Introduction to Music: A Student-Centered Syllabus

Course: Introduction to Music

Instructor: Natalie Oshukany

Email: or


Required Text:

  1. Listen by Joseph Kerman and Gary Tomlinson. 7th edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. [on permanent reserve in the CCNY Music Library in Shepard Hall]

Class Website:


Course Description:

This course offers an introduction to music, concentrating on the styles and practices of Europe and North America. Uniting careful listening with historical and cultural context, students will gain a deeper understanding of various genres of Western music. Through guided listening exercises in class and concert attendance outside of class, students will develop critical listening and writing skills.

While, content-wise, this course focuses on Western art music, the form of this class emphasizes peer-centered learning, with multiple opportunities for in-class group work, peer editing sessions, and conversations about content relevant to your lives. In discussions both inside and outside the classroom (i.e. on the class website), we will make connections between past and present in order to think about the purpose and function of music as a historical and a contemporary practice. Ultimately, this course aims to answer some broad questions: What is music? Why do we do music? And how can we talk and write about music?

Learning Outcomes:

My purpose in this class is to ensure your success. By the end of this term, you will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate in speech and writing a critical evaluation and understanding of Western music.
  2. Listen to a variety of music genres and identify their basic elements.
  3. Recognize stylistic features of each historical period through speech, writing, and listening exercises.
  4. Place Western music and sub-genres or categories of Western music within the larger realm of human cultural activity in which music is produced. What did this music mean to people in specific historical moments? What function(s) did it serve (E.g. Political? Religious?)? What does it mean to us today?
  5. Write about music in a variety of formats with clarity, detail, and independent critical analysis, incorporating responsible research when needed.
  6. Critically analyze your own relationship with music. This course will encourage you to think about your musical experiences as distinctly influenced by your cultural and historical position. What do you find valuable about engaging with music?

Major Assignments:

There will be three major assignments in this course, each of which will involve a peer-editing, public presentation, and/or digital literacy component.

  1. Neighbourhood Soundscape Group Project
  • Random group role assignment
  • Focus on embodiment
  • Problematizing definitions of “music”
  • Class presentations
  1. CUNY Concert Review
  • Attend a free (or student discounted) concert at any CUNY campus
  • This assignment will be structured throughout the term and will involve:
    • a proposal
    • a class dedicated to scrutinizing and “grading” sample concert reviews
    • a peer-editing session dedicated to your first drafts
    • and class presentations, during which you will share your experiences with your peers
  1. Past and Present: Drawing Connections Between Art Music and Your Playlists
  • Incorporate diverse, relevant, student-driven content
  • Incorporate some sort of public, digital platform (i.e. Tiki-Toki, WordPress)
  • Identify and creatively present connections (stylistic, social, etc.) between music studied in class and other music you listen to
  • Work collaboratively in groups, with peer evaluations done at the end


Other Requirements:

  1. Bi-Weekly Quizzes
  • This course will emphasize formative rather than summative assessment
  • Instead of the traditional midterm and final, your progress will be evaluated through bi-weekly quizzes that will cumulatively build on course content
  • Quizzes will involve both critical listening and writing components
  1. Blog Posts and Comments on Course Website
  • You are responsible for contributing three blog posts (300-500 words) throughout the term (although you are welcome to write more!)
  • You are free to choose what to blog about, and the content of your post is quite open. Avoid summarizing lectures, focusing instead on posing provocative questions or offering new insights. What was the most stimulating thing you learned during this unit, and why? Were you prompted to draw connections between course content and other topics you have studied? Has there been a recent news story or article related to our course? These are all optional starting points!
  • Additionally, you are asked to provide thoughtful commentary on three of your peers’ posts. Ask questions, expand on their points, or draw new connections!
  1. Equitable Class Participation
  • I aim to hear from every student in every class meeting, and I will structure our sessions to incorporate your voices through various activities, including:
    • Think-Pair-Shares
    • “All Hands Up” (Samuel Delaney)
    • Random Discussion Prompts
    • Maximum/Minimum Comment Limits

Grading Breakdown:

Quizzes: 25%

Blog Posts: 10%

Assignments: 45%

Class Attendance and Participation: 20%


On Public Writing:

Our class has a public website built using CBOX, the CUNY Academic Commons platform. You will be contributing assignments to this public website. If you are not comfortable writing in public, we will be able to create an alternative identity or pseudonym/avatar for you.


Classroom Policies:

  1. Attendance: Attendance is taken at the beginning of each class, and students are expected to arrive on time and actively participate in all classes. In-class discussion, exercises, and writing assignments will constitute a significant portion of your grade. Whenever possible, please notify the instructor in advance if you cannot attend class. Students are allowed eight hours of absence (excused or unexcused, including lateness) before they may be given an Unofficial Withdrawal (UW) in the class.
  1. Grading: Assignments must be finished and submitted on time. Opportunities for revision, etc. are structured into the course, and the benefits of these activities require timely completion of work.
  2. Academic Integrity: There is a zero tolerance policy for cheating. If a student is caught cheating on an exam they will automatically receive a grade of zero. Plagiarism is also not tolerated under any circumstances. Ignorance is not an adequate excuse for the appropriation of intellectual property. The CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity can be found at:


MUS10100: Preliminary Schedule of Class Meetings [subject to change]


Date Topic Reading/Listening
Week 1

Thurs. Jan. 29


-Introduction to course/syllabus

-“What is music?”

