Selected Courses

American Popular Music: History and Theory

This course surveys the cultural, musical and theoretical history of popular music in the United States during the twentieth century. Broadly, listening skills are developed to make connections and divisions between emerging popular genres in a historical framework beginning with Minstrelsy and concluding with electronic dance musics in the twenty first century. We acquire a basic musicological understanding of song forms, harmonic progressions, instrument groups, singing styles and improvisational vocabularies. Beyond the more formal aspects of music, this class begins to unravel the buoyant processes that contribute to the expansion and mutation of popular music throughout the world. We also examine the ideological and cultural motivations for such musical descriptors as “production”, “consumption”, “popular”, “folk”, “high”, “low”, “subculture” and “dominant culture.” Students are also expected to make connections between these descriptions and the gendered, social, ethnic, political, racial and class-related constructions of popular music descriptions. Other discussions will investigate the commercial, technological, market and international forces which influence the dissemination, production and promotion of popular music.

Audio Visual Documentary and Ethnographic Methods

This course surveys recent ethnographic methods enabled by digital media in order to illuminate the variety or approaches available for documentary music ethnography. Throughout the course we watch innovative and respected music documentaries reflecting upon particular styles, film techniques and musical subjects. The course culminates with the composition of an ethnographic soundscape or short film and website of collected material from one particular musical community or source at the end of the course. In order to prepare for this project, during the first half of this course, we will survey relevant literature related to current ethnographic, performance and audio/visual documentary issues and methods. During the first half of the course, we will investigate practical themes presented by the current state of ethnomusicology including how to organize effective field work; ethical issues related to collaborating with musical communities on audio visual materials; the role of the researcher and performer in presenting both cultural and musicological analysis; and the relevance of historical, religious, sexual, gender, race and cultural sensitivity and comprehension during the research process.

Globalization and Contemporary Music

This course provides an overview of the relationship between globalization and music in the modern, postmodern, and contemporary eras. We survey literature addressing such topics as the expansion and consolidation of the culture industries; the influence of new technologies upon global networks of media production, distribution, and consumption; and the resulting changes effected by globalization in various genres of mass mediated music. Further, we look at the western art music canon and investigate it’s internationalization during the second half of the twentieth century in such institutions as conservatories, concert halls, and government funded cultural centers. Throughout this course, we will also investigate recent theorizing with respect to music and globalization considering such concepts as “glocalization,” “hybridization,” “cosmopolitanism,” “acculturation,” and “syncretism.” We further query to what extent local scenes, markets, and cultures resist globalizing efforts and to what extent local cultures internalize dominant values and musical styles. This course prioritizes the period after 1989 due to the vast restructuring of the European Union, the reorganization of eastern European political and governmental bodies and more explicitly, the role of western music in reshaping these altered cultural, social, and political communities.

Representing American Jazz in Visual Media

This course examines the historically mediated relationship between jazz and visual media. Throughout the course, we consider the role that experimental and mass mediated forms such as sound film, short subject films and television played in the development of various styles of jazz. We also examine the strategies used to represent jazz musicians and the culture of jazz in film and television. Finally, an analysis of the proscriptive characterizations of race, gender and genre in varying jazz periods provides another emphasis of this course. In addition to scholarly literature, we examine a number of musical films and documentaries including one of the first sound films, The Jazz Singer (1927) from an historical, musicological and sociological perspective. We continue with analyses of jazz in Soundies, short subject, film noire and contemporary films. Ken Burns’ widely successful documentary Jazz (2000) is also considered as a recent representation of the now well established jazz canon.

Popular Music and New Media

This course investigates various applications of new media and their effects upon the sphere of popular music in both historical and contemporary contexts. Generally we investigate such themes as the influence of new media upon musical aesthetics, the production of commodities, the creation of new musical genres and styles, and popular musics’ changing reception contexts. More specifically we examine such topics as: the cultural implications of new recording technologies and distribution formats including P2P and MP3s; sampling technologies and their political and aesthetic repercussions; industrialized electronic musics and their relationship to cyber literature and finally; the relationship between new media applications within the culture of underground dance events.

Music Project Design

In this course, students gain the practical, entrepreneurial and conceptual skills to organize a music performance related project. During the first half of the course, we study literature relating to organizing and promoting music events in the Netherlands. After this study period, groups create a concept in consultation with faculty. The project will be directed from beginning to end including: soliciting performers, securing a venue, promoting the event, managing the finances, creating contracts for performers and finally, monitoring and managing the specifics of the performance itself including setting up audio to compiling stage lists and directing performers and audience members during the event. Throughout the course, groups also compile a project book which contains all documentation of the event planning and implementation including email correspondence, promo material, budgets, contracts and legal documentation.

European Popular Music

This seminar undertakes a critical survey of European popular music from the post war period to the present. In particular, we examine Dutch popular music within the relatively small discipline of Dutch popular music scholarship, while also consulting less scholarly sources including music industry trade journals, fanzines, internet music sites, documentaries and music journalism. We then compare select popular music styles, genres and musical cultures prevalent in Germany and France during the interwar and post-war periods, drawing from similar resources. Final papers reflect upon some aspect of European popular music by drawing upon the kinds of discussions and resources introduced within this course.

The Study of Popular Music: Ethnographic and Theoretical Methods

This course undertakes a critical review of the various discourses surrounding popular music. During this course, we will examine three broad musical genres in  their cultural context, devoting four weeks to each genre. Our attentions focus upon developing a cultural conception of popular musical practice while also surveying the dominant methodologies applied to the study of popular music. We critique historically mediated processes including production, consumption and distribution yet examine broader ideological categories such as  ‘popular’, ‘art’ and ‘folk’. We consider popular music theory in its wider perspective, assessing some of the less explicitly theorized avenues of rock and pop writing (music journalism, record guides, fanzines, biographies and the Internet in particular). Finally students will dedicate the second half of the semester towards researching and writing about some aspect of popular music (of their choosing), engaging those issues developed throughout the class. The final exam will test knowledge of the various texts and will include short essay responses.

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