Music 308: Analytical Survey of Western Music

I. Course introduction

This course surveys a range of methodologies for analyzing music. We will learn about new work in the field of music theory and situate that work within (or against) broader disciplinary trends; and we will study areas of music theory that aren’t part of Wheaton’s core curriculum.

We will also consider music theory + analysis more broadly as both a practice and as a discipline. To that end, we should keep the following questions at the fore throughout the course: What are music theory’s goals? What are we trying to do, or do better, when we do music theory + analysis? Who are our analyses for? What methods does music theory use to achieve its goals? What are music theory’s objects of study? What values and priorities do these goals, methods, and objects encode? Who or what is excluded?

The work of the course is divided into topical modules: improvisation; music and text; feminism and embodiment; rhythm and meter in metal music; and then a topic chosen in consultation with the class. Each of the modules culminate in a short written assignment. Students will also have short, targeted homework assignments, including reading, discussion posts, and score analysis. At the end of the course students will produce an original analysis essay of 6-10 pages on a topic of their choosing.

II. Learning outcomes

By the end of the semester students should be able to:

• Reflect verbally and in writing about the aims and methods of music theory + analysis

• Apply the theoretic concepts discussed in class to relevant repertoire and to repertoire that may be a poor fit (and to consider what that poor fit might reveal about both the repertoire and the analytic concepts)

• Pursue self-directed research into analytic and theoretic topics of interest

• Write clearly about music: its workings, its contexts, your experience of it, and intersections of those three facets

X. Selected course bibliography

Lewis - Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives

Iyer - Improvisation, action understanding, and music cognition with and without bodies

Gaunt - The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-dutch to Hip-hop (intro + chapter 1)

Suzanne Cusick - Feminist Theory, Music Theory, and the Mind/Body Problem

Maus - Masculine discourse in music theory

Peraino - Synthesizing difference: the queer circuits of early synthpop

Cox - Music and Embodied Cognition

Lewin - Studies of Music With Text (part II on Schubert)

Adams - Aspects of the Music/Text Relationship in Rap

Rose - Black noise: Rap music and black culture in contemporary America

Pieslak - Re-casting metal: rhythm and meter in the music of Meshuggah

Walser - Running with the devil: Power, gender, and madness in heavy metal music

Stupacher et al. - Neural Entrainment to Polyrhythms: A Comparison of Musicians and Non-musicians