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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.

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.

Spring 2020

MUSC 930.001 Seminar in Music Theory

Interpreting Music
Professor Aaron Harcus
Tuesday, 2:00–4:50 pm

In this seminar we examine the theoretical and practical issues involved in acts of musical analysis and interpretation across a range of popular and classical genres. In particular, we engage in and scrutinize the subject of musical interpretation—from the everyday act of listening and performing to the close reading of musical texts—from a cross-cultural and multidisciplinary perspective encompassing philosophical hermeneutics and phenomenology, literary theory, social theory, ethnomusicology, popular music studies, and music theory. The course features short readings, weekly analyses and transcription, response essays, and culminates in a 30-minute presentation on the interpretation of a song, performance, or music video of your choice.

MUSC 950.001 Seminar in Musicology

Claudio Monteverdi: From Renaissance to Baroque
Professor Tim Carter
Wednesday, 1:00–4:00 pm

The rise of opera and the so-called “new music” in Italy around 1600 raised profound problems in terms of musical function, structure, style, expression, and performance. The development of new formal paradigms and tonal systems, the apparent abandoning of “classical” polyphony in favor of music for solo voice(s) and basso continuo, the debates over the intended effects of music and how they might best be achieved, and the new demands placed upon singers (male and now female) and instrumentalists make this an exciting period of experimentation, but also one full of inherent contradictions. We shall explore these matters by looking both historically and analytically at Monteverdi’s early, middle, and late works for the theater (opera and ballo), chamber (madrigal, monody), and chapel (music for the Mass, for Vespers, and the motet) in the context of new readings of his biography, and also of new ways of thinking about how his music might have conveyed both emotion and meaning.

MUSC 970.002 Seminar in Ethnomusicology

Michael FigueroaMusic and Race in Arab America
Professor Michael Figueroa
Thursday, 2:00–4:50 pm

Do Arabs constitute a race? Arabs have grappled with this question since the beginning of immigration to the US in the late 19th century. In the 21st-century context, the discussion has intensified in the face of the post-9/11 surveillance regime, wars abroad, and the Islamophobic and nativist violence that helped to drive the political upheavals of 2016. Arab Americans have confronted a new paradigm of racialization that changed the meanings and stakes of longstanding identity discourse. In this seminar, we will examine the dynamics of that discourse through a study of Arab American music history across several genres—including Arab classical music, hip hop, punk, surf, and others. We will approach this material through a critical race and ethnic studies framework that will put the analysis of Arab American cultural life into conversation with studies of other marginalized US communities, along with contemporary racial discourses circulating in the broader Arab world. Seminar participants will emerge from the semester with a thorough grasp of contemporary scholarship in Arab American studies, broad knowledge of Arab musical practices and institutions in the US, and critical tools for theorizing race and ethnicity in a variety of contexts.

FALL 2019

MUSC 950.001 Seminar in Musicology

The History of Musicology
Professor Mark Evan Bonds
Monday, 2:00-4:50 pm

Where does musicology—the study of music as an academic discipline—stand today? How did it get here? Where is it going? This seminar will examine the history of musicology from its origins in Vienna in the late nineteenth century down to the present. We will consider the development of methodologies, the histories of academic and professional institutions (IMS, AMS, SEM, SMT, SAM, etc.), and the changing concepts of disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity. Seminar participants will prepare a series of short written papers and presentations and lead weekly discussions of readings.

MUSC 970.002 Seminar in Ethnomusicology

Music, Technology, and Culture
Professor Mark Katz
Tuesday, 2:00-4:50 pm

From the earliest instruments to the latest electronic means of manipulating and disseminating sound, the tools and systems of human creation have had a profound influence on the development of music. Much of the discourse on music, however, tends to treat technologies as invisible, mere mediators through which music passes from creator to listener. Yet technology not only mediates, but also shapes music and influences music makers. This course will range across, time, culture, genre, and media to investigate the impact of technology on the musical life of the world. The following questions will guide discussion: What is the nature of the relationship between musical agents (listeners, performers, composers, etc.) and technology? What cultural priorities and value systems are revealed in the way musical agents interact with technology? How have new forms of making and experiencing music arisen out of this interaction and how have existing musical practices changed?

MUSC 950.003 Seminar in Musicology

Professor Anne MacNeil
Wednesday, 2:00-4:50 pm

Laments constitute some of the oldest forms of writing across human cultures in both sacred and secular contexts. Ovid’s Heroides and Virgil’s epic Aeneid offer the expressions of aggrieved heroines from Greek and Roman mythology, and the Old Testament presents lamentations that are both individual and communal. Particularly in the psalms of the Tanakh, lament has been seen as “a cry of need in a context of crisis when Israel lacks the resources to fend for itself.” (Brueggeman 2009:13) Because of the vulnerability of this subject position, laments are often cast as examples of women’s expression, and so they serve as a locus of feminist scholarly perspective. In this seminar, we will focus on Renaissance representations of lament in both music and art and on the idea of lament as a deeply human form of expression. This is a reading-intensive seminar, structured in four units interspersed with weeks of reflection and writing.

