Advanced Theory: Ancient Theory/Notation as Language


This course will begin with an introduction to the writing systems of the world and the ways in which they both shape and are shaped by the languages that they encode. Most of the first semester will be an investigation of the same phenomenon with respect to the notation (script) and theory (grammar) of ancient music. Notational and theoretical systems studied will include Ancient Babylonian, Greek, and Japanese music, as well as European chant notation and mensural notation. Students will transliterate existing pieces and compose brief exercises. These compositions will attempt to emerge from the ancient vocabularies and grammars in order to explore the way in which musical ideas can be shaped by the manner of their inscription. The second semester will move into the 20th and 21st centuries and will explore a number of alternate notations and musical grammars, including microtonal composition and graphic notation involving composers such as George Crumb, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gloria Coates, Anthony Braxton, and Joe Maneri. Again, students will compose brief exercises using these forms. The semester will culminate with students inventing their own musical languages.