Selected Course Offerings

Freshman Seminars

A number of Freshman Seminars are offered on a regular basis.  They include:

Music 006: Musical Genius.
Professor Lindsay Wright.
Is there such a thing as “musical genius”? What exactly are the qualifications, and who gets to decide? In this course, we explore how the answers to these questions have shifted in the past three centuries, investigating when and where—and especially how and why—the notion of musical genius became so pervasive and powerful.

Music 007: Noise.
Professor Brian Kane.
The topic of noise as an introduction to the problems of sound and signification. The surplus of information in white noise, and the meaning perceived when noise is filtered. Contexts in which noise has become filtered for political and aesthetic ends. Topics include sound poetry, literature, electronic music, noise pollution, and consumption.

Music 012:  1000 Years of Love Songs.
Professor Anna Zayaruznaya.
History of the love song in Western culture from the twelfth-century troubadours to contemporary popular hits. Music and the shifting social constructions of desire over the past millennium. The song repertory’s engagement with ideas and movements such as courtly love, humanism, romanticism, sexual libertinism, and the LGBT rights movement.

Music 020:  Conduction Ensemble.
Professor Michael Veal.
Exploration and elaboration of the conduction (i.e. conducted improvisation) methods of Lawrence “Butch” Morris (1947–2013). Ensemble rehearsals; weekly listening assignments to familiarize students with different approaches to improvised music; assigned readings that provide historical context for students’ musical work. Players of all instruments and skill levels are welcome.

Music 031: Music of Protest & Propaganda.
Professor Ian MacMillen.
What does music bring to politics? What makes a song effective for protest versus propaganda? In countless political and social movements the world over, music has been a primary medium (and sometimes a target) of activism. This seminar asks students to interrogate music’s oft-celebrated role in political protests and propaganda, and also to challenge common understandings of these two arenas of communication.

Music 050: Transformations in 20th and 21st Century Music
Professor Trevor Bača
Introduction to outstanding pieces of 20th- and 21st-century instrumental music. Students examine details of the music and the social/historical context of each piece, in chronological order: one piece for each of the twelve decades from 1900 to the present. Composers include Mahler, Stravinsky, Ravel, Varèse, Copland, Cage, Reich,Xenakis, Eastman, Takemitsu, Czernowin, and Monk.

Music 051: Rockin’ the Revolution: The Politics of Rock in Communist Europe and Eurasia.
Professor Ian MacMillen.
In this seminar, we examine original (translated) songs and reviews from Communist Europe and the Soviet Union and more recent critical essays, plays, (auto)biographies, films, and performances commenting on rock in the late-Socialist period to frame larger questions of political voice, censorship, cooptation, counterculture, and (counter)revolution.

Music 076: Jazz & Architecture: Thinking Spatially in Jazz.
Professor Michael Veal.
An exploration of the sonic and social utility of spatial thinking in jazz, with a particular emphasis on the architectural discourse as a source of terms and concepts.

Music 079: Music, Gender, (Dis)ability.
Professor Jessica Peritz.
This seminar investigates how socio-cultural constructions of difference are, and have been, negotiated in music.

Music 087: Music, Memes, and Digital Culture.
Professor Braxton Shelley.
How are contemporary expressive cultures shaped by the virtual venues in which they circulate—Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Facebook, among many others? What force sustains the constant flurry of images and videos, hashtags and challenges? In pursuit of these questions, this first-year seminar grapples with the musicality of internet culture, attending to the ever-expanding virtual archive of memes, GIFS, and other digital media.