Music

The music program is structured to integrate theory and practice. Students select a combination of component courses that together constitute one full course, called a Music Third. A minimal Music Third includes four components:

  1. Individual instruction (instrumental performance, composition, or voice), the central area of study around which the rest of the program is planned
  2. Theory and/or history (see requirements below)
  3. A performance ensemble (see area requirements below)
  4. Concert attendance/Music Tuesdays (see requirements below)

The student, in consultation with the faculty, plans the music program best-suited to his or her needs and interests. Advanced students may, with faculty consent, elect to take two-thirds of their course of study in music.

2018-2019 Courses

Music

Gamelan Ensemble

Component—Fall

Any interested student may join; no previous experience with music is necessary.

A gamelan angklung is a bronze orchestra that includes four-toned metallophones, gongs, drums, and flutes. Rhythmic patterns played upon the instruments interlock and combine to form large structures of great complexity and beauty. The gamelan angklung that we will play was specially handcrafted in Bali for the College and was named Chandra Buana, or “Moon Earth,” at its dedication on April 16, 2000, in Reisinger Concert Hall.

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First-Year Studies: The Idea of a New Style

Open , FYS—Year

Each student in First-Year Studies in Music will be enrolled in a full music program—a Music Third—that reflects Sarah Lawrence’s educational philosophy of closely integrating theory and practice in the study of music. The Music Third consists of a number of components: individual instruction in voice, an instrument, or composition; courses in theory and/or history; participation in an ensemble; and concert attendance.

This seminar is a component of First Year Studies in Music and will provide a forum to study a broad range of musical topics in both artistic and critical ways. The course will focus on the evolution of form, questions of aesthetics, and historical perspective—exploring the cyclical nature of music that mirrors philosophical and theoretical ideas in Ancient Greece and how that cycle appears every 300 years: the Ars nova of the 14th century, Le nuove musiche of the 17th century, and the New Music of the 20th century and beyond. Class participation will involve listening to and discussing significant compositions of the Western musical tradition from the Middle Ages to the present. Classwork will include readings, short papers, quizzes, and class presentations. Conference work will evolve from classwork, as well as from the specific interests of each student.

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Philosophy of Music

Open , Lecture—Spring

This course may be taken as a five-credit humanities class or as a component of a Music Third.

In recent years, a number of philosophers have examined the experience of music: Does it express emotions? And, if so, how? Does it convey meaning? Can we use the idea of narrative to help understand music without a text? Etc.? This class will begin by examining some different perspectives on the role of music—and art in general—in life and thought, including that of the Ancient Greeks, Kant, Hegel, Dewey, and Adorno. We will then look at the work of more recent philosophers. The ideas presented in the class will always be related to musical examples; the class will equally involve reading and attentive listening. Musical examples will come mostly from the Western classical tradition, but some other traditions may also be relevant. The goal of the class will be to see how music and philosophical thought can illuminate each other and, hopefully, to deepen our awareness of the range and power of music. We will use analytical techniques in looking at pieces of music, but prior knowledge of music theory is not required.

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Related Disciplines

Global Circulations: Art and Pop Music of Asia

Open , Lecture—Fall

This lecture course may be counted as either humanities or social science credit. This course may also be taken as a semester-long component.

This course examines how music and its global circulation make the relationships between people audible. In the social contexts of listening and musical performance—and in musical sound itself—we will understand how music and its movement across community-based, regional, and national boundaries shape people’s lives. As recordings, musicians, and ideas about music move, we will learn how they sound interpersonal relationships by using selected ethnographic examples of art and popular music from across Asia and the Middle East. Class topics will include South Indian classical music, Taiko, Southeast Asian heavy metal, Iranian pop, Japanese hip hop, Bollywood, world jazz, noise, k-pop, world music 2.0, and others. Course themes related to the circulation of music will include the ideology of tradition, cultural imperialism, sound technologies, and the more recent proliferation of cultural nationalisms that seek to impede circulation. By encountering musical diversity through listening and reading materials, students will develop the critical thinking skills to make connections between sonic and textual resources and to better understand the many ways in which music and sound are meaningful around the world. No prior musical experience is necessary. Participation in the Solkattu Ensemble, a vocal percussion ensemble, or African Classics, a popular music ensemble, is strongly encouraged.

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Related Disciplines

Transformation Sounds! Ethnomusicology and Social Change

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course may be counted as either humanities or social science credit. This course may also be taken as a semester-long component.

