Music 114: Music Theory I
Music 115: Music Theory II

I. Course introduction

Studying theories of musical organization helps to develop your perceptive, imaginative, and performative abilities with music. In this class, we draw connections between certain kinds of musical effects and the compositional techniques which reliably produce them within a particular musical style. This deepens your knowledge of the aesthetic issues within that repertoire, and it hones ways of thinking about music that can be generalized to a wide range of musical styles, contexts, and experiences.

In Music Theory I (Music 114), our focus will be on local-level dissonance (tension) and consonance (resolution), as they apply to rhythm, meter, melody, and harmony. We will look at treatments of melodic and harmonic dissonance that originate in the Renaissance (if not earlier) and which endure in Western tonal music to the present day. We will consider (through analysis and through composition) the way that melodies can be constructed to intensify or mitigate dissonance, the way that melodies can interact vertically to create harmony, and the way that harmonic progressions can foster long-range tension and release within a particular key. We will learn strict contrapuntal voice-leading procedures used by composers of the Classical era, and we will look at music from the present day that echoes some of these procedures and eschews others.

In Music Theory II (Music 115) we will begin to broaden our scope, looking at large-scale tonal relationships in music from the 18th century through to the present. We will investigate some chromatic harmonies and voice-leading techniques, including applied chords (tonicization), modulation to closely related key areas, chromatic embellishing tones, and borrowed chords (mode mixture).

This class involves active and collaborative engagement with music through listening, performing, improvising, composing, analyzing, writing, and discussion. A score is just a piece of paper; music is something that people do, and above all this course will draw on your skills as musically sensitive performers, composers, and listeners. In addition to pencil-and-paper composition this course will make use of Digital Audio Workstation software; no prior experience with a DAW is necessary.

II. Learning outcomes

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

Aurally and visually identify the various compositional techniques studied, including basic principles of voice-leading and dissonance treatment in Western tonal music, diatonic harmonies in major and minor keys, simple phrase structures, meter and hypermeter

Demonstrate creative knowledge of the above techniques through figured bass realization, melody harmonization, model compositions, score analysis, and voice-leading reductions

Think critically about the act of music analysis, its utility to you as creators and consumers of a wide range of music, and the historically and culturally contingent relationship between technical praxis and aesthetic values

III. Course Materials

You must purchase the following and bring them to class every day!
Textbook: Snodgrass — Contemporary Musicianship
Pencils and blank manuscript paper for taking notes
Three-ring binder for storing homework and handouts

Some optional resources that I recommend:
        — For drilling fundamentals
        — An interactive web tool for experimenting with basics of music theory
        — Guide to Western instruments and their playing techniques
    Elaine Gould. 2011. Behind Bars. London: Faber Music Ltd
        — Guide to correct standards of music notation and orthography

IV. Assignments and Grading

Homework and quizzes        70%
Midterm exam            10%
Final exam                20%

Late work
Late homework loses 5 points per day, and forfeits a redo.

Redo policy
All homework submitted on time can be redone once for a higher grade. Redos are due within a week of receiving your graded first attempt. Print a clean copy of the assignment from the course website, and redo the entire question in which your mistakes appear. (So if the problem had four measures and you only made mistakes in measure three, I still want you to recopy all four measures. But you do not need to rewrite other problems from the homework if you did not make mistakes.)

You must hand in both the new redo and the marked up first attempt to me. If you make a mistake on your redo that you didn’t make in your original, I will still deduct points; you will keep whichever grade is higher.

V. A note on participation

There is no formal participation grade. I sometimes “cold call” on students, and I also like to have small groups of students sing and improvise and write in front of the class. No one is naturally comfortable doing any of this! I hope that we will all work to foster a classroom environment that warmly encourages participation, experimentation, risk-taking, and mistakes. However, if these activities are a source of severe anxiety for you, talk to me privately and I will gladly make accommodations for you. You are always welcome to “pass” when called on.

VI. Technology policy

No computers, phones, or other electronic devices are allowed in class without prior arrangements with me. (But I’m happy to make those arrangements.) I prefer that you buy the paper textbook rather than the e-book, and if you do buy the e-book I prefer that you use it from an e-reader like a Kindle or iPad rather than your laptop.

Topics by week in Music Theory I:
review of intervals, intro to species counterpoint
species counterpoint
species counterpoint, review of triads + 7th chords
lead sheet symbols, tonal harmonic syntax
figured bass, SATB partwriting
figured bass, SATB
figured bass, SATB
Midterm exam
phrases and cadences; hypermeter
phrases and cadences
phrases and cadences
non chord tones
analysis and model composition
analysis and model composition
Final exam review

Topics by week in Music Theory II:
Review / musicianship diagnostic
Non-chord tones, harmonizing melodies
Applied chords
Applied chords
Borrowed chords / mode mixture
Borrowed chords / mode mixture
The Blues
Jazz standards