Updated 2/15/17.

Below are PDFs or links to all reading assigned for Spring 2017 Introduction to Music, Section F4 at Queensborough Community College.

Also refer to your course calendar if you are unsure what has been assigned: mu-110-course-calendar-f4-thursday-rev-2-15-17


Reading for Class #2 (February 9 16): Musical form, part 1

The readings this week provide an introduction to music generally and the idea of listening for specific features in all the music you hear.

The three excerpts from textbooks by Steven Cornelius and Jeff Titon cover music’s role in society: Cornelius 2-7Titon 1-4Titon 18-30

The two excerpts from a textbook by Jeremy Yudkin will introduce you to two elements of music, melody and texture: Yudkin 18-21Yudkin 29-30

Optional additional reading: Alan Jern, “Enough with the spoiler alerts! Plot spoilers often increase enjoyment,” in Salon, July 30, 2016 (available here).

Additional homework reminder for Class #2: email your WordPress user name to music.drjones@gmail.com so I know who you are on the blog!


Reading for Class #3 (February 16 23): Musical rhythm, dance, and Baroque courts AND Class #4 (February 23): Live music—QCC faculty concert!

Because of the snow storm on February 9, we’ll be combining lessons 3 and 4 this day. We’ll begin with a quiz on instruments and concert going, followed by a field trip to the QPAC Theatre for a live concert.

The first excerpt from Forney will help you know what it’s like to attend a classical music concert: how to find concerts, what to expect, and how to read the programs that you receive when you attend: Forney 4-7 The Cornelius excerpt contrasts audience expectations at different kinds of concerts, such as pop and classical: Cornelius 207-209

The second excerpt describes the most common instruments and ensembles that are found in Western music: Forney 39-52. You can listen to examples of these instruments being played here: https://drjonesmusic.me/instruments/

After the concert, we’ll discuss rhythm and Baroque court music:

The readings this week continue your introduction to listening for specific musical features and begin our journey through music history.

The excerpt from Yudkin covers the musical element of rhythm: Yudkin 23-25

The other excerpt this week describe the Baroque period, which lasted approximately from 1600 to 1750: Forney 102-107


Reading for Class #5 (March 2): Musical form, part 2: The Enlightenment and the Classical style

The excerpt from a textbook by Kristine Forney revisits rhythm and introduces you to a few more elements of music (melody, harmony, texture, form, tempo, and dynamics). The excerpt also explains the pitch system behind Western music (scales, which are used to create melodies and harmonies): Forney 8-16, Forney 17-25Forney 26-32

Continuing our journey through music history, these two excerpts provide an introduction to the Classical period, which came right after the Baroque period: Forney 150-155Yudkin 115-126.

Finally, here’s an introduction to a composer whose music we’ll be focusing on in class, Joseph Haydn: Forney 162-165


Reading for Class #6 (March 9): Musical analysis, Lieder, and Franz Schubert

This week, we’re turning to the Romantic period, which approximately coincides with the 19th century, and we’ll be looking even more closely at music with words, specifically the music of Austrian composer Franz Schubert, and thinking about the long-term influence or ramifications of the cultural currents we’re examining.

On music with words: Forney 33-35

Although we’ve touched upon the musical element of harmony already, it’s worth revisiting, particularly since it’s such a subtle aspect of listening that has a major effect on how we interpret mood, nuance, and motion in what we hear. The Yudkin excerpt provides another look at harmony: Yudkin 26-29

On the Romantic period and Franz Schubert: Yudkin 159-170


Reading for Class #7 (March 16): Symphonies and comparing stylistic periods

On symphonies in general: yudkin-120-121

On the Classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Yudkin 130-134

On the Classical/Romantic composer Ludwig van Beethoven: Cornelius 111Yudkin 139-144

On the Romantic composer Johannes Brahms: forney-2017-215-217yudkin-199-201

Reading for Class #8 (March 23): Richard Wagner

Class this week will begin with a brief (approximately 30-minute) listening-based midterm exam.

There is no new assigned reading for this class, but if you did not do the optional reading assigned for the performance on February 23, you must do it now to prepare for the midterm exam:

  • The first excerpt from Forney will help you know what it’s like to attend a classical music concert: how to find concerts, what to expect, and how to read the programs that you receive when you attend: Forney 4-7 The Cornelius excerpt contrasts audience expectations at different kinds of concerts, such as pop and classical: Cornelius 207-209
  • The second Forney excerpt describes the most common instruments and ensembles that are found in Western music: Forney 39-52. You can listen to examples of these instruments being played here: https://drjonesmusic.me/instruments/

Following the midterm, we’ll be switching gears for the course and exploring certain aspects of how music operates in people’s lives, starting with a discussion about the composer Richard Wagner.

Optional additional reading (exploring the notion of a person being the product of their generation): Stephen Metcalf, “Donald Trump, Baby Boomer” in Slate, May 1, 2016 (available here).

Reading for Class #9 (March 30): Music as (class) identity

Our musical topic this week will be music made by black Americans in the early 20th century, covering the genres of blues, jazz, and classical music. The lens through which we’ll approach this music is to consider how musical sounds allow a musician, an audience, and a community to proclaim/assert their identity or reveal their position within a society.

On the blues: Titon 164-166Titon 176-178

On jazz: yudkin-261-277 This is a lengthy excerpt and you are not required to read the entire passage. Do read pp 261 and 276-277, which are the chapter introduction and conclusion (highlighting the key concepts and trajectory of jazz history) and the box on p. 274, which outlines the intersection of jazz and classical music in the 20th century.

