Every year two graduate seminars in musicology are offered at the School of Music. Generally one of these will be in Music Theory (MUS 720A) and one in Music History (MUS 720).  Below is a list of seminars and other special topics courses in music history that have been offered at Catholic University, organized by professor. Click on the title of a course for the course description.

Dr. Robert Baker (music theory)

  • "Music of the Second Viennese School"

    In this seminar we will engage in detailed analyses of selected works from the free-atonal and serial music of Arnold Schönberg, Anton Webern, and Alban Berg, whose music forms the core repertoire of the Second Viennese School. In support of our analyses, regular readings will be assigned from theoretical articles and texts by such writers as Kathryn Bailey, Reginald Smith Brindle, David Headlam, George Perle, Josef Rufer, and Joseph Straus; selections from Schönberg’s collected essays and letters will also be included.

    After an introductory unit on post-tonal analytical techniques, weekly music-theoretical readings and analyses will serve to generate discussions and inform large in-class analyses. Students will be required to select a research topic related to the course (a particular piece from a given list or, with approval, one of their own choosing) and develop their analyses into a music-theoretical presentation and ultimately an analytical term paper. Topics need not be confined to the three composers mentioned above; rather, they may extend to other composers whose works in some way owe their theoretical organization to the Second Viennese School. To this end, attention will be given to such composers as Milton Babbitt, Pierre Boulez, Luigi Dallapiccola, Luigi Nono, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, whose work can be understood in many ways as direct proliferations or extensions of the Second Viennese School.

    Although not required, students will be encouraged to offer informal in-class performances of works studied (or portions thereof) in order to provide closer personal connections and aural relationships with the repertoire.

  • "Post-Tonal French Music and Thought"

    Many French composers of the last century have had explicit or implicit connections to certain fellow French writers, thinkers, and philosophers. Often these relationships are overlooked or not considered in the context of a music-theoretical analysis. In this seminar we will investigate relations between music and writings by composers and figures such as Messiaen, Varèse, Boulez, Dutilleux, Grisey, Dusapin, Bergson, Deleuze, Nattiez, Kristeva, and Proust. Our goal will be to suggest ways in which various French extra-musical theories and ideas might suggest newer modes of analysis and lead to more contemporary conceptualizations of modern French musical languages, forms, and listening experiences.

Dr. John Bower (music theory)

  • "A Mordent on Modernism: Analytic Perspectives of Post-Tonal Music"

    While the term "post-tonal" often suggests the innovations of the Second Viennese School and serial composers, post-tonal musical practice adorns a much wider selection of repertoire. Despite stylistic differences, this shared departure from the common practice tonal tradition brings the possibility for shared analytic methodologies. This semester, we will examine a diverse selection of primarily mid to late twentieth-century music from a set-theoretical perspective. Reading and analysis will introduce the principles of set theory and some of its extensions as found in recent scholarship. Our effort aims to elucidate aspects of post-tonal works that may inform interpretation, reveal compositional process, and invite broader historical and aesthetic consideration.

    Repertoire will include works by Boulez, Carter, Dutilleux, Lindberg, Messiaen, Pärt, Reich, and Rochberg, among others.

Dr. Stephen Gorbos (music theory)

  • "The Chamber Music of George Crumb"

    In this seminar we will be studying the chamber music of George Crumb. While the goal of this course is to gaze at Crumb’s music with an analytical eye, the term analysis is applied broadly: we will encounter many different ways to understand this music throughout our study. The semester will begin with a review of standard post-tonal analytical techniques and some of Crumb’s most important musical influences, followed by a listening survey of Crumb’s chamber music and a survey of analytical literature specific to issues around Crumb’s music (containing, but not limited to: harmonic/motivic/formal analysis, quotation/allusion, performance practice/notation, ritual/mysticism, timbre, Crumb’s use of text). Your work for the semester will culminate in one of the following analytical projects: either a 15 - 20 page seminar paper on some aspect of Crumb’s music or a performance/analytical lecture on a piece of music by Crumb.
  • "The Music of Steve Reich"

