MUSI3038 Methodological Perspectives in Music I (Music and Global Politics:

from Beethoven to Beyoncé and beyond)
Course Type: disciplinary elective for music majors/minors, free elective for others
Prerequisite: MUSI2070 Fundamentals of Tonal Music; and either MUSI2081 Music in Western Culture I or MUSI2082 Music in Western Culture II.
Instructor: Dr. Adam J. SACKS
Semester: Second Semester 2021/22
Time: 2:30pm-4:20pm, Wednesday
Venue: CRT-11/01 Seminar Room
This undergraduate seminar explores the dynamic between music and politics from the French Revolution until Black Lives Matter, or, alternately, from Beethoven to Beyoncé. This course provides a “history of music” alongside a “history of politics” and examines to what degree each may articulate and inform concerns of the other. A broad survey, the class is organized chronologically each according to a distinct political era or movement. Cases will be drawn from symphonies to grand opera, modernist experiments to fascist propaganda, the civil rights movement to genres such as Afrobeat, Tropicalia and Riot Grll. This course will challenge students to think critically about the relationship between music and words, larger social meanings and political contexts. Musical selections will be paired with brief, but stimulating primary and secondary sources that articulate political ideas and considerations as well as essays on the role and function of music and performance. The course focus is on representative and impactful artists and compositions. With attention devoted to the political significance of both musical form and content, especially upon song as argument, and basic categories of social theory, this course will investigate the political appropriation and propagandistic use of music as well as modes to resist and undermine such strategies. This course challenges participants to think critically about art and to hear the political and social fabric embedded in each musical utterance. While the course does not engage basic forms of music theory, students will develop the ability to analyze music for its social meaning and political context.
Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
  • be familiar with and be able to provide a basic grasp of musical genres and themes as well as major political concepts and ideas of the last two centuries;
  • learn and practice how to craft a thesis and how to form and support an academic argument and to better express ones views in conversation and writing;
  • improve academic writing skills, and in particular bolster awareness and procedures of scholastic citation of primary and secondary sources;
  • cultivate an ability to appreciate the wider social and political significance of music.
Weekly Tasks 20%
Primary Source Analysis 20%
Presentation Project 30%
Final Essay 30%
  • Beethoven and the Enlightenment
  • Wagner and Capitalism
  • Verdi and Nationalism
  • Hysteria and Strauss
  • Orff and Fascism
  • Jazz and the Cold War
  • Folk and the Civil Rights Movement
  • Punk, Hip-Hop and Neoliberalism
Selected readings and listening/viewing materials are either available on Moodle or on reserve at the Music Library:
  • Hobsbawm, Eric. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • Schorske, Carl. Fin-de-Siecle Vienna. New York: Vintage Books, 2010.
  • Randall, Dave. Sound System. New York: Pluto Press, 2017.
  • Bromwell, Nick. Tomorrow Never Knows. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
  • Marcus, Greil. Lipstick Traces. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989.
  • Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006.
  • Chua, Amy. World On Fire. New York: Anchor Books, 2004.
  • Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press, 2006.
  • Barber, Benjamin. Jihad vs McWorld. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995.