The long arc of Western music has traced a rich history from the Middle Ages to the present marked by recurring cycles of tradition and innovation, consolidation, and renewal. Discovering Music offers an introduction to this history by focusing on selected works for listening and discussion, ranging from an anonymous chant of the fifth century to a violin concerto by the Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina from our own century. Beginning with a review of the basic elements of Western music (pitch, rhythm, texture, dynamics, and timbre), the course will proceed chronologically from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, and twentieth-century modernism and post-modernism, tracing how Western music evolved as it became increasingly complex and emancipated. Along the way, we will consider many of the principal composers who, each in their own way, contributed to this history, why their music is significant, and how to listen to it. Among these composers, to mention a few, are Hildegard of Bingen, Machaut, Josquin, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, J. S. Bach, G. F. Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Fanny Hensel, Chopin, Wagner, Brahms, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, Amy Beach, Mahler, Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartók, Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Leonard Bernstein.
The principal text for the course is my Discovering Music, recently released from Oxford University Press, and available in print and e-book forms. Discovering Music includes an online platform (OUP Dashboard) with streaming audio and interactive listening maps for the music under discussion, supplemental videos by members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Peabody Conservatory of Music, as well as several short vignette-like videos recorded at Duke on several related topics, and other supporting materials. Assignments will include regular listening and discussion, and a term paper, to be presented in condensed form to the class at the end of the semester. A primary goal of the course is to enhance how students relate intellectually and emotionally with music, whether from the canon of Western classical music or beyond.