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2012-2013 Music Courses
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:
- Individual instruction (instrumental performance, composition, or voice), the central area of study around which the rest of the program is planned
- Theory and/or history (see requirements below)
- A performance ensemble (see area requirements below)
- Concert Attendance/Music Tuesdays Requirement (see 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 study in music.
First-Year Studies: Music and Technology
Each student in First-Year Studies in Music will be enrolled in a full Music program that reflects Sarah Lawrence’s educational philosophy of closely integrating theory and practice in the study of music. The Music program (also called a Music Third) consists of a number of components: individual instruction in voice, an instrument, or composition; courses in history and/or theory; participation in an ensemble; and concert attendance. 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. The focus of this seminar will be the development and role of music technology—from the evolution of traditional instruments, such as the piano and electric guitar, to the invention of the synthesizer, the iPod, and the use of laptop computers as musical instruments. We will explore all genres of music, including both traditional and experimental electronic music. 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.
Seminars and Lecture
The following seminars and lecture with conferences are offered to the College community and constitute one-third of a student’s program. All seminars and lectures may be taken as a component to one of the third programs (Music, Dance and Theater).
The Music of J. S. Bach
The music of J. S. Bach represents a pinnacle of Western culture. He absorbed and raised to unimaginable heights the conception of music that can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, in which music is a vehicle for metaphysical and cosmological truth; but he was also a child of the early Enlightenment and wrote some of the most joyful and communicative music ever written. He absorbed every possible influence and transfigured them: the Italian and French styles, the art of counterpoint, the dance suite, the concerto, sacred music, and much more. His combination of often breathtakingly complex polyphony with advanced and powerful harmonies was unprecedented. Virtually every composer that followed him used his music as a foundation for their musical thinking. Even today, Bach’s music is crucial for both the composer and the attentive listener. This class will provide a survey of the entire range of Bach’s work and will combine detailed attention to particular pieces with background concerning the life of the musician in the 18th century, the role of the composer and improviser, the complexities of patronage, and other issues.
Music of Transcendent Experience
Composers of all eras have attempted to convey through sound the experience of transcendence, of a deeper sense of life and death than we ordinarily attain. They wanted to express musically the feeling of heightened awareness that can be found in religious belief, communion with nature, erotic experience, and in art itself. Some composers found direct musical analogies for this experience; others found ways of expressing the metaphysical through hidden, quasi-mathematical designs. We will study a broad range of important works from all eras of music history and genres: symphonic works, songs, piano pieces, operas, and both secular and sacred works. Works to be studied will include Bach’s B Minor Mass, Beethoven’s Pastoral and Ninth Symphonies, Mahler’s Second Symphony, as well as representative works from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Richard Wagner, we will include an overview of several of his operas that illuminate these issues: Die Meistersinger, Parsifal, Tristan and the Ring Cycle.
Ethnomusicology of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East: Structures of Music, Structures of Power
Ethnomusicology has intellectual roots extending back to the Enlightenment and earlier, but it is often described as emerging from the mid- to late-19th century. This period, notable for analytic empiricism as well as aggressive imperialism and colonialism, left a strong imprint on the discipline of ethnomusicology. Taking this imprint into account, this course will carefully consider the connections between the ways a culture’s music is organized and the ways its society is structured. During the first semester, we will explicitly juxtapose social structure with sound structure, asking how musical patterns can be associated with other human behaviors that surround, create, and control them. We’ll examine musical patterns that have emerged from within a given culture, as well as ones that have resulted from powerful social forces imposed from without. A powerful case in point is Sarah Lawrence’s own Balinese gamelan, Chandra Buahna. Participation in this bronze percussion orchestra is a required part of the fall semester, and no musical experience is necessary. During the second semester, we will examine many forms of music across East Asia, India, and the Middle East, determining how they work as pieces of sonic art. Further, we’ll consider the changing significance of musics that have been “relocated,” whether through migration and diaspora or through sampling and media circulation. We will get to know a wide range of musical examples in great detail, including (but not limited to) works of South Indian kriti, North Indian raga, Indonesian gamelan, Iranian radif, Arabic maqam, and West African percussion. While these musical styles are sophisticated and challenging, prior experience with “music theory” is absolutely not required for this course. This course may also be taken as a yearlong component.
