Seminar in the History of Music


The topics of this course change each semester. Selected topics. 3 units.

Previous Seminar Topics

Music 790 - Fall 2013 - Taught by Jacqueline Waeber

Representations of sound, voice and music in film
Cinema remains a privileged locus for conveying a conception of music primarily indebted to Western philosophical discourses on musical experience (through listening, or performance) in the wake of the Kantian sublime, from music’s ineffability to musical formalism. Aim of this seminar is to unveil the connections between the aural dimension of cinema and philosophies of music, language, and the voice, through a series of essential readings (notably Eisler/Adorno, Siegfried Kracauer, Rudolf Arnheim, Robert Bresson). In so doing, we also intend to pinpoint a current divide between film sound theory and “film music” scholarship by addressing the following points:

  • cinematic representations of music, and the aural
  • the music-as-language trope, and film music as “semiotic fallacy”
  • storytelling and voice-over and their interrelation with music scoring
  • music and/as gender
Music 790S-1 - Fall 2013 - Taught by Jacqueline Waeber

Aim of this seminar will be to study the most salient aspects of the period musically dominated in late 17th-century France by Jean-Baptiste Lully, the Sun King’s composer, down to the eve of the French Revolution that saw the reconciliation of the antagonistic styles of Italian and French music through Gluck’s “Reform operas” performed in Paris during the 1770s.

Since the 19th century, historiographies of 18th-century music have remained essentially concerned by the supremacy of Austro-German and Italian musical repertoires. Yet no other country than France has offered so many challenging grounds for debates on the aesthetics of music. The intellectual contributions and legacies of the French Enlightenment still continue to fuel our contemporary conceptions of music as an art of expression, and of music and its supposedly common origins with language.

This seminar will consist in close examinations of primary sources: texts on music, and musical scores, that will help us to understand the privileged place, in 18th-century French musical discourse, of the primacy of vocal expressivity. We will also favor dialectical approaches of French musical style and aesthetics by encouraging comparisons with foreign musical models and discourses (Italian opera seria and buffa, German Singspiel; Northern European and Italian instrumental music).