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Twentieth Century Music & Culture: under/Grad course open to all

MUHL4300 (16365) / MUHL5336 (20721) Twentieth Century Music

9:30-10:50am TR M209

Music MUHL4300/MUHL5336 is a one-semester graduate-level course exploring the interactions of music, cultural history, and world events, and their impact upon “modernist” composition in the Euro-American cultivated tradition, in the 20th Century. The course concentrates upon music and musical life in the Euro-American concert tradition. We will start with the first roots of “modernist” thinking in the concert-music world—works of Wagner, Brahms, and Mahler—and continue through multiple world wars, social change, political and economic revolutions, to the “post-classical” world of the 1980s. Our theme will be the special problems and cultural issues that have confronted—and the complex hierarchies that have privileged—Euro-American composers in the past century. We will emphasize understanding the interaction of “content” (musical structure, procedure, aesthetics versus agendas, biographies, and writing, etc) and “context” (times-places-peoples from which musical idioms and cultural phenomena originated) and seek always to enhance sensitivity to interactions of music and cultural history.

Course requirements include reading and listening, mid-term and final essay exams, and a research project (paper, website, other medium) assignment. Fulfills Grad and UG MUHL requirements

Textbook: Glenn Watkins, Soundings (1st ed: available used from $10: link


Textbook: Soundings: Music in the Twentieth Century, Glenn Watkins. All other materials open-access.


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Instructor’s Personal Statement:

I have been a student and scholar of musical styles, instruments, performance practices, and cultural contexts—including those of Euro-American concert music—since approximately 1974. Although I am a descendant of Settler/Colonizers, I nevertheless consider myself an ally of marginalized musics and of the complex and challenging cultural experiences from which they emerge. At the same time, I recognize that I am an outsider to many forms of experience and I vow to always seek to center native and BIPOC voices in this course’s content, practice, personnel, and outlook.

Contact Dr Christopher Smith ( ) or visit the Vernacular Music Center's website ( ) for more information.


Chris Smith


School of Music

Event Information
Time: 9:30 AM - 10:50 AM
Event Date: 8/24/2021

M209 SOM