Courses Taught at Occidental College (2011-Present)

First-Year Seminar: “Making It New: Modernity, Modernism, and the Avant-Garde”

Course Description: During the first half of the 20th century—a time of great social, political, and technological change—many writers, artists, and musicians sought new and innovative modes of expression. While their works varied in both genre and style, modernists shared a common desire, in the words of the poet Ezra Pound, to “make it new.” Focusing on the period from 1870 to 1970, this interdisciplinary course will examine the history of a tumultuous century through an exploration of the radically new forms of literature, art, and music it produced. How did writers, artists, and musicians deal with issues of race, gender, and sexuality? How did they react to brutal wars and periods of intense political oppression? And what exactly does it mean to be “avant-garde?” From Wilde to Woolf, Kandinsky to O’Keeffe, Stravinsky to Sgt. Pepper, this course will examine what it means to create modern works for a modern world.

First-Year Seminar: “From the Phonograph to Auto-Tune: Exploring the Cultures of Recording Music”

Course Description: Writing in 1906, the American composer John Phillip Sousa expressed grave concerns about what he termed the “menace of mechanical music.” According to Sousa, newly developed devices like the player piano and the phonograph threatened to remove “the human skill, intelligence, and soul” from music, reducing it to little more than “a mathematical system of megaphones, wheels, cogs, disks, and cylinders.” A century later, musicians and audiences have embraced technology in ways which would have been inconceivable in Sousa’s time. How has the proliferation of such technologies affected our modern musical culture? And what effect has it had on the relationship between musicians and audiences? By looking at contemporary literature, films, archival materials, and sound recordings this course will explore the evolving relationship between music and technology over the course of the 20th century—from the phonographs and player pianos of the past to today’s culture of digital sampling and Auto-Tune.

Music 150: “Introduction to Music Theory”

Course Description: Designed for students with some beginning experience in music theory and an ability to read music. Covers scales, keys, modes, intervals, and basic tonal harmony.

Music 119: “Why Music Matters”

Course Description: This course provides a general introduction to the elements and history of Western music over the last three centuries. Students will focus on learning how to listen to music, with an emphasis of identifying musical forms, genres, and styles. This focus will serve the larger goal of the course, which is to show how understanding music can not only lead to our greater enjoyment of it but also help us to better understand history and culture. Students with no musical experience are especially welcome.

Music 262: “Western Music and Culture in the 19th Century”

Course Description: This interdisciplinary course will survey the music of the long 19th century, from the French Revolution to the beginning of World War I. We will commence by considering Beethoven’s response to Napoleon, the “Eroica” Symphony, in the context of post-Revolution European geo-politics, and end with the musical cultures of turn-of-the-century Vienna, Paris, and New York City. Topics to be explored include the following: the Industrial Revolution and emergent technologies (including photography); landscape painting and poetry; nationalism (including “folk” music); aesthetics and philosophy; science and medicine; the expansion of tonal and formal musical language, and the essaying of new musical forms; the public concert, and music for home performance; and Richard Wagner and artistic responses to his music and writings.

Music 263: “Western Music and Culture in the 20th Century”

Course Description: This course will survey Western musical practice of the 20th century, commencing with the wide-ranging artistic responses to the music and writings of Richard Wagner, in Europe and in the United States, and the emergence of a “musical modernism,” as new forms and new pitch systems take hold. Themes of the course will include the following: new technologies, war, politics, gender and sex, class, race, world musical practices in Western practice (and vice versa), and the shifting status of “art” music vis-à-vis “popular” music. The deep study of music scores and performances will be supplemented with attendance at relevant recitals and concerts.