This course features the interdisciplinary study of music and culture by focusing on the role of music in social change. Why is music so important to social movements? How is music used to both challenge and support certain ideologies and institutions of power? How have governments used music to build national solidarity, and how have activists used it to incite change? How can we relate these phenomena to our own experiences with music in daily life? We will explore answers to these questions through historical and ethnographic literatures and learn about the diverse settings in which music and politics intersect. The course presents some theoretical foundations of music, self, and society and then examines music and politics in specific contexts. Class sessions will explore topics such as American spirituals during slavery and emancipation, Islamic political movements in Iran, and the role of music and sound in the Occupy Wall St. and Black Lives Matter movements. We will learn the many ways in which music becomes a resource for modeling the kind of social and political transformations that people hope to create in their communities or nations. For example, we will observe governments’ and citizens’ musical appropriations and reappropriations, and we will trace the ways groups often claim and adapt a single musical genre to differing ends. Throughout the course, we will listen to and discuss numerous musical examples and gain familiarity with the musical genres that we study. Class sessions will be devoted to discussing readings from a wide range of fields, including ethnomusicology, anthropology, history, and sociology. No prior experience in music is necessary. Participation in the Faso Foli (West African percussion) ensemble is strongly encouraged.

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Related Disciplines

Theory I: Materials of Music

Component

Hearing and Singing is taken concurrently with this course. This course is a prerequisite to the Theory II: Basic Tonal Theory and Composition and Advanced Theory sequence. This course will meet twice each week (two 90-minute sessions).

In this introductory course, we will study elements of music such as pitch, rhythm, intensity, and timbre. We will see how they combine in various musical structures and how these structures communicate. Studies will include notation and ear training, as well as theoretical exercises, rudimentary analyses, and the study of repertoire from various eras of Western music.

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Theory II: Basic Tonal Theory and Composition

Component

The materials of this course are prerequisite to any Advanced Theory course.  Survey of Western Music is required for all students taking Theory II who have not had a similar history course.

As a skill-building course in the language of tonal music, this course covers diatonic harmony and voice leading, elementary counterpoint, and simple forms. Students will develop an understanding through part writing, analysis, composition, and aural skills.

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Advanced Theory: Advanced Tonal Theory and Analysis

Component

Prerequisite: successful completion of the required theory sequence or an equivalent background.

This course will focus on the analysis of tonal music, with a particular emphasis on chromatic harmony. Our goal will be to quickly develop basic understanding and skill in this area and then to refine them in the analysis of complete movements and works. Our repertoire will range from Bach to Brahms, and we will try to incorporate music that class participants might be studying in their lessons or ensembles.

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Advanced Theory: Jazz Theory and Harmony

Component

Prerequisite: Theory II: Basic Tonal Theory and Composition

This course will study the building blocks and concepts of jazz theory, harmony, and rhythm. This will include the study of the standard modes and scales, as well as the use of melodic and harmonic minor scales and their respective modals systems. It will include the study and application of diminished and augmented scales and their role in harmonic progression, particularly the diminished chord as a parental structure. An in-depth study will be given to harmony and harmonic progression through analysis and memorization of triads, extensions, and alterations, as well as substitute chords, reharmonization, and back cycling. We will look at polytonality and the superposition of various hybrid chords over different bass tones and other harmonic structures. We will study and apply all of the above to their characteristic and stylistic genres, including bebop, modal, free, and progressive jazz. The study of rhythm, which is possibly the single most important aspect of jazz, will be a primary focus, as well. We will also use composition as a way to absorb and truly understand the concepts discussed.

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Jazz Arranging and Orchestration

Component

Prerequisites: Ability to read music and an understanding of fundamental jazz harmony, chord construction, and song structure.

In this course, students will focus on the basics of arranging and orchestrating for small- to medium-size jazz ensembles. Offered in partnership with the Jazz Colloquium ensemble, students will write for the instrumentation of the ensemble and will have the opportunity to hear their arrangements performed by Jazz Colloquium. This course introduces students to the techniques of arranging and orchestration for two-horn, three-horn, and four-horn jazz ensembles. Students will study the classic repertoire of small- to medium-size jazz groups and create small ensemble arrangements in various styles. Materials for study will be drawn from throughout the history of jazz and contemporary/commercial arranging practices.

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Advanced Theory: Orchestration and Score Study

Component

Although this course will be important for composers, it is predicated on the conviction that learning more about the capabilities of instruments—both individually and in combination—is invaluable to the appreciation of music for anyone. Of course, a composer needs to learn the timbral palettes of various instruments, as well as how to write idiomatically for them; but performers, theorists, and historians benefit enormously, as well. They learn why some musical choices were necessary but also why some choices are especially clever or even astonishing. The first semester will focus on basic characteristics and some extended techniques of the primary orchestral instruments and will include considerations and examples for orchestral and chamber literature. The second semester will add a few more advanced and/or less-standard instruments, such as the harp, guitar, and synthesizer, but will primarily focus on extensive score study with an eye toward varied approaches to orchestration. Examples will include works from the Baroque era all the way to the present day. All students will compose small excerpts for solo instruments and chamber groups as each instrument is introduced. For composers, the first semester project will be an arrangement of part of an assigned piano piece for full orchestra; the final project will be a relatively brief original composition for a large chamber group or full orchestra. Non-composition students will have the option to either do those projects or substitute relatively brief papers that analyze the orchestration in pieces chosen from a list provided by the instructor.

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Advanced Theory: 20th-Century Theoretical Approaches: Post-Tonal and Rock Music

Component

Open to students who have successfully completed Theory II: Basic Tonal Theory and Composition.

This course will be an examination of various theoretical approaches to music of the 20th century—including post-tonal, serial, textural, minimalist, and pop/rock music. Our primary text will be Joseph Straus’s Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory, but we will also explore other relevant texts—including scores and recordings of the works themselves. This course will include study of the music of Schoenberg, Webern, Pink Floyd, Ligeti, Bartók, Reich, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Corigliano, and Del Tredici, among others.

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Hearing and Singing

Component

All incoming students will take a diagnostic test to determine placement. This class fulfills the performance component of the music program for those beginning students who are not ready to participate in other ensembles.

This class focuses on developing fluency with the rudiments of music and is the required aural corollary to Theory I: Materials of Music. As students begin to explore the fundamental concepts of written theory—reading notes on the staff, interpreting rhythm—Hearing and Singing works to translate these sights into sounds. The use of solfège helps in this process, as ear, mind, and voice begin to understand the relationship between the pitches of the scale. Rhythm drills help solidify a sense of rhythm and a familiarity with rhythm patterns. In-class chorale singing supports this process.

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Sight Reading for Instrumentalists

Component

This course is open to all instrumentalists who are interested in developing techniques to improve their sight-reading skills. Groups from duets to quintets will be formed according to level and will meet once a week. A sight-reading “performance” will be held at the end of each semester.

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20th-Century Compositional Techniques

Component

Prerequisite: Theory I: Materials of Music or its equivalent.

Composers have been exploring new avenues for creating and organizing their music beyond a traditional tonal construct since the turn of the 20th century. As we will discover, some composers relate to the past by extending those techniques into a new realm, while others firmly attempt to establish procedures that disregard the history of compositional methods that precede them. This course is a workshop in the art of composition, with a focus on new approaches to writing that composers devised from the late 19th century to present times. We will examine in detail significant works by a wide variety of major 20th- and 21st-century composers, beginning with the first inklings of modernism in Debussy, Wagner, and Schoenberg; stopping by a myriad of resulting genres such as neoclassicism in Stravinsky and minimalism with Steve Reich; and finishing off with very recent compositions by established and emerging composers from across the globe. Since this class focuses heavily on compositional techniques through the act of composing, it is expected that students have, or will develop, a fluency in notation, preferably with Sibelius or Finale. The class will culminate in a reading session of your final work by live performers.

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Introduction to Electronic Music and Music Technology

Component

Permission of the instructor is required.

The Sarah Lawrence Electronic Music Studio is a state-of-the art facility dedicated to the instruction and development of electronic music composition. The studio contains the latest in digital audio hardware and software for synthesis, recording, and signal processing, along with a full complement of vintage analog synthesizers and tape machines. Beginning students will start with an introduction to the equipment, basic acoustics and principles of studio recording, signal processing, and a historical overview of the medium. Once students have acquired a certain level of proficiency with the equipment and material—usually by the second semester—the focus will be on preparing compositions that will be heard in concerts of electronic music, student composers’ concerts, music workshops, and open concerts.

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Recording, Sequencing, and Mastering Electronic Music

Component

Permission of the instructor is required.

This course will focus on creating electronic music primarily using software-based digital audio workstations. Materials covered will include MIDI, ProTools, Digital Performer, Logic, Reason, Ableton Live, MaxMsp, Traction, and elements of Sibelius and Finale (as connected to media scoring). Class assignments will focus on composing individual works and/or creating music and designing sound for various media such as film, dance, and interactive performance art. Students in this course may also choose to evolve collaborative projects with students from those other areas. Projects will be presented in class for discussion and critique.

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Studio Composition and Music Technology

Component

This component is open to advanced students who have successfully completed Studio for Electronic Music and Experimental Sound and are at or beyond the Advanced Theory level. Class size is limited. Permission of the instructor is required.

Students work on individual projects involving aspects of music technology, including but not limited to works for electro-acoustic instruments (live and/or prerecorded), works involving interactive performance media, laptop ensembles, Disklavier, and improvised or through-composed works.

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Survey of Western Music

Component

This component is required for all students taking Theory II: Basic Tonal Theory and Composition and is also open to students who have completed the theory sequence.

This course is a chronological survey of Western music from the Middle Ages to the present. The course is designed to acquaint the student with significant compositions of the Western musical tradition, as well as to explore the cyclical nature of music that mirrors philosophical and theoretical ideas in Ancient Greece and how that cycle appears every 300 years: the Ars nova of the 14th century, Le nuove musiche of the 17th century, and the New Music of the 20th century and beyond. The course involves participation in listening, reading, and discussion, including occasional quizzes about and/or written summaries of historical periods. Presentations are required during the second term.

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Johann Sebastian Bach

Component

Bach’s roots are deep, arguably reaching back to the Middle Ages. This course, which will offer a thorough introduction to his works and life, will consider some of those roots but also his influence on later generations. This seminar will trace the development of Bach’s musical language and discuss his extraordinary contributions to almost all the genres important in his time, including cantatas, concertos, suites, passions, orchestral music, and pedagogical keyboard works. Analysis of his music is at the core of this course and will be combined with discussion of readings that address topics of biography, theology, performance practice, and reception history. In-class performances will be a regular feature of this seminar. Reading knowledge of music is essential, and some background in music theory is highly recommended.

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20th-/21st-Century Music History

Component

In this class, students will study the history of Western music from the beginnings of modernism at the end of the 19th century, with music by Debussy and Mahler, to music of today. The focus will be on the study of major works in various genres (symphonic music, opera, chamber music, and vocal music), but we will also examine the changing social and intellectual contexts of the period such as the influences of two world wars, the rise of mass entertainment, the development of recording and broadcast media, and the changing role of the arts in society.

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The Modern Concerto: Evolutions and Styles

Component—Fall

This course will begin with the origins of the concerto form in the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras and will then explore the many -isms of the 20th and 21st centuries as they manifested themselves in that format. The course will function as both a history course—introducing the biographies of many composers, as well as the evolution of the most important stylistic trends of the modern and contemporary eras—and as a music literature course to acquaint the student with seminal concertos and unsung classics of the genre. In addition to the usual common-practice suspects, students will be introduced to the lives and works of Amy Beach, Dmitri Shostakovich, Unsuk Chin, Tan Dun, John Corigliano, Sofia Gubaidulina, Alban Berg, Giya Kancheli, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Philip Glass, and others. The evolution of many styles will be explored, including spectralism, serialism, microtonalism, eclecticism, minimalism, and brutalism.

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The Modern Symphony: Evolutions and Styles

Component—Spring

This course will begin with the origins of the symphonic form in the Classical and Romantic eras and will then explore the many -isms of the 20th and 21st centuries as they manifested themselves in that format. The course will function as both a history course—introducing the biographies of many composers, as well as the evolution of the most important stylistic trends of the modern and contemporary eras—and as a music literature course to acquaint the student with seminal symphonies and unsung classics of the genre. In addition to the usual common-practice suspects, students will be introduced to the lives and works of Igor Stravinsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, Gloria Coates, Anton Webern, Galina Ustvolskaya, Amy Beach, Per Nørgård, Wolfgang Rihm, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, John Adams, and others. The evolution of many styles will be explored, including spectralism, serialism, microtonalism, eclecticism, minimalism, and brutalism.

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Jazz History

Component

This is one of the music history component courses required for all Advanced Theory students.

Jazz music of all styles and periods will be listened to, analyzed, and discussed. Emphasis will be placed on instrumental styles and performance techniques that have evolved in the performance of jazz. Skills in listening to and enjoying some of the finer points of the music will be enhanced by the study of elements such as form, phrasing, instrumentation, instrumental technique, and style. Special emphasis will be placed on the development of modern jazz and its relationship to older styles. Some topics: Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, roots and development of the Big Band sound, Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, lineage of pianists, horn players, evolution of the rhythm section, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, be-bop, cool jazz, jazz of the ’60s and ’70s, fusion and jazz rock, jazz of the ’80s, and modern trends. The crossover of jazz into other styles of modern music, such as rock and R&B, will be discussed, as will the influence that modern concert music and world music has had on jazz styles. This is a two-semester class; however, it will be possible to enter in the second semester.

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Philosophy of Music

Component—Spring

See full course description under Lecture and Seminars.

Global Circulations: Art and Pop Music of Asia

Component—Fall

See full course description under Lecture and Seminars.

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Transformation Sounds: Ethnomusicology and Social Change

Component—Spring

See course description under Lectures and Seminar.

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Chamber Choir

Component

Chamber Choir meets twice a week. Audition required.

Early madrigals and motets and contemporary works especially suited to a small number of voices will form the body of this group’s repertoire. The ensemble will perform winter and spring concerts.

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The Blues Ensemble

Component

Audition required.

This performance ensemble is geared toward learning and performing various traditional, as well as hybrid, styles of blues music. The blues, like jazz, is a purely American art form. Students will learn and investigate Delta Blues—performing songs by Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Skip James, and others—as well as Texas Country Blues by originators such as Blind Lemon Jefferson and Chicago Blues, beginning with Big Bill Broonzy and moving up through Howlin’ Wolf and Buddy Guy. Students will also learn songs and stylings by Muddy Waters, Albert King, and B. B. King and learn how they influenced modern blues men such as Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and pioneer rockers such as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jimi Hendrix.

