Honors | Music Theory & Literature IV (MUS)
T262 | 11190 | Blair Johnston

Daily 10:10-11:00am

This upper-level undergraduate seminar is organized around an
intensive study of twelve large works from the core symphonic
repertory, 1904-1944.

The course will begin with study of three works representing the
German post-Romantic tradition up to World War I (Mahler’s Symphony
No.6 and Symphony No.7; Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony); two works
composed in pre-Revolutionary Russia (Skryabin’s Poem of Fire and
Rachmaninoff’s choral symphony The Bells); and two symphonies by
Sibelius (Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6).

Repertory for study later in the semester will include works by
Vaughn Williams (the “Pastoral” Symphony), Stravinsky (Symphony of
Psalms) and Hindemith (the “Mathis der Maler” Symphony), and two
Soviet “war” symphonies: Prokofiev’s Symphony No.5 and
Shostakovich’s Symphony No.8 (“Stalingrad”).

The course will pose some thorny questions, which we will attempt to
answer through close analysis of individual works and close reading
of relevant literature: How can these twelve highly individuated
works be understood as expressions of “symphonism”? How did emerging
modernist practices affect symphonic traditions in the early part of
the century? How can we understand the complex interactions of
established forms, extended tonal methods, and non-tonal procedures
in many symphonies composed after 1910? What techniques did
individual composers develop to breathe life into the
(deteriorating) symphonic tradition? What, in fact, did “symphony”
come to mean – as genre, as form, as narrative plan, as collection
of compositional possibilities – for composers in the first half of
20th century?

Weekly activities will include directed analysis work and score
study; reading of literature about the repertory (journal articles,
excerpts from books on reserve); student presentations; and student-
led discussions.

Graded assignments will include several short analysis projects or
analytical essays and one major paper (15 pp.) on a topic to be
chosen over the first several weeks of the term. The core music
theory curriculum through T351 is a prerequisite.