Listening Through History
This course aims to instill an appreciation of various types of music mainly from the so-called classical tradition of Western music from eleventh-century Gregorian chant through twentieth-century genres such as the American musical, minimalism, and jazz (the blues, swing, bebop, and cool jazz). Additionally, our chronological survey will include genres such as the symphony, the concerto, program music, piano music (Romantic character pieces and ragtime), and opera. In addition to works by long-canonized composers (e.g. Bach, Beethoven, and Gershwin), we will study compositions by musicians who have been excluded from or marginalized in the “classical” canon because of race and/or gender (i.e. Hildegard von Bingen, Duke Ellington, Scott Joplin, and Fanny Mendelssohn). Assignments include listening to works of music with attention to how its elements combine to convey meaning and emotion, reading historical documents related to our listening, and short writing assignments. No prior experience with “classical” music or the ability to read music required.
Spring Semester. Professor Schneider. The course will be offered Hyflex with as much individual/in-person contact as practical (highly dependent on enrollment). If enrollment allows and time-zone differences prove problematic for students off-campus, we may be able to divide the class into smaller sub-sections to allow for some meetings to take place synchronously over Zoom at a time different than the scheduled class meeting. Online elements of the course conducted on Zoom and through Moodle.Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Fall 2023
Music and Totalitarianism
In 1936 the official Soviet newspaper Pravda denounced Dmitri Shostakovich’s latest opera as “muddle instead of music.” In 1942 the Party used his “Leningrad” Symphony as propaganda in the Soviet Union’s war against Nazi Germany. Shostakovich’s career demonstrates both the unlimited government support and the unlimited control totalitarian states exercise over their artists. This course explores musical life under totalitarian regimes: the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, the GDR, Socialist Hungary, China at the time of the Cultural Revolution, and North Korea. Classes will center on musical works affected by such control, including Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth and his Symphony No. 5, and the Chinese ballet The Red Detachment of Women. We will watch propaganda films such as Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky and Leni Riefenstahl's The Triumph of the Will as well as films about the perils of totalitarianism such as István Szabó’s Mephisto, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Life of Others, and the documentary From Mao to Mozart. Readings will include Hannah Arendt’s analysis of totalitarianism and historical documents pertinent to interpreting musical works in their political context. No previous knowledge of music is required.
Fall semester. Professor Moricz. Omitted 2020-21.2023-24: Not offered
Writing Through Popular Music
This course will introduce students to important concepts in effective academic writing by thinking about and thinking through popular music. Our complex relationships to popular music confront us with a host of challenging social, cultural, political, and ethical issues. How do we use music to construct, maintain, or challenge private and public identities? How are race, gender, class, sexuality, and the nation constructed through popular music? What is the role of music in our everyday lives? How do concepts of intellectual property, new technologies and forms of musical creativity, and commercial interests influence the music that we listen to? Thinking critically about these issues will refine students’ writing, and writing well about these issues will refine students’ thinking. These questions, among others, will generate a series of assignments designed to encourage students to develop clear and persuasive writing styles. As an intensive writing course, we will focus on fundamentals of writing style, grammatical accuracy, thesis development, and research methodologies crucial to successful written communication. We will use weekly reading assignments drawn from the field of popular music studies to frame and debate important issues emanating from global popular music cultures and to provide models of successful written scholarship. Peer review and a strong focus on editing and revising will be central to the course. Students will also be encouraged to take advantage of the resources of the Writing Center.
Hyflex format with as much face-to-face learning as possible. Online components of the course will be conducted via Zoom and the course website.
Students admitted in consultation with the Office of Student Affairs and/or their academic adviser. Preference given to first-year students. Limited to 12 students. Professor Robinson. Spring semester.2023-24: Not offered
African Popular Music
(Offered as BLST 204 [A] and MUSI 105) This course focuses on twentieth-century African popular music; it examines musical genres from different parts of the continent, investigating their relationships to the historical, political and social dynamics of their respective national and regional origins. Regional examples like highlife, soukous, chimurenga, and afro-beate will be studied to assess the significance of popular music as a creative response to social and political developments in colonial and postcolonial Africa. The course also discusses the growth of hip-hop music in selected countries by exploring how indigenous cultural tropes have provided the basis for its local appropriation. Themes explored in this course include the use of music in the construction of identity; popular music, politics and resistance; the interaction of local and global elements; and the political significance of musical nostalgia. Online elements of the course will be conducted via Zoom and the course website.
Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Five College Professor Omojola.2023-24: Not offered
Music in the Modern Middle East
Middle Eastern music forms stretch from Morocco to Xinjiang, China and boast a bewildering variety and yet retain distinct continuities in musical structure and performance practice. Music, however, is a contentious issue, or so we are told. Images of Muslims smashing instruments, destroying cassette tapes and radios, and looting music shops circulate continuously on social and news media, purporting to be evidence of the intractability of music and Islam. How should we approach such an apparent paradox? This course approaches questions like this from an ethnomusicological perspective, blending methods and insights from the social sciences and the humanities. We will take a broad view of the modern Middle East, investigating a variety of genres ranging from the most elite court traditions of Persia to bawdy electronic dance music thundering in the open streets of Cairo. Throughout the semester, students will learn to hear and analyze various melodic, organizational, and rhythmic structures, such as maqām and usül, that are unique to the region’s musics. We will explore these features within actual performance practice and place them in historical and social context. Our meetings will include a mixture of lecture, discussion, music performance, and demonstration, while course work will range from listening exercises to short research papers. Two meetings per week.
Fall Semester. Visiting Valentine Professor Garvey. Omitted 2020-21.2023-24: Not offered
Stephen Sondheim and the American Musical
This course examines the life and work of Stephen Sondheim, the influential composer and lyricist of the American musical theater. It will deconstruct Sondheim's craft and artistic imagination with use of his seminal texts "Finishing the Hat" and "Look, I Made a Hat," as well as excerpts from academic writings by Banfield, McLaughlin, Swayne and others. Sondheim's lifelong preoccupation with a disintegrating, illusory "American dream"--through gun violence, racism, classism, mass hysteria/groupthink and the quest for personal connection and community--will also be explored as we examine musicals such as Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods, Assassins and West Side Story (written with Leonard Bernstein). Course requirements include screenings of Broadway and film performances, listening assignments, guest lectures, group projects/discussions and brief papers.
Lecturer Swanson. There are no prerequisites and the ability to read music is not required. Synchronous and asynchronous online learning via Zoom, the course website, and possibly other online resources.
