Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

This page summarizes the course goals and policies, followed by a calendar of topics.


Students must have the ability to read music.

Course Overview

This subject covers a specific branch of music history: Western concert music of first sixty years of the twentieth century.

Although we will be listening to and studying many pieces (most of the highest caliber) the goal of the course is not solely to build up a repertory of works in our memory (though that is indeed a goal). We will be most concerned with larger questions of continuity and change in music. We will also consider questions of reception, or historiography - that is, the creation of history and our perception of it. Why do we perceive much of this music, so much closer in time to us than Mozart or Beethoven, to be so foreign? Is this music aloof and separate from popular music of the twentieth century or is there a real connection (perhaps hidden)?

The subject will continue to follow some topics of central interest to music before 1960, such as serialism and aleatory, beyond the 1960 cutoff. Conversely a few topics which get their start just before 1960 but which flourish later (minimalism, computer music) will be covered only in 21M.263.

The course will introduce many of the tools we use in studying music history. Many of these tools are also applicable to other repertories such as popular and world music which are (alas) mainly beyond the scope of this one-semester course.

Listening as much and as well as you can in an essential part of success in this course. Plan to spend at least six hours outside of class per week reading, listening and studying. If you cannot find six hours in your schedule you probably do not have time to take this course. The average class meeting will have 30-60 minutes of listening assigned, much of which is too dense to get at a first hearing. Some of the listening may be passive/familiarity listening - putting on the CDs while finishing a chemistry problem set or organizing your desk - but the majority will need to be active and without distraction. Make sure you have a place where you can do this.

Required Text

Buy at Amazon Morgan, Robert. Twentieth-Century Music. New York, NY: W. W. Norton, 1991. ISBN: 9780393952728.

This book is a strong and readable introduction to the period from about 1890-1945. The last fifteen years of our subject are covered less well (and does not cover music after 1960 much at all).

Textbook readings will be complemented by the writings of other people who were there in the 20th century.

We will also consult the scores of many works.


Students are expected to write two papers and do at least one short presentation on a work.


The most important tools will be presenting and writing about music and reading other's writing about music. There will be one shorter (3-4 pages) paper and one longer (5-7 pages) paper for this course. The shorter paper will involve creating or substantially revising a Wikipedia article on music from this period.


If the class enrollment is about 10, we will each do two short presentations on works (15-20 minutes), one of which might be done in pairs. If the enrollment is closer to 15, we will probably do one individual presentation (~30 minutes).


There will be two midterm quizzes and a final quiz which is only slightly longer than a midterm. A few (probably 1 or 2) short quizzes which will be scheduled with one class's notice. These are mostly just to keep us honest that we are still doing the listening when there are no assignments.


Participation (including but not limited to attendance) is important. (See grading at the end). Attendance is required at two concerts in which you are not a performer which include at least one piece (longer than 8 minutes) of a repertory is similar to that of this course (i.e., classical 1900-1960). Only one may be a student concert. Turn in the concert program (or a stub if no program existed) and jot a paragraph about something you liked or didn't. I will announce some concerts of particular interest.

Actually, one final requirement - it's music, so let's enjoy it. Please let me know if you ever have concerns about the course or if you have suggestions for changes or improvements.


A failing grade may, at the discretion of the instructor, be assigned for failure of any single component of the course.

Assignments 10% (and quizzes)
Two Midterms 20%
Final 15%
Short Paper 10%
Long Paper 20%
Participation 10%
Presentation 10%
Two Concerts 5% (attendance and one to three sentences total)

Grading Scale

Many assignments and questions on exams will be graded 0-5 (some assignments will be weighed more than others, however). The scale will be very different than what you might be used to. Expect to get score in the 2-4 range. 60% of the typical grading scale is wasted on failing grades, while only 20% of the scale (80%-100%) decides between adequate and exceptional answers. The expectation here is that most answers will be good or better and that we don't need to waste the scale on work that does not meet this expectation:

