Syllabus for Mus 104 - Music Since 1900

Harvey Mudd College, Fall 2011

Instructor: Bill Alves

Mondays/Wednesdays 1:15-2:30
Scripps PAC-119











The explosive changes of the last hundred years have created one of the most tumultous but exciting periods of the arts in history. Art music has matched the last century's diversity and change, mirrored its excitement and tragedies. As we move into the twenty-first century art music has continued to challenge as it has begun to break down barriers between high and low art, between East and West, old and new. This course is a creative look at these multifaceted styles, techniques, and expressions that have made art music so powerful.

Because our focus will be on the "classical" tradition, we will not have time in this class to cover popular music, folk music, or music entirely outside of the Western tradition, except as they relate to music in the Western classical tradition. However, this is not to imply by any means that such music is better or more worthy of study.

The materials for this course will include the following:

Discussions, questions, and updates on assignments between classes will be made through the class electronic mailing list: mus-104-l (the last character is an L, not a one). If you are preregistered, you should already be subscribed.


Because this course includes some reading and analysis of musical scores, some ability to read music is a prerequisite. If you are in doubt about your fulfillment of this requirement, please talk to me. Otherwise, students may come to this course from a variety of backgrounds, from music majors to those with only a basic knowledge of music theory and music in the twentieth century. Our class discussions and lectures will be aimed at involving everyone, though assignments may be customized with students' different goals and backgrounds in mind. That is, music majors may receive different assignments and be graded with different expectations, though the amount of work and time required will be the same for all students.

Office hours

I encourage you to come by my office with any questions you have. Currently my office hours are MTWTh 10:30 to 11:30, but these times could change as my schedule develops this semester. I encourage you to check the schedule posted on my office door or email me for an appointment (alves

Course Assignments


Reading responses10 x 3%
CD responses3 x 7%
3 Projects3 x 10%
Final exam9%


There will be three projects over the course of the semester, the nature of which will depend on the interest and background of the individual student. Some expectations will be different for music majors and non-majors, though the effort and time expected will be the same.

Reading Responses

I have chosen the textbook and other reading materials for this class not to represent a conventional textbook history, but to engage you with the critical issues and contexts that surround this music. This music is a living tradition discussed and argued over in articles in magazines, blogs, and newspapers. Your awareness and participation in this tradition is a fundamental part of your development as a professional musician or educated listener. Therefore, there will be assigned articles on reserve in addition to assigned reading in the textbook, and as a starting point for further thought and discussion, you will submit a response to the appropriate Sakai forum. ( More details and an example response can be found here.) Your response will include a paragraph responding to a piece of music mentioned in the reading but not on one of your CDs. You can find recordings of many pieces in one of the Claremont Colleges Library audio databases (see below) or other legal sources. At the end of the semester, the lowest reading response grade will be dropped.

CD Responses

While your listening during this semester will be wide-ranging, I have prepared a series of six CDs with accompanying scores that we will especially focus on. Instead of just having listening exams, you will write up a three- to four-page essay on your three favorite or most interesting pieces on the assigned CDs. It will be necessary to do some basic background research on the web, but the responses should focus on your own listening analysis which demonstrates your ability to apply the critical listening guidelines for describing music discussed in class.

Class Resources

For projects, listening responses, and other assignments, it may be necessary to consult resources beyond the class textbook and scores on reserve. Here are some resources that will likely be useful:

Class Participation

Because this is a class focusing on in-class discussion and analysis, your regular attendance and participation affects not only your own understanding, but that of your classmates as well. Therefore, participation is a significant part of your grade, as much as the final exam. If you miss more than two classes, your participation grade goes from at most A to at most B. Four absences will drop the grade to a C, six to D, and eight or more to F. Of course absences due to illness, family death, or religious holiday will be excused with appropriate documentation.

This is a class about listening to music. Therefore it is imperative that you listen to the assigned CDs very carefully and several times. Concentrate while listening and take notes. Keeping current and prepared to discuss all assigned listening and reading will also form part of your participation grade.

Late Assignments

Late assignments are normally penalized one letter grade per week late, unless they are late because of an excused absence. Late assignments will usually be given some credit, no matter how late. However, late assignments will not be accepted beyond the date of the final exam.

Course schedule

Schedule may be adjusted depending on class progress
DateTopic Assignment dueReading due Terms to know
Aug. 31Listening guide
Sep. 5Music and culture at the turn of the 20th century Ross 3-32
Sep. 7Impressionism and modalism Reading response 1Ross 33-45 Impressionism, pentatonic, non-diatonic, whole-tone, neo-modalism
Sep. 12Expressionism and free atonality CD response 1: CDs 1 & 2Ross 45-73 extended tonality, free atonality, klangfarbenmelodie
Sep. 14Early Stravinsky Reading response 2 Ross 74-93 polytonality, polyrhythm, primitivism
Sep. 19Modernism in France Project 1 proposal Ross 93-119 Les Six, Futurism, Dada
Sep. 21Neoclassicism Reading response 3 Ross "Prince Igor" Neoclassicism
Sep. 26Twelve-tone music Project 1 interim Ross "Whistling in the Dark" twelve-tone method, tone row, inversion, retrograde, invariance, combinatoriality, cyclical permutation
Sep. 28Ultramodernism and Jazz in the USA Reading response 4 Ross 120-156 dissonant counterpoint, microtonality, tone cluster, symphonic jazz
Oct. 3New Objectivity Project 2 proposal Ross 178-212; Rockwell: "The Enigma of Kurt Weill" gebrauchsmusik
Oct. 5Soviet music Reading response 5 Ross 215-259 Socialist Realism
Oct. 10No class Project 2 interim
Oct. 12No class CD response 2: CDs 3 & 4
Oct. 17Fall break
Oct. 19Modernist Nationalism
Oct. 24Nationalism in the USA Project 2 Ross 260-304
Oct. 26Music in Hitler's Germany Reading response 6: Modern Music article Ross 305-354; Modern Music article
Oct. 31Post-war serialism Ross 386-446 serialism, integral serialism, metric modulation
Nov. 2Chance music Reading response 7 Schiff "Ah, for the Days When New Music Stirred the Blood" chance music, aleatory, graphic notation, indeterminacy
Nov. 7Electronic music and postserialism CD response 3: CDs 5 and 6 Ross "White Noise" analog synthesis, computer music, modular synthesizer, musique concrète
Nov. 9HSA advising: No class Reading response 8
Nov. 14The post-serial avant garde Ross 444-472 texture composition, stochasticism
Nov. 161960s experimentalism Reading response 9: Source magazine Source magazine article happening
Nov. 21Minimalism Project 3 proposal Ross 473-511 minimalism
Nov. 23New Romanticism Reading response 10 Ross 512-539 New Romanticism
Nov. 28Postminimalism Project 3 interim Fink: "Repeating Ourselves"
Nov. 30Postmodernism Reading response 11 Ross: "The Harmonist" postmodernism
Dec. 5Postmodernism Project 3 Sandow: "New Music and the Orchestra Audience"
Dec. 7Discussion, course evaluation
Dec. 14 2:00 pmFinal Exam

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Updated on August 21, 2011 by Bill Alves (alves