Composers Forum is a daily web log that allows invited contemporary composers to share their thoughts and ideas on any topic that interests them--from the ethereal, like how new music gets created, music history, theory, performance, other composers, alive or dead, to the mundane, like getting works played and recorded and the joys of teaching. If you're a professional composer and would like to participate, send us an e-mail.


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Friday, December 23, 2005
Teaching the Twentieth Century at Brooklyn College

So I get to teach the fourth (and final) semester next Spring of Brooklyn Collegeís undergraduate theory sequence: Music 7.4, Twentieth Century Music. Now, good heavens, there are so many different kinds of music in the twentieth century Ė and so many fantastic composers Ė that a semester simply isnít enough to make sense of it all, and worthy subjects will inevitably be skipped. But hereís my plan.

I donít want to breeze blithely over every little thing; Iíd rather cover a few things in depth. So Iím centering all my lectures around the following pieces, all of which Iím comfortable with and all of which are important and/or exemplary in some way. (Note that, in order to pick up some necessary slack from Music 7.3, Iím starting in the nineteenth century. But, honestly, I canít wait to lecture on Tristan.)

Wagner, Tristan und Isolde
Debussy, Trois Nocturnes
Schoenberg, Five Pieces for Orchestra
Webern, Variations Op. 27
Stravinsky, Symphony in C
Lutoslawski, Symphony No.3
Reich, Music for Eighteen Musicians
Prof. Salvageís Favorite Pop Music Ė a TBA swirl of Beatles, Billy Joel, and others

To fill in the gaps, Iíve selected twenty (the approximate number of students in the class) topics each of which will be the subject for a twenty minute oral presentation by a student. These topics run the gamut from Ivesís Unanswered Question, to Cage, to Charlie Parker, to Richard Rogers. The term paper, 10-15 pages on a topic of their choice, must be on music that is not considered classical. Finally, there are four composition assignments (Iím supposed to assign a lot of formal composition) each requiring students to use some of the techniques Iíve illustrated in the lectures on the above pieces.



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