Music to My Ears: The Academics

unnamedHey y’all! I’m Eimi (pronounced ‘Amy’) and I’m your sophomore correspondent for Music to My Ears, my personal outlet that showcases the different facets that Brown’s music scene has to offer!

But first, a shameless promotion: Come to the Brown University Orchestra’s concert on Sunday, November 23rd at 2 pm in Sayles Hall! Titled Music of of Old and New Worlds, we will be performing Invitation to the Dance (Carl Maria Von Weber, orch. Berlioz), Manhattan Intermezzo (Neil Sedaka), New World A-Coming (Duke Ellington), and Mr. W.S (Anthony Burgess). Tickets are $3 for students and $10 for the general public. Get yours online before they sell out:

I’ve realized that while I’ve done some talking about the music scene at Brown, I haven’t really talked about the academic side of things. I’m going to take this post to give you a brief rundown of the music concentration and courses offered here at Brown!

The music program at Brown is a hidden gem: small but prolific in many wonderful resources. It makes for a tight-knit community that focuses attention on each individual musician. I’ve found that many students here involved in music in some way are conservatory level. Really, they’re that good. When you combine raw musical talent, intelligence, a passion for the subject, and the right professors, you get a truly wonderful product.

The music concentration is 10 or 11 requirements, depending on if you go down the History/Theory/Composition, Ethnomusicology, or the Computer Music/Multimedia track. All music concentrators must take MUSC 0550 and MUSC 0560, Theory of Tonal Music, a year-long music theory course. After that, courses start to become more tailored to each track depending on the pre-requisites taken. Students are highly encouraged to participate in one of the performance groups, including but not limited to, Chorus, Orchestra, Jazz Band, Wind Symphony, Chamber Music Performance, Electroacoustic Ensemble, Sacred Harp/Shape-Note Singing, Old-time String Band, Javanese Gamelan, Brazilian Choro Ensemble, or Ghanaian Drumming.

There are, of course, still a myriad of courses for students like me who are interested in the music without wanting to pursue a concentration. Here are just a few examples:

MUSC 0010 Introduction to Western Music: A study of a thousand years of music of Europe and America through CDs, DVDs, and YouTube. We’ll explore how individuals, institutions, and societies create music, use it, experience it, pay for it, and control it. We’ll discuss music and time, music and politics, music and identity. Still, the heart of the course is listening to great music, and learning how it works.

MUSC 0021G Duke Ellington: This class will be an examination of the life and work of Duke Ellington. We will use recordings, scores, films, autobiographies, interviews, oral histories and other primary source materials as well as biographical, theoretical and analytical readings to study Ellington’s three careers: the composer, the performer and the band leader. We will analyze his work largely within the musical parameters of form, improvisation techniques, orchestration, instrumentation, rhythmic and chordal structures, and concepts of tone quality.

MUSC 0040 World Music Cultures (Africa, America, Europe, Oceania): A survey of a variety of musical styles from Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Oceania outside the Western art music tradition. Introduces these musics in their historical, social, and cultural context, in an attempt to understand them in their own theoretical systems and aesthetic frameworks.

MUSC 0064 Honky Tonk Heroes: This course explores country music from its origins to the present day. We will trace its development through the careers of foundational artists like the Carter Family, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, and Willie Nelson, and evaluate the way that their legacy is reflected in the work of contemporary artists like Corb Lund, Hayes Carll, and Neko Case. Beyond the individual creativity of these figures, we will consider the way that country music has been shaped by the recording industry, the relation it has to race, gender, and political identities, and the international spread of the American country sound.

MUSC 0200 Computers and Music: An introduction to the field of computer music, focusing on the use of electronics and computers in music and performance. Investigates basic acoustics, perception of sound, the history of music technology, and musical applications. Extensive listening assignments illustrate the impact of technology on popular and experimental genres.

MUSC 0210E Systems for Play: Complex patterns emerge while playing with simple processes. This course focuses on systems as creative constraints and sites for composing sound and other materials. Amplifying, multiplying, delaying, cutting, folding, growing and randomizing become lenses for animating our practices and playgrounds for exploring tendencies (our own, the materials’, the systems’).

MUSC 0400 Introduction to Music Theory: An introduction to musical terms, elements, and techniques, including notation, intervals, scales and modes, triads and seventh chords, modulation, melody writing and harmonization, analysis, and composition. Ear-training and sight-singing are included.

MUSC 1240B Narrative and Immersion: A production course examining the potentials for engagement in new media, drawing on narrative techniques to establish engagement in immersive works. Students will be introduced to cinematic concepts, interactive technologies, multi-channel video and surround sound environments. Classes will consist of viewing and analysis of exemplary work, discussion of readings, critiques of student projects, and technical workshops on Max/Jitter.

MUSC 1240G Topics in New Media Theory and Production: Post-Vernacular Composition/ ‘Pop Music’ Gone Feral: This seminar explores the fertile creative territory found around the more adventurous edges of ‘popular’ musics. We will focus on non-notated contemporary composition, but will not be restricted to the recording studio, or to the production of ‘fixed’ works. The idea of post-vernacular is utilised to challenge the view that vernacular musics are only oriented towards commercialism and mass popularity. It seeks to extend and develop the inherently experimental dimensions of much vernacular musical practice. Students will respond to increasingly open-ended assignment briefs, and explore cultural and aesthetic considerations via a portfolio of practical and theoretical work.

MUSC 1662 Music and Childhood in the Western Tradition: This seminar examines significant moments in the history of children as creators, performers, consumers, and subjects of music in the Western tradition. From Mozart to Michael Jackson, medieval psalmody to Stockhausen, we will survey the enlisting of children, childhood, and the childlike across a range of performance contexts and pedagogical, aesthetic, and cultural-political agendas. We will sharpen our critical awareness of the ways Western music mediates negotiations of childhood agency, innocence, and authenticity. For their final project, students may work with a historical item of children’s musical culture, or undertake a “mini-ethnography” of a local children’s music program or ensemble.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Email me at!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s