Stony Brook University, Department of Music Course Descriptions
Spring 2017

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MUS 502: Proseminar in Tonal Analysis

Prof. August Sheehy

Monday, 1-4pm, Staller Center Room 2314

In this proseminar we will analyze music at the heart of the tradition often described as "tonal." To that end, our primary “texts” will be musical works by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Drawing on influential articles and monographs on music theory and analysis by scholars such as Heinrich Schenker, William Caplin, James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy, Danuta Mirka and Steven Rings, we will consider these musical works in terms of form, meter, tonal intuitions, and counterpoint. The relatively restricted range of compositions will allow careful and sustained, intensive analysis and interpretation; at the same time, the techniques we study can be applied to a broad range of music (e.g., some earlier and later music in the Western concert tradition, some styles of jazz, and some popular styles), which students may choose to do in a final paper. Over the course of the semester we will strive for musical insights and build the skills for communicating such insights to others with clarity and elegance. 

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

3 credits


MUS 504: Analysis of 20/21st Century Music: The 20th Century String Quartet

Prof. Daniel Weymouth

Monday, 1-4pm, Staller Center Room 2310

The course will involve an in-depth study of several pieces, all string quartets from the past century: Bartok, Berg, Jolas, Ligeti, Reich and Xenakis.  We will also consider the nature of analysis and different analytical techniques and what they can (and cannot) tell us about the music.

Students should plan to spend 9 to 12 hours per week on this course outside of class. You will have to do a significant amount of analysis, and I will generally want to see the results, in charts or some similar form, and especially a lot of writing. There will also be readings and research work; weekly assignments will also involve short written responses to assigned readings.  Grading will be based on these weekly assignments—on the readings, and on the analyses—along with two term papers. The course is very suitable for performance students as well as historians and composers, but do expect to do graduate-level work.

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

3 credits


MUS 507: Studies in Music History: Words and Music in the Middle Ages

Prof. Catherine Bradley

Tuesday, 1-4pm, Staller Center Room 2310

The alchemy that occurs between song and poetry—the powerful potential of music and text mutually to enhance one another—is fundamental to the study of medieval music. This course traces music-text interactions in a wide variety of genres, including monophonic vernacular songs of the trobadours and trouvères, the complex polytextuality of thirteenth-century motets, the works of the famous poet-composer Guillaume de Machaut, and the spiritual meditational songs of the Florentine laudesi companies. Closely examining compositional procedures involved in the marriage of music and text, the course offers broader reflections on the nature and function of song throughout the middle ages, tracing often unexpected continuities with present-day cultures. 

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

3 credits


MUS 507: Studies in Music History

Franz Schubert: Romanticism, Politics and Nature

Prof. Stephen Smith

Wednesday, 2:30-5:30pm, Staller Center Room 2310

This course studies the music of Franz Schubert, with an emphasis on his chamber works, Lieder, and music for piano.  It will combine detailed study of scores, readings on Schubert’s biography, and broader investigations of cultural and historical context.  In the latter vein, our work will focus especially on Schubert’s relationship with romanticism, the city of Vienna in which he lived (especially its political climate), questions of gender and sexuality, and the role of nature in his works.  Student work will be evaluated based upon in-class presentations, weekly responses to assigned readings, 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

Tuesday, 1-4pm, Staller Center Room 2314

Music 513 - Orchestration - is taught every other year and is primarily for graduate composers.  We will study repertoire representative of various approaches to orchestration, and we will have a series of assigned exercises involving both composing for orchestra and orchestrating pieces (usually for piano) selected from the repertoire.  At the end of the class there will be a reading by the graduate orchestra of our projects.

3 credits


MUS 517: Introduction to Computer Music

Prof. Daniel Weymouth

Thursday, 6:30-9:30pm, Staller Center Room 3358

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.  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 (some work may only be possible in the Studio), 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 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.

