Music M656 Journal

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

Spring 2011

Indiana University Jacobs School of Music

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The Journal

Table of Contents

The journal is designed to be an informal place for you to do your own thinking. It is not a place to take notes from the readings or from class. You will probably spend about two hours a week writing in your journal, spread out into smaller chunks of time.

Please take the journal seriously, write in it regularly, and keep up with the work. Many past students have told me they found the journal very valuable and have kept it long after the course is over. Also, it is a part of your day-to-day work of preparation for and participation in class, which is 20% of your grade.

Some guidelines:

  1. Use a BOUND COMPOSITION BOOK, which is more durable and less tempting to use for other things than a spiral notebook. Do NOT use looseleaf notebook paper or a computer. I want you to have a hand-written, bound, completely portable journal.
  2. Bring your journal to class with you EVERY DAY and keep it with you whenever you study for this class.
  3. Write directly in your journal. Do not write out an entry elsewhere and transcribe it into your journal. This is not final-draft writing; this is first-thoughts, messy writing. For the same reason, do not rip out pages; if you don't like something you have written, say so and write a new version, correction, or response.
  4. Please DATE ALL YOUR ENTRIES by the day you enter them. Write continuously; DO NOT start each entry on a new page. I mark the first entry for a day with a double diagonal line ( // ) in the left margin and then enter the date, while I give later entries that same day only a single line ( / ). You can work out any system you like, as long as the day you write each entry is clear.
  5. Do not leave blanks for pieces or readings you have skipped and plan to go back to later. The entries should appear in the order you write them, NOT the order in which listening assignments and readings appear on the syllabus.
  6. Neatness does not count. Just be sure someone else can read what you write. If you use heavy ink that bleeds through, please don't write on both sides of the paper.

This is what you should put in your journal:

1. Readings

For the readings marked with an asterisk (*) on the course schedule, write (a) a brief abstract and (b) your comments or reactions or questions that you would like to explore further.

The abstract should be about four to six sentences in length. The first sentence should state the article's thesis or main point: not what the article is about but what it says, like a one-sentence summary of the whole article. The remaining sentences should present the main supporting points and pieces of evidence. Your aim, here and in any abstract, should be to summarize the reading in such a way that someone who has not read the article could learn what it says just from reading your words. A sample abstract is attached below.

Then write down at least one comment about, reaction to, or question concerning the reading. Do not critique the writer's style; react to what he or she has to say, and explain in what ways you agree or disagree. Your summary should always come first, THEN your reactions.

In summarizing, reacting to, and writing questions in response to the readings, you will be showing your achievement of Course Objectives #2 and #4, as shown on the first page of the syllabus.

2. Listening assignments

For the pieces or excerpts marked with an asterisk (*) on the course schedule, write a brief description of the piece, using the following questions as guides.

You may find it helpful to consider what is distinctive or traditional in each of the following aspects: genre, style, rhythm, melody, harmony, phrasing, texture, form, use of voices and instruments, use of text (if any), and meanings or emotions conveyed. But you need not discuss all of these, and should keep your description fairly brief. Here is a sample entry, for Erik Satie's Gymnopédie No. 1, using the guidelines above:

This is a solo piano piece in a made-up genre, an ancient Greek circle dance, and in a very simple style. Its slow triple meter recalls other calm dances. The rhythm is monotonous, with the same swaying left-hand accompaniment throughout and a melody that uses only quarter and dotted half notes. The melodies are diatonic, but seem aimless. The modal harmony reinforces this sense of swaying without much forward motion--for instance, the opening alternates G and D seventh chords. The phrases are somewhat irregular and unpredictable. The texture never changes. The form is ABAB--once again swaying back and forth without getting anywhere. All of this creates a mood of calmness and effortlessness, almost blankness. This seems to be Satie's answer to overblown Romanticism. Nothing is expressed; it just is. This is quite unlike 19th-century music and most 20th-century music, but it anticipates the emotional blankness of some neoclassical and post-WWII music. The simplicity is also untypical, while the modal rather than tonal harmony and the static quality anticipate Debussy and many others.