The Symphony Orchestra: Institution, Repertoire, and Performers
In this class we will study the history of the symphony orchestra from its origins in seventeenth-century Europe to the virtuosic ensembles found in many of the world's great cities today. At the heart of our exploration of these groups will be understanding the development of their repertoire by tracing the history of the major genres of orchestral music: symphony, overture, symphonic poem, and concerto. A series of videos produced by the Boston Symphony in response to COVID-19 will enable us to gain insight into the life of contemporary professional musicians and their relationships to their instruments. In addition to studying long-canonized musical figures (e.g. Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin), we will study composers and performers who have been marginalized in the "classical" canon because of race andor gender (i.e. Dean Dixon, William Grant Still, Florence Price, George Walker, and Clara Wieck). Assignments will include listening to recordings, historical readings, watching concerts online, and writing short reflections and interpretative essays. No prior experience with symphonic music or the ability to read music is required.
Fall Semester. Professor Schneider. The course will be offered Hyflex with as much individual/in-person contact as practical (highly dependent on enrollment). If enrollment allows and time-zone differences prove problematic for students off-campus, we may be able to divide the class into smaller sub-sections to allow for some meetings to take place synchronously over Zoom at a time other than the scheduled class meeting. Online elements of the course conducted on Zoom and through Moodle.
*In Fall 2021 this course counts as equivalent to MUSI 222 for the purposes of fulfilling the music major requirement to take MUSI 221, 222, or 223.2023-24: Not offered
Through composition, analysis, listening practice, and performance, we will build a solid working understanding of many principles of melody and harmony common in Western musical traditions. The course aims to develop comfort and dexterity in engaging with music via listening, analysis, and creative work. Assignments include harmonizing melodies, writing short melodies and accompaniments, and composing in several forms from classical minuets to Broadway-style 32-bar AABA form. On several occasions we will use our instruments and voices to bring musical examples to life in the classroom and online. We will meet for two synchronous class meetings and one lab session 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 reserve in the Music Library and on the Music Department Website (www.amherst.edu/~music/TheoryPlacement.pdf ). Students are also encouraged to discuss placement in music theory with a member of the Music Department.
This course or MUSI 113 is considered a point of entry to MUSI 241, and serves as a prerequisite to many other Music Department offerings. Requisite: MUSI 111, or equivalent ability gained by playing an instrument or singing. Limited to 18 students. Fall and Spring semesters: Visiting Professor Pukinskis. Hyflex format with as much face-to-face learning as possible. Online components of the course will be conducted via Zoom, the course website, and possibly other online resources.
Jazz Theory and Improvisation I
This is a beginner-level course designed to explore jazz harmony and improvisation from theoretical and applied standpoints. Students will study common harmonic practices, modes and scales, rhythmic practices, and the blues, and will learn the historical contexts in which these practices have developed. An end-of-semester performance of material studied during the semester will be required alongside regular individual meetings with the instructor. A one-hour ear training section will be scheduled outside of regular class meetings. Two class meetings and one ear training section per week. This course is considered a point of entry to MUSI 241.
Students who have not previously taken a course in music theory at Amherst College are encouraged to take a self-administered placement exam on reserve in the Music Library and on the Music Department Website (www.amherst.edu/~music/TheoryPlacement.pdf). Students are also encouraged to discuss placement in music theory with a member of the Music Department.
Limited to 18 students. Lecturer Diehl. Hyflex format with a preference for face-to-face interaction as possible. Online elements of the course will be conducted via Zoom, the course website, and may utilize other online resources.
Most of us listen to music by putting on our headphones and connecting to the internet, but not that long ago, such a feat was physically and technologically impossible. In the space of little more than a generation, there has been a sea change in how we listen to music. What are some of the implications of this transformation? If we are usually alone when we’re doing it, can listening to music still be considered a communal activity? Have we privatized the musical space? Have we democratized it? Has live music become a quaint vestige of the past?
In this course, we will closely examine what is at stake for performers and listeners in live music settings. Through attendance at rehearsals and performances, as well as lectures and panel discussions by guest speakers, we will engage the communities of musicians and listeners in the Pioneer Valley and familiarize ourselves with the rich heritages of music found here. Through reading and writing assignments, we will critically examine how the live music experience changes or stays the same across formats, styles, and cultures: a metal concert in a bar, a hip hop concert in a stadium, a singer-songwriter’s performance in a café, a symphony performance in a concert hall. We will also examine ideas about virtual music that bring into question the very notion of liveness. Coursework includes attendance at roughly one music event per week outside of class.
Limited to 30 students. Fall Semester. Professor Harper. Omitted 2020-21.2023-24: Not offered
How Music is Used
Music is sometimes portrayed as an abstract art, standing apart from the mundane everyday. However, music has also functioned as a tool for a large range of social and individual purposes throughout human history. Rather than tendentiously opposing these claims--music is an art or it is a tool--this survey course explores the vast diversity of ways that humans have put music to use in their social worlds. Each week we will discuss one function of music (in love and war, medicine, spreading news, education, marking status, protest, identity formation, managing conflict, forming social bonds, propaganda, law, speaking with gods, spirits, and demons, and so on) drawn from all over the world and aim to understand how artistic and functional aspects of music coalesce in human practice. As a final project, students will imagine and develop a use for music in addressing some concrete aspect of their lives.
No prior knowledge of music is necessary. Spring Semester. Visiting Valentine Professor Garvey. Omitted 2020-21.2023-24: Not offered
Science Fiction, Music and Sound
How does a composer create music for a wedding set in 2048 or a designer invent sounds of life on an imaginary planet? How do science fiction authors describe the music and sounds of alternate universes? In this course, the cultural and historical practices that unite science fiction and music are examined through the survey and analysis of a variety of media: the 1950s radio dramas Dimension X and X Minus One; films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and TRON; the Star Trek television franchise and Stranger Things; and the aesthetics of Afrofuturism expressed through Sun Ra, Parliament-Funkadelic, Black Panther, and others. Readings from musicology, sound studies, and literature along with audio/visual examples and reflective writing help us discover how composers, sound designers, and performers create futuristic worlds for entertainment, education, and activism. Coursework will address the socio-political aspects related to the interaction between music, technology, and culture. Students will gain a critical understanding of how radio, film, television, and performance both influence and are influenced by science fiction and music.
Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Professor Jackson.2023-24: Not offered
This course examines the relationship between music, sound, and religion in a broad, comparative perspective. We will devote particular attention to the intersections of religious sounds and racialized and minoritized communities. In the context of major world religions, new religious movements, and traditional spiritual practices, we will address fundamental issues concerning sacred sound: How does music enable and enhance the ritual process? How is sound sacred and what are its effects and affects? What happens as sacred sound circulates globally among diverse communities and in secular spaces? Listening, reading, and discussion will include Sufi music from Pakistan, Haitian Vodou, the songs of Ugandan Jews, Orthodox Christian hymns from Estonia, Islamic popular music from Malaysia, Chinese Buddhist chant, spirit possession music from Bali, and the music of Korean shamans. We will also engage with practitioners, scholars, performers, and the sacred sounds of religious communities in Amherst and beyond. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 25 students. Professor Engelhardt. Fall semester. Regular class meetings will be fully remote; when possible, frequent face-to-face individual and small group meetings will be held.
