Literature and Materials is an integrated music history, theory and performance course, the cornerstone of which is a comprehensive cultural and musical literacy course. Following this foundational course in the history and techniques of Western music, the students are led in a reverse chronological sequence to study the music of the twenty-first century, tracing the roots of each era back to the Renaissance. At every juncture, critical thinking and analytical skills are essential to our music teaching. The integrated and interdisciplinary model we use for our Literature and Materials classes requires the students to be able to understand—and use—the interconnectedness of history, art and the sciences. For example, extemporizing over and harmonizing a melody by ear requires the ability to internally hear harmonies before they are played. Likewise, sight reading requires the ability to imagine specific notated sounds before they are played or sung. One might describe the acquisition of such skills as an applied science, married to learned analytical ability, as much as inborn artistic talent.


 Course Plan:

    1. Literature and Materials One (5 Credits) is a cultural and musical literacy course. Traditional skills such as listening, music notation, spelling and reading will be developed, alongside an historical and contemporary understanding of art, music, mathematics and philosophy in society.
    2. Literature and Materials Two (5 Credits) is an in-depth study of contemporary music from both the vernacular as well as the concert repertoire. Harmony and voice leading skills are developed, and historical topics from Post-Colonialism to the Vietnam War are discussed as they pertain to the development of music from that period.
    3. Literature and Materials Three (5 Credits) explores the music from the Classic and Romantic eras. Counterpoint, harmony and voice leading skills are further expanded to include the part writing of longer harmonic progressions.
    4. Literature and Materials Four (5 Credits) focuses on music from the Renaissance to the Baroque periods. The full harmonic vocabularies of both concert and vernacular traditions are developed. Harmonic progressions that include all diatonic and chromatic possibilities are expected to be mastered by the conclusion of Literature and Materials Four.
    5. Literature and Materials Five (5 Credits) is a review of history and theory topics from the previous four seminars. Literature and Materials Five is also a study of post-tonal theory and the many connections of music theory to mathematics and philosophy.

Literature and Materials for undergraduate music students at Nyack College is an integrated music history, theory and performance course, the cornerstone of which is a comprehensive cultural and musical literacy course. Self standing music courses, such as Counterpoint, Form and Analysis are integrated with history courses into the curriculum for Literature and Materials.

After a solid grounding in the history and techniques of Western Culture from the Ancient World to the beginning of the Renaissance, the students are led in a reverse chronological sequence of study of the music of the twenty-first century and back to the Renaissance, thus completing the cycle initiated by the aforementioned literacy course.

The idea of choosing the present day as our point of departure for an integrated course in music history, theory and performance is, of course, not unique. But an integrated, experiential learning model would appear to be of particular relevance to the students at Nyack College, many of whom did not enjoy the privilege of attending expensive private schools prior to their post-secondary education.

But beyond that, experience has taught us that both historical ends of any traditional learning sequence (the pre- and post-tonal periods) often present particularly thorny and intractable issues for both instructor and students alike. Starting with the common practice period likewise feels truncated—even amputated—from an historical perspective.

Some students embark on their musical journey with the erroneous assumption that the vernacular music with which they grew up is somehow disconnected from the general trajectory of Western culture. Perhaps understandably, they often conclude, therefore, that any historical period before the present one is irrelevant to their understanding of art and music.

Many undergraduate students are, for example, completely unaware of atonal musical language(s) used by composers of the twentieth century because they have never (knowingly) been exposed to works that use an entirely different musical syntax. They are most often equally unaware that the syntax of much of the vernacular music surrounding us today originated in the eighteenth century.

It is, however, not fair to plunge an undergraduate student head-first into the many intricacies of post-tonal theory as her first experience of the music academy. Since most Western music follow, or react to, the underpinnings of the common practice period, and can thus be understood with this body of knowledge, it is still advisable to leave the development of postonal skills to later in the sequence—until after a solid understanding of tonal theory has been attained. A general overview (or preview) of atonal music is certainly possible early in the sequence, whereas detailed integer analysis is more suited for the experienced student.

The successfully implementation of this five-semester course plan runs as follows:

  • Foundational Course
  • Contemporary Music
  • Classic & Romantic Music
  • Renaissance & Baroque Music
  • Recapitulation & Review.

In the fifth seminar, there are ample opportunities to rediscover music from previous levels (and adding others, too), but at this point the students are equipped with a full complement of musicological and theoretical tools to gain the detailed understanding that could merely be outlined in earlier classes.

Summary: The overarching idea for Literature and Materials is that the core tenets of Western Civilization must be made relevant and functional for the students before the musical techniques (notation, composition and performance practices) can be fully comprehended. The foundational course treats the longest historical period, the Middle Ages (traditionally thorny, in more than one way), largely as an introductory survey course and a chance to engage the students in broad cultural debates, while also developing the necessary skill set
(listening, hearing, reading, performing) needed for a professional music career.