    In this seminar we will be studying the music of American composer Steve Reich. We will develop a familiarity with the analytical literature around Reich’s music, touching on topics including but not limited to: form and structure, rhythmic theory, racism, historicity, critical theory, technology, religiosity, Jewishness, and minimalist and postminimalist aesethetics (in dialogue between music and visual arts). The semester will follow a roughly chronological path through Reich’s work, with an emphasis on early works leading up through Tehillim, and ending with some of his most recent music. Your work this semester will culminate in a 15- to 20-page seminar paper on some aspect of Reich’s music.

Dr. Sara Pecknold (music history)

  • "Medieval Sacred Polyphony"

    This course explores Aquitanian, Compostelan, and Parisian sacred polyphony composed in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Special attention will be paid to the social, religious, and liturgical contexts in which this music was created. Students will delve into the major theoretical texts associated with these repertories. This course includes paleographical work on original source material and opportunities for student performances.
  • "Music in Seventeenth-Century Venice"

    This course explores the wealth of sacred music composed in Venice throughout the seventeenth century. Course discussions begin with the composers of the Basilica di San Marco, including Giovanni Gabrieli, Claudio Monteverdi, and Francesco Cavalli. Different types of sacred music-making in the Serene Republic are explored: ecclesiastical, confraternal, monastic, domestic, and pedagogical (i.e., at the Venetian ospedali). The course includes a discussion of early modern music theory and pedagogy, in order to train students to analyze seventeenth-century music in a historically sensitive manner.

Dr. Nicole Powlison (music history)

  • "Music and Print Culture"

    This course will explore the history of music printing and publishing, including the development of printing technology; the economic, social, and legal environments in which music publishers have historically worked; and the new directions of music publishing today. Students will have the opportunity to investigate and present on a variety of topics ranging from the introduction of music printing technology, through the golden age of sheet music printing in the 19th and early 20th century, to modern-day implications of technology, distribution, ownership, and performance.

Dr. Andrew Simpson (music theory)

  • "Alban Berg's Wozzeck"

    Course description unavailable
  • "The Music of Igor Stravinsky"

    The purpose of this seminar is to consider Stravinsky’s music from the standpoint of music theory and analysis. Although humanistic, aesthetic, and other concerns can -- and in many cases, should -- inform this work, the principal focus of the seminar will be to engage the composer’s works from a theoretical/analytical perspective. Members of the seminar will become familiar with the theoretical literature on Stravinsky, learn the current trends in Stravinsky theoretical scholarship, and employ theory and analysis in seminar presentations and a term paper.
  • "The Music of Messiaen"

    An analytical seminar devoted to the music of French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), whose immense, influential body of work engages with Roman Catholic theology, birdsong, rhythm, and synesthetic color. A devout Roman Catholic composer whose oeuvre includes opera, orchestral and choral works, organ and piano literature, song cycles, and instrumental chamber music, Messiaen remains of the most important and original figures in twentieth-century composition.

    Messiaen’s own theoretical writings assist in articulating his highly original musical vision, expressed by means of distinctive terminology (e.g., modes of limited transposition, personnages rhythmiques, non-retrogradable rhythms).

    The first portion of the seminar will consist of gaining familiarity with Messiaen’s theoretical writing with respect to his own music; the second will explore the extensive analytical literature on Messiaen (e.g., Robert Sherlaw Johnson, Peter Hill, Jonathan Bernard, Christopher Dingle, Roger Nichols, Carla Huston Bell, Anthony Pople). These studies will be supplemented by focused analysis of selected Messiaen works throughout the semester.

    In the final weeks, seminar members will give a presentation on a piece or topic relevant to Messiaen. A term paper is the capstone project.