Arranged by audition with the following members of the music faculty and Affiliate Artists:
Composition—Chester Biscardi, Patrick Muchmore, Daniel Wohl, John Yannelli
Guitar—William Anderson (acoustic), Glenn Alexander (jazz/blues), Kermit Driscoll (jazz/blues bass)
Percussion—Matt Wilson (drum set)
Piano—Chester Biscardi, Michael Longo (jazz), Martin Goldray, Bari Mort, Carsten Schmidt, Jean Wentworth
Voice—Hilda Harris, Eddye Pierce-Young, Wayne Sanders, Thomas Young
With the following members of the Cygnus Ensemble, where appropriate:
Flute—Tara Helen O’Connor
Oboe and English horn—Robert Ingliss
Guitar, Banjo and Mandolin—William Anderson, Oren Fader
The Director of the Music Program will arrange all instrumental study with the Affiliate Artist faculty who teach off campus. In all cases, individual instruction involves consultation with members of the faculty and/or the Director of the Music Program.
Lessons and Auditions
Beginning lessons are only offered in voice and piano. A limited number of beginning acoustic guitar lessons are offered based on prior musical experience. All other instrumentalists are expected to demonstrate a level of proficiency on their instruments. In general, the Music Faculty encourages students to prepare two excerpts from two contrasting works that demonstrate their musical background and technical abilities. Auditions for all instruments and voice, which are held at the beginning of the first week of classes, are for placement purposes only.
Vocal Auditions, Placement and Juries
The voice faculty encourages students to prepare two contrasting works that demonstrate the student’s musical background and vocal technique. Vocal Auditions enable the faculty to place the singer in the class most appropriate for their current level of his or her vocal production. Students will be placed in either an individual voice lesson (two half-hour lessons per week) or in a Studio Class (there are four different Studio Classes as well as the seminar, Self Discovery Through Singing). Voice Juries at the end of the year evaluate each student’s progress.
Piano Auditions and Placement
The piano faculty encourages students to prepare two contrasting works that demonstrate the student’s musical background and keyboard technique. Piano Auditions enable the faculty to place the student with the appropriate teacher in either an individual piano lesson or in the Keyboard Lab given his or her current level of preparation.
Acoustic and Jazz Guitar Auditions and Placement
The Guitar Faculty encourages students to prepare two contrasting works that demonstrate the student’s musical background, guitar technique, and, for jazz and blues, improvisational ability. Guitar Auditions enable the faculty to place the guitarist with the appropriate teacher in either an individual guitar lesson or in the Guitar Class.
The student who is interested in individual instruction in composition must demonstrate an appropriate background.
Theory and Composition Program
Theory I, Theory II, and Advanced Theory, including their aural skills and historical studies corollaries, make up a required theory sequence that must be followed by all music students unless they prove their proficiency in a given area; entry level to be determined by diagnostic exam that will be administered right after the Music Orientation Meeting that takes place during the first day of registration.
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. 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. 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.
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, and composition. It is highly recommended, although not required, that students in this course also take Basic Aural Skills. Survey of Western Music is required for all students taking Theory II who have not had a similar history course. The materials of this course are prerequisite to any Advanced Theory course.
With Advanced Theory, students are required to take either a yearlong seminar or two semester-long seminars in music history, which include: Keyboard Literature; Mozart and Beethoven: Music from 1720-1810 (Fall); Debussy and the French School (Spring); Jazz History; The Music of J. S. Bach (Fall); Music of Transcendent Experience (Spring); and Ethnomusicology of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East: Structures of Music, Structures of Power.
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. Successful completion of the required theory sequence or an equivalent background is a prerequisite for this class.
Advanced Theory: Jazz Theory and Harmony
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 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 substitute chords, re-harmonization, 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.
Hearing and Singing
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. This class fulfills the performance component of the Music Program for those beginning students who are not ready to participate in other ensembles. Students who demonstrate proficiency for this subject may advance directly into Basic Aural Skills. All incoming students will take a diagnostic test to determine placement.
Basic Aural Skills
Basic Aural Skills tackles written theory concepts from an aural perspective. We will develop the ability to sing and identify intervals and sonorities, perform and transcribe rhythm in simple and compound meters, sing melodies at sight, and dictate melodies and harmonic progressions—all of which add dimension and scope to written theory. Students who have completed Hearing and Singing or demonstrate the equivalent may take this course. During the course of their studies, all Music Thirds are required to take this yearlong Basic Aural Skills course. It is recommended, but not required, that this course be taken in conjunction with Theory II: Basic Tonal Theory and Composition.
Intermediate Aural Skills
This class continues to develop the cooperation of ear, eye, and voice initiated in Hearing and Singing and Basic Aural Skills, with an emphasis placed on harmony. The harmonic language in this level of Aural Skills broadens to incorporate an increased variety of 7th chords, as well as chromatically altered harmonies (including Neapolitan, Augmented 6th, secondary dominant, and other borrowed chords). Singing, dictations, and listening exercises of multipart and modulating music samples help realize this. Additionally, the study of rhythm will take on more challenging aspects, expanding to multiple parts. It is recommended, but not required, that this course be taken in conjunction with Advanced Theory: Advanced Tonal Theory and Composition and may be taken by any student who has completed the required theory sequence.
