2014-2015 Music Courses
First-Year Studies in Music
Each student in First-Year Studies in Music will be enrolled in a full music program (also called a Music Third) that reflects Sarah Lawrence’s educational philosophy of closely integrating theory and practice in the study of music. In addition, all students in this course will be members of a weekly seminar, which provides a forum to explore a broad range of musical topics in both artistic and critical ways. Throughout the year, we will attend numerous performances on campus, as well as in New York City—for instance, at the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. We will start with live musical experiences in order to generate our investigations. The seminar will also feature frequent in-class performances by guest artists, class members, and the instructor. The music that we study in class will range from the early 16th century to the early 21st. Our emphasis will be on Western classical music and will occasionally include jazz, non-Western, and popular music traditions, as well. In order to develop and improve their insights and their ability to share them with others, students will write regular response papers and give short presentations. In the spring, they will also undertake a larger research project. First-Year Studies in Music is designed for students with all levels of prior music experience, from beginning to advanced.
Theory I: Materials of Music
This introductory course will meet twice each week (two 90-minute sessions). We will study elements of music such as pitch, rhythm, intensity, and timbre to see how they combine in various musical structures and how those 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. Beginning music students in Theory I are not required to take an ensemble; ensemble participation is optional. This course is a prerequisite to the Theory II: Basic Tonal Theory and Composition and the Advanced Theory sequence.
Theory II: Basic Tonal Theory and Composition
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. 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.
Advanced Theory: Advanced Tonal Theory and Analysis
This course will focus on the analysis of tonal music, with a particular emphasis on chromatic harmony. Our goal will be to quickly develop a 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. Prerequisite: Successful completion of the required theory sequence or an equivalent background.
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.
Advanced Theory: Jazz Theory and Harmony
This course will study the building blocks and concepts of jazz theory, harmony, and rhythm. It will include the study of the standard modes and scales, as well as the use of melodic and harmonic minor scales and their respective modal 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 through 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. Prerequisite: Theory II: Basic Tonal Theory and Composition
Advanced Theory: 20th-Century Theoretical Approaches: Post-Tonal and Rock Music
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. Prerequisite: Theory II: Basic Tonal Theory and Composition.
Intermediate and Advanced Aural Skills
This course is dedicated to helping students develop their fluency with theoretical materials through a variety of musicianship activities, including dictation, sight singing, transcription, and rhythmic exercises. Beginning simply with a focus on individual parameters (pitches, rhythms, harmonic progressions), we will progress to perceiving these elements in an integrated way. In addition to course work directed by the instructor, students will undertake one or more self-directed projects that give them the opportunity to apply the skills developed in class to a broad range of musical styles. Permission of the instructor is required.
Sight Reading for Instrumentalists
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.
20th-Century Compositional Techniques
This is a workshop in the art of composition with a focus on 20th-century techniques. We will discuss recent compositional techniques and philosophies, as well as issues in orchestration and notation. We will explore significant works by a wide variety of major 20th-century composers such as Bartók, Berio, Cage, Carter, Debussy, Ligeti, and Stravinsky, as well as recent compositions by established and emerging composers across the world. These will serve as models for original student compositions. It is expected that the students will develop a fluency in using either Finale or Sibelius. Prerequisite: Theory I: Materials of Music or its equivalent.
Introduction to Electronic Music and Music Technology
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. Permission of the instructor is required. The course will be taught by Mr. Yannelli in the fall and Mr. Groffman in the spring.
MIDI: Sequencing, Recording, and Mastering Electronic Music
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 areas. Projects will be presented in class for discussion and critique. Permission of the instructor is required. The course will be taught by Mr. Yannelli in the fall and Mr. Groffman in the spring.
Studio Composition and Music Technology
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. Students work on individual projects involving aspects of music technology that include, but not limited to, works for electro-acoustic instruments (live and/or pre-recorded), works involving interactive performance media, laptop ensembles, Disklavier, and improvised or through-composed works. Open to a limited number of students; permission of the instructor is required. The course will be taught by Mr. Yannelli in the fall and Mr. Groffman in the spring.
Survey of Western Music
This course is a chronological survey of Western music from the Middle Ages to the present. It 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. 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.
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 yearlong class; however, it will be possible to enter in the second semester. This is one of the music history component courses required for all Advanced Theory students.
First Viennese School
First Viennese School—referring to the 18th-century classical music composers Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven—will delve into the cultural history of their time, along with biographical and compositional study. Backing into this time period with a quick look at late-Baroque and early-classical composers, we will discover how the classical style evolved, followed by an in-depth study of the three great composers, their influence on one another, and a comparative study of their work. The course will include listening, reading, score analysis, and discussion. An ability to read music and some experience in music theory is necessary. This is one of the music history component courses required for all Advanced Theory students.
This class will offer an introductory survey of the history of keyboard music and will include seminal works from the Renaissance to the 21st century. We will study these works for their stylistic and formal properties and will also discuss their social context and performance practices. The course will feature frequent in-class performances by guests, the instructor, and possibly some of the class members. Reading knowledge of music is required, and some theory background would be helpful. This is one of the music history component courses required for all Advanced Theory students.
Music and the Metaphysical Impulse
Throughout its history, music has been a vehicle for the expression of metaphysical and spiritual ideas. The Pythagorean discovery in the sixth century BC of the ratios behind musical intervals linked music to the cosmos and the soul and gave music both a mathematical and metaphysical dimension. Music also became a vital component of various liturgies; it was a physical, temporal, impermanent art that also pointed to the eternal and immutable. This course will examine works from the Western classical tradition that embody these ideas. Bach will be central to this class, but we will also study works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Stravinsky, and Messiaen, as well as earlier composers such as Machaut, Dufay, and Palestrina. This is one of the music history component courses required for all Advanced Theory students.
