MUSIC 576: Critical Theory Of Music

Actual Life in a Virtual World


We are all virtual these days, but maybe we always have been. In this course we will examine the ways the concepts real》 and virtual》 inform approaches to questions like “what is truth”, “why make art”, “what role does technology play in our lives”, "what does it mean to treat other people ‘ethically’?” As we will see, each of these questions appeals to the highly equivocal notions of reality and virtuality in distinct but overlapping ways. This exploration will take us through a variety of art forms (music, film, literature, video games) as well as recent studies and classic texts on the question "what is really real?"

Critical Responses [25%]

Two students will be called on at random (using a random number generator) each session to provide a response to the weekly reading as a means of facilitating discussion. The response should comprise a set of questions that draw on the reading, but it can be somewhat open-ended and raise generally applicable questions as well. Reading is the crux of this course. You should be prepared to orally summarize everything you read (this will include taking notes while reading). Try to be specific about the things you don't understand and why you don't understand them. It's ok not to know something (I don't know almost everything), but the goal is to hone our curiosity, to adopt a spirit of adventure in the face of the unknown and to push to the limits of what can be thought.


Project Presentations [25%]

Students will give a 20-30-minute presentation on their final papers/projects.


Final Paper/Project [50%] (upload here)

There will be two options for the final: a 15-page research paper OR an original artwork that responds to the artworks and concepts we cover in the class together with a shorter theoretical statement (5-6 pages). Students must meet with the instructor by the end of the 5th week of the quarter to discuss plans for the final paper/project. 

N.b., Students may be asked to contribute to a publicly accessible website featuring their work for the course.

Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: An attempt at history

Final paper topics

class session (video)

Week 7: Ethics

class session (video)

Week 9: Simulation and simulacra 

class session (video)

Baudrillard notes.pdf  

Week 10: Presentations
Week 11 (finals week): Presentations

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.