On the Harlem Renaissance and composer William Grant Still: Forney 328-330

On censorship: Yudkin 301

Reading for Class #10 (April 6): Music, religion, and ritual

Another way aspect of how music functions in people’s lives is in the service of religious rites. We’ll visit examples of religiosity in music as far back as the Medieval and Renaissance periods, exploring how music enhanced worship but also exemplified ongoing political strife and social discord.

Meaningful musical analysis happens when we take into account not only the musical sounds that we hear but also the world in which they were conceived. To provide a baseline or background of social and historical knowledge for this aspect of the discussion, especially of religion in Europe, the excerpt from Titon gives an overview of European society: Titon 210-215.

On religious music of the Renaissance: cornelius-80-81yudkin-77-78

Even though there’s a general trend towards secularism (non-religious) music over the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, there are several examples of ways in which faith and religious identity are often still present in the inspiration for modern musical creations. We’ll look at an example of this in a work by the 20th century French composer Olivier Messiaen: Cornelius 131-132


April 20 (no class)

Optional extra credit: Students in Section F4 may attend the class meeting of section F1 (12:10-3pm in room H 110 — not our usual classroom!) for extra credit. You are strongly encouraged to read the following materials to help you know what to expect from the class meeting, which will consist of a visit from a few professional musicians–they’ll perform for you, answer questions, and provide a sneak peek behind the scenes into the rehearsal process. Your assigned reading consists of their biographies available on their websites:

They’ll also be joined by a flutist whom you may recognize.

In class, they’ll be talking about a series of upcoming concerts they’re performing in the New York area consisting of music by these young composers:

Reading for Class #11 (April 27): Music as a social activity: Opera

An important genre in Western music is opera, a staged work performed by singers accompanied by an orchestra. In class, we’ll discuss how an opera gets made, different voice types, and the historical experience of attending an opera.

Two brief introductions to the genre of opera: forney-2017-167-169yudkin-119-120

Optional additional reading (about gender, which is an important issue in thinking about opera characters and voice types): Jordan Kisner, “Can a Woman’s Voice Ever Be Right?” in New York Magazine (2016):  Kisner – Can a Woman’s Voice Ever Be Right — The Cut


Reading for Class #12 (May 4): Music as an escape

One of the ways people use music is to mentally “check out”–to travel somewhere else other than the here-and-now. We’ll be exploring this idea in two main ways: exoticism and the macabre.

Exoticism is the importation of musical sounds, ideas, instruments, or stories from another culture. For the musician, exoticism creates leeway to do things that would otherwise be odd, bizarre, or confusing for a listener–such using a broader array or palette of sounds that are surprising to the ear. Musical exoticism allows a listener to “travel” to a faraway locale or travel back in time to the place/time where the fresh, foreign, and enticing sounds originate (or at least where the inspiration for a work comes from).

We’ll see some of these ideas in French music from the late 19th century and early 20th century in works by the composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel: Forney 276-281

The concept of “escape” isn’t always to someplace beautiful or traditionally enticing–another kind of escape can come in the form of creating a space in which audiences can contemplate the worst of themselves and their emotions, things they would never indulge in normally. Fascination with darkness and the macabre crops up in art and literature of the 19th century and early 20th century. We’ll be looking at the musical style called Expressionism and works by German composers, chiefly Arnold Schoenberg: yudkin-224-226


Reading for Class #13 (May 11): Minimalism

There are several trends in art music of the 20th century: modernism, neoclassicism, postmodernism, serialism, musique concrète, electronic music and electroacoustic music. This week, we’ll be listening to music that all falls under the descriptor of “minimalism” by John Cage, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Frederic Rzewski.

This excerpt from Yudkin provides a lay of the aesthetic landscape, especially an introduction to the concept of postmodernism: Yudkin 245-253

John Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing” from 1959: Cage, J. – Lecture on Nothing This text may seem a bit strange at first, but allow yourself to keep reading, to keep questioning what you’re reading and how it’s presented on the page — use your discomfort to ask yourself why Cage might have made the choices he did, what his choices do to you as a reader (and your expectations about how reading should go!), and what he leaves out in his writing (and what he leaves in–this is the crux of minimalism!).

Optional additional reading (on how a particular aspect of “minimalism” has crept into our lives): Kyle Chaykya, New York Times (2016), “The Oppressive Gospel of Minimalism”: Chaykya – The Oppressive Gospel of ‘Minimalism’ – The New York Times

Reading for Class #14 (May 18): Experimentation and virtuosity

The old adage goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” but that’s not really true. Curiosity is the mother of invention–tinkering, exploring, seeing what happens is what leads to new techniques and new ideas that become new works of art and new styles.

In class this week, we’ll be listening to music written by composers who are interested in pushing the envelope of their respective times for what’s possible musically. The class will be a historical survey of the extreme demands composers made of their performers (or themselves, if they performed!) and the kinds of musical exploration in which they engaged.

One more survey of art in the 20th century: yudkin-213-218

One composer we’ll cover is George Crumb: Forney 372

Finally, how do you create the circumstances in which musical exploration happens? John Cage and his partner, the dancer Merce Cunningham, created a learning environment in which they and their students were encouraged to grow, explore and create freely in the 1960s. A list of rules for teachers and students, compiled by educator Sister Corita Kent in 1967-68 and partly inspired by John Cage, was posted at the door of Cunningham’s dance studio for years: