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The Core Curriculum

Music Humanities Syllabus

The focus of Music Humanities is on the many forms of the Western musical imagination in art music, through works studied in their historical and cultural contexts. The specific goals of the course are to awaken and encourage active, critical, and comparative listening practices, to provide tools to respond verbally to a variety of musical idioms, and to create engagement with the debates about the character and purposes of music that have occupied composers and musical thinkers since ancient times. The extraordinary richness of musical life in New York is an integral part of the course.

The course moves chronologically from the Middle Ages to the present, examining the choices and assumptions of composers, their patrons, audiences, and performers, and exploring what we can and can’t know about how music of the past may have sounded. Students’ critical perceptions and articulate responses to the music, and to the source readings that are a hallmark of the Core, will be a vital part of the class.


General Outline


Medieval & Renaissance Music 

Hildegard of Bingen and Gregorian Chant 

Perotin, Viderunt Omnes 

Beatriz de Dia, A Chantar 

Josquin des Prez, Ave Maria 

Monteverdi, Hor che’l cielo e la terra 


Baroque Music 

Monteverdi, Orfeo 

Handel, Messiah 

Bach, The fugue 


Classical Music 

Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro

Mozart, Piano concerto no. 17, K. 453 

Beethoven, Symphony no. 5 


Romantic Music 

Schubert, Erlkönig 

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique 

Clara Schumann, Piano Trio op. 17 

Chopin, Nocturnes 

Wagner, The Ring Cycle

Verdi, La traviata


20th & 21st Century Music 

Debussy, Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune 

Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring 

Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire 

Still, Afro-American Symphony 

Crawford Seeger, String Quartet 1931 

Copland, Appalachian Spring 

Cage, Sonatas and Interludes 

Armstrong, West End Blues 

Ellington, It Don't Mean a Thing 

Parker, Ornithology 

Electronic Music 

Reich, Tehillim 

Saariaho, L’amour de loin 


* Can be replaced with opera at the Met