Graduate Seminar Offerings 2016-2017

Students are encouraged to explore seminars under all areas.  

Register for seminars on Minerva. Visit Student Resources for registration tips.

BUSA courses

If you want to take one of these two courses as part of your program, email the graduatestudies [dot] music [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Music Graduate Office) to obtain permission as an elective seminar only.

BUSA 664 Creating the Small Business | Prof. Alexander Kalil |Fall
BUSA 665 Managing the Small Enterprise​ | Prof. Alexander Kalil |Winter

Focusing on the strategies and planning policies of small business enterprises, the course is designed for individuals who are seeking an insight on entrepreneurial careers either as owners or managers. It provides a practical approach to the many problems likely to be encountered in the management of a small business enterprise.  The underlying approach is to bring professionals and entrepreneurs from the outside Community to the classroom for dialogue with the students on the major elements of relevance to the financing and growing of a business or professional enterprise.

Interspersed throughout the term we are privileged to welcome visiting executives with business or professional experience who will dialogue with students, and share their experience and wisdom, on the greater concept of managing and financing a business enterprise.

The students will be exposed to the principles, practices, originality, mindset, drive, devotion, foresight and general dedication which have characterized the business and professional life of our Guest Mentors.  No matter the size of the enterprise (start-up, early stage, mature, regional or global), nor no matter the nature of the activity, the same characteristics come into play.

Seminars in the Department of Music Research
(Complementary Seminars for Performance Students)


MUCO 631 Seminar in Composition 1 | 3 credits | Professor Melissa Hui | Fall

Topic: Sounds and Silence: The New York School

The early 1950s in New York City was a heady time for the arts. An informal group of musicians, artists, poets and dancers gathered regularly for intense exchanges of ideas. The result was one of the most original movements in twentieth-century music. This seminar will examine the music of the New York School, with an emphasis on the works, attitudes and intentions of John Cage, Morton Feldman and Earle Brown.  Of particular interest will be the evolution of the composers’ aesthetic and ideological perspectives, their connection with the Abstract Expressionist artists, and the conception of time, especially in the late works of Morton Feldman. Participants are encouraged to investigate further in the broader context of the American experimental tradition. Evaluation will be based on participation in class discussions, short assignments, class presentations and a final research paper.


MUGT 612 Seminar-Music Education 3 | 3 credits | Professor Lisa Lorenzino | Fall

Topic: The History of Music Education in North America

This seminar will look at the various factors that influenced the development of music education in Canada and the United States. Related yet distinct, the two countries share similar philosophies of music education yet the embodiment of these philosophies have followed a unique course of history in each nation.  In depth study of the history of music education in the United States will focus on topics such as music in the Spanish missions, Rote versus Note Movement, and Singing Schools. In contrast the study of Canadian music education will emphasize the influence of British, Scottish, and French traditions upon early schooling.  A discussion of the influence of American music education upon Canada will also be investigated. The course will also include a brief introduction to the philosophical foundations of schooling in both nations. 

Student evaluation will include academic papers, in-class presentations, and projects.

MUHL 680 Seminar in Musicology 1 | 3 credits | Professor Lloyd Whitesell | Fall

Topic: Queer Monsters

Many queer artists in literature, film, and music have been drawn to the figure of the monster (in the form of vampires, revenants, half-beasts, freaks, psychopaths, etc.). Where non-queer authors have invoked the figure as a menacing Other, queer authors adopt it as a subjective persona to identify with. What motivates them to explore such negative imagery? What meanings and affects do monsters unlock? We will survey inventive examples from a range of historical periods and musical genres, and consider topics such as social stigma, cultural taboos, audience response, overt vs. covert meaning, and links to other marginalized identities. Readings will cover the interdisciplinary field of monster studies as well as queer scholarship in music and other arts.

Evaluation will be based on class participation, occasional short assignments, and a final paper/presentation. 

MUHL 682 Seminar in Musicology 3 | 3 credits | Professor Lisa Barg | Fall

Topic: Music and Dance

How have bodies moving to music been described, analyzed, theorized and situated? This seminar will explore relationships between music and dance through a geographically, musically and historically diverse set of case studies drawn from a wide ranging field of dance traditions and practices (theatrical, ritual and social). These case studies will introduce seminar participants to a variety of theoretical topics and approaches central to studies of music and dance, or “choreomusicalities,” including theories of corporeality, embodiment, improvisation, collaboration and performance. Readings will be drawn primarily from recent scholarship in critical dance studies, musicology, ethnomusicology, performance and film studies, as well as various area studies.

