Stony Brook University, Department of Music Course Descriptions
Spring 2015

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MUS 502: Tonal Analysis – The Mechanics of Music in the Classical Style
Prof. Keith Johnston
Thursdays 1-4pm

An examination of the musical language of the galant and later Viennese classical style, c. 1720-1830. We will investigate formulas of harmonic, melodic, rhythmic, and phrase construction, their relation to improvised practice, contemporary treatises on music theory, and theories of affect and communication, as well as modern approaches to analysis, including Schenkerian analysis, topic theory, sonata theory, and Caplan’s formal functions. Coursework includes a weekly reading and analysis assignment, a class presentation, and a final paper.

This counts as a “theory” course for performers, and is intended for all graduate students.

3 credits

MUS 507: Puccini in Context
Prof. David Lawton
Mondays 1-4pm

A central concern for Italian composers of Puccini's generation was how to construct a new approach to the relationship between libretto and music in the wake of the demise of the formal conventions that had dominated Italian opera from Rossini through Verdi on the one hand, and the influences of French Grand opera and Wagner on the other. The course will focus on two Puccini operas, La bohème (1896) and Turandot (1924). The earlier work is in many ways the more radical of the two, and is particularly interesting in terms of its response to Giuseppe Verdi's last two operas, Otello (1887) and Falstaff (1893). We will read the novel from which Puccini drew his libretto (Henri Murger's Scènes de la vie de Bohème--in English translation) and will also look at Ruggiero Leoncavallo's setting of the same subject (La bohème, 1897). Turandot, Puccini's last opera, betrays a more modern sensibility in some respects, but at the same time can be understood as the last work in the great nineteenth century Italian tradition: indeed from a formal point of view, Puccini turned back to the very conventions that he had left behind early in his career. We will read the Carlo Gozzi play that is the source for the libretto, and also look at Ferruccio Busoni's opera Turandot (1917). The work for the course will involve assigned readings and listenings, class discussions on assigned topics, and a substantial paper, from which DMA students may develop a history essay. The course is intended for MM and DMA students, but MA and Ph.D. students are welcome as well.

This counts as a “history” course for performers, and is primarily intended for MM/DMA students.

3 credits

MUS 507: The Sacred Vocal Music of J.S. Bach
Prof. Catherine Bradley
Tuesdays 1-4pm

Bach’s sacred vocal music—his motets, cantatas, Masses, and dramatic settings of the Easter Passions—represents a significant proportion of his musical output. Reflecting on Bach’s historical circumstances and cultural contexts, this course will engage in detail with musical works including the St Matthew and St John Passions, the B Minor Mass, the motet Jesu, meine Freude, and cantata 140, Wachet auf. It will address important questions of performance practice, “authenticity,” and ideas of genius, with reference to contemporary sources such as Bach’s letters and his early biographies. Analytical close-readings of Bach’s scared compositions will be used as a basis for broader considerations of the idea of the “sacred”—in eighteenth-century Lutheran Germany and today—as well as music’s long-exploited potential to express the ineffable and the divine.
Grades will be based on in-class presentations, weekly written responses to readings and scores, and a final research project.
This counts as a “history” course for performers, and is primarily intended for MM/DMA students.

3 credits

MUS 513: Workshop in Instrumentation and Orchestration
Prof. Sheila Silver
Tuesdays 1-4pm

Orchestration is a hands-on course in orchestrating. Final projects will be read by the Graduate Orchestra. Students will have a series of assignments which are aimed at solving specific orchestrational challenges and develop their composer imagination when conceiving for orchestra. Thus, it is both a course in orchestration (of pre-composed music) and a course in how to compose for the orchestra. We will also do in depth study of representative works from the repertoire.

This course is primarily intended for composition students and does not fulfill a requirement for performers.

3 credits

MUS 517: Introduction to Computer Music
Dr. Daniel Weymouth
Thursdays 6:30-9:30pm

MUS 517 is a hands-on introduction to the use of computers in the creation and performance of music. Topics include hard-disk recording and mixing, computer manipulation of natural sound, a bit of MIDI, software synthesis, and computer-interactive music. In addition, there will be a "literature" component to the course — we will listen to important works of computer music, and discuss aesthetic issues and production techniques.

This is a graduate-level course. You should expect to spend a significant amount of time; it is possible that much of it will be done in the CMS (Computer Music Studio). There are lab assignments each week, as well as reading and listening assignments, usually with a short précis or chart in response. There is also a final project, which may be a short piece, a program or a paper (or anything else that you and I think is interesting). Weekly, you should expect to spend 3-9 hours on projects (again, possibly in the CMS), and 1-3 hours listening/reading in the library.