Literature and Materials One
Overview: In L&M One, which serves as a foundational course, students will discuss historical and contemporary issues, and develop cultural and musical literacy

Music History
• The Ancient World and the Many Meanings of the Word ‘Classical’
• Lost Civilizations, Cultural, Temporal Perspectives and Prejudice
• The Historical Pendulum & Non-Linear Thinking
• Internationalism of the Ancient World
• A history of Music Theory, Pythagoras and the Greek Heritage
• The Middle Ages
• Survey of Modal Theories and their Modern-Day Rebirth in Jazz
• The Complexity of Isorhythmic Motets and their Modern Atonal Equivalence
• The Reformation

Listening & Hearing
• Meter, Pulse, Tactus
• Mode (major, minor, untransposed modes)
• Texture (mono- poly- homo-phonic)

Music Theory
• Notation
• The Major Scale
• The Untransposed Modes
• Whole Steps and half Steps in Notation
• Intervals
• Key Signatures

Ear Training

• Introduction to Conducting Simple Meter
• Simple Meter, Strong/Weak-Beat Relationship, Tactus

• The Major Scale
• Whole Steps and Half Steps in Sound and in Singing
• Intervals in Sound and in Singing

Functional Keyboard
• Understanding the Keyboard Layout
• Whole Steps and Half Steps at the Keyboard
• Enharmonic Equivalence
• The Major Scale
• Untransposed Modes

Research Projects for Student Papers and Oral Presentations
• Music as Social Experiment: What Does Music Tell Us About Ourselves?
• Computer Science and Music: Can Computers Teach Us Music?
• Crunch the Numbers: Who Listens to What and Why Should We Care?
• Can Music History Tell Us Something That History Overlooks?
• The Science Behind Acoustics

Summary: At the end of L&M One, the student will be equipped with the necessary tools to undertake a rigorous study of the music from the periods between our present day and the Renaissance. It will be clear to the student that music is a mirror of its time and circumstances.

It will gradually become clear also to the student that music is a language with a syntax reflective of its time, and an artistic-emotional content that speaks to us when we are prepared to listen across perceived temporal and cultural divides.

A note about functional keyboard: it is essential that the instructor understands that this class is not a class in keyboard technique. Some technique is arguably involved in playing any instrument, but it is altogether far more important at this level that the student is able to navigate the keyboard by, for example, playing scales with one finger rather than spending class time learning the appropriate fingerings for each scale. (Keyboard proficiency
considerations are reserved for later classes.)

Literature and Materials Two
Overview: In L&M Two, the student will explore contemporary music from both the vernacular as well as the concert repertoire. S/he will develop elementary skills in traditional harmony and voice leading, and gain an overview of atonal possibilities. Contemporary political and cultural issues will be discussed.

Music History
• World War Two: Setting the Stage
• Post Colonialism
• Late Romanticism: the Edge of Tonality
• The Post-Tonal Turn in Europe: a Social History
• Home Sounds: Imagining American Sounds
• Spirituals and Minstrel Shows
• Primitivism and Orientalism: Western Art Music and ‘The Other’
• From Swing to BeBop: the Exhaustion of Tonality as Resistance
• Pan-Africanism: Black intellectuals, Jazz and American relations
• 1968: the Woodstock Generation
• The Vietnam War and the OPEC Crisis
• Progressive Rock, Jazz Fusion and Popular Music
• European Concert Music

Listening & Hearing
• Jazz, Gospel and Blues standards
• Broadway Musical Numbers
• Blues Based Music
• Rock Music
• Text Setting
• RAP and HipHop
• Minimal Music
• Listening to and Hearing Atonal Music
• Film and Concert Music

Music Theory
• Major and Minor Key Signatures
• Contrapuntal Cadences (involving scale degrees 2 and 7; later adding scale degree 4)
• First Species Counterpoint (the study of consonance and dissonance)
• Triads and Seventh Chords in SATB
• Inversion & Voicing
• Figured Bass & Chord Symbols
• Roman Numerals
• Dominant-Tonic Relationships: Binary Forms (combining simple, rounded or balanced
melodic design with sectional or continuous harmonic structure)
• AABA: the 32 Bars of Broadway
• Standard and Modified Blues Forms
• Introduction to the Phrase Model (T-PD-D-T)
• Harmonic Rhythm
• Phrase Rhythm
• Symmetry vs. Asymmetry

