This course explores the ways music and musicians affect social change and peace. It is a laboratory for both study and action and intellectual and experiential learning that operates on four levels: (1) studying conflict and peacemaking from the interdisciplinary perspectives of international relations, political science, psychology, religion and spirituality, and the arts; (2) learning from artists, activists, and academics who will visit the course to share their projects and perspectives; (3) researching the ways music and peace intersect in history and society; and (4) creating a music and peace project individually and/or as a group. Contemporary music can be a powerful vehicle for expressing and transcending pain caused by violence, racism, poverty, war, and injustice. The course deepens understanding of political, ethnic, racial, national, and religious differences in our own lives and society, while experimenting with ways to respond.
Music and Society Topics allow students to choose from a variety of course themes that change each semester. In Music and Society Topics courses, students explore racial, ethnic, or collective identities, narratives, history, and/or cultural expression as expressed by artists and society. Students are presented with key terminology in the disciplines represented in music and society, such as gender and global studies. Individual course descriptions for each semester are available on the Liberal Arts department webpage.
Traversing music history, philosophy, and sociology, students will explore music as cultural product. Reading, listening, and thinking enable students to achieve a deeper understanding of music's place in society by, for example, emphasizing music's realities as social constructs; transmission of these realities to later generations; and subsequent absorption of these same (constructed) realities as transparent assumptions. Considering music since 1900, students will begin to see how we arrived at the music today. And where are we headed? Has jazz, for instance, run its course? Is hip-hop here to stay? Does anyone go to classical concerts anymore? In perceiving not only the forces that brought us to our current pass, but also those operating in today's intellectual, cultural, and commercial spheres, students will then be able to formulate coherent notions of how music will evolve in the course of their own careers.
This course is designed to introduce the students to a comprehensive study of the principal thoughts, concepts of beauty, and aesthetics in the art of India. The articulation of Indian art will reveal the relevance of the philosophies of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The course will provide a socio-historical approach to the understanding of Indian art, dance, and music. The course will also include brief histories of Eastern Civilizations as frameworks for the understanding of their aesthetic and philosophical concepts as presented in works of art. The history and aesthetics of Indian classical and contemporary traditions of visual art, music, and dance will be introduced to the students and some comparisons to the Western tradition will be used to help students relate, contrast, and compare them to their own creative practice that will complement their art, study and in turn grasp a deeper understanding of Indian art, music, and culture.
This course provides an introduction to issues, trends, and arguments in contemporary ethnomusicology, or the cultural study of music. As we listen to a variety of musical examples from Hindipop to hip-hop, we will examine these approaches actively through discussion, listening, and small-scale research projects. We will also engage with themes including youth culture, commercial music production, and cultural hybridity. Finally, we will ask how globalization has transformed musical practices and how we understand them today.
In this course, students will explore the history of the American music industry from 1790 to the present day. Students will study the role of instrument manufacturers, sheet music publishers, and record labels in transforming a basic human activity—music making—into a commodity. Students will also examine the race, class, and gender stereotypes that shaped the creation and marketing of popular music in different eras. Additionally, the course will examine the complex relationship between technological innovation and intellectual property law, studying the industry’s efforts to combat piracy and control how consumers use its products. By focusing on such key moments in the industry’s history as the birth of sound recording and the invention of the electric guitar, students will finish the course with a deeper understanding of the legal, technological, and social structures that inform the creation and consumption of popular music.
In this course, students will become familiar with the underlying anthropological and sociological foundations of modern Spanish culture. The course content will provide a solid understanding of the cultural idiosyncrasy of the Spanish people in addition to an overview of Spain’s history. Students will also explore and analyze different trends and phenomena of modern day Spain, along with some traditions that still hold in our time. Spanish music history and artistry from ancient times to the present will be studied, with a special focus on the way that music shapes and is shaped by society. Students will study Spanish styles of music, including, among others, folk, popular music, and flamenco. An exploration of the ways that other Mediterranean cultures have shaped Spain will be used as a lens to explore music history, artistry, and culture. In addition, students will explore the ways that music is an expressive form that reflects and influences society.
This course focuses on musical analysis, contextual cultural explorations, and study of the sociohistorical circumstances fundamental to the emergence of Cuban music and its subsequent evolution as part of the larger cultural and social history of the Americas and the Caribbean, from about the 18th to the 21st century. In addition to an introduction to key figures in the development of Cuban music, we will analyze African-derived musical traditions rooted in ritual and religious practices (e.g. bembé, abakuá, palo) and their affects on the birth of characteristic secular urban and rural genres like contradanza, son, son montuno, comparsa, and rumba. The continuing influence of these major genres on contemporary Cuban music styles such as timba, as well as their longstanding international reach, will be investigated from the perspectives of artistic innovation and aesthetic synthesis, ongoing processes of musical hybridization, and the implicit social struggles of both musicians and cultural carriers at the core of many of these musical expressions.
In this course, students will explore the development of radio and television in the United States. The first half of the course will provide a technological, legal, and commercial framework for understanding radio and television’s origins. Particular emphasis will be given to the formation of networks, the creation of the Federal Communications Commission, and the fraught relationship between major broadcast corporations and musicians’ unions (e.g. American Federation of Musicians) and performance rights organizations (e.g. ASCAP and BMI). The second half of the course will focus specifically on the role of music in shaping our experience of radio and television. Through a series of case studies, students will explore the use of music in a variety of contexts: in sitcoms, dramas and crime procedurals; in educational programs and concert broadcasts; on MTV, American Bandstand, and Soul Train; and in cartoons such as South Park. Students will finish the course with a deeper understanding of how radio and television mirror social, political, and musical currents in the popular culture.
This course examines the history of the music, artists, business leaders, and practices of one of the most important music genres of the 20th century: R&B/soul. Students explore the influence of the R&B/soul music personalities, and examine how they shaped business practices specific to the field and created a bluprint for the current pop music field dominated by hip-hop moguls such as Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, Sean Combs, the Williams brothers, and Lil' Wayne. The impact of the genre's artists and business people—including artists Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, and Marvin Gaye; and producers Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Teddy Riley, L.A. Reid, Babyface, Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, Ahmet Ertegun, Berry Gordy, and Dick Griffey—will be investigated through listening, lecture, discussion and research.
This course explores the concepts of transformational power in music using musical examples from several different cultures. The desire to connect spiritually through music has been found to be virtually universal, but music can communicate that which is beyond language in both sacred and secular settings. Western culture's 21st-century influence has shown that the pervasiveness of music and emphasis on entertainment can cause us not to always recognize its power. How do we define power and music in current cultural trends? Through guided listening to recordings of music from around the world, viewing films, interviews with guest speakers and musicians, and class discussions, students explore the forms and context of music from different places around the world and make connections between music, transformation, and spirituality.
This course is a comprehensive study of influential female songwriters of the 20th century and their relationships with their cowriters and producers. Students explore the work of Dorothy Fields, Jerome Kern, Laura Nyro, David Geffen, Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Diane Warren, Jack White, and others, and examine these songwriters' inspirations, as well as their impact on subsequent writers. Students also study the interaction of these songwriters with other contemporary artists and thinkers, including other musicians, writers, and visual artists. Students analyze the influence of George and Ira Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, and doo wop on the songwriters' work, as well as the songwriters' own personal and political lives. In addition, students analyze the elements that brought these exemplary songwriters to the top of the music industry at a very competitive time and investigate the combination of factors that led to success.