The course is open to and appropriate for all Music Department Graduate students (others with prior permission). For composers, you need to have taken 515 first. I do not assume extensive computer knowledge; I do assume basic computer literacy. I also assume at least some musical training and background. We usually get a lively mix of people with a broad range of expertise and interests: the more the merrier!

MUS 517 is counted as a non-studio Theory course for MM students —many performers have taken the course and have enjoyed it. It is not considered a course from which one can develop a DMA paper, but DMA students are also welcome, and have also enjoyed the course.

This counts as a “theory” course only for performers in the MM program.

3 credits

MUS 535: Lecture/Workshop in the Performance of Baroque Music
Profs. Arthur Haas and Erika Honisch
Wednesdays 2:30-5:30pm

How are we to perform, today, music from the Baroque era (ca. 1600-1750)? The diverse styles of the instrumental and vocal music composed during this period—preserved in sources of varying quality and specificity—elicit a wide and intriguing array of responses from instrumentalists and singers attuned to pre-Romantic performance practices.

In this discussion-driven and performance-centered course we will take in the many possibilities available to the intrepid and historically-engaged performer. The topics we will explore together include Baroque sound, ornamentation, vibrato, text-music relationships, improvisation, tempo and meter, rhythmic alteration, dynamics, tuning and temperament, and basso continuo. These issues will become concrete through the introduction and use of period instruments held at Stony Brook and the perusal of the many primary source documents—music manuscripts and prints, iconographic and literary sources, as well as music-theoretical treatises—now available online. In this way, students will learn how to approach modern editions critically and use primary sources to guide their performance practice decisions. We will take care to situate our exploration of detailed musical issues within larger historical and critical contexts. In the first place, we will address the importance of national preferences (e.g. dance in France, rhetoric in Germany). At the same time, we will turn a critical eye on ourselves, exploring the ideologies of the early music movement as it has taken shape in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Students should come to class having carefully read the assigned readings, as the success of this class hinges in large part on the quality of student preparation and participation. Students should also be prepared to perform on their respective instruments, both in the context of small oral presentations, and as part of a larger presentation that complements the final paper. We anticipate a lively classroom as we engage in the large debates that animate early music performance today.

This counts as a “history” course for performers, and is intended for both MM/DMA and MA/PhD students.

3 credits

MUS 536: Music and Belief
Prof. Margarethe Adams
Wednesdays 2:30-5:30pm

This introductory ethnomusicology graduate seminar examines intersections of music and belief, including the major world religions, as well as older belief systems (animism, shamanism), and religion/philosophy complexes like Confucianism and Taoism. A sample of topics covered include: a study of Taoist ritual priests in northern China; Confucian and Taoist influences in the philosophy and performance of the Chinese zither (guqin); throat-singing and animism in Tuva (Siberia); Sufi influence in the sung poetry and zikr traditions of Central Asia; Christian rock and evangelism of the 1970s. Our study will take both anthropological and musicological approaches to these topics and students will gain an introductory look at important scholarship in (ethnomusicological) social theory along the way. Requirements include weekly readings, one article presentation, bi-weekly written assignments, and a final paper. Attendance and active participation in seminar discussion are mandatory.

This counts as a “history” course for performers, and is primarily intended for MM/DMA students.

3 credits

MUS 541: Music of Protest in the 21st Century
Prof. Benjamin Tausig
Mondays 1-4pm

“Music at its most potent,” writes critic Alex Ross, “creates the feeling that the world is about to undergo a vague but tremendous change, which is how political energies become attached to it.” In the past decade, what kinds of vague but tremendous changes have been envisioned by major protest movements around the world, and how has music functioned in relation to these political projects?

This seminar engages an ideologically and geographically diverse array of recent case studies in protest music, about which much has been written since the late 2000s, with a spate of new publications appearing in the past few years. Undoubtedly, music has been linked to key concepts of protest, including solidarity and sacrifice, for a great long time. However, recent events raise fresh questions about the role of protest music in a milieu of digital communications, about the transformation of music into new forms of weaponry, and about modes of composition and performance in the face of technologically sophisticated censorship.

In addition to musical case studies from Istanbul, Tunisia, Brazil, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Cairo, Missouri, numerous sites during the Arab Spring, and both the American right and left after the financial crisis, we will take on a healthy portion of theory: LaClau and Mouffe on populism, Habermas on social movements, Hardt and Negri on the multitude, and Arendt on revolution, among others. Students will produce weekly responses and a significant final project.

