Fall 2021: Music Courses

We are excited to announce our course offerings for the Fall 2021 semester!

We hope that these introductory videos and/or descriptions will be helpful as you decide on your courses.

Please reach out to the course instructor or email music@brandeis.edu with any questions. For a full list of Department offerings, please refer to the Office of the Registrar's Schedule of Classes.


Undergraduate Classes

MUS 1A | Exploring Music
Bradford Garvey poses in a garden

Professor Bradford Garvey

M/W 10-11:30 a.m. | Offered in person

A general introduction to the materials and forms of music and their role in human social life with examples drawn from around the world. Training in analytical listening, based on selected listening assignments. Open to non-majors who are assumed to have little or no previous knowledge of music. 

MUS 5A | The Beginner's Toolbox: Fundamentals of Music Notation and Performance
Taylor Ackley plays the mandolin

Professor Taylor Ackley

T/Th 12-1:30 p.m. | Offered in person

Explores the basic elements of music including pitch, rhythm, timbre and feel. Students will learn to understand music through listening and reading musical notation and chord-charts and will develop vocabulary for discussing music from a variety of traditions and styles. No previous experience with music or knowledge of how to read music is required.

MUS 31A | Broadway Bound: The Craft of Composing Music and Lyrics for the Theater
Neal Hampton headshot

Professor Neal Hampton

T/Th 12-1:30 p.m. | Offered in person

Do you like to write poetry or plays? Have you written music and/or lyrics and want to try your hand at writing musical theatre? In this class, you will learn how music functions in a dramatic context by writing songs (alone or in collaboration with others) and regularly presenting your material for peer and instructor feedback. Contemporary and traditional musical theater masterpieces will be analyzed.

AMST/MUS 35A | History of Rock: Rock and Roll in American Culture
Taylor Ackley plays the guitar

Professor Taylor Ackley

T/Th 10-11:30 a.m. | Offered in person

Examines the historical context, stylistic development, and cultural significance of rock and roll and other closely related genres, spanning the 1950s through the present. Close attention is paid to how political and social changes have interacted with technological innovations through commercial music to challenge, affirm and shape ideas of race, gender, class and sexuality in the United States. 

MUS 101A | Western Classical and Popular Music I: How It's Made, Part 1
Portrait of David Rakowski

Professor David Rakowski

M/W/F 10:30-11:30 a.m. | Offered in person

A first course for students who already read music, but wish to develop a deeper involvement. Students investigate how music "works" by composing exercises based on examples of tonal music and literature that students are practicing for performance. Focuses on elementary harmony and voice-leading, counterpoint, analysis, and model composition. In the required one-hour lab (MUS 102a), students practice sight-singing and dictation, skills essential to music literacy.

MUS 103A | Western Classical and Popular Music II: How It's Made, Part 1
Mark Berger plays the viola

Professor Mark Berger

M/W 2-3:30 p.m. | Offered in person

This course builds on MUS 101. Chromatic tonal harmony is covered, and short pieces of nineteenth century music are analyzed in depth. Students will analyze pieces on their own and write analytical papers. Students will also harmonize various chorale melodies. The required ear training and keyboard lab meets separately. 

MUS 116A | Chamber Music: From Page to Stage

Professor Joshua Gordon

T/Th 2-3:30 p.m. | Offered in person

Musicians bring their own experience, instinct, and theoretical knowledge to music-making through study and performance of chamber music in a supportive master class setting. Through coaching by a professional performer, readings, and listening to recordings, this course examines how performance practice, basic structural analysis, and historical context affect interpretation. Individual and ensemble preparation required. Class meetings include coaching, discussion/listening salon, masterclass and rehearsals, to be scheduled. Final public performance.

MUS 135A | Music in Western Culture: 19th Century to Today
Portrait of Matthew Heck

Professor Matthew Heck

M/W 12-1:30 p.m. | Offered in person

In this class, we will survey Western music history ca. 1830 to the present, considering major styles, genres, and techniques of musical composition from historical and analytical perspectives. We will consider works by Schumann, Wagner, Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Bartók, Eastman, Saariaho, and others, exploring styles ranging from impressionism and expressionism to atonality, serialism, and aleatoric music, as well as minimalism, post-minimalism, and spectralism.

MUS 136B | Divas
Portrait of Emily Frey

Professor Emily Frey

T/Th 10-11:30 a.m. | Offered in person

Though her name means “goddess,” the diva is frequently imagined as a creature with all-too-human failings; she is both talented and tempestuous, both revered and reviled. This course will explore the complex image of the diva in Western culture from the middle ages to the present day. We’ll treat the category of “diva” expansively – encompassing opera singers and pop stars, composers and castrati – and engage with thorny questions of gender, sexuality, race, class, and power, in hopes of understanding the enduring cultural potency of this compelling and problematic figure.