Evaluation will be based on presentations, commentaries on selected readings and video material, and a fifteen- to twenty-page (minimum) seminar paper on a topic of your choice that will serve as a basis for a thirty-minute presentation.

MUHL 683 Seminar in Musicology 4 | 3 credits | Professor Roe-Min Kok | Fall

Topic: Music and Colonialism

The worldwide presence of western art music today is due in part to the history of colonization. Whether sparked by official gifts—for instance, of musical instruments from one government to another—or the export of imperial examination systems for the benefit of expatriate children, the transmission of western art music and its subsequent rooting in the colonial world is a rich, important topic offering many facets for investigation. In this seminar we explore critical theories and approaches to “Empire” with the goals of situating music practices in imperial histories, and examining interactional dynamics between colonizers, colonized subjects and other agents to highlight the plural and diverse voices of those who interacted with this art form. Readings in cultural theory, music, and literary studies provide background for individual projects on issues such as musical identity and cross-cultural negotiations within specific communities.

Evaluation will be based on class presentations (including mandatory handouts), a final project proposal, one 20-25 page research paper, and professionalism (attendance and participation).

MUMT 605 Digit Sound Synth&Aud Process | 3 credits | Professor Philippe Depalle | Fall

Topic: Digital Sound Synthesis and Audio

Most digital sound synthesis methods and audio processing techniques are based on the spectral representation of sound signals. This seminar starts with a theoretical and practical study of spectral representation, spectral analysis, and spectral modification of sound signals. Digital sound synthesis and sound processing techniques are then presented as specific spectral modeling or alterations from which their capabilities, properties, and limitations are deduced. Techniques explored in this context include the phase-vocoder, additive synthesis, source-filter synthesis, non-linear (distortion) processing, and audio effects. Available Computer Music software and ad hoc pieces of software are used as examples and illustrations.  Evaluation will be based on two assignments (25% each), one in-class presentation (15%), and a final project (35%).

MUMT 618 Comp. Model of Music Acoustics | 3 credits | Professor Gary Scavone | Fall

Topic: Computational Modeling of Musical Acoustics

Methods for discrete-time modeling of musical acoustic systems, with an emphasis on digital waveguide techniques. Delay-based audio effects, artificial reverberation, musical instrument models and physically-informed approaches to sound synthesis. Prior experience with differential equations, digital filters, Matlab, and C/C++ is required. Evaluation will be based on weekly homework, in-class presentations, and a final course project.

MUMT 620 Gestural Control of Sound Syn. | 3 credits | Professor Marcelo Wanderley | Fall

Topic: Gestural Control of Sound Synthesis

This seminar examines the use of computers as part of novel digital musical instruments, including physical gestures and actions, design and evaluation of new interfaces for musical expression, and mapping strategies between gestures and sounds. Basic knowledge of sound synthesis methods is required.  Evaluation will be based on summaries of papers, student presentation, project proposal, and a project presentation.

MUTH 652 Seminar in Music Theory 1 | 3 credits | Professor Edward Klorman | Fall

Topic: Mozart's Chamber Music and the Metaphor of Conversation

The conception of the string quartet as a musical analogue for an artful conversation has been influential to composers from Haydn to Ives, Carter, and beyond. This seminar examines such social metaphors principally as they apply to instrumental chamber music by Mozart (but with some attention to his contemporaries and successors). A central question will be to what extent notions of musical sociability can be integrated with traditional categories of musical analysis, such as harmony, form, and phrase rhythm. To bridge this gap, we will invoke narratological approaches to musical agency and persona, as expounded both by historical and recent authors. The seminar will also examine relevant eighteenth-century sources on (musical and non-musical) sociability, with an emphasis on domestic music-making. Coursework includes weekly reading and listening assignments, with regular written assignments. The term project comprises an in-class presentation and an accompanying, substantial analytical paper. Evaluation will also be based on professionalism (attendance and participation).

