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Fall 2022

MUSC 950, Seminar in Musicology

Michael Figueroa

Improvisation and Social TheoryProf. Michael FigueroaMonday, 2:00–4:50 pm

In this seminar, we will explore practices of musical improvisation, with a goal of appraising their usefulness in challenging and refining social theory, much of which has employed Eurocentric concepts of being in the world and limited musical metaphors, to boot. Special emphasis will be placed on Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Black musics and on theories driving postcolonial studies, phenomenology, moral philosophy, performance studies, and related fields. In parallel to intensive textual study, all members of the seminar will be expected to experiment with improvised performance and reflect on intersections of theory and practice.

MUSC 950, Seminar in Musicology

Mark Evan BondsPerspectives on the Western Musical Canon Prof. Mark Evan BondsWednesday, 2:00–4:50 pm

The Western musical canon, however one chooses to define it, has long been a contested construct. This seminar will examine that construct from two contrasting perspectives. From the top down, we will trace the history of discourse about the canon and attempt to identify possible alternatives. From the bottom up, each student will examine in detail two roughly comparable instrumental works (same genre, same approximate era, different composers), with an eye to evaluating why one of them enjoys canonic status while the other does not. Weekly readings, musical analysis, and 15–20 page paper.

MUSC 950, Seminar in Musicology

Annegret Fauser

Women and Musical Creativity in the 1920s and 1930sProf. Annegret FauserThursday, 2:00–4:50 pm

That female-identified performers, scholars, composers, and teachers were active and engaged in musicking is no longer in need of assertion: whether Wanda Landowska or Nadia Boulanger, Florence B. Price or Lily Strickland, their contribution to music and (comparative) musicology is well known. This seminar will engage with these figures and their musical activities through a number of vantage points, exploring how scholarship can positively and caringly contribute to valuing their work through a transnational perspective that reflects on the ways in which epistemological centers and peripheries shaped historical events and still shape current scholarship; a reflection on reparative, intersectional, and other critical methodologies; engagement with the roles of technology as both opportunity and gatekeeper; and a positionality of respect for female-identified creatives and their achievements.

Spring 2022

MUSC 930 Seminar in Music Theory

Jocelyn Neal

Music Analysis and Music Videos
Professor Jocelyn Neal
Thursday, 2:00–4:50 pm

But have you seen the video? The relationship between music analysis and video analysis is complicated: a sonic art form intersecting with a visual art form, integrating fields such as narrative, dance, and hermeneutics. The primary learning objective for this graduate seminar will be that participants acquire specific tools for analyzing both recorded sound and music videos, and practice applying those tools to create compelling analyses of music videos within the broad space of popular musics, centered in (but not restricted to) contemporary American mainstream culture. Our readings will draw on foundational work by Carol Vernallis and Simon Frith, and include research by Jada Watson, Lori Burns, Brad Osborn, and Matthew Ferrandino among many others. The format of our seminar will involve participants bringing curiosity, engaging in ongoing reflection on positionality as scholars and students, and regularly undertaking close readings of many different videos. Assignments will include constructing reading lists, leading discussions, collaborative analyses, and a final project that may take the form of an academic conference presentation/paper or an equivalent project in a different format.

MUSC 950.001 Seminar in Musicology

Music and Intersections of Women’s Suffrage, Abolition, and Temperance in the United States
Professor Anne MacNeil
Wednesday, 2:00–4:50 pm

This seminar explores the world of protest music at the turn of the 20th century in America. Skills to be developed are those relevant to historical research: close reading songs and song contrafacts, conducting archival research, understanding how musical expression fits within a broader historical/cultural context, and problematizing absences of documentation. You will be working with documents and sheet music from the Library of Congress, newspapers, historical society archives, etc. Each student in the seminar will develop a specific focus for their own research within this overarching theme and will investigate the best methods and formats for presenting their research to others. Project requirements are not given in word-limits, but rather in terms of specified components to be included in the project (for example, a specified number of song analyses, biographical information, close readings of speeches and letters, etc). All seminar participants will be expected to read the work of others and to offer critiques and recommendations for improvement.