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. A sight-reading “performance” will be held at the end of each semester. This course will meet once a week.
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.
This course offers an in-depth study of individual orchestral instruments, in both their standard practices and extended techniques. We will discuss their uses in solo and chamber ensemble settings in each of the various orchestral choirs, and in the orchestra as a whole. Through original compositions and arrangements, students will learn by emulating representative scores spanning various eras and styles, with the goal of adapting this knowledge to suit their own particular voices. Performers will be invited periodically to demonstrate on their instruments and read through student compositions. As a final project, the Sarah Lawrence Orchestra will do a reading session of student orchestrations.
Music Technology Courses
Studio for Electronic Music and Experimental Sound:
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, and music workshops. Permission of the instructor is required.
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.
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, 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. Open to a limited number of students; permission of the instructor is required.
Music History Classes
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.
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.
Mozart and Beethoven: Music from 1720-1810
The classical style especially manifest in the music of the “divine” Mozart is both complemented and sharply opposed by his younger contemporary, Beethoven; and their lives were scarcely more distant from each other than was the Enlightenment from the events of 1789 and the world of Napoleon. We will touch on the source of the classical manner in the reactions of minor figures such as Sammartini, Quantz, and the Bach sons to the learned style of J. S. Bach and then explore the operatic style that made Mozart possible. His mature works will then be set alongside both the more genteel early period and the combative and partly romantic middle style of Beethoven. Readings in cultural history will be joined by biographical and music-score study. Some experience in music theory is necessary and general historical interest is desirable for enrollment in this course. This is one of the music history component courses required for all Advanced Theory students.
Debussy and the French School
Debussy’s influence on today’s music is incalculable. He has been called the only “universal” French composer and is very likely also the greatest. This course will deal with the ambience of the Second Empire, from which he emerged, and with Debussy’s relationships to the impressionist, symbolist, and decadent aesthetics. Allowing for earlier influences, including the contradictory effects of Wagner, we will explore Debussy’s revolutionary musical language in detail, with many references to older and younger contemporaries such as Massenet, Saint-Saëns, Franck, Satie, Ravel, and the group known as Les Six. For approach and qualifications, see Mozart and Beethoven: Music from 1720 to 1810. This is one of the component courses required for all Advanced Theory students.
The Music of J. S. Bach
See course description under Seminars and Lecture.
Music of Transcendent Experience
See course description under Seminars and Lecture.
Ethnomusicology of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East: Structures of Music, Structures of Power
See course description under Seminars and Lecture.
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. This is one of the music history component courses required for all Advanced Theory students.
Performance Ensembles and Classes
All performance courses listed below are open to all members of the Sarah Lawrence community, with permission of the instructor.
Auditions for all ensembles will take place at the beginning of the first week of classes.
Choral Ensembles include the following:
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. This class meets once a week. Audition required.
Jazz Studies include the following ensembles and classes:
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—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 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. 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 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. 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 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. Audition required.
Vocal Studies include the following courses:
Diction for Singers
The course intends to discuss the basic rules of pronunciation and articulation for German, French, and Italian, as used in lyric diction. Language-specific aspects such as purity of open vs. closed vowels, formation of mixed vowels and diphthongs, treatment of single consonants (especially plosives), and consonant clusters will be studied through both spoken and written exercises using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Students will get a chance to experience the languages through analytical listening, as well as by being coached in song repertoire and recitatives. The course further intends to deepen the student’s understanding of the three languages by introducing basic aspects of grammar. This course is required for all Music Thirds in voice during their first year in the vocal program.
Jazz Vocal Seminar
This class will be an exploration of the relationship between melody, harmony, rhythm, text, and style and of how these elements can be combined and manipulated to create meaning and beauty. A significant level of vocal development will be expected and required. Audition required.
Self-Discovery Through Singing
This course will develop the student’s knowledge and awareness of her or his vocal potential through experience in singing. Basic vocal technique will be explored, and individual vocal needs will be addressed. Repertoire will be chosen to enhance the strengths of each student, as well as to present vocal challenges.
Seminar in Vocal Performance
Voice students will gain performance experience by singing repertoire selected in cooperation with the studio instructor. Students will become acquainted with a broader vocal literature perspective through singing in several languages and by 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.
So This Is Opera?
This is an introductory course in opera production. It is open to students enrolled in any performing art (Music, Dance, and Theatre Thirds), as well as to the college community at large. Repertoire will be selected from the standard traditional and contemporary operatic expression in English and Italian languages. There will be one production per year. Attendance is required for every session. Audition required.