[course short MUTH 653 | 3 credits | Professor Robert Hasegawa | Fall

Topic: Analyzing Spectral Music 

In the mid-1970s, composers associated with the Paris collective L’Itinéraire began to investigate the musical implications of spectral analysis (the decomposition of a single sound into a complex of partials at various frequencies). For the first time, musicians could explore “a formal organization and sonic material that came directly from the physics of sound” (Gérard Grisey). Acoustic spectra served as models for the control of harmony and timbre, and the evolution of sounds in time offered a compelling image of gradual, processual change. As described by composer Jonathan Harvey, “Spectralism is a moment of fundamental shift after which thinking about music can never be quite the same again.” This seminar explores the past forty years of spectral composition, following its development from the early experiments of L’Itinéraire composers Tristan Murail and Gérard Grisey to the varied strains and offshoots of spectralism active today. Distinct variants of spectral thought have emerged (often independently) in North America (Claude Vivier, James Tenney), Germany/Austria (Hans Zender, Georg Friedrich Haas), Finland (Magnus Lindberg, Kaija Saariaho), and Britain (Jonathan Harvey). The seminar will also consider the close relationship between spectral composition and technology, including tools for spectral analysis (SPEAR, AudioSculpt), sound synthesis, and computer-aided composition (OpenMusic). Coursework includes weekly listening/reading assignments, written listening summaries, an in-class presentation, and a final analytical paper.

Performance and Performance Practice Seminars
(Open to Performance Students)


MUPP 690 Performance Practice Seminar 1 | 3 credits | Dr. Eitan Globerson | Fall

Topic: Advanced Piano Pedagogy

This course focuses on the fundamental properties of advanced piano teaching. The lessons will consist of combined lectures and practical workshops. Students will be required to teach during the lessons, supervised by the lecturer, and observed by the class. Some of the topics discussed in the course will include: a brief history of keyboard methods- from the 16th century to the present, anatomy of the hand, physics and physiology of piano playing, efficient practice methods in piano playing, the piano as an orchestra: orchestrating piano repertoire, and implementing these principles in piano pedagogy, pedal techniques in different musical styles, as well as a theoretical discussion of modern approaches to teaching in educational psychology. Course requirements include active participation in lessons, group and individual presentations, written assignments and a final research paper. Evaluation will be based on the fulfillment of these requirement.

MUPP 691 Perf Practice Seminar 2 | 3 credits | Professor Lena Weman | Fall

Topic: The B-minor Mass by JS Bach

In special focus for this seminar is the monumental Mass in B-minor by JS Bach. Never performed as a whole during the composer’s lifetime, nowadays performed all over the world.  We will look at performance issues, compare recordings and study the composition as such. We will also place it in context with other mass compositions from the period.

Evaluation will be based on active participation in class, presentations and a final paper.

MUPP 692 Perf Practice Seminar 3 | 3 credits | Professor Mark Fewer | Fall

Topic: Improvisation for Strings

This course offers classical violinists, violists, cellists and double bassists the opportunity to study styles of improvisation from the early baroque through to present day jazz.  Techniques for developing improvisational skills specific to string players will be the main focus.  Repertoire studied will include works of J.S. Bach, Corelli, Locatelli, Pandolfi and others.  Performing styles of Ray Nance, Stuff Smith, Stephane Grapelli, Joe Venuti, Jean-Luc Ponty and others will be the focus of a 10-page written paper, discussing the development of improvisational styles of string players in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Evaluation will be based on weekly participation/performing – 70% and Final paper/performance – 30%.

MUPP 693 Perf Practice Seminar 4 | 3 credits | Professor Aiyung Huang | Fall

Topic: Vinko Globokar’s Laboratorium 

This course is open to the following players: violin, viola, cello, double bass, flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone, harp, percussion, trumpet, horn, trombone, tube, percussion, piano, harp and music technology. 

Laboratorium is an open work, comprised of fifty-five compositions Vinko Globokar wrote between 1973 and 1985. The collection of works calls for ten instrumentalists in various combinations ranging from solo to ten players. Over the course of a decade, Globokar composed ten solos, nine duets, eight trios, seven quartets, six quintets, five sextets, four septets, three octets, two nonets, and one dectet in Laboratorium. Each piece is an examination and experiment on a single issue. The course is organized into two types of inter-related activities: first, we will emphasize on reading, class discussion and writing; second, we will learn a selection of pieces from Laboratorium including some from memory for performance on November 29 with Globokar’s participation. In addition to regular class meeting time, registered students are expected to be available for extra rehearsals with the composer between November 26 and 29 in order to fully partake in this unique and rare learning opportunity. Final assignments: extended program notes and performance participation.

