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Graduate Seminars

UC Berkeley Department of Music Graduate Seminars
2018-9 Academic Year

The faculty at Berkeley is pleased to announce the upcoming composition, ethnomusicology and historical musicology seminars for Spring 2019; these seminars address leading concerns in the field of the study of music. Many of them are open to graduate students outside the music department who wish to further their understanding of music, sound and listening practices. Please contact the seminar’s instructors for more information.

Fall 2018

Music 200B
Introduction to Music Scholarship II
Nicholas Mathew

Principles and methods of scholarly research in Western art music, especially history and criticism of music; use of documents, and design of projects. Presentation of results in written and oral forms.

Music 200C
Introduction to Music Scholarship III
Intellectual History of Ethnomusicology
Jocelyne Guilbault

The aim of the seminar is to address the history of ideas in ethnomusicology and the professionalization of the field from the 1950s onwards. We will focus on leading figures and trace their intellectual lineages. We will also examine the ideological, theoretical, and methodological shifts and issues that ethnomusicologists have been negotiating, defending, and confronted with over the years. In so doing, we will examine how ethnomusicology has been influenced by and distinguished itself from other disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences at different historical moments. What was ethnomusicology’s relation to musicology, anthropology, popular music studies, cultural studies, ethnic studies, gender studies, sociology of music, performance studies, or philosophy fifty years ago or twenty years ago? What is ethnomusicology’s relation to these disciplines today?

In the course of this seminar, we will situate in time and in space the issues that have dominated ethnomusicological writings. Here we will need to bear in mind that in conjunction with the socio-economic conditions, political history, geographic locations, and materialities in which they unfold, the specificities of local musical practices (e.g., court musics versus folk or popular musics, female- versus male-dominated practices) have power of their own over the questions that are asked about them. We will thus compare and contrast the theories and methodologies used to study local, national, and regional musical practices in different parts of the world. So we will ask, what issues have the specialists from different areas of studies focused on, for example, from the perspective of an Africanist, Asianist, Caribbeanist, Latin Americanist, or Americanist?

Music 201A
Proseminar in Computer Music
Edmund Campion

Overview of the field of computer music and its application to music composition. Practices, procedures, and aesthetics related to the application of newer technologies to music composition will be covered in tandem with contemporary research topics in computer music. Recent computer music repertoire with its related technologies will be examined. Students in this proseminar must have advanced musical training and knowledge of the history and repertoire. 4 Units

Music 203
Composition Seminar
Franck Bedrossian

This required seminar provides the opportunity for graduate composition students in their first and second years of study to compose their pieces under the supervision of composition faculty.  It will feature study of relevant problems and compositional techniques in contemporary music, adapted to the interests and direction of the particular student. Most meetings will be primarily individual instruction.  Original compositions are required of students, with opportunities for group discussion and criticism throughout the semester.

Music 220
Music as Biopolitics
Delia Casadei

Although biopolitics as a political and philosophical field dates to the 1970s, the relationship of music, sound, listening and biopolitics has only just entered musicology and sound studies. This course takes the form of a survey of musicological and sound studies work on biopolitics, but aims to connect these new efforts both to the older biopolitical literature that they draw on, on the one hand, and also to current critiques, extensions, and even indictments of biopolitics outside of musicology, on the other. Is biopolitics as an area of inquiry able to pose new, better questions concerning the connections of sound to community, life, reproduction, race? In what way can a study of sonic practices function not only as a continuation, but as a constructive critique of certain aspects of biopolitical philosophy (its eurocentrism, its delayed engagement with gender, its lack of engagement with theories of race)?

Music 228
Professional Development Seminar
James Davies

This course provides direction to graduate students in the latter phase of their PhD degrees. It is devised to provide productive structure to the dissertation writing process, and to help students write and learn skills important to their professional development. Students will have the opportunity to work through their dissertation ideas and present their work orally in a supportive academic environment.

Music 244A
Tools of Ethnomusicological Research
Maria Sonevytsky

What are the ethical stakes, practical questions, and methodological tools that define how we “do ethnomusicology”? This course is a survey of and practicum in ethnographic methods with a focus on ethnographic studies of sound and music. Our objective is to survey the intellectual debates around doing ethnography while developing our own practice as ethnographers. We will evaluate and critique traditional methods of ethnographic engagement such as participant-observation; interviewing; visual, sonic and textual analysis; archival research; styles of inscription and representation, and we will address the challenges of doing fieldwork in a variety of contexts. Weekly writing exercises will raise important questions about how qualitative research can be ethically and effectively “translated” into written text. Some practical orientation to issues around data collection, organization, and storage, as well as basic microphone and recording techniques, will also be covered. Seminar participants will develop a mini-ethnographic research project of their own design throughout the course of the semester which will serve as the basis for varied exercises in ethnographic interpretation and representation.

Spring 2019

Music 202
Orchestrating With Machines
Carmine Cella

Assisted orchestration can be thought as the process of searching for the best combinations of orchestral sounds to match a target sound under specified metric and constraints. Although a solution to this problem has been a long-standing request from many composers, it remains relatively unexplored because of its high complexity, requiring knowledge and understanding of both mathematical formalization and musical writing.

This graduate level seminar will provide the foundations of assisted orchestration, focusing on the specific needs of each student. After a general introduction aimed at providing both the scientific and philosophic backgrounds, the course will show in details the Orchidea tools for assisted orchestration. Each student will have the possibility to apply the discussed techniques on her own specific problems during individual teaching sessions. For further information please contact:

Music 203
Composition Seminar
Cindy Cox

This required seminar provides the opportunity for graduate composition students in their first and second years of study to compose their pieces under the supervision of composition faculty.  It will feature study of relevant problems and compositional techniques in contemporary music, adapted to the interests and direction of the particular student. Most meetings will be primarily individual instruction.  Original compositions are required of students, with opportunities for group discussion and criticism throughout the semester.