Ear Training

• Conducting simple meter
• Simple and compound meter
• Subdivision of the beat

• Introduction to Solfege: Moveable Do
• Sight Singing on Scale Degree Numbers
• Sight Singing Without Solfege or Scale Degree Numbers
• Aural Recognition of Scale Degree Patterns and Intervals

Functional Keyboard
• Major Scales (with appropriate fingerings)
• Transposed Modes
• Triads and Seventh Chords
• Contrapuntal Cadences

Research Projects for Student Papers and Oral Presentations
• Equal Temperament: Can Our Tuning Systems Tell Us Something About Our Culture?
• Is There a Connection Between Democracy and Atonal Music?
• Explore the Neuroscience Behind Perfect Pitch
• Do People Who Speak a Pitched Language Have a Stronger Aptitude for Learning Music?

Summary: By the end of L&M Two, the student will not only understand that music is a language, but will begin to understand also how this language communicates through a syntax (phrase design) and punctuation (articulation, dynamics, etc.) whose expressive potential can be more fully decoded with knowledge that informs the student’s innate musicality

Literature and Materials Three
Overview: In L&M Three, the students delve deeper into the rich history of Classic and Romantic music, literature, poetry and art that precedes our present day. Although a disconnect would seem to exist between the student’s analytical abilities and the complexity of the music studied at this point in the sequence, the general reverse chronological approach has been deemed preferable to postponing the study of the most recent music.

The instructor’s ability to not rely on technical jargon is of paramount importance for the teaching of seminars one and two. Notice that within the style-period boundaries of L&M Two and Three, the historical chronology will follow a traditional pattern (old-new) because we believe the Romantic period was an outgrowth of, and reaction to, the Classicism that preceded it. Likewise, we view the Baroque period as essentially an amplification of, and reaction to, the Renaissance.

Music History
• In Reason We Trust: European Enlightenment vs. European Colonialism
• Out With the Old, In With the New: Naturalistic Turn in Musical Aesthetics
• A Turn to Individualism in the First Viennese School
• First Wave of Revolutions: Consequences of the American, Haitian, and French Revolutions
• The Rise of the Bourgeoisie: Cosmopolitanism, Universalism, Autonomous Art & the
Democratization of Art
• Opera!
• 1848: Failed Revolutions and the Rise of Nations and Nationalism
• Turn it Up to Eleven: Late Romanticism and the Exhaustion of Tonality

Listening & Hearing
• Richard Strauss
• Gustav Mahler
• Johannes Brahms
• Clara Schumann
• Scott Joplin
• Justin Holland
• Lester Sullivan
• Amy Beach
• Edward MacDowell
• William Billings
• Ludwig van Beethoven
• Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
• Franz Joseph Haydn

Music Theory
• Second Species Counterpoint (the study of passing tones)
• Fourth Species Counterpoint (the study of suspensions)
• Minor Mode
• Diatonic Chords
• Modal Mixture
• Pre-Dominant Chords: IV, iv, ii6, iiº6, N6, ii6/5, iiø6/5
• Prolongation (such as Tonic and Dominant Prolongation)
• Cadential and Passing Six-Four Chords
• Dominant Chords
• Harmonic Decoration (such as 5-6 technique)
• Roman Numeral Analysis

Ear Training

• Introduction to Compound Meter
• Dots and Ties
• Syncopation
• Triplets and Duplets

• Modes
• Modal mixture
• Aural recognition of common pre-dominant and dominant-seven chords
• Alto and tenor clefs

Functional Keyboard
• Predominant Chords in all Major Keys
• Cadential and Passing Six-Four Chords in all Keys
• Navigating a Lead Sheet at the Keyboard
• Harmonic Sequences With Diatonic and Applied Chords
• Standard Harmonic Cadences and Progressions

Research Projects for Student Papers and Oral Presentations
• Are Good Mathematical Skills a Prerequisite for Learning Music Theory?
• Is Harmonically Advanced Music Superior to Other Music?
• What Does It Mean to Have a Good Sense Of Rhythm?
• Is Reason and Rationality Capable Of Explaining Musical Emotion?

Summary: By the end of L&M Three, the student will have a good grasp of the common harmonic and melodic vocabulary used in tonal music. S/he will realize that the compositional techniques used in tonal music throughout history are, in fact, the expansion, prolongation and decomposition of the expressive models that constitute tonal music syntax, regardless of external style and sound.

This important realization will not only build cultural bridges that are essential to understanding the function of music today, but will also suggest an historical continuum that can inform the debate about where the role of music may be headed, and the place that it will hold in society

Literature and Materials Four
Overview: Like L&M Three, L&M Four reverts its historical chronology to a more traditional model for a detailed study of Renaissance and Baroque music.