MUPP 694 Performance Practice Seminar 5 | 3 credits | Professor Fabrice Marandola | Fall

Topic: Ethnomusicology and Contemporary Performance Practice

In this seminar we will explore how different cultures around the world conceive and perform their music. Through the survey of broad cultural areas where music is primarily orally transmitted, we will study the functioning of different musical systems and the wide variety of playing and singing techniques involved. We will investigate the cultural context in which the music takes place in order to gain a significant insight on how these cultures conceive their musical heritage.

We will discuss the various ways traditional playing and singing techniques are incorporated in works by 20th and 21st century composers, from Bartok to Reich including Kagel, Ligeti, Scelsi and many more. We will also experiment with the ‘portability’ of these techniques in the context of modern Western instruments and voices. 

Student evaluation will include 1/ a research paper (oral presentation + written version: 40% total), 2/ the performance of an excerpt of Kagel Exotica (15%), 3/ a final project consisting of the performance and/or composition/arrangement of a piece inspired by musical principles studied during the term (25%) and program notes referring to the origin/sources of the works composed or performed, and analyzing the specificity of such a performance practice (10%), participation and preparation (10

You will not learn how to play traditional instruments in this course.

MUPG 575D1 Liturgical Organ Playing | 3 credits | Professor TBA | Fall

Topic: Liturgical Organ Playing

This seminar focuses on the development of skills in the leadership and accompaniment of hymns, the accompaniment of sung psalmody (particularly Anglican and Gregorian), and the conducting of choral music while accompanying at the organ. Additionally, regular instruction in techniques of improvisation will focus in particular upon hymn introductions and free accompaniments.

MUPG 590 Vocal Styles and Conventions | 3 credits | Professor TBA | Fall

Topic: Vocal Styles and Conventions

This seminar emphasizes vocal performance practices through practical application: text, language, inflection, pronunciation and interpretation considered with the individuality of each student’s voice and technical development. After examining historical treatises, students will discuss and present musical selections using modern performance standards while remaining true to the stylistic demands of each period.

MUPG 678 Seminar in Perf Topics 2 | 3 credits | Professor John Hollenbeck | Fall

Topic: Concentration and Ensemble Practice

The primary exercise sounds simple: to play short quarter notes at a very slow tempo with eyes closed. The shortness of the notes and slow tempo makes it easy to hear if the musicians are together or not. Eyes closed makes it impossible to use visual cues to help the musicians play together. This way, you must rely on your own internal time and subdividing. The simplicity of the exercise is why it is an excellent path to improve concentration skills.

Added to the primary exercise is the additional of long notes, accents, dynamics, specific pitches on specific beats, individual playing and singing of the subdivisions (one at a time), improvisation on the subdivisions, ensemble inclusion of 1-5 extra notes on the subdivision. Each student is expected to practice the basic exercise as a solo exercise in between classes. Throughout the course, there will be class discussions, to talk about the internal experience and issues that come up in the practice. Students will also maintain a journal, detailing their practice and thoughts on the class and individual practice.

To break up the potential monotony of the primary exercise, other exercises involving improvisation will be practiced.

Evaluation will be based on attendance/participation (75%), and class journal (25%) which is due on December 5th.

MUPG 694 Vocal Physiology for Singers | 3 credits | Professor Winston Purdy | Fall

Topic: Vocal Physiology for Singers

The purpose of the seminar will be to study the anatomy, physiology (function), and acoustics of the singing voice. There will be three lectures, assigned readings, which will be placed on reserve, and sources of information about the singing voice such as the NATS Journal of Singing. Students will choose areas to research further and will present their research in class.

Evaluation will be based on participation, in class discussions and quality of research. For example, discussions or comparisons of various sources will be encouraged over merely presenting a precis of one source. Presentation may use multi-media, but it is not mandatory. All material must be well organized and presented clearly and competently. All research will be submitted in the form of a paper at the end of the course. Proper citations are required.

MUPG 695 Grad. Jazz Improv. Seminar | 3 credits | Professor Rémi Bolduc | Fall

Topic: Advanced Improvisation Seminar

The goal of the seminar is to help students develop their own musical voice by researching the improvisational ideas and approaches of various jazz artists. With approval of the instructor, students will choose the artists to be studied and will be responsible for transcribing compositions and improvised solos by these musicians. Students will also have the opportunity to play the music in class and receive feedback from the instructor and their peers, with approximately one third of class time spent performing. The instructor will begin the seminar by presenting his own ideas and insights about specific mentors.  There will be at least three transcriptions and written analyses required from each student, as well as weekly practice assignments derived from the material. Evaluation will be based on the quality of the analyses, transcriptions and ideas the students bring to the seminar, and on their ability to incorporate those ideas into their playing.

