This class focuses on musical architecture, by examining beautiful works from the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. We will listen to music by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Fanny Hensel, Schumann, Brahms, Mahler, Ives, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Schoenberg, Berg, Rzewski, Bernstein, Cage, Kurtag, Takemitsu and Gubaidulina (among others), analyzing their structures in detail. We will study traditional forms, such as sonata form, theme and variations, passacaglia, and fugue, but we will also try to understand works whose structures seem to have no precedent.
Traditional or not, each piece of music is unique. We will discuss the tension between structure and imagination, predetermined form and the individual creative impulse, and we will ponder such questions as what we mean by musical coherence or by the notion that we are “following” a piece of music, and where we would draw the line between structure and chaos (or whether such a distinction is simply a matter of opinion).
The ability to read music and knowledge of the rudiments of harmony are recommended, but not required. Non-musicians are welcome in the course. While they will be expected to learn some musical fundamentals and to develop some skill at score reading, they will be encouraged to discuss musical structure from their own vantage points (philosophical, literary, visual/spatial, scientific, etc.). Course work will include listening assignments, readings, a journal, two mid-size papers, and responses to four music workshops.