  • "The Operas of Alban Berg"

    This course is intended to provide the student with intimate knowledge of two of the 20th century’s most significant operatic works, Wozzeck and Lulu, through analysis of its formal organization, study of its pitch, harmonic, and melodic elements, use of leitmotifs, and dramatic content. Seminar members will engage directly with the primary source material (vocal scores) of both operas. Wozzeck, as an atonal opera, and Lulu, as a dodecaphonic (12-tone) work, represent a microcosm of two of the 20th century’s most significant systems of pitch and harmonic organization, and therefore present themselves as representative case studies. Because the course focuses on theoretical inquiry, emphasis will be placed on the methodology of analysis of both types of systems. In order to provide background and review these methods, the course will review and examine methods of analysis for both atonal and dodecaphonic compositions. Additionally, extensive readings in the theoretical secondary literature will introduce students to the principal currents of thought in Berg scholarship, and familiarize them with important previous analytical studies of these works.
  • "The Operas of Puccini"

    Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), composer of several operas which have enjoyed a continual place in the operatic repertoire since their premiere, is generally celebrated as a supremely gifted melodist with a keen dramatic sense. The clear, logical, economical structure of his scenes, his sophisticated harmonic language, as well as his substantial gifts as an orchestrator, are often relegated to secondary consideration, however.

    This course seeks to discover the structure and language (use of motives, return of ideas, and harmonic language) underlying Puccini’s scores, shedding light on this composer’s impressive compositional technique. The seminar will analyze a small number of operas in detail. Tosca will be considered first, particularly as it corresponds with Washington National Opera’s production in September 2011. Madama Butterfly and La Fanciulla del West will also be studied, in addition to passages from other operas as time and interest permit (such as completing the unfinished Turandot).

    The seminar will analyze Puccini’s harmonic language and scene structures. Audio, production video, secondary literature and score study will aid seminar members in developing an informal grammar of dramatic structure, exploring how Puccini employs and capitalizes on musical devices to serve dramatic purposes.

    Students in the seminar will present on a topic related to the course, and a term paper will explore a Puccini topic in detail.

Dr. Steven Strunk (music theory)

  • "The History of Jazz Through Analysis"

    Course description unavailable
  • "The History of Music Theory"

    Course description unavailable

Dr. Christina Taylor Gibson (music history)

  • "American Experimentalism: Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, and John Cage"

    Although the composers are different in many respects, most experimental works by Ives, Cowell, and Cage urge us to appreciate the beauty in dissonance and to question received tradition, ultimately realizing a new definition of “music.” Perhaps these philosophical similarities drew the three men to intertwine their professional lives: Ives provided monetary and emotional support to Cowell, Cowell admired and promoted Ives, and Cage studied with Cowell. In this class we will examine the work and influence of these three composers with particular emphasis on their relationships to one another. Their writings and scores will form the basis for class study. In addition to preparing for class discussion, each student will be required to complete a research paper using primary source material available in the D.C. metropolitan area.
  • "Music and the U.S. Mexico Vogue, 1920-1950"

    This course will examine Mexican music and culture in the United States during the first half of the 20th century with particular focus on compositions by Manuel M. Ponce, Carlos Chávez, and Silvestre Revueltas. In addition to learning about repertoire, we will look at the context in which works were composed and received. This is a rich cultural period in both Mexico and the U.S., and students will become familiar with the relevant visual art (Diego Rivera and Miguel Covarrubias, among others), folk art or artesenía (such as that found in Mexican Folkways), and periodical writing (from “little” magazines like Modern Music to the major papers like the New York Times). Students will be introduced to the wealth of primary sources relating to the topic available in the D.C. metropolitan area, including holdings in CUA’s Latin American Music Center, and in the Library of Congress. Performance majors, theorists, and musicologists are welcome and encouraged to sign up; final projects will be shaped around the enrolled students.
  • "Music, Identity, and Politics in the U.S., 1890s-1930s"

    In this course we will examine theoretical tools used to analyze the construction of identity through music and apply those tools to case studies from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We will dedicate particular attention to the controversy surrounding Antonín Dvorák’s visit to the United States and to the various ethnic identities shaping expressions of Modernism in New York. Students will be encouraged to apply the ideas and methodologies discussed in class to a significant paper project on a topic of their choice; the paper topic need to be limited to the chronological or geographical scope of the topics discussed in class.