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Jazz Colloquium

Component

Audition required.

This ensemble will meet weekly to rehearse and perform a wide variety of modern jazz music and other related styles. Repertoire in the past has included works by composers Thelonius Monk, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock, as well as some rock, Motown, and blues. All instruments are welcome.

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Jazz Performance and Improvisation Workshop

Component

Placement audition required.

This class is intended for all instrumentalists and will provide a “hands-on” study of topics relating to the performance of jazz music. The class will meet as an ensemble, but the focus will not be on rehearsing repertoire and giving concerts. Instead, students will focus on improving jazz playing by applying the topic at hand directly to instruments—and immediate feedback on the performance will be given. The workshop environment will allow students to experiment with new techniques as they develop their sound. Topics include jazz chord/scale theory; extensions of traditional tonal harmony; altered chords; modes; scales; improvising on chord changes; analyzing a chord progression or tune; analysis of form; performance and style study, including swing, Latin, jazz-rock, and ballade styles; and ensemble technique. The format can be adapted to varying instrumentation and levels of proficiency.

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Jazz Vocal Ensemble

Component

Audition required.

No longer do vocalists need to share valuable time with those wanting to focus primarily on instrumental jazz and vice versa. This ensemble will be dedicated to providing a performance-oriented environment for the aspiring jazz vocalist. We will mostly concentrate on picking material from the standard jazz repertoire. Vocalists will get an opportunity to work on arrangements, interpretation, delivery, phrasing, and intonation in a realistic situation with a live rhythm section and soloists. Vocalists will learn how to work with, give direction to, and get what they need from the rhythm section. It will provide an environment for vocalists to learn to hear forms and changes and also work on vocal improvisation if they so choose. This will not only give students an opportunity to work on singing solo or lead vocals but to work with other vocalists in singing backup or harmony vocals for and with each other. This will also serve as a great opportunity for instrumentalists to learn the true art of accompanying the jazz vocalist, which will prove to be a valuable experience in preparing for a career as a professional musician.

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Jazz Saxophone Ensemble

Component

Audition required.

Saxophone ensembles provide exposure to a wide variety of chamber ensemble literature for the saxophone, as well as an opportunity for students to develop musical interaction skills in a small group/chamber ensemble setting. In this course, students will focus on small ensemble repertoire for the saxophone, exploring the history of contemporary saxophone pieces starting with the saxophone bands of John Phillips Sousa up to and through the current day, performing works by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Gil Evans, Lenny Pickett, 29th Street Saxophone Quartet, Itchy Fingers, the Hollywood Saxophone Quartet, and others. With enough participants, the ensemble may also perform Supersax style (5 saxophones and rhythm section) arrangements. There will be at least one public performance of the saxophone ensemble in each semester, with other opportunities as they arise.

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Jazz Vocal Seminar

Component

Audition required.

This course is an exploration of the relationship of melody, harmony, rhythm, text, and style and how those elements can be combined and manipulated to create meaning and beauty. A significant level of vocal development will be expected and require.

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So This Is Opera?

Component

Audition required.

This course is an introduction to opera through an opera workshop experience that explores combining drama and music to create a story. The course is open to students in the performing arts (music, dance, and theatre), as well as to the College community at large. All levels are welcome. Weekly class attendance is mandatory.

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Studio Class

Component

Placement audition required.

The Studio Class is a beginning course in basic vocal technique. Each student's vocal needs are met within the structure and content of the class.

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Seminar in Vocal Performance

Component

During the course of their studies and with permission of their instructor, all Music Thirds in voice are required to take Seminar in Vocal Performance for two semesters.

Voice students will gain performance experience by singing repertoire selected in cooperation with the studio instructors. Students will become acquainted with a broader vocal literature perspective through singing in several languages and exploring several historical music periods. Interpretation, diction, and stage deportment will be stressed.

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African Classics of the Post-Colonial Era

Component—Fall

Basic facility on one's musical instrument is expected, but prior experience with African musical aesthetics is neither assumed nor required.

From highlife and jújù in Nigeria, to soukous and makossa in Congo and Cameroon, to the sounds of Manding music in Guinea and “Swinging Addis” in Ethiopia, the decades following World War II saw an explosion of musical creativity that blossomed across sub-Saharan Africa. Syncretic styles merging African aesthetics with European, Caribbean, and American influences and instruments resulted in vibrant new musical genres that harken back to traditional African sources while exploring bold and original musical forms. As European powers formally withdrew from their former colonies, newly inspired African musicians took advantage of broadened artistic resources and created vital, contemporary musical expressions. This performance course will explore a wide range of African musical styles that emerged in the second half of the 20th century. We will undertake a broad musical history, considering prominent groups and individual musicians during this time period, and perform tightly structured arrangements of some of their most effective and influential pieces. There will be some opportunities for genre-appropriate improvisation and soloing. A wide range of instruments will be welcome, including strings, horns, guitars, keyboards, drums, and various other percussion instruments.

