The Musical “Other”: Exoticism, Appropriation, and Multiculturalism (MHI4131.01)

Joseph Alpar

This seminar examines how the cultural “Other” has been represented in Western music. We will study a large repertory of orchestral, operatic, chamber, and solo works from the early Baroque period through the twenty-first century, investigating the uses and abuses of non-Western musical sources by composers and centering how politics and ideology inform the creation of these works. We will delve into concepts such as Orientalism, exoticism, a la Turca, Chinoiserie, appropriation, multiculturalism, and hybridity, drawing connections between musical works and related examples in the visual arts and theater. The course will move beyond the classical canon to examine “Othering” in a variety of popular and folk musical contexts: mid-century exotica music, Hollywood and video game soundtracks, Broadway musicals, the World Music industry, pop music, and jazz. We will also look at these topics from the other side of the coin, studying works by non-Western composers and performing artists who take the “the West” as their Other, appropriating culture and history in constructing their national identities. This course is not meant to dissuade students from exploring the richness of the worlds’ musics in their own creative endeavors. Rather, the course will hopefully inspire us to think critically about how curious and searching musicians and listeners throughout history have tackled the challenges and ethical implications of meaningful musical representation and cultural exchange.

Learning Outcomes:
Students will:
1. Study iconic and more obscure works of the classical music repertoire that utilize non-Western musical representation.
2. Think critically about arts within their own cultural, political, and aesthetic environments.
3. Think about the role of music as a propaganda tool or vehicle for amity between cultures.

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Students must be able to read notation comfortably and have previous experience in music theory, music history, or composition. Contact instructor ( with a statement about your interest and music abilities.
Corequisites: Required attendance at certain concerts and lectures scheduled on campus (one to two) Required participation in one to two field trips off campus. Dates for all required activities outside of class will be provided at the start of the term.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
M/Th 10:00AM - 11:50AM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 14
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: 4000 , All courses , Four Credit , Fully In-Person , History , SCT
Tags: , , , , ,