Course Meeting Times
Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session
We'll explore the ways in which various social and artistic concerns of composers, performers, and listeners have evolved since the 1960s, with a focus on works by classical composers from around the world. Topics to be surveyed include: the legacy of serial composition, and the panoply of reactions against it; the cross-fertilization of classical and other styles, including jazz, rock, and music of other cultures; the emergence of post-serial, neo-tonal, minimalist, and post-minimalist styles; and the impact of new technologies throughout the period. Discussion of these topics will be grounded in close study of landmark musical works, evenly distributed across the four-and-a-half decades since 1960. Works by MIT composers will be included.
Two books are required for this course:
Griffiths, Paul. Modern Music and After: Directions Since 1945. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780198165118.
Duckworth, William. Talking Music: Conversations with John Cage, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson and 5 Generations of American Experimental Composers. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780306808937.
Additional readings are assigned from several other sources.
Classroom Preparation and Participation
Please be sure to read the specified texts and listen to the specified works before the class meeting for which they're assigned. There's no such thing as a stupid question, but there is a clear distinction between questions (or comments) that demonstrate proper preparation, and those that indicate the lack of same. Depending on the size of the class, you ought to plan on contributing three to five questions or comments in each class meeting. (Anything less will be conspicuous as a deficit of participation; anything more suggests that you might give your peers more opportunities to contribute.)
Four times during the semester, I'll administer a quiz in which I play excerpts from musical works and ask you to identify them as thoroughly as you can. For full credit, you'll need to identify the composer (first and last names), title (in the case of a single movement, naming both the movement itself and the larger work from which it's drawn), the year(s) of composition, and the techniques or trends that the music manifests (i.e., why did I assign this piece of music?).
Analytic Reviews of Live Performances
You're required to submit four reviews, each evaluating a live performance of a suitable musical work. Each review ought to be 1-3 pp. in length (ca. 500 words), and ought to distinguish between the strengths and weaknesses of the work and of the performance (e.g., a piece might be brilliantly composed, but sloppily performed...; or vice versa). Toward the latter end, you ought to learn as much as possible about each piece before attending the performance, especially if a recorded performance is available by which you can familiarize yourself with the work.
Term Paper and Presentation
During the semester, you'll choose and pursue a topic of research grounded in the techniques and trends that we survey. You may investigate a particular work, or a composer, or a musical style, and your choice need not be drawn directly from the music covered during the lectures. You may choose to consider your chosen topic strictly within the context of contemporary music history, or you may incorporate perspectives from another discipline, such as cognitive psychology, ethnomusicology, feminist theory, gender studies, literary criticism, mathematics, philosophy, theology, or the visual arts. That is, a purely analytic paper is possible, but your investigation of the music can be energized and enriched by engaging one of your extra-musical intellectual interests.
Additionally, you'll present selected findings to the class, during one of the May class meetings. I recommend that you prepare a text, from which you may read directly, of ca. 5-7 pp. in length, or perhaps slightly less (depending on the duration of the audio excerpts you play by way of illustration).
Summary of Grade Weights
|Classroom Preparation and Participation
|Four Listening Quizzes
|Analytical Reviews of Live Performances
|Term Paper Prospectus and Draft
|Term Paper (Final Version)