Seminars (Undergraduate & Graduate)

MUS 182A | Introduction to Musicology
Portraits of Karen Desmond and Emily Frey

Professor Karen Desmond and Professor Emily Frey

Th 12-3 p.m. | Offered in person

Provides a comprehensive introduction to music scholarship. We will survey the developments that have shaped musicology since its institutionalization as an academic discipline, paying special attention to the major issues and movements that have occupied our field over the past ten years. We’ll also explore the various "hows" of musicology, discussing how and where research is disseminated, how to access and deal with primary, secondary, and archival sources, how to make use of digital tools and methods, how to formulate interesting and productive research questions, and how to write academically about music.

MUS 193B | Topics in Analysis of Contemporary Music
Portrait of Yu-Hui Chang

Professor Yu-Hui Chang

W 2-5 p.m. | Offered in person

Detailed examination of selected works since 1951. 

MUS 202B | Seminar in Seeing Sound: The History and Practice of Notation to c. 1500
Karen Desmond teaches a musicology seminar

Professor Karen Desmond

T 2-5 p.m. | Offered in person

The late ninth century witnessed a major technological breakthrough in the transmission of Western music that was to have far-reaching consequences. Chants that had been taught orally for several centuries began to be encoded on parchment using signs placed above text syllables that recorded the shape and contour of the chant melodies. Systems of music notation spread rapidly across Europe, and took root as the way to record, archive, share, and (eventually) compose music. This graduate seminar course examines the form and function of music notation in western Europe, and how the writing down of music transformed music practice. Students will transcribe music from a variety of medieval and Renaissance notation systems, and will work directly with high quality facsimiles and online reproductions of the original manuscripts. 

MUS 203A | Music and Patronage
Bradford Garvey poses in a garden

Professor Bradford Garvey

M 2-5 p.m. | Offered in person

While music is often imagined to be innately egalitarian, uniting people across lines of class and rank, it has also served as a site for this same intense social differentiation. Music, like other arts, has long been sustained by patrons within class-stratified societies to build and maintain social relationships, accrue prestige, and produce hierarchies of economic and cultural value. In this course, we examine the relationship between patrons and clients as it manifests in musical life, drawing on examples from around the globe and across time. 

Ensembles (Undergraduate & Graduate)

Sarah Mead, director

T/Th 4-5:30 p.m. | Offered in person

Using its large collection of historical instruments including recorders, krumhorns, sackbuts, curtals, viols, lutes, harps and harpsichords, the Brandeis Early Music Ensemble explores the music and performance practices of Western Europe in the Renaissance and early Baroque eras.

Robert Duff, conductor

M/W 12-1:30 p.m. | Offered in person

This 24-36 voice choir is chosen from the entire student body on the basis of experience and musicianship skills. It is for singers who wish to explore unusual repertory, Bach cantatas, 16th-century motets and madrigals, 17th-century oratorios, 19th-century lieder and 20th-century works.

Robert Duff, conductor

M/W 2-3:30 p.m. | Offered in person

The Brandeis University Chorus draws its members from the entire Brandeis community. Every year the chorus performs a major work drawn from the vast choral repertory. There are often opportunities for student soloists.

Bob Nieske, director

W 7-9:50 p.m. | Offered in person

The Brandeis Jazz Ensemble, open to the entire Brandeis community by audition, is composed of 15-20 musicians led by one of Boston's best-known jazz musicians. In addition to classic jazz repertory, the ensemble performs original compositions written specifically for the group.

Neal Hampton, conductor

Th 6-9:50 p.m. | Offered in person

Directed by Neal Hampton, entrance to the Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra is gained through audition at the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters. The orchestra comprises students, faculty, and staff at Brandeis University, Wellesley College, and Babson and Olin Colleges, and is dedicated to bringing inspiring performances of the great orchestral literature, both past and present, to a new generation of musicians and audiences. 

Tom Souza, director

M 6:30-8:50 p.m. | Offered in person

The Wind Ensemble is a 35-50 member group that performs a wide variety of music. The ensemble performs two or three concerts each year and is conducted by Tom Souza. Membership is open to the Brandeis and surrounding communities.

The Brandeis Improv Collective performs on the Slosberg stage

Tom Hall, director

T 6:30-9:20 p.m. | Offered in person

Improvisation is always an essential part of our daily life, but during uncertain and challenging times, our ability to improvise becomes more important than ever! Join the Brandeis Improv Collective (BIC) and learn how to become a more fluid, creative, and joyful improviser by exploring improvisation, both individually and in a group. The BIC is open to all Brandeis students, regardless of skill or experience in improvising.

Ben Paulding, director

M/W 4-5:30 p.m. | Offered in person

Fafali studies and performs the music, song and dance of Ghana, and has performed at Night for Africa, Culture X and even for the President of Ghana! Historically a highly international ensemble, Fafali's members have come from Ghana, Togo, Jamaica, Tanzania, Cape Verde, China, the United States and many other countries from around the world.