2023-24: Not offered
Hip Hop History and Culture
(Offered as MUSI 126 and BLST 134 [US]) This course examines the cultural origins of hip hop and how this small, minority, Bronx-based subculture expanded into one of the most influential styles of music in the world. This year, the course will focus more on the music’s political potential, analyzing how hip hop artists have wielded their music’s popularity to highlight systemic inequalities and enact social change. The course will begin by analyzing the cultural conditions out of which hip hop arose in the mid-1970s; from there it will turn to examining how hip hop music, over the last thirty-five years, has sounded out the identity of its creators as they have grappled with six major questions: What musical elements are crucial components of hip hop’s sound? What does realness in hip hop sound like, and why does it matter? How have artists negotiated expressing their specific geographic origins while simultaneously embracing globalization? How does this genre fit into the music industry, and how has the music industry affected hip hop? Should hip hop be political, and how should artists express their politics? How have technological developments altered hip hop’s sound? Through answering these questions, students will gain an understanding of how hip hop has developed into the styles that we hear today, and how hip hop has radically transformed American racial politics and popular culture more broadly.
Limited to 18 students. Professor Coddington. Hyflex format with as much face-to-face learning as possible; online elements of the course will occur via Slack, the course website, and Zoom.2023-24: Not offered
What is Mainstream Music?
What does it mean when we describe music as mainstream? Who is the intended audience, who are its creators, and what does it sound like? In this introductory course, we will examine mainstream music from the nineteenth century to the present in the context of art and literature. Drawing on sociological theories of taste, critiques of the mass culture industry, studies of the music industry, and critical race theory, we’ll explore such issues as: why, in an increasingly diverse America, the de facto mainstream audience is white and middle class; why major symphony orchestras mostly play music by a select few composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms; how institutions such as museums, schools, television networks, and record companies work together as gatekeepers to regulate the inclusion of new artistic movements such as pop art, hip hop, rock & roll, and minimalism in the mainstream; and how the internet and the resulting fragmentation of media has given citizens agency to redefine the nature of the mainstream. Reading and listening assignments will help guide class discussions, and students will complete periodic short papers and a final collaborative project.
Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Professor Coddington.2023-24: Not offered
The Blues Muse: African American Music in American Culture
(Offered as MUSI 128 and BLST 344). This course examines the relationship between blues music and American culture. Using Amiri Baraka's influential 1963 book of music criticism, Blues People, as a central text, we will explore ways in which the "blues impulse" has been fundamental to conceptions of African-American identity. At the same time, we will trace the development of African-American music through its connection to West African musical traditions and through its emergence during slavery and the Jim Crow South. Our investigation will survey a number of precursors to the blues, work songs, spirituals, and minstrels and see how these impacted early blues styles, including delta blues, classic blues, and early blues-oriented gospel practices. The blues played a fundamental role in the emergence of new popular musics in the 1940s and 1950s, most notably rock and roll. Embedded within these new musical practices were ideas about African American modernism, urbanity, and self-representation. Culminating in an examination of hip-hop culture, we will analyze the connection between African-American musical practices and larger debates about race, class, gender, and ethnicity. We will see how the blues serves as a mode of activism, and how blues musicians engage questions about racial and ethnic identity through music making.
Professor Robinson. Fall semester. Synchronous and asynchronous course components will be conducted via Zoom and the course website. There will be options for face to face group and individual meetings for students on campus.Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2023
Singing together offers one of the most powerful human experiences, especially when combined with a deep emotional connection to a particular event or setting. Written choral music comprises one of the oldest and largest repertoires of music in the world, and this course will explore vocal offerings by composers across the span of the past 800 years. Repertoire studied will include traditional composers ranging from Byrd, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Britten, to modern-day interpretations of choral music offered by Moses Hogan, Caroline Shaw and Roomful of Teeth. Students will listen to, write about, and sing music together, and experience communal vocal music in myriad ways.
Requisite: Music 111, as well as 112 recommended, or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2020-21. Lecturer Horn.Other years: Offered in Fall 2022
Music, Language, Interaction
Music and language are intimately connected as forms of communication, meaning, and interaction, but this intimacy has been characterized in many ways in different times and places. In this course, we will explore a variety of the ways in which music and language have been related and made distinct by examining how music and language are understood in different social, historical, and cultural contexts. We will focus on models of musical and linguistic interaction: cooperation in conversation and in group musical performance, linguistic approaches to improvisation in jazz, indigenous theories of sound and political speech, and ritualized musical conflict. By examining both concrete acts of musical and linguistic expression and the concepts surrounding their use, such as sung poetry, oral notation, and sonically mediated musical coordination, we will work toward an integrated understanding of music, language, and social interaction. Prior knowledge of music or linguistics is not required but is helpful. The course will consist of a discussion of several weekly readings and will culminate in a research paper of the student's choosing.
Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Valentine Professor Garvey.2023-24: Not offered
History of Opera
(Offered as MUSI 220 and THDA 220) History of Opera traces opera from its beginnings as a late-Renaissance experiment in re-creating Greek drama to its incarnations in works of the present day. Subjects covered will include genres such as opera buffa and opera seria, concepts such as bel canto, Gesamtkunstwerk, and verismo. The primary focus of the class will be on opera from the so-called common-practice period beginning with works by Mozart through those by nineteenth-century composers such as Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, Bizet, and Wagner, and ending with Puccini in the early twentieth century. After an historical overview of operatic styles, we will have an in-depth look at a few operatic masterpieces (likely Bizet’s Carmen, Puccini’s La Bohème, and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress). Students will be required to participate in group presentations on operas of their choosing.
Requisite: MUSI 112 or 113 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 45 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Schneider.2023-24: Not offered
Voices from a Bygone Time
(Offered as MUSI 221 and EUST 221) Monks living in monastic seclusion, troubadours serving their ladies and fighting wars, mad princes writing complicated polyphonic music, male castrato singers celebrated as the pop-stars of opera houses are just a few of the fascinating characters who participated in music making from the Middle Ages until the middle of the eighteenth century in Europe. The music they produced is frequently called "early music," a falsely unifying label that hides the kaleidoscopic nature of this fantastic repertory, ranging from monophonic chant to opera. In this course we will study how the invention of musical notation affected the development of music, turning an oral tradition of chant into a written tradition of complex polyphonic textures unimaginable without the help of notation. Reading historical documents and listening to selected pieces of music, we'll visit the soundscape of this bygone time that still influences our thinking about music. Assignments include listening, reading, and short papers. Knowledge of musical notation at least at the rudimentary level is recommended.