MUSC 950.002 Seminar in Musicology

Elizabeth Elmi

Orality and Literacy in Historical Musical Practice
Professor Elizabeth G. Elmi
Tuesday, 2:00–4:50 pm

In his 1970 essay “The Oral and Written Traditions of Music,” Italian musicologist Nino Pirrotta famously wrote:

The music from which we make history, the written tradition of music, may be likened to the visible tip of an iceberg, most of which is submerged and invisible. The visible tip certainly merits our attention, because it is all that remains of the past and because it represents the most consciously elaborated portion, but in our assessments we should always keep in mind the seven-eighths of the iceberg that remain submerged: the music of the unwritten tradition.

From a 21st-century perspective, such a statement requires critical questioning—of the assumption that we must only “make history” from notated music, of the problematic characterization of oral musical practices as “unwritten” (i.e., strictly in relation to writing and its absence), and of the suggestion that the written tradition equates to the “most consciously elaborated” music of the historical past. Yet, even as we recognize the fundamental importance of oral musical practices in developing a more realistic and inclusive understanding of the past, questions about what it means to “keep in mind” those ephemeral practices (and how best to go about doing so) continue to test, and even elude, music scholars today.

In this seminar, we will address the unique challenges that we, as scholars, face in studying the relationship between orality and literacy in historical musical practice by exploring scholarly approaches to centering oral musics in our historical narratives, even when little material evidence survives. In so doing, we will begin by considering the creative role of memory and embodied ritual in oral musical performance and transmission, as well as the ways in which various cultures have attempted to preserve such practices and the inherently transformative process they undergo when fixed in notation. We will then explore the range of theories and methodologies that scholars have taken in approaching oral musical practices of the past in relation to varying levels of textual and musical literacy, including (among others) studies of epic poetry, medieval plainchant, troubadour song, improvised counterpoint, Neapolitan lyric song, Ethiopian Christian chant, Nahuatl flower songs, and various examples of contrafacture. Over the course of the semester, students will develop and present their own independent research aimed at producing an article-length essay as the final project for the class.

Fall 2021

MUSC 930 Seminar in Music Theory

Aaron HarcusHistoriography and Analysis of Black Music in the United States
Professor Aaron Harcus
Thursday, 2:00–4:50

This seminar explores both the history of historical and analytical work on Black music in the United States—addressing the changing sociopolitical and interpretive contexts that have shaped the dominant concerns of historians and analysts over time—and current trends in the history of Black music across disciplinary contexts. In doing so, seminar participants will critically examine large-scale trends as well as the changing theoretical frameworks—e.g., musical genre and the music industry; race, racialization, and racial formation; gender and sexuality; class structure; etc.—that have inevitably shaped discourses (and therefore the historical and analytical work) on Black music. The seminar culminates in a research paper and conference-style talk based on the interests of seminar participants.

MUSC 950 Seminar in Musicology

Mark KatzMusic and Incarceration in the United States
Professor Mark Katz
Tuesday, 2:00–4:50

This seminar explores music made by inmates and media representations of prison music in the United States since the 19th century. Among the seminar’s guiding questions are the following:

What roles does music play in the lives of incarcerated people? How have incarcerated musicians and their music been represented and misrepresented in scholarship and by the media?

What ethical challenges and considerations face scholars and musicians who engage with incarcerated people? The seminar will examine a variety of musical genres and combine historical and ethnographic approaches. In the latter part of the semester, students will engage with incarcerated musicians in North Carolina.

Spring 2021

Music 950.001 Seminar in Musicology

Andrea BohlmanSound and/as Rupture
Professor Andrea Bohlman
Tuesday, 2:00–4:50 pm

This seminar offers an introduction to sound studies (broadly construed) that considers the interdiscipline in relation to questions of power. It is structured as a survey of recent book-length publications that each, from divergent intellectual perspectives, ask us to consider sound’s capacity to both disrupt and shape paradigms of listening, sociality, and governance. We ask: what methodologies have scholars employed to situate sound at particular, localized moments of rupture? To analyze whether and how sound facilitates endurance in the face of disruption? We also consider rupture on a meta-discursive level: How is sound studies complicit in hegemonic structures—such as white supremacy?

Seminar participants will develop a research proposal over the course of the semester that builds on key methodologies (of their own choosing) that emerge from the readings. These research proposals will be collectively workshopped throughout the semester.

