MUS 111 Syllabus Fall 2019

This is an outline and a rough schedule of the material we will discuss over the course of the semester. It is subject to change at any time. Please refer to it often (at least weekly) so that there will be no surprises!


Prepare the following reading and listening assignments on your own for each class date listed below. Do the assigned reading and listening BEFORE the class meeting date listed for that assignment.

Be ready to discuss the assigned reading and listening for each day.

For the blog post assignments, you are expected to read all linked content and listen to all linked audio/video.


CHWM = Concise History of Western Music

CRP = Course reading packet

August 27: First class. Syllabus and expectations explained.

The Pivot between the 18th and 19th Centuries: Beethoven
August 29: Read CHWM, 370-381.
“Beethoven’s Musical Forms,” CRP, p. 19-23.

Eroica: Heaven and Earth Will Tremble
September 3:
Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph (CRP)
“Beethoven’s Symphony no. 3: Thematic Analysis” (CRP)
Listen: Naxos: Beethoven Sympony no. 3, “Eroica,” tracks 1-4

September 5:
“Beethoven’s Rehearsals at the Lobkowitz’s” (CRP)

Late Beethoven
September 10 – 12:
Read CHWM, 381-389
“Beethoven’s Instrumental Music” (Hoffmann), CRP
“Beethoven’s Music: The Link Between the Individual and Universal” (CRP)
Listen: Naxos: Late Beethoven, tracks 1-2
Listen: Naxos: Late Beethoven, tracks 3-9
Journal Assignment #1:
On p. 389 of CHWM, Claude Palisca has famously called Beethoven “one of the great disruptive forces in the history of music.”
What do you think he means?
Do you agree?
Cite examples from the music of Beethoven with which you are by now familiar. This should be 3-5 pages and is due in class on September 17.

September 17:
Read CHWM, 391-402
 “Piping Down the Valleys Wild” (CRP)
“The Forgotten Tales of the Brothers Grimm” (CRP)
“500 New Fairytales Rediscovered” (CRP)
Journal Assignment #1 due in class.

September 19:
CHWM, 403-411

September 24: Meet at the Library for Research Session with Dana Curtin.
Midterm Research Paper Assignment: Who Was the Immortal Beloved? (Remember, this is your midterm, not an exam.)
Read Beethoven’s letter to the Immortal Beloved (CRP)
Read the Wikipedia entry on the Immortal Beloved (CRP). Pay special attention to the bibliography.
Read, watch, and listen to
Write a 5-7 page paper (typed, double-spaced, 12-point font) arguing for YOUR choice of identity of Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved.
Important: EVALUATE SOURCES. Some sources are more reliable than others. In other words: one scholar’s argument for, say, Antonie Brentano as the Immortal Beloved might be flawed or biased based on incomplete evidence, personal preference, or other things.
Part of evaluating sources is determining what sources will help to develop your own argument. For instance: are modern sources better? Or will you choose sources closer in time to Beethoven’s own life? Have we gained greater access to helpful documents in our own time?
You must include a bibliography at the end of your paper (sorry, it doesn’t add to the page count), and you must cite all words and ideas not your own in footnotes.
Due in class on October 29.

September 26:
Listen: Naxos: Schubert, tracks 1-10
Naxos: Other Goethe Settings
Journal assignment #2:
Pick one song in the first playlist by Schubert, and another song in either of these two playlists by another composer, that is a setting of the same text.
Compare the two songs:
Describe the ways each composer set the text using melody, harmony, the texture and interplay of the voice and piano, the skansion (i.e. how the composer fitted each syllable to the notes), etc.
Describe the different emotional experiences that each of the two songs – the one by Schubert and the one by someone else – convey.
Which setting do you think is more successful? Why?
Should be 3-5 pages. Due in class on Oct. 3.

September 28, 7:30 PM: The Binghamton Philharmonic performs Beethoven’s Symphonies #1 and #2 at the Forum Theater. Attendance is required. Make sure you get a program! Concert report will be due on Oct. 17.

October 1:  
CHWM, 413-420
Listen: Naxos: The Early Romantics, tracks 1-6 (Schumann)

October 3: CHWM, 469-476
Schumann’s editorial on Brahms (CRP)
“Bittersweet Symphonies” (CRP)
Journal Assignment #2 due in class.

October 8: CHWM, 420-426
Listen: Naxos: The Early Romantics, tracks 7-10 (Field and Chopin)

October 10:
CHWM, 426-430
Program of Symphonie Fantastique (CRP)
Listen: Naxos: The Early Romantics, tracks 11-15 (Berlioz)

October 15: No Class.

Nationalism, exoticism, orientalism
October 17:
CHWM, 438-439 “In Context: The Musical Attraction of ‘the Other’”
Concert report #1 due in class.

Nationalism in Italy
October 22
CHWM, 444-450
“Ossian and Risorgimento: The Poetics of Nationalism” (handout)

Nationalism in Germany
October 24:
CHWM, 450-461
“Romanticism and German Nationalism,” Hans Kohn (handout)

October 29:
 “Judaism in Music,” Richard Wagner (CRP)
“The Ring and the Rings: Wagner vs. Tolkien (CRP)
Mid-term paper due in class.

October 31:
“Watching Neo-Nazis in Virginia” (CRP)
“If You Must Listen to Wagner” (CRP)
“Is Wagner’s Nazi Stigma Fair?” (CRP)
Journal Assignment #3: Wagner
Describe Wagner’s influence on the musical and cultural ideas that came after him. Address the following questions:
– Is Wagner as influential a composer as Beethoven? Why or why not? Explain.
– During Brahms’s and Wagner’s lifetimes, there was a fierce debate among musicians, critics, and audiences about which of the two should be considered the heir of Beethoven and the true representative of German music. Who do you think is the natural successor to Beethoven? Why?
– BONUS: Why do you think Wagner’s music been adopted by white nationalists? Do you think they understand Wagner’s music and artistic/political philosophies correctly? Explain.
Should be 4-6 handwritten pages or 2-3 typed pages. Due in class on Nov. 12.

Finishing Wagner; Slavic Nationalism
November 5-7:
CHWM, 475 – 482
Letter from Tchaikovsky to Nadezhda von Meck (CRP)
“Screenwriter Questions Whether Tchaikovsky Was Gay” (CRP)
“Production of Tchaikovsky’s Eguene Onegin” (CRP)
Naxos: Slavic Nationalism: tracks 1-5

November 12:
“Antonin Dvorak’s From the New World is the Best” (CRP)
“Transatlantic Debate” (CRP)
“Dvorak Loved Pigeons and Trains” (CRP)
Naxos: Slavic Nationalism: tracks 12-15

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly
November 14:
CHWM, 497-499
“Madame Butterfly,” John Luther Long (CRP)

November 19:
“Sex, Betrayal, Suicide” (CRP)
“One Fine Obscenity” (CRP)
“Puccini’s Poignant Butterfly” (CRP)
“The Battle of Miss Saigon” (CRP)

November 21-26:
Journal assignment #4:
How does Puccini compose difference in Madama Butterfly?
Review all the Madama Butterfly readings and listening examples.
Describe a moment in the opera where Puccini inflects the music with “Japanese” sounds. Why does he do this? What is he attempting to convey? Is he successful?
Is it orientalism? Why or why not?
Should be 4-6 pages. Due in class on December 3.

Things Fall Apart
December 3:
CHWM, 483-490

December 5:
CHWM, 508 – 522
ODE TO JOY Re/Mix presentations in Zuccolo Theater.

December 10:

December 12:
In-class essay for assessment.
Last 2 concert reports due.