Requisite: MUSI 112 or consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Móricz. The course will be offered Hyflex with as much individual/in-person contact as practical.2023-24: Not offered
Music and Culture II
(Offered as MUSI 222 and EUST 222) One of three courses in which the development of Western music is studied in its cultural-historical context. Occasionally we will attend concerts in Amherst and elsewhere. Composers to be studied include Beethoven, Rossini, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Berlioz, Wagner, Verdi, Mussorgsky, and Brahms. Regular listening assignments will broaden the repertoire we encounter and include a wide sampling of Classical and Romantic music. Periodic writing assignments will provide opportunities to connect the music with historical-cultural interpretation. Readings will focus on Gibbs/Taruskin Oxford History of Western Music with additional historical documents and selected critical and analytical studies. This course may be elected individually or in conjunction with other Music and Culture courses (MUSI 221 and 223). Two class meetings per week.
Requisite: MUSI 111, 112, or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Moricz.2023-24: Not offered
Music and Culture III
(Offered as MUSI 223 and EUST 223) This course is the third semester of the Music Department's Music and Culture series. It surveys twentieth-century music starting from Gustav Mahler at the turn of the century Vienna and concluding with Kaija Saariaho's 2000 opera L'amour de loin. Political turmoil, artistic movements, and cultural shifts all left their marks on the music of the twentieth century and we will follow history's course through the lens of composers such as Debussy, Strauss, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartók, Ives, Gershwin, Shostakovich, to name only a few of the most significant composers of the twentieth century. Assignments will include regular listening, periodic short papers, and a culminating project. This course may be elected individually or in conjunction with other Music and Culture courses (MUSI 221 and 222). Two class meetings per week.
Requisite: MUSI 111 or 112, or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Moricz.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Spring 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2023
Jazz Film: Improvisation, Narrativity, and Representation
(Offered as MUSI 225 and FAMS 375) Jazz occupies a special role in the development of American film. From The Jazz Singer (1927), the first American film that included synchronized sound, to the sprawling Jazz: A Documentary (2001) from Ken Burns, filmic representations of jazz speak to fundamental ways that Americans negotiate difference and imagine national identity. This course examines the relationship between jazz and American culture through three modalities: improvisation, narrativity, and representation. How might jazz improvisation influence the construction of film? Is there an "improvised film"? Moreover, jazz musicians often speak about "telling stories" through their music. How might this influence narrative structure in film and inform the ways that stories about jazz musicians are constructed in film? How might this influence narrative structure in film? And how might these stories about jazz musicians reflect larger debates about race, gender, sexuality and nationality? Assignments will include guided viewing of several important jazz films, required reading, and a series of essays.
January term. Professor Robinson. Synchronous and asynchronous online learning. All elements of the course will be conducted via Zoom, the course website, streaming video reserves, and other online sources.2023-24: Not offered
Jazz History to 1945: Emergence, Early Development, and Innovation
(Offered as MUSI 226 and BLST 334 [US]) One of two courses that trace the development of jazz from its emergence in early 20th-century New Orleans to its profound impact on American culture. This course examines its early roots in late 19th-century American popular culture and its role as American popular music in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. Using themes that connect the evolution of jazz practices to social and racial politics in American popular culture, we will look closely at the work of well-known historical figures (Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and several others) as well as the vibrant communities that nurtured and prompted their innovative musical practices. As an exception for fall semester of 2020, students may petition to have the course fulfill a departmental seminar requirement for the Music major. Students wishing to do this will be required to complete an additional research project.
Fall semester. Professor Robinson. Synchronous and asynchronous course components will be conducted via Zoom and the course website. There will be options for face to face group and individual meetings for students on campus.2023-24: Not offered
How do the works that artists create come to mean something to their audiences, to make us cry, make us swoon, or make our blood boil? How do these objects and performances come to be connected to ideas, how do they affect our bodies, and why? This course explores the ways that visual and performing artists use the body to imbue their work with meaning. Students examine such concepts as the narrative, myth, transcendence, semantic power, and notions of individual and collective identity. Coursework will include a combination of reading, writing, and music making and visual art creation. No prior experience as a musician or visual artist is necessary. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2020-21.2023-24: Not offered
Listening, Hearing, and the Human
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? A provisional answer from the field of sound studies is: no, the falling tree produces vibration, but does not make a sound absent a listening, hearing human subject. Take another step, and we arrive at ethnomusicologist John Blacking’s time-honored (but not unproblematic) definition of music as “humanly organized sound” and “soundly organized humanity.” In this course, we linger at the intersections of sound and music, listening and hearing to learn about the human. What happens as we encounter music, sound, and voice as forms of vibration available to our senses rather than as texts and sonic objects? How are listening and hearing culturally specific practices shaped by particular histories, identities, technologies, hierarchies of the senses, capitalist desires, human ecologies, concepts of ability and disability, and the work of performers, scholars, and sound artists? In addressing these questions through listening exercises and readings in music, sound, media studies, and anthropology, and listening exercises, we will employ what Pauline Oliveros calls “Deep Listening” (an ethical practice of listening to other humans and non-humans and to music) as a research methodology. Ultimately, this course will attune us to the urgency of listening to the sounds of protest, hearing voices speaking and singing across differences of power and privilege, and attending to what the sounds of the Anthropocene signal.
Spring semester. Limited to 25 students. Professor Engelhardt. Hyflex format with as much face-to-face learning as possible. Online elements of the course will be conducted via Zoom and the course website.2023-24: Not offered
Mapping Musical Worlds: Ethnographic Fieldwork in Music Anthropology
In this intensive seminar, we will gain both technical mastery of the tools of the fieldwork trade—audio recorders, microphones, playback analysis software—and practical expertise in some basic methods of conducting fieldwork for musical research. Over the course of the seminar, students will make recordings in a variety of real-world settings, and we will evaluate these recordings in order to build skills necessary to conduct basic research on contemporary musics. These recordings will require significant initiative, requiring work and travel outside of the seminar. Together, during our weekly meetings, we will read and discuss methodological and theoretical texts to help frame our current or future research projects. The seminar will conclude with students designing a research proposal whose questions and hypotheses can be addressed with the fieldwork techniques mastered during the course. Two class meetings per week.
