Music History, Theory, and Musicianship: Graduate
Research and Writing for the Modern Musician
MTH 5000 / 2 credits / Fall
Develops skills in music research and writing through guided assignments (e.g., a research paper, a concert review, liner and program notes, grant proposals, and “pitch letter” to a potential sponsor or concert presenter).
Prerequisite: Excellent proficiency in written English
Harmonic and Contrapuntal Techniques
MTH 5005 / 2 credits / Fall
A review of species counterpoint. Exploration of canon, fugue, chorale prelude, and variations. Emphasis is on the music of Bach, especially his Well-Tempered Clavier, and on composers just before Bach. Regular written assignments.
Structure and Analysis
MTH 5010 / 2 credits / Fall
Analysis of the structure and design of melody, tendency tones, and rhythmic stress; relationship of melody to harmony; serialism; tension, rhythmic units; and techniques of minimalism. From Gregorian chant to Nixon in China.
Practicum in Music Pedagogy
MTH 5025 / 2 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
MM students selected for the graduate honors program in music prepare five to seven lectures and/or lecture-demonstrations under the direct supervision of the director of graduate studies. Most of these are presented in undergraduate musicology courses at Purchase. One lecture-demonstration is presented in a semiannual honors program show to an audience of faculty, staff, students, and community members. Serves in lieu of one MTH course in the MM curriculum.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
History and Theory of Baroque Performance Practice
MTH 5055 / 2 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Illustrates the most important principles of Baroque performance practice, from early monody through Bach. The key concepts and skills discussed include special playing techniques, theories of articulation and accentuation, improvisation (including improvised ornamentation), execution of symbolized ornaments, and basso continuo realization. Lectures are enlivened by occasional hands-on exercises.
Prerequisite: MTH 5000
Overview of Performance Practice
MTH 5060 / 2 credits / Fall
Reviews the main issues involved in the attempt to perform music of the past 500 years in ways that acknowledge the historical realities of the works’ periods of origin. Attention is paid to instruments, textual interpretation, contemporary writings, and performing approaches and conditions.
Post-Tonal Theory and Analysis
MTH 5075 / 2 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
Students examine and contextualize many of the important works from the Second Viennese School and beyond. Special emphasis is given to the impact of such early 20th-century figures as Schoenberg and Stravinsky, opera, innovations in the work of Oliver Messiaen, and music by living composers. Major political and social changes during the century are factored into the musical discussions.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
MTH 5100 / 2 credits / Fall
Intensive study of impressionist and expressionist techniques, plus serialism and pandiatonicism. Excerpts from Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Bartok, Stockhausen, Crumb, Penderecki, and Reich.
Electroacoustic Music I
MTH 5180 / 2 credits / Fall
A historical overview of electroacoustic music, beginning in the late 1940s with the devotees of musique concrète, recorded natural sounds, and synthesized tone construction. Students learn about the gradual evolution of technology and composition and its impact on many music traditions and trends.
Electroacoustic Music II
MTH 5190 / 2 credits / Spring
An overview of current creative trends in electroacoustic music. Contemporary digital music systems offer unprecedented dynamic control over timbre. This course reviews aspects of musical acoustics and psychoacoustics and explores electroacoustic simulation through recent experimental examples.
Prerequisite: MTH 5180 or permission of instructor
Mozart and Da Ponte Operas
MTH 5220 / 2 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
Three of the greatest operas in the history of Western music—Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte—are the product of the collaboration between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte. Students analyze these works and gain an understanding of their historical context and why these works, from this unlikely duo, became watershed contributions to the genre of opera.
The Opera and Vocal Works of Benjamin Britten
MTH 5230 / 2 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
Focuses on the War Requiem and operas by Benjamin Britten. Students engage in a close reading of the texts, participate during class in musical renderings of selected sections, and become familiar with Anglican worship and musical traditions. Central themes, including class conflict, desire, and repression, are discussed when relevant. Substantial outside reading required.
MTH 5240 / 2 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
Examines secular and sacred cantatas of J.S. Bach, including the four that make up the Christmas Oratorio and the double cantata that was the basis for the now-lost Markuspassion. Topics include symbolism, text painting, neo-Platonism, instrumental concerti and sinfonias in the cantatas, the history of Bach editions, and the light shed on Bach’s attitude towards Judaism in BWV 42.