This is a beginning course in basic vocal technique. The voice faculty strongly feels that classes in voice for the beginner are supportive and educationally sound ways of approaching individual vocal needs. Placement audition required.
World Music ensembles and courses include the following:
African Classics of the Post-Colonial Era
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 will 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 percussion instruments. Basic facility on one's musical instrument is expected, but prior experience with African musical aesthetics is neither assumed nor 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®), and 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. Participation in Gamelan Angklung Chandra Buana is required for all students taking Structures of Music, Structures of Power: Ethnomusicology of Africa, Asia & the Middle East. Occasional exceptions may be granted by the instructor. Any interested student may join; no previous experience with music is necessary.
West African Percussion Ensemble Faso Foli
Faso Foli is the name of our West African performance ensemble. It 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 in 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 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.
Other ensembles and classes:
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, increased enjoyment of music making and the creative process.
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. Our work will culminate in a joint concert with the SLC Chamber Chorus. Regular coachings will be supported by sessions exploring a variety of performance practice issues such as ornamentation, notational conventions, continuo playing, and editions. Audition required.
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 each semester, groups will have an opportunity to perform 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.
Experimental Improvisation Ensemble
This class is an experimental improvisation ensemble that 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 electric), voice, electronic synthesizers, and laptop computers are welcome. Permission of the instructors is required.
A course in the basics of conducting is available to qualified students and is taught on an individual conference basis. Completion of Advanced Theory is required. Permission of the instructor is required.
Evolution of a Performance
This advanced seminar presents a unique resource designed to help students develop well-informed and inspired performances. The content of this course will be carefully tailored to participants’ interests, needs, abilities, and chosen repertoire. It will include a combination of the following: textual criticism and possible creation of a performance edition; consideration of performance practices, drawing on historical documents and recent scholarship; study of historical instruments (with possible field trips to the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments); review of pertinent analytical techniques and writings; analytical, compositional, and ear-training assignments; readings that explore the cultural, artistic, and emotional worlds of the composers studied; in-class performances and coaching; and discussion of broader philosophical issues relating to authenticity in performance. This course is for accomplished and highly motivated performers who have a theory background commensurate with completion of at least the first semester of Advanced Theory: Advanced Tonal Theory and Composition. It is especially suitable for instrumentalists and singers who are preparing for a recital or performances of major chamber music works. Permission of the instructor is required.
This course is for beginning guitar students by recommendation of the faculty.
This class offers informal performance opportunities on a weekly basis as a way of exploring a guitar solo, duo, and ensemble repertoire. The course will seek to improve sightreading abilities and foster a thorough knowledge of the guitar literature. This class 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 the Keyboard Lab as the core of their Music Third or as part of a music “split” (e.g., a full lesson in voice with a half lesson in piano). 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. Placement is arranged by the piano faculty.
Sarah Lawrence Orchestra
The Sarah Lawrence Orchestra is open to all students, as well as to members of the College and Westchester communities; it is required for all instrumentalists taking a Music Third. The Orchestra performs at least once each semester. Recent performances have included Stravinsky’s L’histoire du Soldat, with dancing and narration; Satie’s film score Entr’acte, performed live with a screening of the film; a concert version of Bernstein’s Candide; Mahler’s Symphony No. 1; and a concert performance of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. Audition required.
Sarah Lawrence String Orchestra
The Sarah Lawrence String Orchestra will meet for 90 minutes once each week and will be open to Music Third students, as well as other students who are interested in playing in a string orchestra. There will be one performance each semester. Each performance will highlight a soloist from the orchestra. Auditions will be held at the beginning of each semester. Audition required.
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 coachings 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.
Required Concert Attendance/Music Tuesdays Component
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 consists 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 to be announced each semester.
Residencies and Workshops
The Cygnus Ensemble: Artists-in-Residence
The Cygnus Ensemble is a contemporary music ensemble in residence at the College. Along with presenting concerts of new music in the Concert Series, the members of the ensemble work individually with instrumental students and participate in readings of new works by student composers.
Master Class includes a series of concerts and instrumental and vocal seminars, as well as lecture/demo presentations of 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.
Approximately twice-monthly, music workshops are held in which a student or student ensemble, with consent of the individual teacher, may participate as performer(s). The College community is welcome to attend. Since the only limitation is that the composition(s) should be well prepared, these workshops serve as important opportunities for students at all levels to share their playing, singing, or composing work with others and to have a significant way to trace their own development.
- Idea of a New Style
- Jazz Composition and Arranging
- Ethnomusicology of the Americas: Music, Language, and Identity
- Music, Circulation and Appropriation
- “Non-Western” Western Musics in Europe and Asia
- Analog and Digital Synthesis
- Theoretical Foundations of Electronic Music