History of Western Music IV, 1850 to Present


Table of Contents

Course Information

History of Western Music IV, 1850 to Present
College Department of Music
University of Rochester
MUR 224 (CRN 34270; workshops CRN 34288, 34297)
Spring 2019
5.0 credits
Prerequisites: MUR 223, MUR 212


Main Mondays and Wednesdays, 2–4 p.m. Dewey 1-305
Workshop (CRN 34297) Fridays, 2–2:50 p.m. Dewey B-315
Workshop (CRN 34288) Fridays, 3–3:50 p.m. Dewey B-315

Instructor Information


Andrew A. Cashner, PhD
Assistant professor of music
Office: Dewey 1-318
(585) 275-4180
Office hours: Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to noon, or by appointment

Teaching assistant

John Green
PhD candidate, UR Eastman School of Music
Office: Dewey 1-345
Office hours: Fridays, 1–2 p.m., or by appointment

Course Materials

  1. J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music, Ninth edition (New York: Norton, 2014), ISBN 978-0-393-91829-8, $139 (on reserve in Art/Music Library)
  2. Pen, notebook, music staff paper
  3. Electronic device (computer, tablet, phone) for accessing course materials online during class, including scores


  • All scores, recordings, and readings (aside from the Burkholder textbook above) will be freely available online through this website or Blackboard.

Course Description

Catalog Description

History of western art music from approximately 1850 through the present, with emphasis on the changing meaning of New Music and its role in society. Analysis of post-Wagnerian tonal music and non-tonal alternatives. Lectures, with extensive listening and reading, as well as analytical assignments.

Full Description

This course, as the culmination of a four-semester sequence in the history of Western music, equips students to make sense of the world of music today by developing a historical understanding of music from about 1850 to the present. Our goal continues to be a holistic understanding of music-making in human life that integrates the sonic and social elements of music.

There is not a single tradition of music in this period, even in the West, and therefore we will trace multiple overlapping histories that acknowledge diverse perspectives. One aspect of the course explores the history of so-called Western art music as both a musical tradition and an ideological concept. In this period, the term can actually refer to two traditions—the Classical performance tradition and the modernist compositional tradition. Even as we seek to understand the music and ideas of these traditions, we will also consider the other diverse traditions that have continually intersected with them, such as film music, musical theater, and mass-mediated popular music like jazz, rock, and hip hop. We will also consider the musical creativity of women, African Americans, Latin Americans, Asians, and members of lower social strata, whose contributions form essential parts of the world of music today. Nevertheless, the course focuses on historically significant examples that reward close study; it aims to provide both breadth and depth but with an emphasis on knowing a smaller set of good examples in more detail.

The course is structured in thematic and chronological units, each of which will culminate in a roundtable session. In the roundtables, small groups of students will discuss and debate the key issues in the unit, based on creative research projects developed in each group throughout the unit.

There will be strong emphasis on active, critical listening, and on research and writing. The course will draw on original writings by prominent composers and musicians to help students learn to think more critically about the changing role of music and musicians in society, including questions of ethical responsibility and political engagement.

With respect to the departmental course catalog description, this course should help you develop a critical perspective on

  1. music’s role in shaping the West,
  2. why certain people in the West came to view some music as art distinct from other music, and
  3. why certain people came to see their creations as New Music and not those of others, and why they measured newness in relation to tonal organization,
  4. how that tradition—avant-garde modernism—related to the many other important and much more broadly influential traditions of music-making in this period.
This class is designed to prepare you to make your own decisions about how to tell the story of music, with particular emphasis on the free exchange of ideas in collaboration.

Learning Goals

This course equips students to achieve the following learning goals:

  1. Demonstrate technical understanding of the major styles and methods of creating music in the period after 1850 in Europe and its former colonies; and convey your understanding of how these kinds of music relate to each other historically.
  2. Understand and articulate diverse points of view on the aesthetic, social, and political goals of music, including the concept of Western art music.
  3. Develop skills in research, writing, and presentation through group and individual research projects.
  4. Gain hands-on knowledge of musical construction and performance practice by arranging and performing a selection of music on an instrument or voice, together with others.
  5. Demonstrate a deepened capacity for thinking critically about the ways we tell the story of music and the values that shape that history.


Please see the information on the assignments page.

  1. Weekly writing assignments
  2. Roundtables (3)
    1. Group research project with written briefing (group grade)
    2. Summary and response essay (individual grade)
  3. Exams
    1. Midterms (2)
    2. Final exam
  4. Performance project (group grade)
    1. Proposal with plan for group and selection of music
    2. Presentation/performance
  5. Research paper (individual grade)
    1. Proposal
    2. Literature review and introduction
    3. Full draft (1800 words)
    4. Final revision
    5. Mini-presentation TBD


Task Value
Weekly writing 10 %
Roundtables (3) 30 %
Task Value
Written briefing (group) 30 %
Present and lead discussion (group) 40 %
Summary/response essay (indiv.) 30 %
TOTAL 100 %
Performance project 10 %
Task Value
Proposal (group) 20 %
Presentation/Performance (group+indiv.) 80 %
TOTAL 100 %
Exams 30 %
Task Value
Midterm 1 30 %
Midterm 2 30 %
Final 40 %
TOTAL 100 %
Research paper 20 %
Task Value
Proposal 10 %
Lit. review/intro. 20 %
Draft 30 %
Final 35 %
Mini-presentation 5 %
TOTAL 100 %
TOTAL 100 %


Staying in Contact

Please check both the Blackboard site and your e-mail every day for announcements from this class. Make sure you have configured Blackboard to send announcements and site changes to your e-mail address, and make sure you have your university e-mail set up so that you can check it easily. You may contact me through my e-mail (listed at the beginning of the syllabus), and I will respond as soon as I can during normal business hours. Be advised that I may not be able to respond to e-mails on evenings, weekends, or holidays until the start of the next business day.