Exceptional 5 (100%) 5 (100%) A+
Superb 4.8 (96%) 4.5 (90%) A
Excellent 4.6 (92%) 4 (80%) A- (3.5=A-/B+)
Very Good 4.4 (88%) 3 (60%) B+
Good 4.25 (85%) 2.5 (50%) B
Acceptable to Adequate 4 (80%) 2 (40%) B-/C+ (1.75=C)
Barely Adequate 3.5 (70%) 1.5 (30%) C-
Substantially Flawed 3 or lower (60%) 1 or lower (20%) D or F

A consequence of this scale is that, for instance, two excellent assignments (4pts each) and one missing (0) will average 2.7 points (B/B+), while three adequate assignments (2pts each) will earn a B/C+. The traditional system would give the first student a D+ and makes it nearly impossible to get an A or B+ range grade if you have even one bad or missing assignment (this is why so many professors fudge grades). There is also little reward in this scale for trying for trying to fill space on an exam on an answer you know absolutely nothing about, since a difference between a D and a 0 is little. Of course, if you know just a little, you should write what you do know.

The final consequence of the scale is it lets me reserve the grade of '5' for truly mind-blowing work. A 4.5 is usually the maximum given for a "perfect" assignment, while a '5' is once or twice a year event.


Part 1: European Music Before WWII

Composers and ideas which gained in importance before 1939 or at least 1945. Some works studied will be from as late as 1956 but in "older" styles.



Antecedents and the State of Music, 1899. The "Long Nineteenth Century." 1900-1960: the big questions.

Dvořák, A. Symphony No. 9 in E-minor, Op. 95 ("From the New World"), 1893.

Strauss, R. Don Quixote, Op. 35. Themes and variations 1-2, 1897.

Wagner, R. Tristan und Isolde. Prelude, 1859.

Joplin, S. Maple Leaf Rag, 1899.

2 Stravinsky Throws Down the Gauntlet

Stravinsky, Igor. Petrushka, 1911.

———. Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), 1913.

3 Bartok

Bartók, Bela. Mikrokosmos, 1926, 1932-1939.

———. String Quartet No. 4, mvmt. 1, 1928.

———. Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, 1936.

Ravel, Maurice. Ma mère l'oye, 1911-12.

4 German Music between the Wars (And a Little Before and After...)

Hindemith, Paul. Symphony in B-flat for Band, 1956.

Weill, Kurt, and Bertolt Brecht. Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny), 1929 based on material from 1927.

5 The Second Viennese School: Tonality and Atonality

Schoenberg, Arnold. Verklärte Nacht, 1899.

———. Six little piano pieces, 1911.

———. Pierrot Lunaire op. 21, 1912.

Webern, Anton. Fünf Sätze (Five movements) for String Quartet, Op. 5, mvmts. 1 and 4, 1909.

Berg, Alban. Wozzeck, 1917-1922.

6 The Second Viennese School: Twelve-Tone Tonality

Schoenberg, Arnold. String Quartet No. 4, Op. 37, 1936. 1st mvmt.

Webern, Anton. Symphonie, Op. 21, 1929.

Worksheet due: Intervals and Functions - Fünf Sätze

Neoclassicism and Stravinsky (ca. 1920-1952)

First Unit Test

Prokofiev, Sergei. Symphony No. 1 ("Classical"), Op. 25, 1917. Mvmt. 1.

Stravinsky, Igor. Symphony of Psalms, 1930, mvmt. 1.

———. The Rake's Progress, 1951.

Part 2: American Music Before WWII
8 Introduction; Antecedents

Sousa, John Philip. Washington Post March, 1889.

Beach, Amy. Mass in E-flat, Op. 5: Gloria, 1890.

Chadwick, George. Symphonic Sketches, mvmt. 2, 1895-1904.

Worksheet due: Twelve-tone Row
9 Charles Ives

Ives, Charles. "General William Booth Enters Heaven," song, 1914, rev. 1933.

———. Three Places in New England, mvmts. 1 and 2, 1929, from mvmts. dating as far back as 1915.

