Aesthetics of Modern Music

Aesthetics of Modern Music



Professor: Huck Hodge,

Office: 325 Music | Office hour: W 10:30 - 11:30


 TA: Daniel Webbon |

 Office: 29 Music | Office hours: T/W 11:30 - 12:30


Assigned readings are listed for each class session. The readings will be drawn primarily from these sources:


Kostka, Stefan (2012). Materials and Techniques of Post-Tonal Music.

                                    4th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.


Taruskin, Richard (2010). Oxford History of Western Music (OHWM), Vol. IV-V          

                                       Oxford: Oxford University Press


Score Packet (part I)



Students will be evaluated through the use of the following assessment procedures:


  1. Assignments [60%] – Students will regularly be assigned specific exercises and analysis activities in preparation for the lectures. Many of these assignments will include a written component. The grading rubric for written assignments is included here: 303 writing rubric.pdf
  2. Quizzes [10%] – Periodic quizzes will be given to evaluate comprehension and acquisition of specific skills and concepts. You will also be required to identify the repertoire we study by listening to excerpts.
  3. Attendance/Participation [5%] – Attendance is required. Students will regularly be called on in class to respond to questions about the material under discussion. There will also be various activities (e.g., discussion forums, in-class performances) that will require student involvement.
  4. Final Project [25%] – The final project is in 2 parts: A larger-scale group composition project and a 3-page theoretical statement (750 - 1000 words). Students may work in groups of 2-4 and will be involved in the composition and performance of their pieces. The pieces must make use of some of the different techniques covered in the class. The theoretical statement should describe the ways in which your composition responds to the various aesthetic positions covered in class and demonstrate the techniques used to convey this response.


Each student is expected to do his/her own original work. Any plagiarism will result in a grade of “F” for the course.

The chart for converting percentages to the 4.0 grade-point scale can be found here.



Regular attendance is required. Students who cannot attend class regularly and promptly will jeopardize their success in the class and are therefore advised not to take the course. It is important to be on time for class. Late arrivals will be given 80% of the attendance credit for the given day. 

If a class is missed, it is the responsibility of the student to obtain any missed information from other class members first, and then the instructors if necessary. Missed classes will not alter the due date for assignments, tests, and other responsibilities. However, in the event of extended illness, every effort will be made to assist the student in completing the required course work whenever possible if it is determined feasible to do so.

Missed quizzes due to absence cannot be made up unless the student receives prior instructor approval or sufficient documentation is presented that verifies substantial reason for the absence (e.g. emergency, extended illness, etc.).



This schedule of classes and readings is subject to revision during the quarter.

Unless otherwise noted, readings should be completed BEFORE the class session in which they appear on the syllabus.

Homework is due at the beginning of the indicated class session. 


1900 – 1945

9/27     Introduction, The limits of analysis

Read: Schoenberg, Brahms the Progressive, part XV (1947).pdf (finish by 9/30)

Jonathan Cross, ed., Music Analysis, 22/i-ii (2003), Editorial.pdf (finish by 9/30)

Repertoire: Johannes Brahms, O Tod || Arnold Schoenberg, No. 8 Night (Nacht) from Pierrot Lunaire

Class resources: Powerpoint: 303 lecture 1.pptx 


10/2     Early atonality and expressionism

Read: Kostka, Nonserial Atonality (ch. 9: pp. 176 – 186)

Repertoire: Schoenberg, No. 8 Night (Nacht) from Pierrot Lunaire

HW: Week 1 response

Class resources: 10:2 class notes.pdf

Resources on Expressionist Art and Architecture:

Kandinsky - The Path to Abstraction | Edvard Munch  (The Scream) | Rudolph Steiner and the Second Goetheanum | The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari


10/4     Early atonality and expressionism

Read: Taruskin, OHWM (Vol. IV, Ch 6 – “Motivicization” in Practice)

Repertoire: Bach/Webern, Ricercare from A Musical Offering || Anton Webern, Op. 10 (Mvmt. I, III, IV)

HW (due 10/9): Pitch class sets (Kostka Ch. 9)

Class resources: 10/4 class notes.pdf 


10/9   Serialism: 12-tone techniques

Read: Kostka, Classical Serialism (ch. 10, excerpt) || Taruskin, OHWM (Vol. IV, Ch 12 – Epitome)

Repertoire: Webern, Symphonie Op. 21 (Mvmt. I)

Class resources: 10-9 notes.pdf | Webern Op 21 handout.pdf


10/11   Serialism: 12-tone techniques

Read: Taruskin, OHWM (Vol. IV, Ch 12 – Epitome)

Repertoire: Webern, Symphonie Op. 21 (Mvmt. I)

HW: 1) Kostka Ch 10 part 1— Row Forms 

2) 12-tone matrix

Class resources: Webern Op 21 handout.pdf


10/16   The end of time

Read: Messiaen, excerpts from Technique de mon langage musical.pdf

Repertoire: Olivier Messiaen, Quatuor pour la fin du temps, mvmt I

HW: Messiaen — Technique de mon langage musical | Reading and Study Questions

Class resources: Powerpoint: Messiaen.pptx | Notes on Metaphysics in Messiaen.pdf 


AFTER 1945

10/18   Total serialism

Read: Taruskin, OHWM (Vol. V, Ch 1): Fixations || "Total Serialism" || Solace in Ritual

Repertoire: Messiaen, Mode de valuers et d’intensités || Pierre Boulez, Structures, Bk. 2, #1 || Karlheinz Stockhausen, Kreuzspiel