Dr. Grayson Wagstaff (music history)

  • "Mozart, Opera Seria, and the Traditions that Shaped His Works"

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed several of the most frequently done operas in the Western repertory. His works continue to delight audiences and inspire performers, composers, and scholars after two centuries. This seminar will focus primarily on Mozart’s opera seria, specifically how these works were influenced by a number of other composers’ works in Austria, Germany, France and Italy. Idomeneo, which contains some of Mozart’s greatest dramatic music, represents a synthesis of French operatic and dramatic techniques in an ostensibly Italian genre. Mozart’s debt to French tradition will be examined through several operas that he admired as well as the then ongoing discussion of reform in opera and theater. Scholars have established much about the development of this piece, since Mozart’s work on Idomeneo is better documented than are his other operas and several early sources! for the music survive. Students in the seminar will examine the composer’s revisions, a number of changes that Mozart made, how he shaped the music for individual singers and strove to create performances NOT a fixed musical score to be repeated. As does IdomeneoLa Clemenza di Tito demonstrates Mozart’s ability to balance his musical gifts with the requirements of the theater. Students will examine Tito in light of the other great works of the last years of Mozart’s life. This seminar will also focus on the development of vocal performance traditions and pedagogy during the eighteenth century. Some students will examine various editions of Mozart’s operas in terms of changing performance expectations. Certain works will be explored in light of various research on vocal techniques and how the sounds of Mozart’s era can be recreated.
  • "The Early Requiem Mass in Europe and Latin America"

    The Missa pro defunctis or "Requiem Mass" has become one of the most important genres of sacred music, one developed by many composers since 1700. Though we now consider the Requiem a somewhat standard genre with specific texts, the early history of this work was much more varied. The genre was intertwined with the liturgy and ceremonial of Catholic tradition and the various local "uses" of chant. Before the Council of Trent, churches in many areas of Europe maintained a distinct version of the chants for the Requiem Mass; during this era, composers who wrote polyphonic settings of the Requiem thus had to conform to the various local versions of the Mass for the church in which their work would be performed. Though various important Renaissance composers (including Dufay, Ockeghem, La Rue, and the Iberian composer Escobar) are known to have written polyphonic Requiems, this genre would be defined by the Spaniard Cristóbal Morales (d. 1553); his five-voice Mass became the first widely known Requiem performed throughout much of Western Europe and later in Colonial Latin America. Morales also wrote a number of items for the parallel service of Matins for the dead. Among these pieces is the first European polyphonic work known to have been sung in the Western Hemisphere. In Latin American as in Europe, these Renaissance works proved amazingly long lasting in the repertory; Morales’ works seemingly continued to be performed in a number of places in a living performance tradition until the twentieth century.

    This seminar will examine these early pieces in terms of each composer’s approach to setting the required texts and chants. How did each find ways to structure such a Mass in polyphonic music? We will examine the development of the chants and liturgy for the Office for the Dead and how the theological discussions of Purgatory and the "Good Death" affected the desire for music to elaborate these services. The early traditions in Latin America will be discussed with the important manuscript sources examined. Each student will plan their own in-depth research project related to one of the early settings of the Mass or items for the Office. Students will present a formal in-class presentation and a significant research paper at the end of the term.

Dr. Andrew H. Weaver (music history)

  • "Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea"

    This course offers an exciting opportunity to be part of the creative force behind a production of one of the most magnificent operas of the seventeenth century, Monteverdi’s final opera L’incoronazione di Poppea. The course is directly tied into a production of the opera by the CUA Opera Theater, which will occur on April 17-19; the class meetings, conducted by Dr. Weaver with the assistance of Rachel Barham (co-director of the production), will directly impact what happens on stage in the production.