3 credits


MUS 524: Topics in Music Composition: Writing for Strings

Prof. Matthew Barnson

Tuesday, 6:45-9:45pm, Staller Center Room 2310

This project-driven composition course explores music for strings with an emphasis on current practices. Composers will study recent and historical works as a means to refine their own practice by analyzing canonical and new works, and by composing new works which will be read and critiqued by composers and players. While special emphasis will be placed on works for string quartet, the course will spend significant time with works for solo string instruments, as well as works for larger string ensembles. 

The final project, a work for string instrument(s), will be preceded by shorter compositional exercises. It is hoped that the work participants create will be added to composers’ portfolios. 

For composers in fulfillment of MA work or as part of the PhD contract.

1-3 credits


MUS 536: Music and Belief

Prof. Margarethe Adams

Monday, 1-4pm, Music Library Seminar Room W1531

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 538: Phenomenological Approaches to Music Analysis:  Affect’s Musical Traces

Prof. Judith Lochhead

Tuesday, 1-4pm, Music Library Seminar Room W1531

The course will introduce students to the founding ideas of phenomenological philosophy and to the historical development of the core ideas.  Authors considered in this introduction include:  Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and others.  We will focus on a phenomenology of sound through the work of philosopher Don Ihde and through its application to musical analysis in the work of Thomas Clifton and others.  After this introduction, the seminar will turn to affect theory in general and specifically as it pertains to musical sounding.  Throughout the seminar, we will be studying particular musical works, with a special emphasis on music composed/created in the new millennium.  Students in the seminar will help to determine the particular musical works/performances to be considered.

Course Requirements:

Attendance at all class meetings

Weekly précis on readings

Weekly short music analysis projects presented in class

Final Project:  a major seminar paper (15-20 pages)

In-class presentation on your final project at the end of the term.

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

3 credits


MUS 541: Topics in the Cross-Cultural Study of Music

Mutiny by Ear: Theories of Aural Refusal

Prof. Benjamin Tausig

Thursday, 1-4 pmMusic Library Seminar Room W1531

From the 1970s through the 1990s, scholarship on music and politics was anchored by theories of resistance--against states, institutions, and capitalism. In recent years, resistance theory has been increasingly supplanted by the concept of refusal, which seeks to understand not only how people push back, but how they generate relationships and socialities with each other in the process. (We might consider, for example, how Colin Kaepernick's regular protest of the national anthem in 2016 has helped to assemble a community of like-minded athletes, from professionals to amateurs, and to link them to the Black Lives Matter movement). Sound studies and ethnomusicology have only recently begun to theorize this phenomenon. This course will examine recent literature on aural refusal, and explore genealogies of resistance/refusal in anthropology and music studies. How do political actors both express dissent and generate socialities through acts of non-listening? How does the closing of the ear become an affiliative act?

Relatively heavy readings (100-300 pages) and responses will be assigned weekly, along with a substantial final paper.

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

3 credits


MUS 547: Topics in Baroque Music: The Baroque Listener

Prof. Erika Honisch

Wednesday, 2:30-5:30pm, Music Library Seminar Room W1531

Who listened to music in the seventeenth century? Why did they listen and what did they hear? What can exploring these questions tell us in terms of analysis, performance practice, and listening today? Baroque composers composed, singers sang, and listeners listened with certain basic assumptions in mind about how hearing worked: how sonic phenomena entered the ear, were perceived, and how sound (musical or otherwise) influenced body and soul. In this course, we will familiarize ourselves with these assumptions using a combination of primary sources and scholarly literature (Tomlinson, Fisher). Part of our focus will be analytical, as we investigate how pitch structures worked in the repertory we cover, using both more deliberately historicist methods (Meier, Barnett, Freedman) and contemporary analytic systems (Powers, Chafe). At the same time, we will seek to understand listeners in history. Together, we will ask how what listeners heard was shaped by who they were (and vice versa). In studying music as it was heard, we can better understand the emergence of musical styles and of listening subjects in the age of the Baroque.

There will be weekly reading and listening assignments, as well as assignments in “historically informed analysis." Participants will write a research paper, a “conference” version (20 minutes long) of which will be presented in the final class session. Twice in the semester (between Weeks 5 and 14), participants will lead discussion.

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. Honisch.

3 credits




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