Class resources: Messiaen Mode de valuers / Boulez Structures Handout.pdf 

HW (due 10/27): Total Serial Composition  


10/23   Total serialism

Read: New Developments in Serialism (#153)

Adorno, excerpt from The Aging of New Music || Boulez, Schoenberg is Dead (finish by 10/25)

Repertoire: Stockhausen, Kreuzspiel

Class resources: Kreuzspiel.pptx || Kreuzspiel graphs.pdf

HW (due 10/27): Total Serial Composition  


10/25   Post-war aesthetics and a critique of serialism

Read: New Developments in Serialism (#153)

Adorno, excerpt from The Aging of New Music  ||  Boulez, Schoenberg is Dead

Watch: Jonathan Meades, BBC Documentary on Brutalist Architechture

HW: Reading/Viewing assignment (Adorno, Boulez and Brutalist Architecture)

HW (due 10/27): Total Serial Composition  

Class resources: Powerpoint: Adorno / Serialism || notes on Dialectic of Enlightenment.pdf


10/30   Adorno (cont'd.), Dada and the Absurd, Noise and silence

Read: Kostka - Chapter 14.pdf

Cage, Experimental Music

Begin Reading (finish by 11/6): George Lewis, excerpts from Improvised Music After 1950: Eurological and Afrological Perspectives || Taruskin, No Ear for Music: the Scary Purity of John Cage

Repertoire: John Cage, Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (#5) || 4' 33" || Music of Changes

Class resources: Powerpoint: Adorno / Dada / Cage


11/1     Indeterminate music

Read: Kostka - Chapter 14.pdf

Cage, Experimental Music

Taruskin, No Ear for Music: the Scary Purity of John Cage (finish by 11/6)

George Lewis, excerpt from Improvised Music After 1950: Eurological and Afrological Perspectives (finish by 11/6)

Repertoire: Boulez, Luciano Berio, Morton Feldman, Stockhausen 

Class resources: Powerpoint: Indeterminacy.pptx 

Documentary: From Zero


11/6     Chance and improvisation, a critique of Cage

Read: Taruskin, No Ear for Music: the Scary Purity of John Cage

George Lewis, excerpt from Improvised Music After 1950: Eurological and Afrological Perspectives

HW: Aleatoric Composition 


11/8     Technological effects on music and culture in the 20th century

Read: Taruskin, OHWM, Vol. V, Ch 4 – “Real” vs. “Pure”

Michel Chion, Audio-Vision (excerpt), The Three Listening Modes

Once Upon a Time in The West (1968) | opening sequence:


11/13   Timbral/Textural Considerations

Read: Taruskin, OHWM (Vol. V, Ch 4): Reciprocity || Renaissance or Co-optation?

Repertoire: György Ligeti, Volumina || Krzysztof Penderecki, Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima

HW: Lewis or Taruskin Article — response


11/15   Process music and minimalism I

Read: Steve Reich, Music as a Gradual Process

Taruskin, OHWM (Vol. V, Ch 8): New Sites of Innovation || A Contradiction in Terms?

Repertoire: Steve Reich, Come Out, It's Gonna Rain, Piano Phase ||

Pendulum Music

James Tenney, Having never written a note for percussion || Frederic Rzewski, Les moutons de Panurge

Class resources: Powerpoint: Minimalism.pptx


11/20   Process music and minimalism II

Taruskin, OHWM (Vol. V, Ch 8): "Classical Minimalism" || Secrets of Structure || A Postmodernist Masterwork?

Repertoire: Reich, Music for 18 Musicians

HW: Reich response


11/22   Xenakis and Nancarrow / Process + Texture

Read: Kyle Gann, The Music of Conlon Nancarrow, The music: general considerations

Repertoire: Conlon Nancarrow, Studies for player piano (#21 & #36) || Iannis Xenakis, Metastaseis

Class resources: Powerpoint: Xenakis.pptx 

(the Studies are not in numerical order on this recording)

HW: Process piece composition


11/27   Spectralism

Read: Tristan Murail, Spectra and Sprites 

Repertoire: Gerard Grisey, Les espaces acoustique: Partiels || Tristan Murail, Désintégrations

Grisey, Partiels (1st section).pdf


11/29   Spectralism

Begin Reading: Cobussen, Music and Spirituality: 13 Meditations around George Crumb's Black Angels

Cobussen endnotes.pdf (finish by 12/7)

Repertoire: Jonathan Harvey, Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco || Huck Hodge, Time is the substance I am made of (in memoriam Jonathan Harvey)

Time is the substance I am made of (score)

Class resources: Bell spectrum / Bell spectrum (pitch) || Formant region - aa / Formants (Spectrogram) || Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco (score) || Perotín Alleluia Nativitas (score)


12/4     Postmodernism

Read: Cobussen, Music and Spirituality: 13 Meditations around George Crumb's Black Angels

Cobussen endnotes.pdf (finish by 12/7)

Repertoire: George Crumb, Black Angels

Class resources: Modernity/Postmodernity (handout)


12/6     Postmodernism

Read: Cobussen, Music and Spirituality: 13 Meditations around George Crumb's Black Angels

Cobussen endnotes.pdf

Repertoire: Crumb, Black Angels

HW: Cobussen Response (Black Angels - G. Crumb)


Course Summary:

Date Details Due
Public Domain This course content is offered under a Public Domain license. Content in this course can be considered under this license unless otherwise noted.