Fall 2023 Graduate Seminars

Fall 2023 Graduate Seminars

Music 6200 301.       Creative and Compositional  Approaches 
Tyshawn Sorey.       Mondays 5:15 p.m- 8:14 p.m Room: LERN 101

This course focuses on methods for thinking and engaging creatively through sound, whether compositionally or through other kinds of sound objects. Topics may include: compositional strategies; recording and producing; film; sound installations; experimental ethnography; sound art; and performance practice. Students will begin to put these methodological ideas into practice by developing semester-long projects. These projects can be individual or collaborative.


Music 6230 301.          Composing with Performers
Anna Weesner.       Fridays 10:15 p.m- 1:14 p.m Room: LERN 102 

This is a graduate level composition course in which explicit and active attention will be brought to what is perhaps more typically an implicit focus in the composition of music, that is, the anticipation of what performers bring to the interpretation and performance of live, acoustic music. Students will study repertoire, both old and new, with a concentration on music for string quartet. Students will be encouraged to take risks through the composition of short exercises as well as more involved original work. The Daedalus Quartet, Penn’s professional string-quartet-in-residence, will be actively involved with the class, both to discuss their current repertoire and to workshop student pieces.

Interested undergraduates should request permission from the instructor.


Music 7210 001.           Composition Studio and Forum 
Anna Weesner.       Wednesdays 3:30 p.m- 5:29 p.m Room: BENN 419 

Composer's Forum is a regular meeting of graduate composers, often along with other members of the Penn composing community, in which recent performances are discussed, musical issues taken up, and visitors occasionally welcomed to present their work or offer master classes. In addition to weekly Forum meetings, students will be paired with a composer for individual lessons in composition. Ph.d. Candidates in Composition in their third year in the program will continue non-credit participation in both forum and lessons.


Music 7300 301.         SONG 
Mary Caldwell.         Mondays 1:45 p.m- 4:44 p.m Room: LERN 101 

Modern singer-songwriters like Missy Elliot and Taylor Swift may seem far removed from the trobairitz and trouvèresses of the European Middle Ages, while the preponderance of “greatest hits” records appear to have little in common with the great chansonniers of the fifteenth century. Yet, while many centuries separate the songs that infiltrate our lives and media today from the songs of antiquity through to the sixteenth century, the concept of “song” as we understand it began to be formed, reformed, developed, and expanded in early and pre-modern Europe. This seminar examines song in its diverse contexts through a variety of lenses—text, music, history, gender, theory, art, materiality, theology, performance, movement. Examining a wide array of premodern song traditions, this course offers participants interdisciplinary perspectives on song that draws together through discussion and close musical and poetic readings and analysis. Through the seminar participants will gain a grasp on the concept of song and its historical position up to the
sixteenth century. While the subject matter of this course is specific, namely early and pre-modern song, the larger ideas explored in the seminar have a broad relevance to the humanities and to the continued production of “song” into the twenty-first century. From song as a form of personal expression, communication, and religious worship, to song as functional, practical, and as a musico-poetic genre, this seminar introduces students to the concept of locating one type of artistic creation within historical, cultural,
political, and religious frameworks. The seminar will enable participants will take larger theoretical ideas explored in this seminar and apply them to other song genres, while the research skills we will develop through assignments and seminar activities will be useful for research in music studies more broadly. 


Music 7400 401.        Black Musical Localities and the Politics of Place

Jasmine Henry.     Wednesdays 12:00 p.m- 2:59 p.m Room: LERN CONFERENCE    

This seminar attempts to move beyond mainstream commercial narratives and studies of Black popular music, and instead, direct attention toward the local, independent, and alternative aspects of its production and performance. Through an interdisciplinary lens encompassing music, locality, identity, politics, urban geography, and performance studies, students will explore the profound connections between Black music and the spatialities of Black life. Case studies of specific local music cultures are analyzed, considering their contributions to the broader landscape of Black popular music in the United States. Scholarly approaches and theories mapping Black spaces and places are explored, providing insights into the relationship between race, space, and place within African American musical historiography. Key topics include the influence of locality on musical styles, the significance of neighborhood scenes and cultural hubs, and the role of music in shaping local identities within social, political, and economic contexts. Additionally, this seminar goes beyond physical space to examine the circulation and transformations of local music in regional, national, global, and virtual contexts. Engaging in critical discussions, research projects, and listening exercises, students will develop a nuanced understanding of the complexities and richness of Black popular music within localized contexts. The course features a special emphasis on exploring local Black musical culture in Philadelphia, utilizing archival materials from the Kislak Center archives and featuring guest speakers. While primarily focusing on urban areas and popular music, the seminar is adaptable to other contexts based on students’ interests. Overall, equipped with analytical tools and theoretical frameworks, students will be prepared for further research and critical inquiry into the broader study of local music cultures.


Music 7500 301.  Comparative Oceanic Music Studies
Tim Rommen.    Tuesdays 1:45 p.m - 4:44 p.m Room: LERN CONFERENCE

In this course, we read widely across Caribbean and Indian Ocean Studies to ask: what can scholars of music and sound gain from moving beyond the narrow confines of the national to investigate oceans as spaces of both boundary-formation and boundary-crossing? We consider the interrelations between music and: various colonialisms (British, French, Portuguese); the formation of creole cultures; world religions (Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity); media circulations; ontological difference; discourses of ethnic difference and ethnonationalism; and climate change. Noting controversies surrounding comparative approaches in ethnomusicology, we ask whether a decolonial approach to comparative music studies is possible.