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MUS 471
Timbre Spring 2021
Division I

Class Details

Timbre is central to the experience of all music and often enables us to identify styles and cultures nearly instantaneously. However, timbre is not commonly discussed in detail since our technical vocabulary for describing this musical element has been comparatively limited. Our work in this seminar will involve readings in music theory and history, ethnomusicology, and cognitive studies as well as in the emerging field of sound studies as we attempt to define timbre, explore its manifestations in a wide variety of music, and develop an analytical approach and descriptive vocabulary tooled specifically to this musical element. We will consider how composers and performers of both art and popular musics have wielded timbre as an expressive device and how technology may allow us to analyze details of timbral performance and perception. We will investigate the relationship between timbre and orchestration, from the rise of Haydn’s orchestra to the Klangfarbenmelodie of Schoenberg. We will consider extremes of timbral distortion in both vocal and electric guitar effects in rock music as well in such traditions as Korean p’ansori and will explore various forms of speech music and the work of composers of spectral music to expand our case studies. Finally, our own experiments with timbral effects will bring our seminar to bear on our musical performance.
The Class: Format: seminar; Hybrid.
Limit: 10
Expected: 5
Class#: 5509
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: evaluation will be based on papers, presentations, and class participation
Prerequisites: MUS 103-104, and two from MUS 231, 232, or 233 (or equivalents). MUS 201-202 are also recommended but not required.
Enrollment Preferences: senior Music majors, junior Music majors
Distributions: Division I

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