Seminars in the Department of Music Research
(Complementary Seminars for Performance Students)


MUCO 632 Seminar in Composition 2 | 3 credits | Professor Jean Lesage | Winter

Topic: Aspects of Intertextuality as a Compositional Strategy in Postmodern Music

This course will explore the aesthetic concept of intertextuality—developed by poststructuralist theorists such as Julia Kristeva and Roland Barthes—as it has been manifest in various twentieth-century compositions in the context of an emerging postmodern culture. Seminal works by composers Luciano Berio, José Evangelista, Mauricio Kagel, John Rea, Alfred Schnittke, Hans Zender and John Zorn, among others, will be analysed. Literary works of Umberto Eco, Charles Jencks, Borges and Harold Bloom, will also be discussed.
Evaluation will be based on written assignments, an in-class presentation, and a final paper.

MUGT 613 Seminar-Music Education 4 | 3 credits | Professor Isabelle Cossette | Winter

Topic: Understanding the Performing Body

This course is designed for performance, pedagogy and music education students interested in understanding how to use their body in an optimal, healthy and efficient way. 

Class sessions provide the opportunity to explore knowledge that will seed the inquiry on issues related to the use of body during music playing. Students will develop their critical thinking on topics like health of musicians, musculoskeletal injuries, breathing strategies, neuroplasticity, nutrition, and other topics related to students’ interests. Discussions based on readings, presentations and lab visits will allow the students to apply theoretical knowledge to their practicing routine, performance or teaching skills.

Evaluation will be based on class preparation, in-class and online participation, presentations, annotated bibliography and a final project that will require the integration of research, writing, critical thinking and/or pedagogical skills. 

MUHL 681 Seminar in Musicology 2 | 3 credits |Dr. Lars Lih| Winter

Topic: Slava! (Glory!) National Identity in Russian Music

It is a rare Russian opera or choral work that does not have a chorus singing Slava! (Glory!) to some powerful person. These songs of praise are far from naïve patriotism; whether sincere or ironic, praise implies a vision of national identity. In this seminar, we examine how Russian and Soviet composers used songs of praise and many other devices to explore sophisticated issues of national identity. These issues have several dimensions: vertical (is society and its political leadership aligned with the sacred?); horizontal (a fascination with boundaries and with attractive/repellent neighbors); temporal (a deep connection with the national literary tradition). Individual works from the 1830s to the 1960s—operas, choral works, songs, ballets, orchestral works and film music—will be placed in the context of Russia’s historical search for a stable national identity.

Works for intensive examination: Prince Igor (Borodin); Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky); Oedipus Rex (Stravinsky); Anniversary Cantata (Prokofiev) and other Stalin-era cantatas; art songs on Pushkin texts; Alexander Nevsky (film with Prokofiev music); Bolt (Shostakovich ballet with post-Soviet choreography).  Also included for discussion will be World War II popular songs; prison-camp songs (e.g., a famous one such as “Comrade Stalin, You’re a Great Scholar”), romansy and other features of the Russian musical landscape. Class work is based on detailed knowledge of individual works, participation in discussion, student presentations on assigned topics, and a seminar paper also presented to the seminar.

MUHL 682 Seminar in Musicology 3 | 3 credits | Professor David Brackett | Winter

Topic: Musical Genres in Theory and Practice

This seminar will provide an introduction to genre-related studies of music through representative writings on music in conjunction with background readings from other disciplines that will address questions both of genre and of larger issues about the function of categories in human activity.  It will also serve as an introduction to current trends in the fields of popular music studies, cultural studies, and interdisciplinary musicology. Evaluation will be based on presentations, commentaries on selected readings and video material, and a fifteen- to twenty-page (minimum) seminar paper on a topic of your choice that will serve as a basis for a thirty-minute presentation.

MUHL 684 Seminar in Musicology 5 | 3 credits | Professor Steven Huebner | Winter

Topic: Operatic Comedy

A study of selected works, including L’Étoile, Béatrice et Bénédict, Falstaff, Der Rosenkavalier, Gianni Schicchi, and Les Mamelles de Tirésias.  The seminar will draw upon the writings of prominent literary theories of comedy and will work outward from these to consider the role of music in articulating comedies of plot and character.  Evaluation on the basis of participation, class presentations, and final paper.