Sondheim and American Musical Drama
MTH 5260 / 2 credits / Alternate years (Fall)
A study of Stephen Sondheim as a synthesis of American film, opera, and musical theatre traditions. Formal, motivic, harmonic, and structural analysis of Sondheim’s principal works, supplemented by readings in philosophy, music theory and harmony, and American politics from the 1970s through the present. Extensive viewing outside of class.
Music Theory for Jazz Graduate Studies I and II
MTH 5280 and 5290 / 2 credits (per semester) / I: Fall; II: Spring
Over two semesters, students strengthen their functional understanding of music theory through the lens of jazz music. From its inception roughly 100 years ago to the present day, entirely new harmonic paradigms have been introduced, developed, and used in jazz—and fluency in them is essential.
The Magic of the Fugue
MTH 5320 / 2 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
Provides training in composing and analyzing fugues based on teaching methods outlined in The Art of the Fugue (1750) by J.S. Bach. Each lecture illuminates one of Bach’s teaching points and is followed by written assignments. The final exam is the composition of a fugue on a given subject.
The Analytical Musician
MTH 5330 / 2 credits / Fall
Demonstrates how analysis of a given work can influence artistic interpretation. Students present their own works alongside research on historical context, the composer’s biography, contemporary style, analysis (formal, harmonic, melodic, contrapuntal), and content. The goal is to understand that complete analysis does not offer a single “correct” interpretation, but rather focuses the creative mind by offering multiple paths towards artistic understanding.
World Traditions in Music and Cultures
MTH 5340 / 2 credits / Every semester
A survey course introducing students to the major musical traditions of the world. Topics include structures, scales, instruments, and cultural elements of music from Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia and the Americas, supplemented by historical and contemporary recordings and films.
The Musics of China
MTH 5350 / 2 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Chinese music is surveyed through the lens of geography and time. Students learn to sing Chinese folk songs and experience traditional instruments through writing assignments.
Late Romantic German Lieder
MTH 5360 / 2 credits / Alternate years (Fall)
A study of Schubert, Schumann, and Wolf settings of Heine, Moericke, and Goethe. Includes text setting techniques (both the meaning and mechanics of poetry), the innovative role of the pianist, and the composer’s ability to portray both physical and psychological journey in the Liederkreis (song cycle).
Shakespeare in Verdi
MTH 5380 / 2 credits / Alternate years (Fall)
How does the composer preserve the essential nature of these plays, while conforming to the late 19th-century Italian operatic traditions and (his own) innovations? Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Othello, and Merry Wives of Windsor are examined, comparing them to Verdi’s adaptations of these texts.
Topics in Music History
MTH 5540 / 2 credits / Spring
Provides a contiguous understanding of music history and prepares students for the comprehensive examination. A stream of guided readings and oral reports is designed to help students broaden and deepen their knowledge of the subject. Study groups work together on areas of common interest.
Prerequisite: Proficiency in English and sufficient prior studies in music history
Improvisation for Classical Musicians
MTH 5570 / 2 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
Students are set on a path of lifelong learning with the goal of being able to improvise in all the genres they perform. Instructors provide a graded series of tasks that begins with rudimentary ornamentation of existing lines and concludes with the improvisation of convincing fantasias, cadenzas, and dance-based pieces. Open to graduate students in the classical instrumental performance, voice/opera studies, and composition concentrations.
The Music of Alban Berg
MTH 5610 / 2 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
An intensive graduate course in the vocal and instrumental music of Berg, examining both his orchestral and previously unpublished early vocal works and his operas Wozzeck and Lulu. Topics include the influence of Freud, Weill’s opera Mahagonny, Berg’s satire of capitalism, the conventions of expressionist cinema, and source study of Wedekind, Brecht, and Pabst. Knowledge of German is helpful.
Music, Culture, and Ideas
MTH 5710 / 2 credits / Spring
A survey of traditional and recent perspectives on music as an object of philosophical and cultural inquiry. Questions raised include: Does music have a “metaphysical” nature? Is musical form separable from its emotional or social content? Has the postmodern culture of reproductive media changed the nature of musical experience? What are the causes of stylistic change in the arts?
Aesthetics of Film Music
MTH 5715 / 2 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Film music remains on of the least theorized branches of contemporary music. Building on the work of Royal S. Brown, Claudia Gorbman, and Max Winkler, this course explores diegetic vs. nondiegetic scoring, leitmotivic construction, and the genre’s stylistic debts (particularly to Viennese fin de siècle composers). Students view films both in and outside of class and provide analyses.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
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