Requisite: MUSI 111, 112, or consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Valentine Professor Garvey.2023-24: Not offered
Soundscapes of the Connecticut River Valley
(Offered as MUSI 238 and FAMS 312) This course is about exploring, participating in, and documenting the musical communities and acoustic terrain of the Connecticut River Valley. The first part of the course will focus on local histories and music scenes, ethnographic methods and technologies, and different techniques of documentary representation. The second part of the course will involve intensive, sustained engagement with musicians and sounds in the Amherst vicinity (and beyond). Course participants will give weekly updates about their fieldwork projects and are expected to become well-versed in the musics they are studying. There will be a significant amount of work and travel outside of class meetings. The course will culminate in contributions to a web-based documentary archive of soundscapes projects. We will also benefit from visits and interaction with local musicians. Two class meetings per week. Visit http://www.valleysoundscapes.org/ for more information.
Requisite: MUSI 111, 112, or consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Engelhardt.2023-24: Not offered
Tonal Harmony and Counterpoint
How does music’s harmonic language work? What principles influence harmonic choices in different styles of music, and what do Amy Beach’s compositions, Rihanna’s songs, and Chopin’s etudes have in common? How do composers and musicians manage the intricate relationship between harmony and melody? In this course, we’ll develop a deeper understanding of conventions of tonal harmony in music from popular and classical traditions, among others. Students will learn how to recognize, categorize, create, and manipulate diatonic harmonies through composition, analysis, dictation, and other aural skills, and will learn how harmonic language contributes to our conceptions of musical style and genre. A portion of the musical examples will be drawn from the current repertoire of Amherst ensembles—including campus acapella groups, Amherst Symphony Orchestra, Concert Choir, student jazz combos, among others—and emphasis will be placed on improving students’ proficiency in connecting musical sound and musical notation.
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 Coddington. Hyflex format with as much face-to-face learning as possible; online elements of the course will occur via the course website, and zoom.2023-24: Not offered
Form in Tonal Music
Jazz Form and Analysis
An upper level theory course designed for majors or students with prior jazz performance or theory experience. Students do not need a background in jazz to enroll in this course, and this course may be used to satisfy one of two required courses for the theory and analysis requirement for the music major.
Among the topics to be explored in the course will be melodic, harmonic and formal concepts from: hot jazz of the 1920s, big bands of the 1930s and 1940s, bebop of the 1940s, the post-bop legacies of hard bop, cool jazz and their manifestations today, as well as the jazz avant-garde and fusion of the 1960s and 1970s. Students will gain an understanding of the formal principles of various types of small and large ensemble jazz composition and improvisation.
Required coursework will include melodic, harmonic and formal/structural analysis of compositions, arrangements, and improvisations from various historical and stylistic periods within the development of jazz. We will carry out these investigations through listening, transcription, and composition/writing projects. This is not a performance course; however, certain assignments will require basic performance exercises on piano and/or another instrument with which the student is familiar (including voice).
Requisite: MUSI 241 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2020-21. Professor J. Robinson.2023-24: Not offered
Methods of Musical Analysis
This is an upper-level musicianship course designed for majors or students with experience analyzing and performing music. This course may be used to fulfill the second required musicianship course (in addition to MUSI 241) for the major.
This course engages global music theories from the perspective of ethnomusicology and analytic approaches drawn from sound studies. The music we analyze will come from popular, folk, and classical traditions around the world, including West African drumming, Caribbean dance genres, East Asian court and religious traditions, American roots music, classical traditions from the Arab world and Indian subcontinent, and several global popular styles. At its core, the course addresses three questions: What do musicians working in the traditions we study hear in and think about the music they make? What methods are available to better understand these kinds of music? How does analysis develop our skills as musicians and listeners? Students will learn methods of musical transcription (notating or visually representing sound) and software-aided analysis to develop translatable ways of approaching timbre, texture, rhythm, groove, meter, harmony, mode, tuning, and musical form. Understanding the ways people theorize music in the process of performance, improvisation, composition, and teaching across musical cultures will give students new tools for creating, performing, and analyzing music. Although not a performance course, class sessions feature hands-on involvement with instruments and singing. Coursework includes weekly listening, transcription, and analysis assignments; basic projects in composition; and music-making presentations.
Requisite: MUSI 241 or consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Professor Engelhardt. Regular class meetings will be fully remote; when possible, frequent face-to-face individual and small group meetings will be held.2023-24: Not offered
Jazz Theory and Improvisation II
A continuation of MUSI 113, this course is designed to acquaint students with the theory and application of advanced techniques used in jazz improvisation. Work on a solo transcription will be a main focus throughout the semester. An end-of-semester performance of material(s) studied during the semester will be required of the class. A jazz-based ear-training section will be scheduled outside of the regular class times. Two class meetings per semester.
Requisite: MUSI 113 and/or performance experience in the jazz idiom strongly suggested. Musical literacy sufficient to follow a score. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 16 students. Omitted 2020-21. Senior Lecturer Diehl.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022
Advanced Topics in Jazz
In this course we will explore jazz through transcription, composition, arranging and improvisation. Materials for transcription will range from the classic renditions of jazz standards by Gershwin and Kern to highly complex works by such greats as Wayne Shorter and Charles Mingus. Advanced approaches to improvisation will include the exploration of new source materials including the Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns by Nicolas Slonimsky as used by John Coltrane. Using members of the class as a laboratory band we will seek to develop our own unique compositional voices that draw on jazz traditions.
Requisite: MUSI 113, 246 and/or performance experience in the jazz idiom strongly suggested. Musical literacy sufficient to follow a score. Admission with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2020-21. Senior Lecturer Diehl.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as THDA 254, FAMS 332 and MUSI 254) What is the role of sound in live performance, and how is it designed and produced? This course provides an introduction to the fundamentals of sound design in live performance contexts from both technical and artistic perspectives. Throughout the term we will work towards developing skills that lead to a greater awareness and understanding of sound in theatre, media, and our everyday lives. Students will explore the fundamentals of audio production and acoustics through a series of short projects, covering a range of topics from foley art, to digital field recording, to various digital sound-editing software applications, to live sound reinforcement principles.
Special consideration will be given to software environments and applications (QLab, Ableton Live, Borderlands, Max Msp) dedicated to live playback and design of acoustic spaces, and we will examine strategies for developing an efficient, real-world approach to the technical rehearsal process. Throughout the course, we will consider the creative and technical toolkit needed for imagining sound design opportunities in various script, video, dance, art installation and performance-oriented collaborations.