MUMT 619 Input Devices for Music. Expr. | 3 credits | Professor Marcelo Wanderley | Winter

Topic: Input Devices for Musical Expression

Basic technologies used in the design of input devices for musical expression, including the most common types of electronic sensors, actuators and associated conditioning circuits and examples of their application to gestural controllers.

Evaluation will be based on assignments and a final project.

MUMT 621 Mus. Info,Retr.,Acq.,Preserv. | 3 credits | Professor Ichiro Fujinaga | Winter

Topic: Music Information, Retrieval, Acquisition, Preservation

This seminar will investigate current research activities in the area of music information retrieval. The goal is to discover ways to efficiently find and retrieve musical information. Although the field is relatively new, it encompasses various music disciplines including music analysis, music education, music history, music theory, music psychology, and audio signal processing.

Each student will be expected to present various music information retrieval topics along with literature reviews. Each presentation should be accompanied by web pages created by the presenter. The final project may consist of software development, a theoretical paper, or an extended review paper. Class format will be presentations followed by discussions.

Potential topics include: Themefinder, MELDEX, Elvis, Cantus, SIMSSA, audio content analysis and search, web crawling, melodic similarities, computer-aided transcription, beat tracking, timbre recognition, speech / music separation, audio and music formats (MPEG-4/7/21, MP3, MEI, MusicXML), and Web API. Students will be evaluated on the quality of the presentations, written assignments, class participation, and the final project.

Evaluation will be based on assignments (50%), class participation (10%), and a final project (40%).

MUMT 622 Time-Freq.&Param. Rep. of Snds | 3 credits | Professor Philippe Depalle | Winter

Topic: Time-Frequency & Parameter Rep. of Sounds

Research trends in time-frequency representations and parametric modeling applied to music and audio. Specific focus on atomic decomposition, matching pursuit, wavelet, and parametric analysis.  Evaluation is based on in-class research literature presentations, and on a final project. 

[course short MUSR 692 | 3 credits | Professor Martha de Francisco | Winter

Topic: A Graduate Seminar for Performance and for Sound Recording Students

The Seminar focuses on the collaborative interaction between performing and recording partners during music recordings. It explores aesthetical questions of performance and recording, and it examines music performance issues in connection with the use of changing technological tools for recording and music production. Discussions are lead regarding the historical development of music production, and an updated analysis of current developments in the recording industry is provided. 

The production sessions under the supervision of an expert music producer, realized as part of the Seminar, help students acquire insight in the musical, technical and logistical processes that characterize professional music productions, giving both sides suitable tools to enhance their potential as recording artists in the 21st century.

Evaluation will be based on in-class participation and presentations, individual work on the music productions as well as a final research paper or alternatively a completed Master of an own production project with a written description/analysis.

MUTH 656 Seminar in Music Theory 5 | 3 credits | Professor Peter Schubert | Winter

Topic: Instrumental Music From Frescobaldi to Bach

This seminar will focus on instrumental music composed between 1600 and 1750, and the problems analysts face in dealing with it. Unencumbered by issues of text setting, we will consider form, mode, key, texture, contrapuntal techniques, and genre. We will look at treatises to see how people thought about music at that time, and at recent analytical studies. In addition to readings, the course will require some improvisation, two short analyses presented in class, one short paper, and a term paper about 20 pages long.

MUTH 657 Seminar in Music Theory 6 | 3 credits | Professor Christopher Neidhöfer | Winter

Topic: Music and Political Engagement

How does music convey political meaning? How does a political message manifest itself in the compositional procedures themselves? What are the mechanisms by which a work is politicized beyond composer intent? Can music be apolitical? We will address these questions in selected works from the eighteenth century to the present through score analysis, study of sketches, examination of composers’ writings and other related source texts (such as the Prague Manifesto), exploring the aesthetic contexts and reception histories of the works. Scores to be analyzed, in full or in part, include The Beggar’s Opera, Un ballo in maschera (Act III), Die Meistersinger (Acts II and III), The Threepenny Opera, Eisler’s Gegen den Krieg, Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw, Dallapiccola’s Il Prigioniero, Boulez’s Structure Ia, Maderna’s Composizione in tre tempi and Quattro lettere, Nono’s La victoire de Guernica, Il canto sospeso, and Intolleranza, Adam’s On the Transmigration of Souls, as well as works chosen by the seminar participants. Course requirements include weekly assigned readings and listening, two in-class presentations, a midterm essay, and a final paper.