This seminar is primarily intended for MA/PhD students. Though it counts as a “history” course for performers, any MM/DMA students considering enrolling must confer first with Prof. Tausig.

3 credits

MUS 553: Operatic Spectatorship from Gluck to Wagner
Prof. Ryan Minor
Wednesdays 2:30-5:30pm

All musical genres presuppose, and in turn generate, a particular audience. But there is arguably no genre in classical music that is as embarrassed—or enthralled—by its own audience as opera, an art form that almost from its very beginning has been preoccupied by the communities of listeners and spectators drawn into its orbit.

This Ph.D seminar represents one attempt to think through this phenomenon historically, focusing on the coterminous projects of inventing German opera while simultaneously investing that new genre with an especially potent political agency through its spectatorial ambitions. The repertory will focus primarily on Gluck, Mozart, and Wagner, but we will devote some time to “intermediary” figures—Lortzing, Weber, Marschner—as well, in addition to relevant correlates in spoken theater. For the sake of comparison we’ll also take stock of contemporaneous developments in France and Italy. Finally, we’ll end the semester with a brief look ahead historically by considering Brecht’s ambivalent relationship to the fraught legacy of Wagnerian spectatorial politics.

Readings will include historical tracts (Schiller, Wagner, Brecht) and literature (Stendhal, Baudelaire), as well as recent scholarship on operatic spectatorship (Calico, Levin, Risi, Morris, Johnson) and other forms of theatrical immersion (Fried, Ward, Puchner, Rancière). We will also view selected opera productions relevant to the theoretical issues raised in the readings (Konwitschny, Neuenfels, Corsetti, etc.).

Participants will need to devote a substantial amount of time to viewing opera productions outside of class. You should not enroll for this seminar if you are not willing to commit to these screenings, which of course are in addition to the readings. Grades will be based on attendance and participation, weekly written responses, at least one in-class presentation, and a research paper.

This seminar is primarily intended for MA/PhD students. Though it counts as a “history” course for performers, any MM/DMA students considering enrolling must confer first with Prof. Minor.

3 credits

MUS 555: Critical Theory for Music Studies
Prof. Stephen Decatur Smith
Thursdays 1-4pm

This graduate seminar studies a broad range of theoretical and philosophical texts dealing with sound and music. In recent years, a theoretical canon has begun to crystalize in contemporary music studies; this course is partly designed to ensure that graduate students in music history and theory are able to develop a thorough grounding in this literature. It is also open to students from other disciplines who wish to develop a theoretical basis for the study of music and sound. Texts will be drawn from musicology and music theory, psychoanalysis, literary theory, sound studies, and the history of philosophy, with a particular emphasis on the 20th century. Grades will be based upon in-class presentations and a final seminar paper.

This seminar is primarily intended for MA/PhD students. Though it counts as a “history” course for performers, any MM/DMA students considering enrolling must confer first with Prof. Smith.

3 credits

MUS 557: Electronica/Acoustica
Prof. Matthew Barnson
Mondays 1-4pm

This course charts the influence, over nearly a century, of electronic media on acoustic music in the Western Art tradition. Composers have used machines (computers, tapes, microphones, etc.) as an impetus to create innovative music with acoustic and often traditional means. Although physically absent, these machines have a perceptible presence as part of the listening and/or compositional experience. Contemporary acoustic music is created in the wake of the digital to the same extent as vice versa is true. The two forms engage in a continuous cycle, influencing and mediating each others’ means, and challenging our perceptual experience.

We will examine electronic works by a number of composers and artists and their (assumed/projected/hope-for/coincidental) acoustic analogues. We will study works by Ligeti, Berio, Adès, Reich, Haas, Romitelli, Lachenmann, Schaefer, Adams, Saariaho, Grisey, Aphex Twin/Alarm Will Sound, and Sarah Kirkland Snider, among others. Supplementing our analytical work, we will look at theories of influence, representation, mimesis, and aesthetics by Harold Bloom, Karol Berger, and Joanna Demers, among other scholars.

Composers, theorist, musicologists, and ethnomusicologists are most welcome. Final projects/papers can be tailored to students’ area(s) of focus and theoretical frameworks. Papers detailing the influence of electronic music on acoustic music are rare. Original research opportunities abound.

This seminar is primarily intended for MA/PhD students. Though it counts as a ”theory” course for performers, any MM/DMA students considering enrolling must confer first with Prof. Barnson.

3 credits

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