The provisional reading list for this course includes: Abe, Resonances of Chindon-ya, Dave, The Revolution’s Echoes, Hui, Mills, and Tkaczyk, Testing Hearing, Irvine, Listening to China, Mundy, Animal Musicalities, Redmond, Everything Man, Robinson, Hungry Listening, Stoever, The Sonic Color Line, and Tausig, Bangkok Is Ringing.

MUSC 950.002 Seminar in Musicology

Mark Evan BondsA History of Listening
Professor Evan Bonds
Thursday, 2:00–4:50 pm

Composing, performing, listening: in histories of Western music, the last of these is by far the most elusive. Indeed, it has been argued that there are as many such histories as there are listeners, for no two individuals hear the same work the same way, and even the same person hears it differently at different times. Attempts to trace the history of listening practices have as a result been fragmentary at best. The recent Oxford Handbook of Musical Listening in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (2020) is typical in this regard. The individual contributions, excellent in themselves, invariably center on a particular time, place, repertory, institution, or technology. We still lack an overarching framework for a history of listening in the modern era.

This seminar will take up the challenge of writing such a history. Students will prepare individual research projects, and the group as a whole will develop a proposal and table of contents for a hypothetical monograph that will survey the history of listening in Western culture.

MUSC 970 Seminar in Ethnomusicology

David GarciaMusic and the Archive in the Academic Eras of COVID and Anti-Racism
Professor David F. Garcia
Monday, 2:00–4:50

This seminar will provide participants in-depth study of and first-hand (digital) experience engaging with archival methods and materials. Topics surrounding archival research that we will focus on include repatriation, decolonization, power, historiography, violence, slavery, and white supremacy. Besides reading representative scholarship (e.g., Marisa Fuentes, Birgitta J. Johnson, and Michel-Rolph Trouillot), we will engage with digitally accessible collections accessible via UNC’s Wilson Library, Library of Congress, New York Public Library to name a few. A final seminar project, which may include group projects, is required. Project topics, formats, and audiences will be determined by participants of the seminar.

Fall 2020

MUSC 930 Seminar in Music Theory

Who Owns the Song?
Professor Jocelyn Neal
Monday, 2:00–4:50 pm

In this seminar, we will explore the twentieth-century songwriting practices in American popular music, their intersection with copyright law, and the ways that audiences perceive the source of the songs. Our primary focus will be the practical, rather than theoretical, ways that songwriters and fans work within the overlapping systems relating arts and commodities. We will incorporate in our thinking the role of fans’ reception as a significant factor in this matrix of the commodification and ownership of a song, and as part of that, explore scholarly methods of engaging with popular-press publications. Readings will be drawn from trade publications, popular press, and academic articles and books that address copyright in popular music and the business of songwriting. Students will prepare weekly readings and listening assignments, lead class discussions, submit short writing exercises bi-weekly, and complete a conference-length research paper at the end of the course.

MUSC 950 Seminar in Musicology

Annegret FauserAlterity in Western Music, 1800 to 1945
Professor Annegret Fauser
Tuesday, 2:00–4:50 pm

The concept of “alterity” (Otherness) has shaped musicological work in the past decades, especially in scholarship focusing on gendered, national, colonial, and post-colonial constructions of musical identity. It has become so ubiquitous a term that it might be time to consider its historiography and to explore its uses within musicology, both past and present. The seminar begins with discussions of the concept, starting with the French philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, to recent work focusing on the historic sonic Other, for instance by Suzanne G. Cusick and Ana María Ochoa Gautier. As a group, we will then explore case studies drawn from Western musical culture between 1800 and 1945, before students present their own research in an AMS-style presentation. Click here to see the Syllabus, Ezine, and Podcast created by the students of this seminar.

MUSC 970 Seminar in Ethnomusicology

Music, Performance, and Ecology in the Southern Appalachians
Professor Philip Vandermeer
Thursday, 2:00–4:50 pm

Southern Appalachia’s unique geography has long contributed to the constructed stereotypes and mythologies of its cultures and musical traditions, many of these bound up in outsiders’ uncritical “long running love affair” with the region (in the words of sociologist Wilma Dunaway). However, issues of ecology and the environment are key to the emergence and sustainability of music and performance traditions there. Using a series of case-studies we will examine these “environmental impacts” concentrating on three broad themes:

  • Ecology, Ritual, and Experience
  • Music and the Business of Energy
  • Travel, Tourism, and the Performance of Identity

Regular engagement with readings and media, oral reports, and a final research paper will be required.