MUTH 659 History of Music Theory 2 | 3 credits | Professor William Caplin | Winter

Topic: History of Music Theory 2

A survey of the major theoretical writings on harmony, rhythm, and form from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Theorists to be studied include Rameau, Kirnberger, Koch, Sechter, Hauptmann, Marx, Riemann, and Kurth.  Evaluation will be based on a mid-term exam (20%); final example (40%), and research paper (40%).

Performance and Performance Practice Seminars
(Open to Performance Students)


MUPP 690 Performance Practice Seminar 1 | 3 credits | Professor Aiyun Huang | Winter

Topic: Decoding Contemporary Music Scores: Approaches, Methods and Interpretations from the Performer’s Perspective

This course is designed for performers who want to play contemporary music. Topics include: how to approach unconventional scores, music memory, learning and practicing, theatricality and gesture, open works, and improvisation. Through the course, students will gain comprehensive perspectives on aspects of contemporary music practice. Repertoire includes Ferneyhough, Xenakis, Stockhausen, Globokar, Aperghis, Kagel, Andriessen, Rzewski and Zorn.  

Evaluation will be based on class participation (25%), weekly assignment (25%), presentation (25%), and final paper (25%).

MUPP 691 Perf Practice Seminar 2 | 3 credits | Professor Lena Weman-Ericsson | Winter

Topic: Historically Informed Performance Practice Today

This seminar will explore issues in performance practice of the Baroque period. What are the practices of today, the trends, the issues? We will explore this through primary and secondary sources, musical examples, editions, recordings and so on.
Issues to consider could be tempo, pitch, ornamentation, tuning, notation, musical rhetoric. 

Evaluation will be based on active participation in class, presentations and a final paper.

MUPP 692 Perf Practice Seminar 3 | 3 credits | Professor John Mac Master | Winter

Topic: The Great Singers

What makes a singer great? What is great singing? We will listen to the finest voices recorded in an attempt to understand what makes for superlative singing and artistry. Participants will research the peerless voices of the past and consider the evolution of the bel canto aesthetic, artistry, technique and performance practise. Research, critical listening, class presentations and written assignments will be required. In defining what is great singing, our objective is to become greater artists ourselves. Evaluation: 20% for seminar attendance, preparation and participation; 25% for one in-class presentation on a major artist; 30% for 3 short papers (10% each), and 25% for a final longer paper.

MUPP 693 Perf Practice Seminar 4 | 3 credits | Professor Guillaume Bourgogne | Winter

Topic: Introduction to Conducting

For graduate performance and composition wishing to develop or further their conducting skills, this seminar has three goals:  1) discovering the great conductors in history; 2) acquiring the technical basis of conducting; 3) and putting this technique into practice.
In half of each class, students will apply what they have learned to the development of their own technique: first, through the acquisition of technical fundamentals in harmony with their own bodies and personalities; second, through the study of techniques for analyzing and preparing scores before starting rehearsals.  The final part of each class will be devoted to practicing with a chamber ensemble made up of students in the seminar.  Students will exchange the roles of conductor and performer.  Students, consequently, will be introduced to transcription skills in order to adapt repertoire to the instrumentation and needs of the class. Student composers may be able to use their own works, if adapted to the instrumentation.

For the research papers, students will have two options:  1) Analyze the style and body language of an important conductor in the history of music and present the results through a written paper and 25 minute in-class preparation elaborated by excerpts of the videos collected for analysis.   By sharing these analyses in class with one another, this project will allow students to develop their knowledge of orchestral conducting history and expression through the body.  2)  Transcription of a piece chosen in consultation with the instructor to be used with the class chamber ensemble as part of its repertoire.

Evaluation will be based on attendance and participation (50%), paper and in-class presentation about historical conductors or transcription (25%), and the evolution of basic skills (25%).

MUPP 694 Performance Practice Seminar 5 | 3 credits | Professor Fabrice Marandola | Winter

Topic: Pedagogy of performance – Pedagogy of interpretation

We will explore different teaching techniques related to musical performance. We will discuss different approaches to the pedagogy of interpretation, as well as the phenomena of traditions, Schools and historical interpretation. The concept of expressiveness in music performance will be examined, and we will question its implication on musical teaching. We will evaluate the role and the importance of the pedagogical repertoire in the elaboration of a curriculum, and we will examine how to set goals adapted to a given category of learners.