Official office hours are listed at the beginning of the syllabus. You do not need an appointment; please just drop by. If someone else is already there, just knock or say hello so I know you are waiting and I’ll make sure there is time for you. I am also available by appointment: e-mail me or ask me after class and we’ll find a time. I am here to help you and I want the opportunity to get to know you!

Coming to Class and Getting Involved

I will take attendance at every class, and the teaching assistant will take attendance at every workshop. You will learn best if you come to every class and get involved as fully as you can in whatever we are doing in the classroom. That involvement starts before you come to class as you prepare each class session’s listening and reading assignments, as you write your weekly assignment, and as you do your other coursework alone and with your classmates.

You can find the detailed listings, including links to online texts and music, by clicking on the heading for each class session on the schedule page. You are expected listen to and read all of the assigned material before you come to class that day.

Workshops are an important component of the class, in which you have the opportunity to work in smaller groups with the teaching assistant on a variety of tasks and topics. These are meant to be hands-on learning opportunities to build your skills and give you the chance to get help in learning; as well as allowing us to deal with some topics that don’t fit as well in the format of the rest of the class.

Electronic Devices, Keeping Focus, and Building Connections

The materials for this course are mostly online through this site and Blackboard, so you will need to have a way to access this material in class. Phones can work, but for reading scores a larger screen will be useful. It is certainly possible to look on with classmates. In-class group work will also require internet access for research. If the use of electronic devices in class presents a hardship for you, please let me know and we can find a solution.

Since we will be using devices in class, you must find a way to keep focus by eliminating distractions on the devices (e.g., turning off notifications). We all must make every effort, with devices or not, to connect with each other as human beings, making eye contact, listening actively, and being mentally present to each other.

Turning in Assignments

Please turn in assignments through the electronic submission portal on Blackboard. Submit PDF files only. I will not accept assignments via e-mail, hard copy, or in any format other than PDF.

Use a basic 12-point font, double spaced, with one-inch margins on all sides. Be sure to include your name and the name and date of the assignment.

Assignments are due on the date listed in the syllabus. Assignments turned in after that time will be considered late (Blackboard tracks this automatically), and a penalty will be deducted from the grade (minus one letter grade for each day late). Unless you arrange an extension with me in advance, which I must confirm in writing, I will not accept assignments more than four days after the original due date.

I will only arrange makeups for exams in exceptional circumstances such as a documented health or family emergency.

Every member of a group must be present in class on the day of a presentation unless you make arrangements with me in advance, confirmed in writing.

Building a Supportive Classroom Community

It is my goal to build a safe, welcoming, and encouraging classroom community for every student, and I invite you to join me in working toward that goal. I and my colleages in the Department of Music are fully committed to preventing any kind of harassment or discrimination. The following is an excerpt from the university’s official statement on this issue:

The University of Rochester seeks to provide a setting that respects the contributions of all the individuals composing its community, that encourages intellectual and personal development, and that promotes the free exchange of ideas.

To ensure nondiscrimination and equal opportunity, the University prohibits and will not engage in discrimination or harassment on the basis of age, color, disability, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, genetic information, marital status, military/veteran status, national origin, race, religion/creed, sex, sexual orientation, or any other status protected by law. The University also prohibits retaliation and will not retaliate against any person who makes a complaint of discrimination or harassment on the basis on a protected status or who provides information or otherwise participates in a investigation of such a complaint.

If you believe you have been discriminated against or harassed due to your protected status, you have several options for how to respond.

These options are listed on the university’s Equal Opportunity website.

Feedback for Improvement

There will be opportunities throughout the course for you to give feedback anonymously on your learning experience, in addition to the university’s student-evaluation process at the end of the semester. If you have any ideas for how this course could be improved, if you perceive any obstacles to your learning, or if you need any kind of accommodation to help your learning, please take advantage of these opportunities to let me know. Otherwise please feel free to speak to me or e-mail me directly and I will do the best I can to help you.

My supervisor is Prof. Honey Meconi, Chair of the Music Department.

University Policies

Accommodating Disabilities

Your success in this course is important to me, and every University of Rochester classroom respects and welcomes students of all backgrounds and abilities. I encourage you to talk with me about any concern or situation that affects your ability to complete your academic work successfully. If you require accommodations for a documented disability, or need to have a disability documented, please contact the Office of Disability Resources: 1-154 Dewey Hall, disability@rochester.edu, (585) 275-9049. Please notify me, or have the disability office notify me, of any needed accommodations as early as possible in the semester or it will become more difficult to make the necessary adjustments.

Academic Integrity

All assignments and activities associated with this course must be performed in accordance with the University of Rochester’s Academic Honesty Policy.

Academic honesty means avoiding anything that would unfairly advance your academic standing over that of your classmates, such as cheating on an exam or presenting someone else’s work as your own. Plagiarism includes any verbatim copying; unattributed, incorrectly attributed, false, or misleading citations; or unacknowledged help from others (e.g., having someone else write a paper for you).

Group assignments will include specific additional instructions about how to comply with the Academic Honesty Policy in your collaborative work. If you are not sure whether something counts as plagiarism or academic dishonesty, I can help you if you ask me about it before turning in the assignment.