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West African Percussion Ensemble Faso Foli

Component—Spring

Faso Foli is the name of our West African performance ensemble. Faso Foli is a Malinke phrase that translates loosely as ‘playing to my father's home.’ In this class, we will develop the ability to play expressive melodies and intricate polyrhythms in a group context, as we recreate the celebrated musical legacy of the West African Mande Empire. These traditions have been kept alive and vital through creative interpretation and innovation in Africa, the United States, and other parts of the world. Correspondingly, our repertoire will reflect a wide range of expressive practices both ancient in origin and dynamic in contemporary performance. The instruments we play—balafons, the dun dun drums, and djembe hand drums—were constructed for the college in 2006, handcrafted by master builders in Guinea. Relevant instrumental techniques will be taught in the class, and no previous experience with African musical practice is assumed. Any interested student may join.

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Awareness Through Movement™ for Musicians

Component

This course will offer a selection from the thousands of Awareness Through Movement™ lessons developed by Moshe Feldenkrais. The lessons consist of verbal instructions for carefully designed movement sequences. The movements allow the students to better sense and feel themselves and thereby develop new and improved organizational patterns. The gentle movements are done in comfortable positions (lying, sitting, and standing), and many instrumentalists and singers have found them to be hugely helpful in developing greater ease, reducing unwanted tension and performance anxiety, and in preventing injuries. Another benefit is the often increased capacity for learning and, perhaps most importantly, an increased enjoyment of music making and the creative process.

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Baroque Ensemble

Component—Spring

Audition required.

This performance ensemble focuses on music from roughly 1600 to 1750 and is open to both instrumentalists and singers. Using modern instruments, we will explore the rich and diverse musical world of the Baroque. Regular coachings will be supported by sessions exploring a variety of performance practice issues, such as ornamentation, notational conventions, continuo playing, and editions.

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Bluegrass Performance Ensemble

Component—Spring

Bluegrass music is a 20th-century amalgam of popular and traditional music styles, emphasizing vocal performance and instrumental improvisation, that coalesced in the 1940s in the American Southeast. This ensemble will highlight, through performance, many of the influences and traditions that bluegrass comprises, including ballads, breakdowns, “brother duets,” gospel quartets, Irish-style medleys, “modal” instrumentals, “old-time” country, popular song, and rhythm and blues, among many possible others. The ensemble should include fiddle, 5-string banjo, steel-string acoustic guitar, mandolin, resophonic guitar (Dobro®), and upright (double) bass. Though experienced players will have plenty of opportunities to improvise, participants need not have played bluegrass before.

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Chamber Music

Component

Various chamber groups—from quartets or quintets to violin and piano duos—are formed each year depending on the number and variety of qualified instrumentalists who apply. There are weekly coaching sessions. At the end of the semester, groups will have an opportunity to perform in a chamber music concert.

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Chamber Music Improvisation

Component

Open to a limited number of students. Audition required.

This is an experimental performing ensemble that explores a variety of musical styles and techniques, including free improvisation, improvisational conducting, and various other chance-based methods. The ensemble is open to all instruments (acoustic and electric), voice, electronic synthesizers, and laptop computers. Students must be able to demonstrate a level of proficiency on their chosen instrument. Composer-performers, dancers, and actors are also welcome. Performance opportunities will include: concerts, collaboration with other programs such as dance, theatre, film, and performance art, as well as community outreach.

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Dance and Music Improvisation

Component—Fall

Permission of the instructors is required.

This class explores a variety of musical and dance styles and techniques, including free improvisation, chance-based methods, conducting, and scoring. We will collaboratively innovate practices and build scores that extend our understanding of how the mediums of dance and music relate to and with one another. How the body makes sound and how sound moves will serve as entry points for our individual and group experimentation. Scores will be explored with an eye toward their performing potential. The ensemble is open to composer-performers, dancers, performance artists, and actors. Music students must be able to demonstrate proficiency in their chosen instrument. All instruments (acoustic and electrical), voice, electronic synthesizers, and laptop computers are welcome.

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Guitar Class

Component

Faculty recommendation required.

This course is for beginning acoustic or electric guitar students.

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Guitar Ensemble

Component

Faculty recommendation required.

This class offers informal performance opportunities on a weekly basis as a way of exploring guitar solo, duo, and ensemble repertoire. The course will seek to improve sight-reading abilities and foster a thorough knowledge of the guitar literature. Recommended for students interested in classical guitar.

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Keyboard Lab

Component

Placement arranged by the piano faculty.

This course is designed to accommodate beginning piano students, who take the Keyboard Lab as the core of their Music Third. This instruction takes place in a group setting with eight keyboard stations and one master station. Students will be introduced to elementary keyboard technique and simple piano pieces.

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Senior Recital

Component—Spring

Audition required.

