MS 215 - Introduction to Music: Learning to Listen

This course is a survey of Western musical practice from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. While learning how to develop critical listening skills, the student will explore each different stylistic period, its historical context and certain musical parameters that may be emphasized in the music (pitch, rhythm, counterpoint, harmony, sound, etc). The main goal is to show the student that music has the capacity to codify multiple layers of meaning and how s/he can develop the tools to uncover them. The course is organized into units that pair a musical style or period with particular theoretical or technical concept(s). In addition, these pairs will be discussed in connection with particular historical events or prevalent social currents of the time (in italics).

The list of these units is:

  • What is Music? - Properties of Sound – Notation
  • Plainchant and Ars Nova – Pitch and Rhythm – Sacred vs. Secular
  • Renaissance Polyphony – Harmonic Intervals (and Rhythm) – Rebirth of Man
  • Baroque – Tonality – Protestant Reformation
  • Classical – Form – Absolutism and Newtonian Physics
  • Romanticism – Orchestration – Darwin and Evolution
  • Serialism – Emancipation of the Dissonance - Relativity
  • Post-serialism and Experimentalism – Emancipation of everything else

Course Information



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