In describing pieces of music and relating them to other music you know, you will be practicing skills related to Course Objectives #3, #5, and #6.)

3. Short writing assignments, questions, and thoughts

I will occasionally ask you to write something specific in your journal, either in class or at home. Some of these will be in response to particular readings or pieces, but others will be in the nature of summaries or essays. These are informal, brief essays, and will not be graded separately from the journal itself.

Although most of your work in your journal will relate to specific readings or listening assignments, take time occasionally to write down your thinking at this point in the course. When you have a question, or a new thought, or a gripe, or you want to contrast what one author says with what another says, or you have anything else to say, write it down. Every few weeks, write down what you have been learning. You might try summarizing your experience in the course as if you were summarizing a reading, including reactions, comments, and further questions you want to explore.

Using and evaluating the journal

You will often share what you have written in class, so that it will become part of your preparation for and participation in class discussion.

From time to time I will also collect and evaluate your journal. My main concern will be whether you are doing the work consistently and on time, but I will also be checking how well you understand the readings (as shown in your abstracts) and the music (as shown in your descriptions) and whether you have fresh and interesting things to say or ask about them.

Sample abstract

This is an example of an abstract as described on p. 1 of this handout: a paragraph that summarizes the article in such a way that someone who has not read the article could learn what it says just from reading the abstract. (Since you have probably not read the article, you can prove this to yourself by reading the abstract and seeing if you understand it.)

Burkholder, J. Peter. "Ives and Yale: The Enduring Influence of a College Experience." College Music Symposium 39 (1999): 27-42.

Charles Ives's college experiences at Yale had a profound and enduring influence on his choice of subject matter and his development as a composer. He had strong lifelong ties to Yale, including longstanding family connections and continuing contact after his 1898 graduation. His literature courses with William Lyon Phelps influenced his later choice of song texts and literary subjects. His engagement in extracurricular activities is reflected in pieces written while at Yale for fraternities, glee clubs, and college publications and in later programmatic works about college life, such as Yale-Princeton Football Game. His music courses with Horatio Parker were vital for his later development. Although Ives at times claimed Parker as his mentor and at other times sought to downplay Parker's influence, recent scholarship has shown that Parker provided a firm technical foundation that underlies Ives's more experimental works as well as the conservative orchestral and choral works that most directly show Parker's influence.

The main point of the article is stated in the first sentence. (In some cases you may need a sentence or two to set up the problem the writer is addressing, before stating the main point, the writer's solution to that problem. The remaining sentences state the principal supporting points, subpoints, or pieces of evidence. These need not be presented in the same order as in the article itself; choose the order of ideas that seems clearest or most efficient. The whole abstract is six sentences long and about 150 words. Yours may be longer or shorter as appropriate, within the range of about 100-300 words.

Note that the abstract does not describe the item or say what it is about. Instead, it is written as if the writer of the article is speaking for himself or herself and is making the same main points as in the article, only in much briefer space. An abstract like this is much more informative than a mere description. Nor does the abstract quote the article. It is far better to paraphrase the article in your own words, which shows you have understood it.

We will use your abstracts as springboards for discussion in class. Reviewing your abstracts will allow me to see how well you are understanding the articles and the issues they address.

The bibliographic information should be presented in the style Turabian's Manual for Writers prescribes for bibliographies (as used here and in the list of books on reserve), rather than the footnote style used in the syllabus. A guide to this style for bibliographies can be found at the Music Library Reference Desk or online at (Please note that on some web browsers the hyphens, apostrophes, quotation marks, and some other characters in this document are not shown correctly; if your browser does this, please get the printed version or try another browser.)

Avoiding plagiarism

Your journal must be entirely your own work. No portion of it should be quoted from another source, unless you place the quoted material in quotation marks and attribute it to your source. If you are found to have plagiarized any parts of your journal, you may receive an F for the course.

Please see the IU Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct regarding plagiarism ( I urge you to complete the School of Education online tutorial on plagiarism and take their examination in order to ensure that you understand what plagiarism is and how it can be avoided. Both the tutorial and the test are available online at

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Last updated: 9 January 2011
Copyright © 1998-2011 by J. Peter Burkholder