Recommended requisite: One prior practice-of-arts course in theater and dance, music or studio art, or equivalent experience. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2020-2021. Visiting Lecturer Meginsky.2023-24: Not offered
Sound, Movement, and Text: Interactions and Collaborations
(Offered as THDA 255, ENGL 223, and MUSI 255) This studio course is designed as an interactive laboratory for dancers, composers, actors, writers/poets, vocalists, and sound artists to work together to create meaningful interactions between sound, movement, and text. Working individually and in collaborative groups, students will create original material in the various media and experiment with multiple ways to craft interesting exchanges and dialogues between word, sound, and movement or to create hybrid forms. The emphasis in the course will be to work with exercises and structures that engender deep listening, looking, and imagining. Some of the questions that inform the course include: How do music, voices, electronic, digital, and natural sounds create a sonic world for live performance and vice versa? How can movement inform the writing of text and vice-versa? How can we successfully communicate and collaborate across and between the different languages of sounds, words, and movement? We will have a series of informal studio performances, events, and installations throughout the semester with a culminating final showing/listening at the end of the semester.
Requisite: Previous experience in composition in one or more of the central media, or consent of the instructors. Limited to 16 students. Omitted 2020-2021. Professor Woodson and Visiting Lecturer Meginsky.2023-24: Not offered
Soundscapes: An Exploration of Identity through Music and Sound
In this course we will examine the history of electroacoustic music in tandem with practical composition assignments so that we may explore how class, race, gender, and sexuality are expressed through sound and music technologies. This course introduces soundscape composition, a subset of electroacoustic music, as an artistic practice and research method. Students will use journaling in order to document their individual relationships with music and to reflect on the role sound plays in the formation of personal and community identity. Weekly assignments include the creation of autobiographical sound pieces that incorporate techniques and practices that emerged out of the musique concrète school of Paris and the Elektronische Musik of Cologne. Together we will learn to listen to our acoustic environment in a new way, explore self-identity through field recordings and synthesis, and develop our ideas into fixed media compositions to be shared at the end of the semester. The course readings are selected from various disciplines, and all students are welcomed regardless of previous musical experience.
Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Professor Jackson.2023-24: Not offered
This course provides instruction in the use of electronic equipment for composition of music. Topics to be considered include approaches to sound synthesis, signal editing and processing, hard disk recording techniques, sequencing audio and MIDI material, and the use of software for interaction between electronics and live performers. The course will also survey the aesthetics and repertory of electroacoustic music. Assignments in the use of equipment and software as well as required listening will prepare students for a final composition project to be performed in a class concert.
Requisite: MUSI 112 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 10 students. Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Professor Jackson.2023-24: Not offered
Electroacoustic Performance and Improvisation
This course introduces students to current trends in improvisation-oriented electroacoustic performance. Using laptop computers in dynamic performance situations, we will develop techniques to generate sound and modify and enhance the sound of acoustic instruments. Hardware topics will include audio interfaces, cabling, mixing boards, MIDI controllers, microphone techniques, and networking. A wide variety of specialized software will be explored, including Max/MSP, Ableton Live, Reason, and others. Assignments will focus on preparing students to perform and improvise using new "instruments" built through customized hardware and software configurations. Directed listening and reading will introduce students to the development of electroacoustic music since the 1960s. The course culminates with a class performance.
Requisite: MUSI 112 or 113, or consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Robinson.2023-24: Not offered
The writing of songs based upon a study of song forms in a variety of styles, including blues, rock, Tin Pan Alley, American folk song, and more. A composition course with much individual attention. Significant class time will be spent discussing student compositions, with occasional meetings with the instructor outside of class hours. Special attention will be paid to the interactions of African American, Latin American, and European American musical traditions in American popular song. The creation of lyrics will also be considered. Two class meetings per week.
For the 2021 academic year, this course will fulfill the music major requirement represented by MUSI 242/243/244. Students wishing to fulfill this requirement will have occasional additional meetings with the instructor outside of class hours on topics of advanced harmonic usage to be employed in their song writing.
Requisite: Students should have some background in music performance, chords, or writing. Students fulfilling the MUSI 242/243/244 requirement must have completed MUSI 241. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Professor Sawyer. Course will be taught synchronously over zoom and the course website.2023-24: Not offered
This course will explore compositional techniques continually growing from the numerous traditions that filter thorugh Western art music styles. Innovative works by twentieth and twenty-first century composers that generate new approaches to these traditions (through melody and scale, rhythm and meter, harmony, instrumentation, and musical structure) will be examined and practiced to the best of our collective abilities. The course will employ improvisation as a source of ideas for written compositions and as a primary compositional mode. Instrumental or vocal completence and music reading fluency are encouraged attributes, and will be developed further through course activities. Assignments will include compositions of various lengths and related analytical projects. Everything we write will be performed in the classroom and/or as part of concert and master-class situations during and outside the class meetings. Two class meetings per week.
Requisite: MUSI 111 or 112, and consent of the instructor. Limited to 10 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Pukinskis.
Hyflex format with as much face-to-face learning as possible. Online components of the course will be conducted via Zoom, the course website, and possibly other online resources.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023
Members of the class will be assigned to chamber ensembles, mastering a range of repertory choices from the past and present. Ensembles will include both student and artist musicians, preparing works together for performance through class sessions and private coachings. Intensive class analysis will serve as the basis of musical expression and interpretation. This course is open to singers and instrumentalists. This course may be repeated.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Schneider.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015
Performance In (and Out of) Place
(Offered as THDA 352, ARHA 252, FAMS 342 and MUSI 352) This course is designed for students in dance, theater, film/video, art, music and creative writing who want to explore the challenges and potentials in creating performances and events outside of traditional "frames" or venues (e.g., the theater, the gallery, the concert halls, the lecture hall, the page). In the first part of the semester we will experiment with different techniques for working together and for developing responses to different spaces. We will conduct a series of informal performance actions in numerous sites that are available to us, working with different media according to student interest and experience. A special emphasis will be placed on considering issues of access when we make choices about where and how to perform and create work. How can we encourage inclusive events that foster interaction and response with communities both near and far? What are possible relationships between art and community? How can we integrate important social and cultural issues into our art making? How might we collaborate with and make work for sites we are distanced from? What are crucial limitations to consider in creating site specific events, and how do we allow these limitations to inspire? The semester will culminate in a series of public final projects developed throughout the semester for online and live viewing.
This course will be conducted in a hybrid format. We will work in site-specific locations, including live sessions on and off campus with students who are in residence, supported by appropriate technology for remote interactions as needed. Online-only participation will be available for those students who are not in residence.