    One of the most vexing issues facing anybody who wishes to perform this opera today is that of authenticity; a huge variety of musical and textual sources for this opera have survived, including ten different libretti (only one of which can be definitively connected to the original production) and two scores (both of which were copied after Monteverdi’s death and neither of which is connected to the original production). The first half of this course will be spent engaging with original sources in order to create the performance edition that will be used for our production. The goal will be not to unearth Monteverdi’s intentions or to recreate the exact version performed in the seventeenth century, but to craft a workable version of the opera that best presents the important messages and meaning of the opera.

    The issue of meaning, however, is another vexing yet fascinating aspect of this opera. What are modern performers to make of a work in which the virtuous characters suffer, the wicked characters win out in the end, and corruption and unchecked passion seem to reign supreme? The second half of the course will explore this issue by focusing on the characters of the opera, reviewing recent research and exploring individual scenes in depth to determine how these characters should be presented on the stage in order to convey a coherent message to the audience. There will also be guest lectures by prominent scholars of seventeenth-century Italian opera, including Ellen Rosand, Professor of Music at Yale University and author of Monteverdi’s Last Operas: A Venetian Trilogy (2007); Tim Carter, David G. Frey Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Monteverdi’s Musical Theatre (2002); and Wendy Heller, Professor of Music at Princeton University and author of Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women’s Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice (2003).

    Class meetings will be conducted primarily as discussion, with frequent student presentations. Final projects will vary depending on the student. Some students may choose to write an independent research paper, while others, such as cast and crew members, may have final projects deriving from their involvement in the production (including performance practice issues); others may choose to write a take-home final exam. Some final projects may also involve independent preparation of opera scenes, the writing of program notes for the production, or participation in the Opera Preview.

  • "Music and Poetry in Robert Schumann's Lieder"

    Robert Schumann has long been recognized as one of the masters of the early Romantic Lied. This seminar is an in-depth look at Schumann’s song output, organized around the poets whose works he set most frequently: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Adelbert von Chamisso, Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff, and Heinrich Heine. Attention will be paid to both the poetry and the music, focusing especially on the text–music relationship and the construction of musical meaning within Schumann’s Romantic aesthetic. Other topics to be covered in the course are issues in the song cycle as conceived by Schumann (narrative, meaning, and coherence), as well as the stylistic shift in Schumann’s later Lieder. Throughout the semester we will approach the works both through critical evaluations of the work of other scholars and through our own hands-on engagement with the poetry and music.

    Classes shall be conducted primarily as discussion, with frequent student presentations; students will receive weekly reading and listening assignments and will also occasionally write short papers. There is also a final independent research paper on a topic of the student’s choice, which need not be limited to the songs of Robert Schumann.

  • "Music and the Sacred in Seventeenth-Century Rome: Motet, Oratorio, Opera"

    Rome boasted one of the richest, most vibrant musical centers in seventeenth-century Europe. Unlike many city-states, where musical patronage was confined primarily to a single central court, Rome was home to a variety of musical establishments: the Papal court was of course the most famous, but no less lavish were the chapels of the prominent Cardinals vying to be the next Pope, as well as those of prominent religious orders, especially the Jesuits and the Oratorians.

    This seminar shall examine three important genres of music cultivated in seventeenth-century Rome, all of which partake of the sacred in different ways: the Latin motet, the Italian and Latin oratorio, and the Italian opera on a religious theme. We will place each genre into the rich religious, political, and cultural context of Rome, focusing on the first half of the seventeenth century. Much emphasis will be placed on context, with detailed examinations of the noble and ecclesiastical patrons of music and the functions that the genres served for the patrons, but just as much attention will also be given to close musical analyses of specific works. Our analyses will encompass a variety of issues and analytical techniques—such as text choice, text–music relationship, harmonic symbolism, formal–structural analysis, and rhetorical expression of the affects—all with the aim of elucidating musical meaning and understanding how the compositions would have spoken to seventeenth-century listeners.