This component offers students the opportunity to share the results of their sustained work in performance study with the larger College community. During the semester of their recital, students will receive additional coachings by their principal teachers.

Violin Masterclass

Component

Violin Master Class meets weekly and involves both playing and discussion. Each student is required to prepare a solo piece. An accompanist will be present before and during each class to rehearse and perform with students. Each master class is organized as a series of individual lessons that address recurrent performance problems, including discussions concerning technical and musical issues (basic and advanced) as well as performance practices. All students will receive copies of the works being performed.

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Master Class

Component

Master Class is a series of concerts, instrumental and vocal seminars, and lecture demonstrations pertaining to music history, world music, improvisation, jazz, composition, and music technology. Master classes take place on Wednesdays from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in either Reisinger Concert Hall or Marshall Field House Room 1. They are open to the College community.

Music Workshops and Open Concerts

Component

Music workshops present an opportunity for students to perform music that they have been studying in an informal, supportive environment. In this class, participants will present a prepared piece and receive constructive feedback from the instructor and other students. Along with the specifics of each performance, class discussion may include general performance issues such as dealing with anxiety, stage presence, and other related topics. Each term will consist of three workshops, culminating at the end of each semester in an Open Concert that is a more formal recital. The entire College community is welcome and encouraged to participate.

Faculty

Documentary Filmmaking: Truth, Freedom, and Bearing Witness

Open , Seminar—Year

Nonfiction is our search for the truth; it is an exploration in humanity—our beauty, complexities, and the often unimaginable. This class is designed for students who, through filmmaking, hope to move humanity one step closer to understanding who we are and how connected our life experiences may be. In this yearlong course, students produce one 15- to 30-minute documentary on the subject of their own choosing. Students will develop treatments, pitch their projects, create production schedules, and work in small teams to create their films. Each week, students must demonstrate clear progress on their projects, including outlined shoot dates, updates on production needs, screening of unedited material, assembly cuts, rough cuts, and the eventual final delivery of their conference films. During class, we will screen short- and long-form documentary films from around the world, complemented by hands-on production techniques and experience. Although this is an open class, students must be prepared to learn camera operation, sound recording, and lighting with diligence and professionalism. Each student will direct his/her own project; however, the crew will be made up of the student’s peers, who will be entrusted with delivering strong technical material. This course will challenge students to think beyond the beautiful gates of Sarah Lawrence and take on subjects and opportunities that are new spaces both emotionally and physically. Nonfiction requires passion for storytelling and, ultimately, a passion for people. We hope to finish the year with a lens on the world that’s evolved to new heights of understanding and compassion.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The Blues Ethos and Jazz Aesthetics: A History of African Americans in the City

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

By the 20th century, African Americans in the city produced the genius of blues and jazz, including distinctive aesthetics of pleasure in music and dance. Artists like Bessie Smith, Ma‘ Rainey, Billy Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Lester Young, and Duke Ellington were paradigmatic in that cultural production. Those aesthetics influenced the black imagination in social, political, and cultural development, including not only the Harlem Renaissance and Chicago Black Renaissance but also the Black Arts Movement. With that cultural and historical background, students in this seminar will explore a variety of research projects.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

17th-Century British Literature

Open , Seminar—Year

Prerequisite: At least one year of a college-level class in the humanities or a strong AP course in literature.

In England during the 17th century, the great ordering coherences of medieval and earlier Renaissance thinking seemed to disintegrate under the warring impulses of individualism and authority, empiricism and faith, and revolutionary transformation and reinforcement of tradition. Yet, even as monarchy and established church were challenged and torn apart, the 17th century produced an extraordinary flowering of drama, poetry, and prose that expressed the contradictory energies of the period. This course will study English writing of the 17th century in a roughly chronological sequence. The first semester will explore the aesthetics and ideology of the Stuart court and the robust and bawdy urban center of London through a reading of masques and plays by Jonson and Shakespeare and their contemporaries; dramatic and meditative experiments in “metaphysical” and moral verse by John Donne, Ben Jonson, Aemilia Lanyer, George Herbert, and other poets; various developments in scientific, philosophical, and meditative prose by Francis Bacon, Richard Burton, and Thomas Browne; and the early poetry of John Milton. The second semester will study major writing in the period of the English Revolution and Restoration. Our focus will be on Milton, but we will also study the poetry of the Cavaliers, Katherine Philips, Andrew Marvell, and John Dryden and the prose of Thomas Hobbes, John Bunyan, Aphra Behn, and Margaret Cavendish.

