Spring 2019 Graduate Seminars

Music 508 001, Musicianship, James Primosch, (meeting time to be scheduled)  

The instructor will assess each student’s abilities at the beginning of the course and will structure the curriculum accordingly, covering skills in tonal and post-tonal repertoires as needed. The first semester usually focusses on tonal repertoires. Examples of the eventual goals for the course, typically in the second semester, would ideally include the ability to:

- take down two part atonal melodic dictations

 - tap out the rhythms of an Elliott Carter timpani piece

 - sing atonal melodies in treble or bass clefs, or tonal melodies in C clefs, 

 - aurally identify the harmonies of a work by Bartok or Britten. 

 - take down Bach chorales in harmonic dictations

Music 515 301,  Analysis in the 20th Century, James Primosch
Tuesdays, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Lerner Center 210

This course will investigate 20th and 21st century compositional practices with a focus on music for piano. There may be some preliminary study of important pre-20th century works, but the focus will be on the modernist masters, and especially on post-WW II to the present. Composers represented will range from Ives to Benjamin, Bartok to Rakowski. Students will do presentations on selected pieces, and will also compose a short work for piano.

Music 605 301, Ethnomusicology, Or, What to Do About It, Jim SykesWednesdays, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., Lerner Center Conference Room 312

This seminar is at once a pro-seminar that focuses on core themes in the field of ethnomusicology and an experimental venue for rethinking the field of “music studies” from an anthropological point of view and in light of our current political moment. Our method will be to explore “the ethnomusicological monograph”—investigating how such books are normatively structured—while tracing genealogies of thought in the discipline. Each session will involve reading one (or two) new, cutting-edge monographs and an old, influential one, books that are connected by a strand of thought in the discipline. Along the way, we will explore ethnomusicology’s history of entanglement with core topics and approaches from historical musicology, anthropology, sensory studies, sound studies, and related subfields. Students will give presentations on particular strands of thought emanating from or, perhaps, challenging ethnomusicology. Noting that ethnomusicology was founded on a conceptual separation of the West from the non-West where the former is represented through “history” and the latter through “ethnography,” the seminar will question both the legitimacy of the field and plot a course forward in light of the current state of interdisciplinarity and questioning of “the musical object.”

Music 606 401, Memoir Matters: Art, Activism and Black Lives, Guthrie RamseyThursdays 9 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Lerner Center Conference Room 312

In this seminar, we’ll study the art of writing memoir in the contexts of various art and activism movements in the United States. Students will build an archive of literary, musical and visual source materials that will be shared publicly for use by students, activists and educators.  The reading list will include:  

Danielle Allen, Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.

James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain

Langston Hughes, The Big Sea

Elizabeth Alexander, Light of the World

Brittney Cooper, Eloquent Rage

Patrice Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, When They Call You a Terrorist

Darnell Moore, No Ashes in the Fire

Keise Lamon, Heavy

Mark Anthony Neal, New Black Man

Gordon Parks, Choice of Weapons

Angela Davis, Angela Davis: An Autobiography

Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens


Music 621, Bodies, Corporealities, and Embodiments, Jairo Moreno
Thursdays 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., Lerner Center Conference Room 312

In 2000, David Harvey wrote of an “extraordinary efflorescence of interest in ‘the body’” in the last three decades of the twentieth century. The body, he remarks, now serves as mediation for counter-representational practices, a set of exchanges with the environment, and a set of technologies, techniques, and socioeconomic affordances. John Protevi questions the temporalities at which bodies act and subsist, raising, for Elizabeth Povinelli, a concern with the “tense” of bodies. This critical proliferation of bodies extends beyond the human, bodies becoming powerful loci in culture-nature debates, new materialism, and technics. Bodies, then, always in the plural, bodies that “know,” “feel,” “think,” “become,” “suffer,” “resist,” “perform,” “matter,” “endure,” “decay,” “accumulate,” or turn “spectral,” “virtual,” “superfluous.”

Music Studies and, more recently, Sound Studies too have contributed to these debates and inquiries, bringing their various methodological concerns and approaches (historical archival, ethnographic, philosophical, and music analytic) to carve out particular notions of what bodies are and do, considering how what bodies do helps constitute what they are said to be (or become). Carnal and feminist musicologies, for example, upturn the Modern (Western, patriarchal) hierarchy of mind over body, exercising, however, an inverted dualism in the name of embodied performance and performativity. Cognitivist approaches may variously bridge the mind-body divide or trace the origins of human cognitive affordances of musicking in co-evolutionary theories. Embodied ethnographies disavow logocentric underpinnings of traditional participant-observant methods, while affect theories offer definitive proof of the radically physical basis for affection. Sonology maintains a corporeal notion of sound. Technological hybrids pry open psycho-physiological notions of bodies and zoo-musicologies and bio-musicologies compel rehearsing the question of what bodies are/may be and at what scale they exist and operate. Interest in multiple ontologies demand that bodies not be everywhere separate from spirits. The list goes on. 

