Honors | German and Austrian Music and Culture (HON)
H203 | 12654 | Marc Weiner


TuTh 11:15am-12:20pm
BH 221

No knowledge of German, music theory, or the ability to read music
is required for this course.

If there’s one thing people think of when they think of Germany,
Austria, and Switzerland (aside from the Oktoberfest and the best
chocolate cake anywhere), it’s the prominent role music has played
in those countries’ cultures. It’s a cliché that the pomp and
elegance of the German and Austrian aristocracy were accompanied by
works of the greatest composers in history, but it’s also true that
classical music continues to play a role in these countries quite
unlike anything found elsewhere. It’s no coincidence that Germany
alone still has over eighty opera houses that are, for the most
part, state funded, and that their performances remain well attended
and are often sold out well ahead of time. The symphony orchestra
holds equal prominence in the culture of German-speaking Europe, and
there the public enjoyment of chamber music—from string quartets to
the art song, or Lied—is more widespread and active than anywhere
else in the world.

The goal of this course will be to examine in what ways the most
celebrated musical works of the past 200 years demonstrate the close
connection between the interests of their time and the aesthetic
material of which they are made. We will engage with a number of the
most famous examples of German and Austrian classical music from the
late 18th century to the 1930s, and will discuss them within their
given cultural context. In addition to analyzing some of the major
works of (in this order) Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Wagner, Richard
Strauss, Berg, Schoenberg, and Weill, we will also read some of
these composers’ fiction and essays, examine various (and often
competing) approaches to critical interpretation (biographical,
psychoanalytical, symbolic-epistemological, culturally
reconstructivist, modernist vs. postmodernist, and feminist),
discuss current debates concerning how one may legitimately make
arguments about a given culture based on analysis of a given piece
of music, and we will also examine the various assumptions at stake
in the staging and performance practices of different times.

The only prerequisite is a willingness to participate actively in a
dialog with the group and the instructor on the texts and the
cultural issues against which they can be read (in other words,
there will be no credit for attendance alone, only for
participation). There will be three writing assignments: the first a
summary of and response to a given aesthetic work; the second the
summary of a given methodology or kind of interpretation; and in the
final week of the course, preceding exam week, students will
discuss, critically assess, and make suggestions concerning their
colleagues’ drafts of an independent research project, the subject
of which will have been agreed upon by the student and the
instructor no later than three weeks beforehand. The final drafts of
these papers will be due at the time scheduled for the final exam
(in place of the exam). Grades will be computed as follows:
Participation: 34%; Writing Assignments 1 & 2; 33%, Final Paper: 33%.