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The Core Curriculum

Music Humanities Syllabus

The focus of Music Humanities is on masterpieces of Western art music in their historical and cultural contexts. The specific goals of the course are to awaken and encourage an appreciation of Western music, to help the student learn to respond intelligently to a variety of musical idioms, and to engage the student in the issues of various debates about the character and purposes of music that have occupied composers and musical thinkers since ancient times. As the student learns to become an adept, sensitive listener, his or her understanding of the history and value of this repertory will be enriched as well. The student will become actively involved in the process of critical listening, in the classroom, on his or her electronic equipment, and in some of the professional concerts that are part of the extraordinary richness of musical life in New York.

Using a “great works” approach, the course will look at the changing genres and styles of music, examining composers’ choices and assumptions, as well as those of their patrons and audiences, as it moves chronologically from the Middle Ages to the present. The students’ critical perceptions and articulate responses to readings, and especially to music, will be eagerly sought.


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