———. Second Piano Sonata, "Concord, Mass. 1840-60" (1916-19; rev. from 1920-40) III. "The Alcotts," IV. "Thoreau."

10 Ruth Crawford Seeger and Other American Modernists

Seeger, Ruth Crawford. String Quartet, 1931.

———. Ricercare 2: "Chinaman, laundryman", 1932.

———. Piano Study in Mixed Accents, 1930.

Ruggles, Carl. Sun-Treader, 1926-1931.

First paper due
11 The "Art-Scientists": Cowell, Antheil, Varese

Cowell, Henry. Piano Works, mostly 1917-1925.

Antheil, George. Ballet Mécanique, 1925.

Varèse, Edgard. Ionisation, 1931.

12 Still, Gershwin (And Bernstein)

Still, William Grant. Afro-American Symphony, 1930, mvmts. 1 and 3.

Gershwin, George. Rhapsody in Blue, 1924.

Bernstein, Leonard. West Side Story, 1957. (If time.)

13 Aaron Copland (with guest lecturer)

Copland, Aaron. Piano Variations, 1930.

———. Appalachian Spring, 1944.


Virgil Thomson

Second Unit Test

Thomson, Virgil. Four Saints in Three Acts, 1928; orch, 1933; fp. 1934.

Part 3: Music During and After WWII
15 The Continued Tonal Tradition I: Britten and Barber

Britten, Benjamin. Peter Grimes, 1945.

Barber, Samuel. Knoxvile: Summer of 1915, 1947.

16 The Continued Tonal Tradition II: Shostakovich

Shostakovich, Dmitri. Symphony No. 7 in C major, "Leningrad," Op. 60, 1941.

———. String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110, 1960.

17 Oliver Messiaen

Messiaen, Oliver. Quartet for the End of Time, 1942.

———. Quatre études de rhythme, 2: Mode de valeurs et d'intensités, 1949.

———. Oiseaux exotiques, 1959.

18 Total Serialism 1: Babbitt and Stockhausen

Babbitt, Milton. Three Compositions for Piano, 1947.

———. Composition for Four Instruments, 1948.

Stockhausen, Karlheinz. Kreuzspiel, 1951, rev. 1959.

19 Serialism 2: Nono and Stravinsky

Nono, Luigi. Il canto sospeso, 1956.

Stravinsky, Igor. Agon, 1957.

———. Elegy for J. F. K., 1964.

20 Boulez, Carter and the Legacy of Serial Aesthetic

Boulez, Pierre. Le Marteau sans maître (pour voix d'alto et 6 instruments), 1958.

Carter, Elliot. String Quartet No.2, 1959.

———. Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano, 1961. (Excerpts, optional.)

21 Electronic Music

Stockhausen, Karlheinz. Gesang der Jünglinge, 1956.

Varèse, Edgard. Poem électronique, 1958.

Babbitt, Milton. Philomel, 1964.

22 Cage and Aleatory

Mozart, W. A. Musikalisches Würfelspiel, 1756-1791. (Musical Dice Game)

Cage, John. In a landscape (for piano), 1948.

———. Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano, Sonatas 1-4, Interlude 1, 1948.

———. TV Köln (for piano), 1958.

———. Music of Changes book 1 (piano), 1951.

———. Imaginary Landscape no. 4 for 12 radios, 1951.

———. 4'33", 1956.


Aleatory 2: Open Form, New York School and Fluxus

(Bring Instruments Today!)

Stockhausen, Karlheinz. KLAVIERSTÜCK XI, 1956.

Wolff, Christian. Burdocks, 1971.

Feldman, Morton. Straits of Magelan, 1961.

———. De Kooning, 1963.

24 Nancarrow and Partch: Two American Originals

Nancarrow, Conlon. Studies for Player Piano, 1950s and early 60s.

Partch, Harry. Barstow, 1941, rev. 1954/1968.

———. Delusion of the Fury, 1969.

Final paper due
Third Unit Test