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MUS101: Introduction to Music

Unit 1: What is Music?   This unit investigates some fundamental questions about the nature of music.  How do we define music?  What, if anything, makes music different from noise?  How has music been used to create beauty and represent nature?  How does it act on our emotions?  What notions of “talent” and “genius” exist in classical music?  What have scientists discovered about music’s effects on the brain? 
 
In this unit, we will explore some different perspectives on how music tells stories and expresses and creates meaning in our lives.  Also, we will explore some different definitions, notions, and characteristics of classical, popular, and folk music in the West.

Unit 1 Time Advisory
This unit should take 10 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 1.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 1.3: 2 hours

☐    Assignments: 4 hours

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify different definitions and general perceptions of music.
  • Describe music’s function and use in different cultures and the significance of music in the human experience.
  • Compare and contrast classical, popular, and folk music.
  • Discuss perceptions of classical music and its role in popular culture.

  • Assignment: The Saylor Foundation’s “MUS101 Unit 1 Vocabulary Worksheet” and “MUS101 Learning Journal” Links: The Saylor Foundation’s “MUS101 Unit 1 Vocabulary Worksheet” (PDF) and “MUS101 Learning Journal” (PDF)

    Instructions: Before you read this unit, refer to the MUS101 Unit 1 Vocabulary Worksheet and the MUS101 Learning Journal.  Please fill out both sheets as you complete the unit. 

1.1 Music: Preliminary Ideas   - Reading: San Diego State University: Danlee Mitchell’s “Elements of Music, Part 1: Preliminary Ideas” Link: San Diego State University: Danlee Mitchell’s “Elements of Music, Part 1: Preliminary Ideas” (HTML and Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: When you click on the above link, scroll down through the various subheadings, paying particular attention to Terminology, Transmission of Sound, and the Harmonic Series.  It is optional to view the videos included with the text.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. 

  • Lecture: YouTube: University of California Television’s “Music and the Mind” Link: YouTube: University of California Television’s “Music and the Mind” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: In this video lecture, Aniruddh Patel of the Neurosciences Institute discusses what music can teach us about the brain and what brain science, in turn, can reveal about music.  This video clip is part of a science series called “Grey Matters.”  Watch this video in its entirety (51:47 minutes) and then answer the following questions:
1.  In 2-3 sentences, summarize what scientists have found about
    music’s effect on the brain.  How does music alter the way we
    feel?  Does this compare to a chemical substance?
2.  Can you think of some examples in your own life, or from the
    film “Music and the Mind,” in which music acts as a “powerful
    agent of memory”?

Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above. 
  • Reading: The New York Times: Oliver Sacks’s Musicophilia: “Chapter 1: A Bolt from the Blue: Sudden Musicophilia” Link: The New York Times: Oliver Sacks’s Musicophilia: “Chapter 1: A Bolt from the Blue: Sudden Musicophilia” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the first chapter “A Bolt from the Blue: Sudden Musicophilia” of Sacks’ book Musicophilia for insights into the current, popular topic of musical neurology.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. 

1.2 Towards a Definition of Music   - Reading: Philip Tagg’s “Towards a Definition of Music” Link: Philip Tagg’s “Towards a Definition of Music”  (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the whole article in order to understand the various ways that music is defined and its various functions in human culture.  Please note that certain cultures do not have a concept of music as an activity set apart from culture and that definitions of music vary widely across cultures.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the author's webpage.

1.3 What Kind of Music?   - Reading: WordIQ’s “Classical Music” Link: WordIQ’s “Classical Music” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read “Definition,” “The Nature of Classical Music” and “Classical and Popular Music” to understand some of the key features of classical music as understood in Western culture.  Designating both music from the classical period in eighteenth-century Vienna and any work of music regarded as great and long-lasting, the term “classical” can be quite confusing.  Remember to bear in mind that the distinctions between classical and “popular” or “folk” are extremely fluid.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. 

  • Assignment: The Saylor Foundation’s “What Is Classical Music?” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “What Is Classical Music?” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please work through the linked listening assignment above, which will help you identify some common features of classical music.