    Throughout the semester, each student shall also engage closely with a printed primary source (in facsimile), dealing with such issues as transcription, text and music editing, and performance issues, as well as putting the source into its context and teasing larger meaning out of it.

    Classes shall be conducted primarily as discussion, with frequent student presentations and short papers. Students shall have weekly reading and analytical assignments, in addition to assignments relating to their primary source. There will also be a final independent research paper; this may be related to the primary source, but it could also be another topic entirely, of the student’s choosing.

  • "Narratology and the Lied"

    This seminar offers students a focused immersion into the experience of applying contemporary literary theory to music. Our theory of choice will be narratology, the theory and study of narrative texts, which has been a mainstay in the musicological literature for over three decades but has rarely been applied to texted music. In our class meetings, we will use narratology to explore a genre that has received almost no narratological attention, the Romantic Lied, with our primary goal being hermeneutic, opening up new interpretations of the works within their aesthetic context. The course will be divided into three roughly equal parts: the first part will be devoted to reading seminal works of narratology, the second part will focus on the application of narrative theory to individual settings of various types of poems (ballads, lyric poetry, etc.), and the last part will focus on three of Robert Schumann’s greatest song cycles: Dichterliebe, the Heine Liederkreis (Op. 24), and the Eichendorff Liederkreis (Op. 39).

    Classes shall be conducted primarily as discussion, with frequent student presentations; students will receive weekly reading and analysis assignments and will also occasionally write short papers. There is also a final independent research paper applying narratology to a substantial texted musical work of the student’s choice, which need not be limited to the Romantic era.

  • "The Patronage of Sacred Music in Seventeenth-Century Vienna"

    The seventeenth century was a critical time for the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperors in Vienna, as the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) tested the limits of their absolute authority. The nature of this authority changed throughout the century: The reign of Ferdinand II saw glorious military victories at the start of the war, that of Ferdinand III saw mounting military defeats and a less-than-glorious end of the war, and the reign of Leopold I saw the triumphant reassertion of Habsburg power by the end of the century. Through all of this, the patronage of music played an important role in projecting a positive public image and helping to maintain imperial authority.

    This seminar shall examine the sacred vocal music written for these three Habsburg emperors, placing it into the rich religious, political, and cultural context of seventeenth-century Vienna, as well as comparing it to music composed in other important musical centers. While much emphasis will be placed on context, just as much attention will also be given to close musical analyses of specific works. Our analyses will encompass a variety of issues and analytical techniques—such as text choice, text-music relationship, harmonic symbolism, formal-structural analysis, and rhetorical expression of the affects—all with the aim of elucidating musical meaning and understanding how the compositions would have spoken to seventeenth-century listeners.

    Throughout the semester, each student shall also engage closely with a printed primary source (in facsimile), dealing with issues such as transcription, text and music editing, and performance issues, as well as putting the source into its context and teasing larger meaning out of it.

    Classes shall be conducted primarily as discussion, with frequent student presentations. Students shall have weekly reading and analytical assignments, in addition to assignments relating to their primary source. There will also be a final independent research paper; this may be related to the primary source, but it could also be another topic entirely, of the student's choosing.

  • "Richard Strauss and the Twentieth Century"

    Richard Strauss’s place in general music history surveys is normally confined to the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth, with discussion limited to the tone poems and his two operas Salome and Elektra. Yet Strauss enjoyed a long, active career (composing right up to his death in 1949), throughout which he was widely hailed as Germany’s most famous living composer. He lived through both World Wars and the rise and fall of the Third Reich, all of which had a profound influence on his compositional career.