Requisite: Previous experience in improvisation and/or composition in dance, theater, performance, film/video, music/sound, installation, creative writing, and/or design is required. Limited to 8 students. Spring semester. Professor Wendy Woodson and Resident Lighting Designer Kathy Couch.2023-24: Not offered
Hip Hop Production
How is hip hop made, and why does it sound the way it does? In this course, we will examine the history of hip hop production by creating hip hop, analyzing how technological inventions and changing aesthetic practices have contributed to the sound and style of hip hop’s beats. Through close listening, together with reading first-person accounts, critical reviews, musical instrument manuals, ethnographies, and musical analyses, students in this course will develop a historical understanding of the aesthetics and musical contributions of important hip hop producers and how these producers have embraced new technologies and instruments. Informed by this historical background, students will compose hip hop beats using a variety of instruments and software and using celebrated tracks by producers such as Rick Rubin, the Bomb Squad, the Dust Brothers, Organized Noize, J Dilla, and Metro Boomin as models for their compositions.
Requisite: MUSI 126/BLST 134 or the equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Coddington.2023-24: Not offered
Drawing from the rich and varied history of composition in jazz, this course explores composing and arranging approaches in jazz and highlights the dynamic relationship between composition and improvisation central to this music. Using historical examples as models, students will compose and arrange small ensemble, large ensemble, and big band pieces, including pieces that incorporate blues forms, 32-bar Tin Pan Alley forms, modalism, extended and through-composed forms, and open improvisation. Immersive composition projects will be combined with individual meetings. To the extent possible, student compositions will be performed and recorded by professional or student musicians in a workshop setting.
Requisite: MUSI 243 or MUSI 269 and consent of the instructor. Students are also encouraged to complete MUSI 113, MUSI 226, or MUSI 227 prior to electing MUSI 387. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 20200-21. Professor Robinson.2023-24: Not offered
Composition Seminar I
Immersive composition projects according to the needs and experience of the individual student, deepening the experience gained in courses of study like Music 269. One class meeting per week and weekly private conferences. Guest composer presentations in a workshop environment and discussions on compositional topics. This course may be repeated; topics and projects change each semester. Music 387 and Music 388 need not be taken in order.
Course will be taught synchronously over Zoom and the course website.
Requisite: MUSI 269 or the equivalent, and consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Professor Sawyer.2023-24: Not offered
Composition Seminar II
A continuation of MUSI 387. One class meeting per week and weekly private conferences. This course may be repeated. Spring 2021 will feature a semester-long project where students compose a new piece for a professional vocal trio.
Requisite: MUSI 269 or the equivalent and consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Pukinskis.
Hyflex format with as much face-to-face learning as possible. Online components of the course will be conducted via Zoom, the course website, and possibly other online resources.2023-24: Not offered
Independent reading course. A half course.
Fall and spring semesters. The department.Other years: Offered in 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 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023
Seminar on Opera, Operetta, and Musical
(Offered as MUSI 420, EUST 320 and THDA 320) This course examines the three main genres of lyric theater (opera, operetta, and musical) with special attention to composers’ musical characterizations of the women and men who populate them. Beginning with case studies from operas by Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini, an operetta by Johann Strauss II, and a musical by Stephen Sondheim, we will work to acquire a critical vocabulary to understand the ways in which composers work with conventions of vocal type and melodic and rhythmic gesture to define character. Some of the works studied will be chosen in coordination with performances we can attend. Students will be required to give a presentation and write a research paper on a topic of their choice.
Requisite: MUSI 241 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Schneider.2023-24: Not offered
Improvised Music: Spectrum, Theory, and Practice
Functioning as a combined seminar and performance workshop, this course explores the theory and practice of musical improvisation. Rather than focus on one specific musical style, we will define “improvised music” in an inclusive way that draws equally from American and European experimental musics, various approaches to post-1965 jazz improvisation, and several musical traditions from around the world that prominently use improvisation. Students will be encouraged to develop new performance practices drawn from and in dialogue with these diverse musical traditions. Reading, listening, and video assignments will help familiarize students with the burgeoning field of improvised music studies and will serve to guide class discussions. Students with any musical/stylistic background are encouraged to enroll. Two class meetings per week. Fulfills the departmental seminar requirement for the major.
Requisite: Basic instrumental or vocal proficiency and consent of the instructor. Senior seminar. Limited to 10 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Robinson.2023-24: Not offered
Race, Gender, and Sexuality in American Popular Music
(Offered as MUSI 440 and SWAG 440) How do popular musicians express their identity through their music? And how do listeners explore their own identities by consuming and interacting with this music? This course explores how American popular music of the last sixty years has expressed the race, gender, and sexual identities of its performers and consumers, and how the music industry has affected the production and meaning of popular music from the 1950s into the present, through rock and roll, soul, country, hip hop, and more. Combining historical and cultural inquiries with the analysis of recorded music, students in this course will examine how popular musicians sound their identity while simultaneously resisting essentialism, analyze how musical sounds are shaped by the gender politics of their specific cultural context, and evaluate how the music industry encourages and challenges racial inequality. Seminar work will culminate in a creative research project designed in consultation with the professor. Fulfills either the departmental seminar requirement or the comprehensive exam requirement for the major.
Requisite: MUSI 111 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2020-21. Assistant Professor Amy Coddington.2023-24: Not offered
The music industry is quickly changing. Over the last year, the concert touring industry has been devastated, as concerts have been cancelled en masse due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, increasing attention has been placed on the racial inequality of the music industry, an industry where white artists and executives over the last century profited from unfairly compensating black musical expression. How are artists and record companies making money in our contemporary moment, and how does that compare to the past?
In this seminar we will analyze the myriad of ways music is sold to the public, focusing on music’s role as a commodity which monetizes musical expressivity. We will start the semester by examining the structure of the music industry, interviewing musicians about their current circumstances to shed light on how the music industry is organized. We will also explore how artists situate themselves in a musical ecosystem quickly evolving thanks to technological innovations and new venues for listener engagement such as TikTok, Patreon, and Soundcloud. Then, we will expand to a more historical perspective, focusing on the ways that the music industry has profited from selling racialized sounds. Through analyzing advertisements and speaking with industry professionals, we will better understand the racial politics of how music is sold to the public as well as how music is used to sell other products while simultaneously selling itself. Students will engage in a semester-long research project focusing on an artist or company of their choice; reading assignments alongside primary source research will help provide context and content for the research project. Fulfills either the departmental seminar requirement or the comprehensive exam requirement for the major.
Limited to 15 students. Professor Coddington. Course will be taught synchronously over zoom, with additional online elements occuring on slack and the course website.Other years: Offered in Fall 2023
Repertoire and Analysis:The Virtual Realities of Romantic Music
Romantic composers loved to escape from the realities of every life into the perilous virtual worlds they created in their music. How can we explore these worlds and understand the technical means with which they were created? How can we interpret the splendid sound of music by using words whose discursive strength seems to endange music's ephemeral nature? Through close reading of nineteenth-century music by Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, and Brahms, we will explore the possibilities of musical expression and meaning, searching for parallels between poetic and musical interpretation. Works will be considered from a number of different analytical perspectives including methods current in the nineteenth century and those developed more recently. Writing assignments will combine technical analysis with petic interpretation.
