Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2023

Course Description

Music theory provides labels for phenomena that you observe in music. Theory gives you tools to look inside the music for patterns that might not be obvious, or that become obvious once you are aware of them. You will be learning about four basic types of patterns: harmonic patterns, rhythmic patterns, melodic patterns, and thematic patterns. Some of these labels and patterns will be more rudimentary, like intervals and basic meters. Others will get more complex, such as comparisons of harmonic syntax between nineteenth-century art songs and the blues. There are two basic skills that you will be developing related to these patterns: identification and creation. You will first learn how to identify a particular pattern in abstract examples, then create your own abstract examples. Next you will learn to identify the pattern in contextual examples (real compositions, rather than things composed specifically to demonstrate a pattern), and then create your own contextual examples through composition and improvisation exercises. This curriculum will take a spiral approach, returning to a given subject several times throughout the four semesters with increasing complexity. This semester, we will expand upon last semester’s study of harmony, introduce new scales and rhythmic and melodic concepts, and begin to study some specific types of chromaticism. By the end of the whole sequence of theory courses, you will be able to analyze music from a wide array of genres and cultures, breaking down pieces into component parts and patterns. You will be able to identify shared structures, subtleties in communication based on cognitive or cultural expectations, and instances that do not follow normative patterns of particular stylistic contexts. You will be able to compose music that makes use of stylistically expected patterns, both to better understand how to perform music from these styles, and as a launching point for creating your own style of music composition. Besides gaining knowledge about music, you will be asked to engage in critical reading, writing, and listening. When you read assigned texts, practice going beyond the obvious facts being presented. Listen carefully to all musical examples, figure out why the author chose those examples and not others, and ask why particular facts are mentioned or demonstrated.