Faculty
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First-Year Studies: The New Elements: Mathematics and the Arts

Open , FYS—Year

The development of linear perspective in Renaissance painting presents one of the clearest examples of the intersection of mathematics and the arts. To paraphrase art historian Erwin Panofsky, perspective recasts perceptual space as a uniform, infinite, abstract space with its own logical and aesthetic properties. The mathematics needed in perspectival constructions was worked out by Euclid in antiquity. What novel aesthetic and logical forms are made possible by the mathematics beyond Euclid’s Elements? This seminar will explore the bearing of modern mathematical ideas on 20th-century Western creative and performing arts. While we will not aim for a comprehensive survey of the entire last century, we will investigate a sequence of case studies, including: De Stijl and the painting of Piet Mondrian; serialism and the music of Arnold Schoenberg; the Bauhaus in Germany and its legacy; OuLiPo, “a secret laboratory of literary structures” in postwar French literature; American postmodern dance; and structural film, among others. Mathematical topics will include sets, logic, non-Euclidean geometry, topology, and chance. A central goal of the seminar is to assess the meaning of structure as it pertains to artistic and mathematical practices. This course assumes no particular expertise with mathematics or cultural history. Seminar readings and a program of art viewings will establish a basis for investigating the relevance of fundamental mathematical concepts to modern literature and the arts. Outside the seminar, students will attend both individual and group conferences. Weekly individual conference meetings for the first six weeks of the fall semester will give students the opportunity to develop their first individualized conference projects, focusing on a particular mathematical structure. Individual conferences after the first six weeks will be held on a weekly or biweekly basis, depending on student progress. During the fall semester, a series of group conferences will afford students time for art viewings and collaborative writing and problem solving.

Faculty
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First-Year Studies: The Senses: Art and Science

Open , FYS—Year

The perceiving mind is an incarnated mind. —Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1964

Sensory perception is a vital component of the creation and experience of artistic works of all types. In psychology and neuroscience, the investigation of sensory systems has been foundational for our developing understanding of brains, minds, and bodies. Recent work in brain science has moved us beyond the Aristotelian notion of five discrete senses to a view of the senses as more various and interconnected—with each other and with the fundamental psychological processes of perception, attention, emotion, memory, imagination, and judgment. What we call “taste” is a multisensory construction of “flavor” that relies heavily on smell, vision, and touch (mouth feel); “vision” refers to a set of semi-independent streams that specialize in the processing of color, object identity, or spatial layout and movement; “touch” encompasses a complex system of responses to different types of contact with the largest sensory organ—the skin; and “hearing” includes aspects of perception that are thought to be quintessentially human—music and language. Many other sensations are not covered by the standard five: the sense of balance, of body position (proprioception), feelings of pain arising from within the body, and feelings of heat or cold. Perceptual psychologists have suggested that the total count is closer to 17 than to five. We will investigate all of these senses, their interactions with each other, and their intimate relationships with human emotion, memory, and imagination. Some of the questions we will address are: Why are smells such potent memory triggers? What can visual art tell us about how the brain works, and vice versa? Why is a caregiver’s touch so vital for psychological development? Why do foods that taste sublime to some people evoke feelings of disgust in others? Do humans have a poor sense of smell? Why does the word “feeling” refer to both bodily sensations and emotions? What makes a song “catchy” or “sticky”? Can humans learn to echolocate like bats? What is the role of body perception in mindfulness meditation? This is a good course for artists who like to think about science and for scientists with a feeling for art. This is a collaborative course. The main small-group collaborative activity is a sensory lab where students will have the opportunity to explore their own sensory perceptions in a systematic way, investigating how they relate to language, memory, and emotion. The other group activities include some museum visits: The American Museum of Natural History has a current exhibit devoted to the senses, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has an encyclopedic collection that will be the focus of a group curation assignment, and MOMA holds a wealth of abstract perceptual possibilities that we will investigate together.

Faculty
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It’s Complicated: The Nature of Emotions

Open , Lecture—Spring

In the words of Jonathan Swift, “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” In the words of another Swift: “Shake it off.” How do those quotations from popular discourse contribute to our understanding of emotions? Can emotions be defined as simply the opposite of reason? Do they function outside of our control, or can they be regulated? And if they can be regulated, which strategy is best: one that shifts our attention away from emotional stimuli or one that avoids them altogether? These questions represent only part of the curiosity in understanding the complex nature of emotions. In this open-level lecture, our broad aim is to answer, as best we can, the question of what emotions are. We will explore this question through readings from cognitive science, neurobiology, psychology, and the creative arts. The course will begin with a review of historical and contemporary theories of emotion to facilitate discussion about the way each perspective defines emotion. Course themes include explorations of the tension between emotion and cognition, the relationship between emotion and the body, the interplay between emotion and relationships, the intersection of emotion and psychopathology, and emotion regulation. Students are encouraged to contemplate their own emotion-regulation strategies and to reflect on their effectiveness in dealing with challenging emotional situations. Students will be given the opportunity to delve deeper into these course themes through group conference projects. Course content will be infused with discussions of emotion in popular culture. Together, we will look at the ways in which emotions are discussed in music, literature, and film and what studies in this area have to offer by way of increasing our understanding of emotions in everyday life. Lecture.

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