Cognitive aspects of musical education will be investigated, specifically those related to the mental representation of music (encoding, mnemonic, visualisation, verbalisation). The comparison of Western musical teaching practices with the traditions of cultures where the transmission of the musical knowledge is merely oral, will help to investigate the importance of musical immersion, observation, memorisation and improvisation. In contrast, we will explore methods involving new technologies (aural, haptic and visual feedback).  Observation of teaching situations and mock teaching sessions will be organised to put into practice some of the principles addressed during the seminar.

Evaluation will be based on an oral presentation (25%), a report following the observation of teaching situations (20%), a final paper based on the elaboration of a curriculum (40%) and a mark based on their participation and preparation to the discussions (15%).

MUPP 695 Perf Practice Seminar 6 | 3 credits | Professor Jeremy Cox | Winter

Topic: Pierrot in Modern Guises: non-formal theatre as an energising force in musical modernism

In the early C20th several modernist composers were drawn to non-formal theatrical traditions which had the paradoxical virtue of having previously been almost entirely outside the purview of high-art culture.  Challenging the boundaries between sophisticated and popular artistic genres became a fertile source for creative stimulus, provocation and revitalisation.  This seminar series will begin with presenter-led discussion of key works, including ‘Petrushka’, ‘Pierrot Lunaire’, ‘Parade’, ‘L’Histoire du Soldat’, ‘Pulcinella’ and the late ‘Cello Sonata of Debussy.  In later weeks, students taking the seminar will then each make presentations on topics relevant to the seminar’s theme.

Evaluation will be based on class presentations (including mandatory handouts), one final project (a 20/25-page research paper or equivalent creative task – group collaborations with permission) and professionalism (attendance and participation).

In April, a study-day will take place on Surrealism at 100, reflecting the first use of the term in relation to ‘Parade’.  Students are encouraged to participate in this.

MUPG 677 Seminar in Perf Topics 1 | 3 credits | Professor Jean-Michel Pilc | Winter

Topic: Improvisation and Music Making in all Languages

The goal of this seminar is the acquisition of fluency in improvisation, in all musical idioms (classical, jazz, pop, world etc.) and on all instruments. More generally, it will address the subject of making music and performing it in different styles in a natural and idiomatic way.

The process at work will be based on the way spoken language is learnt and mastered, and also rooted in my own experience discovering music, improvising, and learning jazz and other kinds of music through oral tradition. We will show that improvisation, often and wrongly seen as the difference between classical and jazz, is, on the contrary, the main bridge between all styles of music, and (going back to spoken language analogy), the simple and essential ability to express oneself freely, naturally and spontaneously in music, and instantly at the instrument, which is the musician’s “speech organ.”

We will explore the specificities of each musical idiom – its own “words”, rhythms, accents etc. – and we will learn how to become fluent in it, by listening, imitation, trial and error, the use of rhythmic, vocal and instrumental techniques, fluency tests and exercises (at the instrument and away from it). Many important topics will be covered, such as ear training and tuning, feeling, tempo, swing and groove, internalization and multitasking, phrasing and articulation, etc. The students will be exposed to a wide selection of musical pieces (from recordings or performances by teacher and students). We will draw inspiration and develop practicing methods from many different styles of music.

Taking example on masters such as Mozart or Charlie Parker, we will discover that improviser, composer, interpreter and performer are actually different sides of the same entity; and also, transcending the cliché of “classical player who can’t play jazz” (or vice versa), that the many languages of music can be understood and spoken by all those who are willing to embrace their authenticity and their richness.

This class, like any language learning experience, will require the active participation of each student, as a listener, performer, and practitioner. Evaluation will be based on the participation, progress, motivation and creative energy of each student during the seminar.

MUPG 691 Vocal Ornamentation | 3 credits | Professor Valerie Kinslow | Winter

Topic: Vocal Ornamentation

This seminar provides an introduction to the major treatises with emphasis on their practical application to modern performance.  Through the study and discussion of both primary and secondary sources, students will observe and compare national styles.  Special topics include the conventions of recitative, text-driven embellishment, and ornamentation in Handel's dramatic works.  Evaluation will be based on two presentations, which may include the performance of embellished airs. 

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