    Why do music history surveys ignore the post-1910 Strauss? Was he really outside of the mainstream of western musical history? Is it possible to reconcile his output with the dominant aesthetic trends and musical styles of his day? This course will seek to answer these questions by examining specific works from throughout Strauss’s career in light of what else was going on musically, aesthetically, and politically in twentieth-century Europe. Class discussions will be focused on the music itself, but always in the context of Strauss’s life and relationships. Works to be covered include well-known early works such as the tone poems Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche and Also sprach Zarathustra and the operas Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier, but we will also cover many of the lesser-known operas and instrumental works from throughout Strauss’s later career.

  • "The Romantic Song Cycle"

    This seminar shall be an in-depth examination of the seminal song cycles of the early-nineteenth century, focusing solely on the giants of German Romanticism. The primary works to be studied are Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte, Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise, and Schumann's Frauenliebe und -Leben and Dichterliebe.

    Each song cycle shall be approached from a variety of angles, including textual and musical analysis, historical and cultural context, and musical meaning (in individual songs and in the cycle as a whole). Throughout the course we will also be discussing larger issues that cut across all of the works to be studied, applying the same basic questions to each work; included among these are the issues of coherence and narrative. Equal emphasis shall be placed on our own examinations of the works and on existing scholarship; discussions of our own ideas will be just as important as discussions and critical analyses of studies by other scholars.

    Classes shall be conducted primarily as discussion, with frequent student presentations; students will receive weekly reading and listening assignments and will also occasionally write short papers. There will also be a final independent research paper, preferably on a work not covered in our class material. Term papers on works that technically lie outside the scope of the course (such as works from other countries or from the twentieth century) will be permitted, provided the paper deals with issues similar to those covered in class.

  • "Sacred Music and the Counter-Reformation in Mid-Seventeenth-Century Rome, Venice, and Vienna"

    The seventeenth century was an extremely turbulent time in all aspects of European life: the Thirty Years' War (1618-48) ravaged central Europe and affected all of the major European powers; the emerging Baroque style shocked audiences and challenged long-standing artistic precepts; and absolute rulers struggled to maintain their political authority in the face of rapidly changing social structures. Nor could the Catholic Church escape the turbulence of the age. Still facing the threat of the strengthening Protestant faiths, the Church found herself embroiled in political and cultural intrigues as she struggled to maintain her supremacy as the spiritual (and temporal) leader of the western world.

    This seminar shall examine the sacred vocal music of the 1630s, 40s, and 50s in this rich religious, political, and cultural context, focusing on three major political and religious centers: Rome, Venice, and Vienna. Sacred music was viewed by Church and Monarch alike as a valuable tool in overcoming the turbulence of the age, and each of these centers showcased a remarkable variety of approaches and solutions in the use of sacred music toward larger religious and political aims.

    Emphasis shall be placed first on the cities themselves; we will examine a variety of scholarly approaches (both musical and non-musical) that have been formulated to help understand the issues faced by church and political leaders -- and citizens -- during the mid-seventeenth century. We will then use this as a frame of reference for close musical analyses of sacred compositions by leading composers such as Claudio Monteverdi, Giacomo Carissimi, and Giovanni Felice Sances. Our analyses will encompass a variety of issues and analytical techniques -- such as text choice, text-music relationship, harmonic symbolism, formal-structural analysis, and rhetorical expression of the affects -- all with the aim of elucidating musical meaning and understanding how the compositions would have spoken to seventeenth-century listeners.

    Throughout the semester, each student shall also engage closely with a printed primary source (in facsimile), dealing with issues such as transcription, text and music editing, and performance issues, as well as putting the source into its context and teasing larger meaning out of it.

    Classes shall be conducted primarily as discussion, with frequent student presentations. Students shall have weekly reading and analytical assignments, in addition to assignments relating to their primary source. There will also be a final independent research paper; this may be related to the primary source, but it could also be another topic entirely, of the student's choosing.