Music History
• New World, New Possibilities: Ties Between European Colonialism and Artistic
• The Financial Ties: Artistic Achievements of the Church, the Crown, the City States
• Reformation and Counter Reformation: Polyphony, Hymnody, Homophony & Monody
• Musical Genres: Motet, Chanson, Mass
• Courtly Musings: Music as Entertainment in Public and in Private Spaces
• Musical Theater: Intermezzi, Passion Play and Early Opera
• Figured Bass, Ground Bass & New Ways of Singing
• Out with the Old, In with the New: Claudio Monteverdi, Prima Prattica and Seconda Prattica
• Establishing Opera: Italian Cities and the French Court
• Musical Forms in Vocal and Instrumental Genres

Listening & Hearing
• Josquin des Prez
• Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
• Claudio Monteverdi
• Cipriano de Rore
• Carlo Gesualso
• Heinrich Schütz
• Johann Sebastian Bach
• Georg Frederich Handel
• Antonio Vivaldi
• Arcangelo Corelli
• Jean Phillip Rameau
• François Couperin
• Giovanni Battista Sammartini
• Johann Stamitz

Music Theory
• Tonicization and Modulation
• Applied Chords
• Chromatic Harmonies
• Harmonic Sequences
• Harmonic Cadences
• Augmented Sixth-Chords
• Altered Dominants
• Tones of Figuration (non-chord tones & melodic embellishment)
• First Level (Descriptive) Analysis
• Second Level (Interpretive) Analysis
• Structural Reduction Techniques
• Ternary Forms
• Sonata Forms
• Fugue

Ear Training

• Conducting of Complex & Changing Meters

• Chromatic Melodic Embellishment
• Scalar Variants in the Minor Mode
• Aural Recognition of Modulation To and Tonicization Of Closely Related Keys

Functional Keyboard
• Atonal Sight Reading
• Clef Reading
• Solo and Ensemble Reading
• Keyboard Proficiency Exam

Research Projects for Student Papers and Oral Presentation
• Can Musical Form Express Musical Emotion?
• Crunch the Numbers: Who Pays for Music, and Does it Matter?
• Revealing a Hidden Structure: What Is Structural Reduction, and Why Do We Need It?
• Reinvention of the Wheel: What Harmony Can Reveal
• Schubert’s Nebulous Harmonic Language and Identity
• The Science Behind Renaissance and Baroque Tuning Systems

Summary: By the end of L&M Four, the student will understand many of the advanced procedures used in the music from the Common Practice Period through the Romantic Era. S/he will understand also how these very harmonic procedures were later recast in the rich and colourful language of American Jazz. The student will be able to distinguish between labeling chords with Roman numerals (descriptive analysis) and employing this information as an essential tool of interpretation (interpretive analysis.) The understanding (through structural reduction) of how the structural underpinning of music interact with the expressivity of the melodic surface and the middle ground accompaniment will enable the student to make more persuasive interpretive decisions.

Literature and Materials Five
Overview: In the final segment of Literature and Materials, instrumental and vocal performance majors will enroll in Seminar Five for a half-semester of post-tonal music theory. The remainder of the semester is a comprehensive review of topics studied in previous seminars. It is up to the individual instructor to revisit earlier topic and/or add and develop new ones. This semester is the ideal semester for the advanced transfer student who has demonstrated mastery of all topics presented in classes prior to L&M Five.

We recommend that students take their keyboard proficiency exam at the end of L&M Four or
Five, and that the works studied in this class demonstrate a keyboard technique appropriate
for the individual student.

Music History
• History Review (we recommend starting with contemporary music; this (second) time aided by appropriately developed analytical tools for each musical style.) The connections of music theory to mathematics will be studied further, and the Pythagorean and Greek heritage already explored in L&M One will be further deepened.

Listening & Hearing
• John Coltrane
• Miles Davis
• Bill Evans
• Keith Jarrett
• Ornette Coleman
• Charles Ives
• Igor Stravinsky
• Arnold Schönberg
• Anton Webern
• Alban Berg
• Steve Reich
• John Adams
• Ruth Crawford Seeger
• Meredith Monk
• John Cage
• Tania Leon
• John Coregliano

Music Theory and Ear Training (Combined)
• Integer Analysis
• Pitch Class Sets
• Normal Form
• Prime Form
• Aggregate Tone Rows

• Changing Meter
• Nested Rhythms & Meters

• Fixed Do
• Atonal Sight Singing

Summary: With the completion of L&M Five, the circle is closed back to its beginning in our present day. Every learning sequence has its unique challenges and pitfalls. It is our hope that the present course model will create in the student a positive motivational cycle whereby an intellectual curiosity sparked from history is what stimulates a desire to learn the analytical and practical tools outlined in the individual sections above.