MUSC 950.002 Seminar in Musicology

The Work and Power of Tape
Professor Andrea Bohlman
Thursday, 2:00-4:50 pm

This seminar uses a focus on one media format—magnetic tape—to think about the power relations inherent in sonic practices, especially recording. The focus will shape our theoretical field (media/empire, technology/gender, sound/disability, archive/race) while simultaneously challenging us to reconsider core questions for music studies. How has listening been construed as learning, knowing, and capturing? What is musical content, what can it be? Above all: What is creative work? What is our relationship to it as scholars/students of sound? The seminar is structured in three units. We first lay the stakes of the seminar by grounding ourselves in recent scholarship. Second, we dive into key case studies that allow us to consider the intimate and institutional affordances of tape as practice and discourse: the history of ethnomusicology/anthropology (fieldwork), sound art (location recordings), popular music (loops, mixtapes), and more (audiobooks, espionage). Finally, we will listen to and against a bountiful tape archive at the Southern Folklife Collection, that of Mike Seeger. This work will become the basis of a final tape project—research paper, podcast, sound composition—for seminar participants to thread their own research interests through tape.


MUSC 930.001 Seminar in Music Theory

Musical Genres and Interpretive Practices in Popular Music
Professor Aaron Harcus
Wednesday, 2:00–4:50 pm

One of the oft-mentioned paradoxes of genre in popular music studies is that while it seems impossible to pinpoint the criteria underlying genre categorization, it seems just as inconceivable to imagine a “genreless” music. Moreover, even as musicians frequently proclaim that their music “defies” labels, the question of “what kind of music,” to quote Franco Fabbri, appears inescapable at every stage of the production and consumption of music. In this seminar, we will explore the concept of genre and the many ways that genres have historically structured and constrained musical understanding, interpretation, and creative practices in popular music (construed very broadly). In doing so, we combine theoretical, historical, and analytical perspectives in pursuing the following issues (among others): the relational nature of genres; culture industry approaches to genre (and its many critics); the relationship between genre formations, musical expectations, and the conditions of intelligibility of musical signifiers; how artists have negotiated the often hegemonic function of genre labels (e.g., marketing categories, radio formats, chart names, critic labels, etc.); debates over the status and meaning of crossover in popular music studies; and the place and role of genre in experimental music.
In addition to weekly readings and response essays/analysis, a major task of the seminar is to learn and further develop techniques for analyzing recorded popular music. The seminar culminates in a final paper and presentation.

MUSC 950.001 Seminar in Musicology

Annegret FauserMusic and Dance on the Parisian Stage
Professor Annegret Fauser
Tuesday, 2:00–4:50 pm

The nexus of music and dance in nineteenth-century France has formed the topic of a significant body of recent scholarly work that engages with both their sonic and their embodied aspects. This seminar centers on dance in Paris from the 1830s to the 1930s, including traditional institutions such as the Paris Opéra, commercial venues such as music halls (which staged classical ballet), visiting ensembles such as the Ballets Russes or the Ballets Suédois, and non-Western dancers—whether the temple dancers from Pondicherry (India) in 1838 or the Javanese dancers at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1889. Drawing on a wide range of literature from both musicology and dance studies, we will focus together on a number of case studies, including Adolphe Adam’s Giselle, Jules Massenet’s Thaïs, and Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps. Students will choose a presentation topic from this cultural field.

MUSC 970.001 Seminar in Ethnomusicology

Ethnomusicology and Oral Performance
Professor Michael Figueroa
Thursday, 2:00–4:50 pm

More ink has been spilled in examination of the relation between music and language than perhaps on any of the “music and ____” pairings that animate ethnomusicology, historical musicology, and music theory alike. Does music function like a language? How does it communicate? How do musical settings transform poetic texts? How are orality/aurality and literacy culturally constituted? In this seminar, we convene a semester-long conversation that takes a wide view of the relation between music and oral performance, addressing some of the above questions while asking others. The course has two main objectives: (1) to survey the intellectual history of oral performance in ethnomusicology and adjacent disciplines; (2) cultivate a theoretically robust discussion of oral performance traditions from around the world.

MUSC 970.002 Seminar in Ethnomusicology

Music, Culture, and Ecology
Professor Philip Vandermeer
Monday, 2:00–4:50 pm

Over the course of its history musicology has often demonstrated serious engagement with other disciplinary areas in the humanities (literary theory, cultural studies), social sciences (anthropology, sociology, psychology), and natural sciences (biology, evolutionary theory, neuroscience, physics). While space, place, and geography have been powerful points of analysis in both historical musicology and ethnomusicology, other modes of discourse, such as sound studies, acoustic ecology, and ecomusicology, can provide ways to conceptualize scholarly issues at the intersection of music, culture, and ecology, creating an intellectual space where historical musicologists, music theorists, and ethnomusicologists meet and engage with literary eco-critics, cultural geographers, environmental historians, bio-acousticians, and soundscape ecologists.

This seminar is divided into three parts. At the outset, we will concern ourselves with theories and methods covering concepts such as sound, nature, and the Anthropocene. In the second part, which will be led by members of the seminar, will examine several major case studies in ethnomusicology. Finally, we will look at the political economy of music and soundscapes, examining issues in environmental activism, ecomusicology, and sustainability. Seminar participants will read and discuss both extended studies and shorter articles, view documentaries, and listen to a variety of recorded examples. By the end of the semester, we will have covered some of the issues relevant to the ecological study of music. The class is reading- and listening-intensive and we will work together as a community to achieve the goals of applying these concepts, methodologies, and analytical practices to the wider world of music scholarship. In addition to active participation in discussions and oral reports, a journal and a short (ca. 10-12 pp.) paper are required.