MUS101: Introduction to Music

Course Syllabus for "MUS101: Introduction to Music"

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This course provides an introductory survey of the Western classical tradition, exploring music both as a phenomenon of sound and culture.  The focus of this course is the development of aural skills that lead to an understanding and appreciation of music.  Making use of live performances and streaming audio available on the Internet, we will listen to and explore some of the most important and influential repertoires and genres of music that emerged in the last four centuries: High Renaissance vocal music, the cantatas and oratorios of Bach and Handel, Mozart’s comic operas, the monumental orchestral works of the Romantic movement, and the major musical movements of twentieth-century Europe and America, revealing significant connections with contemporary pop and jazz styles.  These styles have become an enduring part of the world of music in the twenty-first century, traveling out of the concert hall and conservatory into the larger world via movies, television, and the Internet. This course will begin by studying the fundamentals of music, developing a working definition of music.  You will then learn listening skills and musical elements that will be useful as you survey samples of famous compositions throughout this course.  Lastly, you will be grounded in the historical contexts for Western classical music.  You will learn to make connections between the distinctive styles and the cultural, historical, and social factors that influenced them.  By the end of this course, you will have a greater knowledge and appreciation of the history, aesthetics, techniques, forms, and genres of Western classical music.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Identify aesthetic qualities and compositional processes by studying and listening to significant works of music in both live performances and recorded media.
  • Explain the historical and/or cultural contexts of musical works studied in this course.
  • Demonstrate an aural ability by identifying specific forms, genres, musical techniques, and historical styles of Western classical music.
  • Describe subjective reactions to musical examples and analyze specific expressive qualities that evoke responses.
  • Write about music analytically and effectively, using vocabulary, language and a style appropriate to the discipline and expressing ideas clearly. 

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Have competency in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Course Information

Welcome to MUS101.  Below, please find some general information on the course and its requirements.

Course Designer: Marion Jacobson

Primary Resources: MUS101 makes use of a variety of free, online musical materials, learning tools, and videos.  However, this course makes primary use of the following:

Open Yale Courses:  Professor Craig Wright’s “Listening to Music
Connexions:  Anthony Brandt’s “Sound Reasoning
National Public Radio’s Milestones of the Millennium Series
The San Francisco Symphony’s “Keeping Score
It is suggested that students bookmark this site, an online reference work containing all the musical terminology used in this course:
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary

Requirements for Completion:  In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials.  Please give focused attention to Units 1 and 2, which lay the groundwork for understanding the building blocks of music.  You will also be expected to complete Vocabulary Worksheets and Learning Journals for all four units of the course.  The Vocabulary Worksheets should help you recall musical vocabulary.  The Learning Journals invite you to record your responses to the listening assignments in the course and give you the opportunity to apply your musical vocabulary and knowledge. Taken together, these assignments will become a unique record of your thinking and learning about music in this course.

In addition, you will need to complete additional written assignments for this course:

You will need to complete The Saylor Foundation’s four Guided Listening Assignments.  Each of these entail short written responses to focused listening of selected major works from the course:

  • Guided Listening 1: Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition
  • Guided Listening 2: Handel’s Messiah Libretto and Study Guide
  • Guided Listening 3: The Art of the Symphony in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor
  • Guided Listening 4: John Cage and Postmodern Musical Aesthetics

There will be additional written assignments that will challenge you to think more broadly about the changing role of music in society:

  • Assignment 1.3 The Saylor Foundation’s “What Is Classical Music?”
  • Assignment 4.1.1 The Saylor Foundation’s “The Gregorian Chant”
  • Assignment 4.1.3 The Saylor Foundation’s “Secular Music in the Middle Ages”
  • Assignment 4.1.5 The Saylor Foundation’s “The Renaissance Madrigal”
  • Assignments 4.3.2 The Saylor Foundation’s “Study Guide for Milos Forman’s Amadeus” and  “Music and Society in Eighteenth Century Europe
  • Assignment 4.5.1: The Saylor Foundation’s “Music and Modernism in the 20th Century: Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring
  • Assignment 4.6: The Saylor Foundation’s “Final Course Reflections Essay”

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your final exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through all the assignments listed above.

In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass, you may take it again.

Time Commitment:  This course should take you approximately a total of 109 hours to complete.  That includes the time needed to listen to each musical example once through, though it is recommended that you listen to a music sample at least two or three times.

Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  These should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you 10 hours to complete.  Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1 and 1.2 (a total of 4 hours) on Monday night; subunit 1.3 (a total of 2 hours) on Tuesday; etc.

Perhaps you can set aside several hours a week for listening to material related to the course, and keep a record of your listening experiences (you can use the four unit-based Learning Journals for this purpose).

Tips/Suggestions:  It would be helpful to print out your Vocabulary Worksheets and Learning Journals and have them on hand in a three-ring binder for this course.  If you do not have access to a printer, cut and paste all of the material into a single word document and save it in an accessible place on your computer.  As you listen and read, take notes on a separate sheet of paper or on your computer.  Note any important terms and concepts that stand out.  Use your notes—and the Learning Journals—to review for the Final Exam.

The Saylor Foundation recommends that you listen to each music sample at least two or three times and that you set aside a quiet place and time for focused listening.  It may also be helpful to use headphones when listening to each of the musical selections for this course.  Many students find that the use of headphones offers a more focused listening experience.

It is recommended that you listen to some of the music from the course every day during the time period you have set aside to study for MUS101.  To enhance your knowledge of the material, we also encourage you to listen to other representative works from the Western classical music tradition.  Quite a number of these can be found on YouTube, and MusOpen, which offers free classical music in the public domain.  We also recommend that you tune into your local classical radio station.  

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.