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Course Information

Instructor Info:Martin Ehrlich
Office Extension x5365
TA Info:Bob McGarry
Term: 2012F
Meeting Info: Monday Wednesday
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Music and Dance Building CLASS
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Music and Dance Building CLASS



Course Description

 This course will look at the breadth and length of musical streams in American music. Our research and analysis will engage a curiosity about how these streams cross and interact. Along with extensive listening, we will be looking into how artists define their own work. Along the way, we will ask some critical questions about the expressive power of music. How does a work of art function within its historical moment (politics and culture), and how does it function within itself (aesthetics and philosophy).


Numerous Recordings (on reserve in the library and on Moodle)

Articles by Nelson George, Greil Marcus, Carol Oja, Alex Ross,  Olivia Greer, Sean Wilentz, W.E.B. DuBois , Paul Robeson, Scott DeVeaux, John Cage, Robert Palmer, Hankus Netsky, Leo Smith, Eric Porter, Stanley Crouch, and others.

 Required reading and listening selections will be given weekly on the course website. Books and CD’s on reserve in the library are viewable under Reserve on the library site.

 Notebook and Folder with pockets required

 Attendance Policy:

No more than two unexcused absences allowed.




Course Objectives:


Course Philosophy

"The Map is not the Territory"

 There is an underlying argument to this class, and it is one based on my own experience and on my ongoing dialogue with the many creative artists I have work with. In our need to find meaning and sustenance in art, we listen across boundaries of genre, style, of musical traditions, and we don't listen in a linear manner. We make connection. In this class we will take some time to explore the limitations of our knowledge and experience through an approach that reflects that reality of artistic creation and expression defined above? As a tutorial, I hope that this class raises more questions than it can answer, and that it points each of us to further areas of inquiry and work.

 Hear are my three BIG questions that we will attempt to weave through our listening.

 1.How does and artist, and how does a work of art, find meaning in the tension between innovation and tradition?

 2. How is an artist, and a work of art, shaped by the world it creates and is created in? Conversely, how do the artist and that work of art shape the world it enters?

 3. How do the artist's themselves describe their work, and give us clues to their navigation and engagement of questions 1 and 2

 So this is a beginning. You will continue to engage these questions, among many, through numerous critical lenses and methods of inquiry, including, possibly, artistic creation during your work at Hampshire.

 I am going to give a particular focus to the musical parameters of these questions. I am a practicing composer/improviser/instrumentalist/performer, and these questions are crucial to my ongoing work.

 To go along with these assignments, we will be keeping a log, individually and as a class, as to ideas, concepts, terms, and creative images that come up in our listening, our research and creation, and our discussions. Our goal is to have made a collective Book of Listening by the end of the semester that represents the work of our class.

 I have made a selection of music to listen to. It is in no way a canon. It is one possible selection. You will be making your own selections as well throughout the course in our assignments. What we will focus on is how we can speak to our sense of connection in the works.

 I have made a selection of writings about the many artists and musical tributaries that make this conceit "American Music". (And yes, we can talk about all the ways that is a problematic term, as well as an inclusive one.) I have aimed to present a range of ways to approach writing about music, both in tone, discipline, and viewpoint. Your work will supplement this as well.

 And finally: We are going to do rhythm exercises in the class. To get the mind moving with the body it is part of. 

Evaluation Criteria:

Criteria for Evaluation: Your evaluation will be based equally on your classroom involvement, your assignments, and your final projects. No evaluation will be given without completion of these criteria.