-Listening strategies


Week 2

Tues. Feb. 3


UNIT I: Fundamentals

-Rhythm, meter, and tempo


Listen, Chapter 1 (pp. 7-11



Thurs. Feb. 5


-Pitch, dynamics, and tone



Listen, Chapter 2
Week 3

Tues. Feb. 10

*Reminder: no class this Thursday!


-Scales and melody



Listen, Chapter 3
Week 4

Tues. Feb. 17


-Harmony, texture


Listen, Chapter 4 (pp. 32-34 only)
Thurs. Feb. 19


-Tonality and mode


Listen, Chapter 4 (pp. 34-38)
Week 5

Tues. Feb. 24


-Musical form and musical



Listen, Chapter 5
Thurs. Feb. 26 -Unit One Review: Class Presentations



Week 6

Tues. March 3


UNIT II: Early Music

-The Middle Ages

-Music and the church,



Listen, Chapter 6 (pp. 48-61 only)

*Hildegard of Bingen,

Columba aspexit

Thurs. March 5


-Music at the court



*Bernart de Ventadorn, Las dousa votz

*Guillaume de Machaut, Dame, de qui toute ma joie vient


Week 7

Tues. March 10


-The Renaissance, homophony, the Mass

-High Renaissance style

-Late Renaissance, motets


Listen, Chapter 7 (pp. 65-80 only)

*Dufay, Ave maris stella

*Josquin, Pange lingua Mass, Kyrie

*Palestrina, Pope Marcellus Mass, Gloria

Thurs. March 12


-Early Baroque music



Listen, Chapter 8 (pp. 83-97 only)

*Monteverdi, The Coronation

of Poppea,

Act I

*Purcell, Dido and Aeneas,

Act III, final scene

Week 8

Tues. March 17







Thurs. March 19




Week 9

Tues. March 24


-Baroque instrumental music

-Concerto and concerto grosso, fugue


Listen, Chapter 10

*Vivaldi, Violin Concerto in G, first movement

*Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No.5, first movement

*Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, Fugue 1

in C Major

Thurs. March 26


-Baroque vocal music

-Opera, oratorio

Listen, Chapter 11

*Handel, Julius Caesar, Aria

“La giustizia”

*Handel, Messiah, Hallelujah Chorus

Week 10

Tues. March 31


-Music and the Enlightenment

-Style and form in Classical



Listen, Chapter 12


Thurs. April 2

*Reminder: Spring break next week!


-The symphony

-Forms: sonata, variation,

minuet, rondo

Listen, Chapter 13

*Mozart, Symphony No. 40 in G minor, first movement

*Haydn, Symphony No. 95, second movement

Week 11

Tues. April 14

-Other Classical genres

-The sonata, concerto, string quartet, opera buffa


Listen, Chapter 14 (pp. 186-

200 only)

*Mozart, Piano Concerto No.

23 in A, K. 488, first


*Mozart, Don Giovanni, Act 1, scene iii

Thurs. April 16


UNIT IV: The 19th Century

-Beethoven and the shift from Classicism to Romanticism


Listen, Chapter 15

*Beethoven, Symphony No. 5

in C Minor, complete work

Week 12
Tues. April 21



-Style and form in Romantic music

-In-class peer editing


Listen, Chapter 16
Thurs. April 23 -The Early Romantics

-The Lied, character pieces for piano


Listen, Chapter 17 (pp.238-

252 only)

*Schubert, Erlkönig

*Clara Schumann, “Der Mond kommt still gegangen”

*Robert Schumann, Carnaval, “Florestan” and “Eusebius”

Week 13

Tues. April 28


-Romantic Opera


Listen, Chapter 18

*Verdi, Rigoletto, Act III,

scene i

*Wagner, The Valkyrie, Act I, scene i


Thurs. April 30


-The Late Romantics

-Nationalism and exoticism

Listen, Chapter 19 (pp. 281-

299 only)

*Tchaikovsky, Overture-Fantasy, Romeo and Juliet

*Musorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition

*Brahms, Violin Concerto, third movement

Week 14

Tues. May 5


UNIT V: The 20th Century and Beyond

-Early Modernism

-Impressionism, Stravinsky and rhythm


Listen, Chapter 20 & 21 (pp. 317-325 only)

*Debussy, Clouds

*Stravinsky, The Rite of

Spring, Part I


Thurs. May 7



-Modernism in America

Listen, Chapter 21 (pp. 325-

338 only)

*Schoenberg, Pierrot

lunaire, Nos. 8 and 18

*Ives, “The Rockstrewn Hills”


Week 15

Tues. May 12


-Aaron Copland and American music

-Film music


Listen, Chapter 22 (pp. 347-355 only)

*Aaron Copland, Appalachian Spring *Prokofiev, Alexander Nevsky Cantata, 5: “The Battle on Ice”


Thurs. May 14








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