Our seminar takes a broad and ecumenical view on these developments, studying bodies in terms of the actions and agencies they undertake in listening, performing, and dancing, of claims to their constitution or co-constitution in relation to technologies, materialities, and multiple ontologies, and on the fields of meaning and value that emerge from the convergence of actions and constitutions. How may we approach bodies as sonic media, mediators, and mediations, as social and political actors and translators, subjects, entities, and objects and things? What are the possibilities and limitations in taking the body to be “method, critical dispositive, and analytical tool, all at once”? (Cimini and Moreno, 2016). Texts will draw from Music and Sound Studies, STS, Anthropology, and various strands of “critical” scholarship (Race Studies, New Materialism, Anthropocene Studies, Affect Studies, Performance Studies).


Music 700,  Seminar in Composition, Amy Williams (University of Pittsburgh)
Fridays 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., Lerner Center Room 102

This composition seminar will focus on Experimental Music. Each student will be expected to perform and analyze the works of others (by composers in the class and drawn from seminal works of the experimental tradition). Students must be prepared to play an instrument (though not necessarily at a professional level) in addition to composing numerous exercises for in-class exploration. Course readings will include overviews by Michael Nyman (Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond) and Jennie Gottschalk (Experimental Music Since 1970), as well as primary sources by composers and performers including Cage, Feldman, Brown, Lucier, Cardew, Behrman, Wolff, Oliveros, Young, and Ashley. In addition to weekly reading, listening and creative assignments, students will be expected to keep a journal to reflect on the topics discussed in class. Open to all graduate students who have had some prior composition experience.  


Music 705, Seminar in Ethnomusicology: Trauma, the Arts, and/as Modes of Healing, Carol Muller
Tuesdays 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., Lerner Center Conference Room 312

In this seminar we will address the pervasive presence of trauma in the everyday experiences of many of the worlds peoples—trauma caused by poverty, ethnic/racial/gender/sexual/religious identities, personal and social violence, war, personal and group disruption, indigeneity, and human migration. We will think about trauma as it impacts individuals and communities, both in the United States and elsewhere in the world, with particular focus on the African continent. The seminar materials explore therapeutic recovery and healing through the full spectrum of the arts, though our focus will be on sound/music. Students will be required to attend the Arts and Trauma conference hosted at Penn April 1-3, 2019, whose program includes a wide spectrum of arts and trauma advocates, practitioners, community leaders, and educators. 

This seminar is purposefully interdisciplinary and casts its net wide: it draws on literature from a range of fields including ethnomusicology, psychology, arts therapy, and neuropsychology to address the pressing issue of human trauma in the contemporary world. 


Music 720, Studies in Renaissance Music, Mary Caldwell
Mondays 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., Lerner Center Conference Room 312

This seminar explores the intersection of music—real, metaphorical, and ritual—with the cult of saints throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. By considering saints as both musical (i.e. capable of producing sound) and venerated through music, we will attempt to untangle various “musical hagiographies” as we investigate the sounding of the cult of saints (as opposed, or in addition, to their iconographic, material, or theological manifestations). Although we will look at moments spanning the tenth to the sixteenth centuries, the seminar is not organized chronologically. Instead, each seminar meeting will take a source type, repertoire, or theme as its focal point, building skills and familiarity with the premodern study of saints while also engaging in more conceptual discussions around issues such as politics, gender, identity, theology, performance, and ritual. Questions such as how the musical veneration of saints is weaponized and in what ways music blurs or maintains the social and cultural boundaries represented by saints will guide the seminar reading as we dip into primary sources (literature and narrative, poetry, chronicles) and contemporary studies around sainthood and sanctity. Taking our cue from Robert Bartlett’s study of saints and their worshippers, we will repeatedly ask ourselves “why can the dead do such great things?” and how do they do it with/in music?

The musical repertoires we will work include monophony (office chants, secular songs, conducti) and polyphony (motets, masses, chansons), as well as popular and folkloric poetry and song, sung dramas, and sonically-rich texts. In lieu of traditional research papers, several shorter research and analysis papers will provide opportunities to engage with a number of different collections of materials (including some in the Special Collections of the Kislak Center).