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MUS 273
Dangerous Music Fall 2020
Division I Writing Skills

Class Details

As a largely non-referential art whose meanings are far from transparent, music might seem to pose little danger. How could mere sounds represent a threat? Yet precisely because its meanings can be obscure, enabling it to achieve its ends surreptitiously, music has intertwined with danger throughout history. With its power to stir the emotions, stimulate bodily movement, encode messages, and foment rebellion, music has often been perceived as an agent of harm. Plato claimed that too much music could make a man effeminate or neurotic, and warned that certain musical modes, melodies, and rhythms promote licentious behavior and anarchic societies. Puritans, Victorians, and totalitarians, as well as opponents of ragtime, rock ‘n roll, and rap, have also accused certain musical genres or styles of exerting dangerous influences, and sought to limit or suppress them. In Afghanistan, the Taliban banned music altogether. While music has often been unfairly accused, its potential for placing people in actual danger is undeniable. Works that are played at ear-splitting decibel levels, that call upon performers to injure themselves, that are used as a form of psychological torture, or that incite violence demand reconsideration of the widely shared view that music is fundamentally a form of entertainment.
The Class: Format: tutorial; Will be taught remotely
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 2521
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: evaluation will be based on participation, five 5-6-page papers/presentations, and five 1-2 page responses
Prerequisites: an ability to read music is desirable but not required
Enrollment Preferences: students with demonstrated interest in music
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
WS Notes: Students will write five 5-6 page papers and five 1-2 page responses, and will receive extensive feedback on their writing.

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