THEORY 560 - Special Studies
Winter 2021, Section 003 - Beyond Boundaries: Radical Black Experimental Music
Instruction Mode: Section 003 is  Online (see other Sections below)
Subject: Music Theory (THEORY)
Department: Music School
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Enforced Prerequisites:
THEORY 240 and 250.
May be repeated for credit.
Undergrad and Grad
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This course foregrounds the work of African American experimental musicians and artists, focusing on historical context, socio-political resonances, and opportunities for close reading/listening. We analyze intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, place, and musical genre, among others as well as examine themes such as freedom, autodidacticism, intertextuality, collectivity, and multidisciplinarity. Students will read primary and second literature, as well as listen to recordings and watch performances by these figures.


THEORY 560 - Special Studies
Schedule Listing
002 (LEC)
TuTh 3:00PM - 4:30PM
Note: ""Music," Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, "is the universal language of humankind." Indeed, the belief that there is something language-like about music has long fascinated not only poets such as Longfellow, but also scientists, philosophers, and thinkers from a variety of other backgrounds?not to mention linguists and music theorists. This course builds on this age-old interest from an interdisciplinary perspective, to explore the similarities and differences between music and language. We will examine, for example, how music and language function in different cultural contexts, as described by anthropologists, and how they evolved, and allow us to think, express and be creative, as philosophers, psychologists and biologists have discussed?and in the process, we will explore things as diverse as birdsongs and Beethoven symphonies, fractals and Neanderthal flutes, and grunge rhythms and the music of New Guinea. To help us ground our comparison of music and language, we will also learn some linguistic theory, within a framework developed by linguists such as Noam Chomsky. We will see, finally, how all of this leads to the striking proposition that music and language might actually be identical."
003 (LEC)
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM
Note: This course focuses on African American composer/improvisers in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries whose work rejects and critiques simplistic compartmentalization in terms of improvisation, composition, genre, gender, race, sexuality, and place. On the contrary, these musicians embody Duke Ellington?s famous dictum regarding great music being ?beyond category.? Students will critically discuss some of the common threads in this network?musicians? means of creating and performing their original music, its distribution and reception in the marketplace and surrounding critical discourse, intersections of race, gender, place, and class within and outside of their communities, and interdisciplinary and community-based collaboration. Crucially, the meaning of these identity markers shifts in these various contexts, and students will analyze these multifarious manifestations through a combination of reading primary and secondary texts, as well as close listening and viewing of musical performances. Musical communities encompassed in this course include the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Sun Ra?s Arkestra, The Pan African Peoples Arkestra, and the Jazz Composers Guild. Our survey also includes contemporary artists such as Nicole Mitchell, Matana Roberts, and Tyshawn Sorey. We also carefully analyze whiteness in experimental music through the work of John Cage and his ?downtown? contemporaries and contrast this formation with the black experimental musical tradition. This class is for graduate and undergraduate students. Undergraduates must have taken THEORY 240 and 250.

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