Two class meetings and two ear-training sections per week. Fulfills the departmental seminar equirement for the major.
Requisite: MUSI 242, 243, or 244. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Móricz.2023-24: Not offered
Formation of the Self in Twentieth-Century Music
How can we recognize a composer's voice in different pieces of music? How do composers develop a personal style? In this seminar we will study what constitute composers' personal style. Our primary text will be compositions by strong personalities from twentieth-century music, among them Claude Debussy, Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Béla Bartók, and Olivier Messiaen, whose style had a disproportionately large influence on composers coming after them. We will learn to read and understand their complex scores and to write about them in a way that explains both their compositional technique and captures the particular sonic world of their music. For their final projects, students will analyze the style of a composer of their choice or of their own developing compositional voice. Two class meetings and two ear-training sections per week. Fulfills either the departmental seminar requirement or the comprehensive exam requirement for the major.
Requisite: MUSI 241 or 242, or consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Móricz. The course will be offered Hyflex with as much individual/in-person contact as practical.2023-24: Not offered
Seminar in Jazz
This course prepares students to undertake substantial individual research in jazz history, theory, composition, or performance. Research in jazz takes many forms and draws from the varied methodologies of musicology, music history, ethnomusicology, music theory, composition, and theories of improvisation. Reading, listening, and viewing assignments will introduce students to these varying research methodologies, offering powerful tools for furthering their own interests in jazz. Influential case studies in jazz research will be the focus of the course’s four units. Students will engage in a semester-long research project of their own design, which will be developed in close consultation with Professor Robinson and will benefit from several peer review components. Fulfills either the departmental seminar requirement or the comprehensive exam requirement for the major.
Fall semester. Professor Robinson.2023-24: Not offered
Vienna—City of Music
(Offered as GERM 351 and MUSI 451) This course explores the unique position of Vienna—the city where Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert as well as Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, and Schönberg, lived and worked—as a center of (classical) music making. Topics to be addressed may include: the tradition of sponsorship of the arts in the German-speaking world; Vienna’s status as the capital of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, as well as that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; the significance of Catholic religious practices for music making; the city’s role in the training of classical musicians and singers; the historical and cultural contexts out of which important musical works emerged, from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Schubert’s song cycles, and Mahler’s symphonies, to the operas of Richard Strauss and Alban Berg; notorious scandals in the musical life of the city, such as those surrounding the premiere of Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire or Ernst Krenek’s “jazz opera” Jonny spielt auf; the city’s rich Jewish history; the popular traditions of dance music (such as Strauss waltzes) and operetta; and the way in which Vienna now markets itself to tourists as a center of music making. The exact roster of topics and assignments will be determined by what performances and events are being offered during Spring Break, when we will take students on a week-long trip to Vienna. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German. No students should hesitate to register for the course on the basis of economic concerns. Students with questions about these costs should speak with the instructor.
Admission with consent of the instructors. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professors Rogowski and Schneider.2023-24: Not offered
Senior Departmental Honors
Advanced work for Honors candidates in music history and criticism, music theory, ethnomusicology, composition, or performance. A thesis, a major composition project or a full-length recital will be required. No student shall elect more than one semester as a double course. A full course.
Spring semester. The Department.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023
Introduction to Music
This course is intended for students with little or no background in music who would like to develop a theoretical and practical understanding of how music works. Students will be introduced to the technical details of music such as musical notation, intervals, basic harmony, meter and rhythm. Familiarity with basic music theory will enable students to read and perform at sight as well as provide an introduction to the composition of melodies with chordal accompaniment. The music we analyze and perform will draw from folk, popular, and concert traditions from around the world, including the Western tonal tradition. Assignments will include notational exercises, short papers, and preparation of music for class performance. This course serves as a requisite for many Music Department offerings.
Students with some musical experience contemplating MUSI 111 are encouraged to take a self-administered placement exam available at the Music Department website (www.amherst.edu/~music/TheoryPlacement.pdf). Students are also encouraged to discuss placement in music theory with a member of the Music Department.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester: Lecturer Chernin (both sections). Spring semester: Professor Harper. Two class meetings and one ear training section per week. Spring semester: Professor Harper, three 50-minute class meetings and one 50-minute ear training section per week. Remote format, asynchronous interactive music exercises provided, individual meetings as needed.
Jazz History After 1945: Experimentalism, Pluralism, and Traditionalism
(Offered as MUSI 227 and BLST 344 [US]) One of two courses that trace the development of jazz from its emergence in early 20th-century New Orleans to its profound impact on American culture. This course explores the emergence of bebop in the 1940s, the shift of jazz's relationship with American popular culture after World War II, and the dramatic pluralization of jazz practice after the 1950s. We will also look at the emergence of fusion and the jazz avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s, and theorize the reformulation of "tradition" during the 1980s. Central to our examination will be the phenomenon of "neoclassicism" common in jazz discourse today, measuring that against the radical diversity of jazz practice around the world. Many figures central to the development of the varied post-bebop directions in jazz will be discussed: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Ornette Coleman, the New York Downtown scene, and many others. Two class meetings per week.
Omitted 2020-21. Professor Harper.2023-24: Not offered
Seminar in the Anthropology of Music: Voice
This seminar explores the sound and significance of the human voice in broad perspective. What do we communicate with our voice? Why are certain voices powerful or unforgettable? How are voices culturally shaped and constrained? How do people use their voice along the continuum between speech and song? What happens when the voice turns text into sound? What does it mean in terms of politics and personhood to have a voice? How does vocal sound relate to knowledge of the body and ideas about race, gender, and identity? To engage these questions, we will begin by examining the classic premise that the voice is a sonic medium for music, language, and other forms of communicative expression whose production (singing, speaking, vocalizing) and uptake (listening, recognizing, empathizing) are basic to social life and inhabiting one's environment. Throughout the term, we will push this premise in critical new directions by remembering that song and language affect us because the voice is not merely a medium. What Roland Barthes famously describes as "the grain of the voice" is its profound, compelling sonic presence beyond its role as a medium. Thinking about the significance of vocal sound and timbre in this light, we will explore a host of voices and vocal styles from throughout the world, including how we use our own creatively, in performance, and relative to the constraints of a voice-impacting global pandemic. We will listen and read widely, benefiting from each others' experience and insights as well as those of singers and scholars who will join us. Fulfills either the departmental seminar requirement or the comprehensive exam requirement for the major.
January term. Professor Engelhardt. Hyflex format with as much face-to-face learning as possible. Online elements of the course will be conducted via Zoom and the course website.2023-24: Not offered