Music M656

Music M656
Music Since 1900:
Modernism, Tradition, and the Avant-Garde

NOTE: Site under construction for Spring 2014

Spring 2011

Indiana University Jacobs School of Music

| About M656 | Schedule | Reserves | Listening List | The Journal | Group Presentations |

10:10-11:25 AM Mondays and Wednesdays in M267
Instructor: J. Peter Burkholder
Office: Simon Center 225D
Office Hours: MWF 1:45-2:45 PM
Office Phone: 855-7097

About M656

Table of Contents

About the course

This course will concentrate on music in the classical tradition written from 1900 to 1990. We will start with the German-Austrian tradition before World War II, move on to modernism in other countries, and conclude with the avant-garde and post-war music. We will study both composers generally considered to be at the center of the canon of modern music and composers and traditions that have been excluded from it.

Our theme will be the problems that twentieth-century composers face and the strategies they adopt to solve them. We will start with Arnold Schoenberg, using his music and writings in a case study of the situation of a modernist composer. As we encounter other composers, we will see in what ways the problems they face and the strategies they pursue are like those of Schoenberg and in what ways they differ.

This website is your guide to the semester. Here you will find a detailed description of the course objectives and notes on course requirements and expectations, with links to a complete course schedule, a list of books on Reserve and in Reference, the listening list for the semester, and instructions on the journal and group presentation. This website and these links are also available in a set of handouts, passed out on the first day of class.

Course objectives

  1. By the end of the semester, you should have a framework for understanding what composers did in this century, why they did it, and how their music was constructed.
  2. As part of the framework, you should be able to summarize the mainstream of modernist music in these years, distinguish it from other contemporary streams, and show how it differs from other periods.
  3. As part of the what, you will be expected throughout the term to be able to identify the works we study by sight or by ear, up to a reasonable level of proficiency, and to discriminate between the styles of the composers we concentrate on. You should also be able to identify composers, pieces, and other important names and terms we encounter, to summarize the careers of major composers, and to show a general knowledge of major events and trends of the century.
  4. As part of the why, you will be expected to be able to synopsize and critique writings by composers about music, including their own.
  5. As part of the how, you will be expected to be able to understand and summarize analyses of pieces from this period that behave in ways unlike earlier music.
  6. Finally, you should be able to take new facts and plug them into the framework you have learned, showing that you can apply a general view of twentieth-century classical music in your future work.

Coursework and grading

You will demonstrate your achievement of these goals in three principal ways: (1) class preparation and participation, including short writing assignments; (2) three examinations; and (3) working with others in the class to prepare and lead a class session. Your grade will be based 60% on the exams (20% each), 20% on day-to-day work, including class participation and your journal, and 20% on your group presentation. Specific information on the journal and group presentation is provided at these links.

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Course materials and expectations

There is no "textbook" per se for this course. The main "text" is the music itself, and the secondary "text" is a series of readings, including composers' writings about their own and others' music, a few articles that will serve as starting points for discussion, and some articles by me that present material I would otherwise present in lecture.

Reading and listening assignments for each class session are listed in the course schedule. Some additional assignments may be made during the course of the semester. Assigned readings are available on Oncourse, on Reserve, or in online journals. Listening assignments are available on CDs on Reserve and online through Variations2 on the M656 course listening list. Scores are on Reserve (with a few also on Variations2). For vocal works not in English, translations are available in handouts distributed through Oncourse.

You are expected to do the assignments before each class. You should come to class having done the assignments and written in your journal about them, and should be prepared to answer and ask questions about the readings and music for that day and to share what you have written in your journal.

But come to class, even if you are unprepared. The core of this course is in what we do together in class. Missed work can always be made up; a missed class is gone forever. Because being in class is so important, attendance will be taken, and your grade will be affected if you miss class.

Study together

I strongly recommend that you study together. Talk with each other about issues raised in class or in the readings. Share hints about what to listen for in the music. Compare notes from class or the readings. Are you getting the same main points out of an article or class session? If you do not understand something, ask a classmate to explain it to you. If you know something well, find someone who does not understand it and teach it to them; by the time you are done, you will either know it inside out or will realize that you do not know it as well as you thought (both common experiences among teachers!).

Remember, the goal is to learn the material. The more you share your knowledge with others, and the more you listen to what they have to say, the more you will learn. If you do not learn more from your classmates than you do from me, I will be very surprised.

Some words about listening

Much of your study time will be devoted to listening. Listen to each piece at least twice, before and again after it is discussed in class.

Listening cannot be hurried, so allow enough time for it. Ask yourself how the piece is put together, how it is like other pieces you know and how it is different, and how it fits into the traditions we are studying.

Remember that the music is more important than all the talk about it, even what is said in class. Try not to approach music you have never heard through the fog of what others have said about it (even what is said in class or what the composer says!), for much of what is said and written about music can be misleading until you know the music itself. This is one reason for listening to the music and writing about it in your journal before we discuss it in class.

However, many pieces will be unfamiliar, and you may not understand them without an explanation. Liner notes on the CDs are often helpful. If a piece interests you, go to Grove Music Online, to The New Grove Dictionary, 2nd ed., on the Index Table in the Reference section of the Music Library, or to the books on Reserve and in Reference for more information about it.

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| About M656 | Schedule | Reserves | Listening List | The Journal | Group Presentations |

Last updated: 6 January 2011
Copyright © 1998-2011 by J. Peter Burkholder