022

Tonal Harmony and Counterpoint

Listed in: Music, as MUSI-241

Formerly listed as: MUSI-31


Darryl Harper (Section 01)


As musicians, we sometimes forget how powerful harmony is. We casually drop the term in conversation. We think of it as common knowledge. Well, in a way, it is. Emerging in the 17th century in Western Europe and eventually spreading to many places around the world, this musical system has come to play a tremendous role in our perception of musical structure and our emotional experience as listeners.We find harmony in concert halls, coliseums, and coffeehouses, jazz clubs, movie theaters, and mosh pits. Inextricably bound to our digital-download algorithms for "happy", "focus-flow", and "lo-fi cool down", it is built into our playlists. Through composition, analysis, dictation and performance, we will develop theoretical and practical tools to cultivate a deep understanding of the conventions of tonal harmony across a variety of styles. We will use counterpoint - the combination of melodic lines - to amplify our examination.

This course is the first of the required music theory sequence for majors. Three class meetings and two ear-training sections per week. Students who have not previously taken a course in music theory at Amherst College are encouraged to take a self-administered placement exam available on the Music Department Website (https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/music/theoryexam). Students are also encouraged to discuss placement in music theory with a member of the Music Department.

Limited to 18 students. Professor Sawyer: Fall semester. Professor Harper: Spring semester.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: artistic work, aural analysis, readings, written work, oral presentations, and group work. Students with documented disabilities who will require accommodations in this course should be in consultation with Accessibility Services and reach out to the faculty member as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations can be made in a timely manner.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022