Women’s Vocal Ensemble
Repertoire may include both accompanied and a cappella works from the Renaissance to the present that were specifically composed for women’s chorus. The ensemble will perform winter and spring concerts. Women’s Vocal Ensemble meets twice a week. Students are required to attend either the Monday or the Wednesday rehearsal; they are welcome but not required to attend both. All students are welcome to be a member of this ensemble; auditions are not necessary.
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. Chamber Choir meets once a week Audition required.
The Blues Ensemble
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; Texas country bues 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 about how they influenced modern blues men such as Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughn and pioneer rockers such as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jimi Hendrix. 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. Audition required.
Jazz Performance and Improvisation Workshop
This class, intended for all instrumentalists, 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; 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. Placement audition required.
Jazz Vocal Ensemble
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. They will learn how to work with, give direction to, and get what they need from the rhythm section. It will provide an environment to learn to hear forms and changes and also to 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 also to work with other vocalists in singing backup or harmony vocals for and with each other. It 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. Audition required.
Jazz Vocal Seminar
This seminar is an exploration of the relationship among melody, harmony, rhythm, text, and style and how these elements may be combined and manipulated to create meaning and beauty. A significant level of vocal development will be expected and required. Audition required.
Seminar in Vocal Performance
Voice students will gain performance experience by singing a repertoire selected in cooperation with the studio instructors. Students will become acquainted with a broader vocal literature perspective by singing in several languages and exploring several historical music periods. Interpretation, diction, and stage deportment will be stressed. 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. This course will be taught by Ms. Pierce-Young in the fall and Ms. Saxon in the spring.
So This Is Opera?
This course is an introduction to opera through an opera workshop experience that explores combining drama and music to create a story; it is open to students in the performing arts (music, dance, and theatre), as well as to the College community at large. Weekly class attendance is mandatory. Audition required. This course will be taught by Ms. Pierce-Young in the fall and Mr. Sanders in the spring.
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. Placement audition required. Studio Class will be taught by Ms. Harris, Mr. Sanders, and Ms. Pierce-Young in the fall and Ms. Saxon and Mr. Young in the spring.
African Classics of the Post-Colonial Era
From highlife and jùjú 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. Basic facility on one's musical instrument is expected, but prior experience with African musical aesthetics is not assumed or required.
Bluegrass Performance Ensemble
Bluegrass music is a 20th-century amalgam of popular and traditional music styles that coalesced in the 1940s in the American Southeast, emphasizing vocal performance and instrumental improvisation. 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. Though experienced players will have plenty of opportunities to improvise, participants need not have played bluegrass before. The ensemble should include fiddle, 5-string banjo, steel-string acoustic guitar, mandolin, resophonic guitar (Dobro®) upright (double) bass.
Gamelan Angklung Chandra Buana
A gamelan angklung is a bronze orchestra that includes four-toned metallophones, gongs, drums, and flutes. Simple 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. Any interested student may join; no previous experience with music is necessary.
West African Percussion Ensemble: Faso Foli
Faso Foli, a Malinke phrase that translates loosely as “playing to my father’s home,” is the name of our West African performance ensemble. 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 that we will play—balafons, 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.
Awareness Through Movement™ for Musicians
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, which allow the students to better sense and feel themselves and thereby develop new and improved organizational patterns. These 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 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.
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. Groups will have an opportunity to perform at the end of each semester in a chamber music concert.
Chamber Music Improvisation
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. Open to a limited number of students; audition required.
This is a course in the basics of conducting for qualified students. Prerequisite: Theory II: Basic Tonal Theory and Composition and permission of the instructor.
Experimental Improvisation Ensemble
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. This 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. Permission of the instructors is required.
This course is for beginning acoustic or electric guitar students by recommendation of the faculty.
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. It is recommended for students interested in classical guitar. Permission of the instructor is required.
This course is designed to accommodate beginning piano students who take Keyboard Lab as the core of their Music Third. 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. Placement is arranged by the piano faculty.
Throughout the year, students will have the opportunity to experience and participate in a broad range of musical styles from the Baroque to symphonic and contemporary repertory, including improvisation and experimental music. The Sarah Lawrence Orchestra is open to all students, as well as to members of the College and Westchester communities. All instrumentalists are required to take a Music Third. Audition required.
This ensemble is a performance group that plays transcriptions of the classics to modern 20th-century composers. All saxophone, flute, and clarinet players are welcome. A baritone sax and a tenor sax are available for any student who may have played previously but does not own his/her own instrument. This group also encourages students to compose their own compositions and adapt their pieces.
This component offers students the opportunity to share with the larger College community the results of their sustained work in performance study. During the semester of their recital, students will receive additional coaching by their principal teachers. Audition required.
Violin Master Class
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.
Concert Attendance/Music Tuesdays Requirement
The music faculty wants students to have access to a variety of musical experiences; therefore, all Music Thirds are required to attend all Music Tuesday events and three music department-sponsored concerts on campus per semester, including concerts (the required number varies from semester to semester) presented by music faculty and outside professionals that are part of the Concert Series. Music Tuesdays consist of various programs, including student/faculty town meetings, concert presentations, guest artists’ lectures and performances, master classes, and collaborations with other departments and performing-arts programs. Meetings, which take place in Reisinger Concert Hall on selected Tuesdays from 1:30-3:00 p.m., are open to the community. Schedule will be announced each semester.
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
Music Workshops are 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 in an Open Concert that is a more formal recital at the end of each semester. The entire College community is welcome and encouraged to participate.