Now is an exciting time to be alive! Artists have more freedom to explore and create than ever before; the stylistic restraints of the past no longer exist. And yet, this freedom presents tremendous challenges to composers and audiences. At the beginning of the 20th Century, the common musical syntax of the previous 300 years gave way to the divergent musical languages of the modern and post modern eras. In this course we will examine these diverse trends and styles beginning with American “mavericks” Charles Ives, Henry Cowell and Harry Partch. Our survey will then continue with such topics as: classic electronic music, integral serialism, the quest for total control, aleatory and indeterminacy, sound mass, third stream, non-Western musical influences, new instrumental and vocal techniques, experiments with notation, process music (minimalism), multimedia and theater, quotation and collage, and the return to tonality.

The focus is on listening and class discussion. Assignments consist primarily of regular listening, either on-line or at the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library. Each student will choose one composer to thoroughly research and present to the class. Also included are short writing assignments, listening identification quizzes and a final listening exam. No musical training is necessary, just a desire to listen, explore, reflect, and discuss.

Listening examples will be taken from the works of a wide variety of composers such as Charles Ives, Harry Partch, Henry Cowell, Egard Varèse, Oliver Messian, Lucas Foss, John Cage, Milton Babbitt, Joan Tower, Pierre Boulez, Morton Feldman, Vitold Lutoslawski, Karlheinz Stochausen, György Ligeti, Otto Leuning, Mario Davidovsky, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Iannis, Xenakis, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams, Michael Torke, Arvo Pärt, George Rochberg, Henryk Górecki, Krzysztof Penderecki, Toru Takemitsu, Pauline Oliveros, Conlon Nancarrow, Joseph Schwantner, John Corigliano, Gunther Schuller and Alfred Schnittke. Short readings will be selected from on-line sources and the following tentative titles: David Cope, New Directions in Music; Elliott Schwartz and Daniel Godfrey, Music Since 1945: Issues, Materials, and Literature; John Schaefer, New Sounds: A Listener’s Guide to New Music; Michael Nyman, Experimental Music; Gregory Battcock, ed., Breaking the Sound Barrier: A Critical Anthology of New Music; Daniel Albright, ed., Modernism and Music: An Anthology of Sources.