Music 207
Advanced Projects in Computer Music
Edmund Campion

Designed for graduate students in music composition, but open to graduate students in related disciplines who can demonstrate thorough knowledge of the history of electro-acoustic music as well as significant experience with computer music practice and research. All projects are subject to approval of the instructor. 4 Units.

Music 210
Composers and Improvisers Workshop
Myra Melford

This course will provide a weekly forum for the exploration of the intersection between improvisation and composition and related issues. Broader topics include strategies for composing for improvisers, creating music that calls for improvisation by players who may or may not be “improvisers,” and using improvisation to develop ideas/materials. The course will culminate in the presentation of new work by each member of the seminar.

A number of approaches including open forms, gaming strategies, graphic and alternative notation systems, conduction, and other issues of interest to the students will be explored through compositional and improvisational exercises, listening, analysis, reading and student-led presentation/discussion.  Participants will be expected to compose for the class on a weekly basis, and all members are encouraged to perform (though this is not a requirement for participation). Mixed media and technology-related projects are welcome. Occasional individual lessons will be offered in lieu of weekly class meetings.

Music 220
Air(s) … towards an atmospheric theory of music
James Q. Davies

The aim of this seminar will be to collectively workshop an aerological approach to music studies, while attuning our ears to the deep historicity of the elemental medium in which we live and breathe. We will critically thematize air as the aural means for the communication of sound. The course will broach, via an aerial theory of music, the boundaries between the musical making of the human (anthropoeisis), the musical making of built environments (archipoeisis) and the musical making of worlds (cosmopoeisis).

My purview is “global nineteenth-century music.” We will assess the geopolitical implications of Euro-imperial attempts to capitalize upon the atmosphere or make air productive, surveying the emergence of modern ideas about Nature and Climate, as well as ideas about the effects of aerial variation on human diversity, sex, and race. The course will trace the dispersion of a “thermodynamic” conception of music, one steam-powered by a globalizing fossil fuel economy. Texts will cover metropolitan discourses on vocal breathing and health, the history of air-conditioning systems in music venues, world-folksong capture, and sanitized models of musical autonomy; alongside such aerotechnical concepts as ether, ambiance, phonography, aerophonics/microphonics, radio, and electricity. We will listen for the sounds of the Anthropocene.

Music 220
Sound Reproduction Ecologies
Gavin Williams

From R. Murray Schafer’s soundscape to Steven Feld’s acoustemology and beyond, music studies has developed influential and powerful models for thinking through relations between sounds, environments and ways of knowing. In this seminar, we will home in on ecologies of sound reproduction technology, as tools that both create knowledge and transform environments. We will interrogate shifting meanings of sound technologies and recorded music in the Anthropocene, Chthulucene and Gaia, asking: what does it mean to reproduce sounds when environments can no longer be presumed to reproduce themselves?

The materials of musical media—such as wax, needles, shellac, steel, vinyl, circuit boards—have environmental preconditions and consequences as drivers within vast economies. Through a panoply of technologies and techniques, desires for music have been annexed to sprawling industrial histories: of soaps, carbon, plastics, biochemicals, among others. Tracking these histories through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we will seek out music’s multiple positions within global divisions of labor—in forests and factories, slate mines and recording studios, laboratories and living rooms—closely examining the aesthetics and politics of listening to which materials have given rise. Taking our cue from recent scholarly efforts to green the media and to unmask occluded media labor, we will inquire into music’s social and environmental entanglements, as well as the political exclusions inherent in contemporary sonic ontologies. Along the way, we will develop methods and vocabularies for analyzing sound media that are both anchored in music’s material legacies and critically inflected by contemporary ecological understandings.

For more information, please contact

Music 247
Sound Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Acoustic and Auditory
Thomas Porcello

This seminar centers on the examination of the (always multiple) cultural dimensions of acoustic and aural phenomena.  The past fifteen-to-twenty years have seen an explosion of scholarship (particularly, but not exclusively, in the Anglophone West) on sound and culture, in academic disciplines spanning the humanities and social sciences.  One goal for this course will be to develop familiarity with the scope and the disciplinary histories that have resulted in the emergence of the “field” of Sound Studies, while simultaneously interrogating the notion of it as, in fact, a “field.” In so doing, we will explore a range of histories and ethnographies of sound and listening as they intersect with topics in music, media studies, science and technology studies, anthropology, and ethnomusicology. As a result, a secondary goal for the course is to acquaint students with the broadly interdisciplinary approaches and subjects that fall under the Sound Studies rubric. Areas of study may include the senses, histories of sound recording and reproduction technologies, field recordings, acoustic ecologies, conceptions of noise, soundscapes, sound art, podcasting, the voice, listening, and music.

Music 249
Interpretive Theories in Music
Future Trends in Ethnomusicological Research
Jocelyne Guilbault

The course will look at theoretical trends in social sciences, humanities, and cultural studies influencing the reshaping of ethnomusicology, the cultural study of music and sound. How is the vocabulary of ethnomusicology changing? Who is being read and why? What are the key words and key concepts emerging in this moment in contemporary academic discourse? In this seminar, we will explore the genealogies and evaluate the intellectual utility of new theoretical perspectives for planning research in ethnomusicology. The areas of critical investigation will include subjectivity and personhood, affect and emotion, body and the senses, and violence, trauma, and social memory.