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The Core Curriculum

Music Humanities Syllabus

 Music Humanities Syllabus, 2020 


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 performances, 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 course moves chronologically from the Middle Ages to the present, examining the choices and assumptions of composers, 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, to the performances, and to the source readings that are a hallmark of the Core, will be a vital part of the class.

In the absence of live music events in New York City during Fall 2020, performers will be zooming into our virtual classroom, and modes of mediated listening will be one of our topics.


I. Elements of Music

Sound, rhythm, melody, harmony, tone color


II. Medieval & Renaissance Music 

Hildegard of Bingen and Gregorian Chant 

Perotin, Viderunt Omnes 

Beatriz de Dia, A Chantar 

Josquin des Prez, Ave Maria 


III. Baroque Music 

Monteverdi, L’OrfeoHor che’l cielo e la terra 

Handel, Messiah 

Bach, The fugue 


IV. Classical Music 

Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro  

Mozart, Piano concerto in G major, no. 17, K. 453 

Beethoven, Symphony no. 5 in C minor


V. Romantic Music 

Schubert, Erlkönig 

Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique 

Clara Schumann, Piano Trio in G minor 

Chopin, Nocturnes 

Wagner, The Ring Cycle 

Verdi, La traviat


VI. 20th- & 21st-Century Music 

European modernism: Debussy, Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune; Stravinsky, Le Sacre du printemps;

Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire 

American modernism and experimentalism: Still, Afro-American Symphony; Crawford Seeger, String

Quartet 1931; Copland, Appalachian Spring; Cage, Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano

Jazz: Armstrong/Oliver, West End Blues; Ellington, It Don't Mean a Thing; Parker, Ornithology 

Music of the Civil Rights era: Holiday, Strange Fruit; Mingus, Fables of Faubus; Roach, Freedom Now

 Suite; Simone, Mississippi Goddamn

Electronic Music 

Reich, Tehillim 

Saariaho, L’amour de loin