Reed College Catalog

Mark Burford

Music history, nineteenth-century music, popular music, African American music.

Shohei Kobayashi

Director of choral activities, conducting, voice, lyric diction, musicianship.

Morgan James Luker

Ethnomusicology, music of Latin America, cultural politics.

Kirsten Volness

Composition, twentieth- and twenty-first-century music, electroacoustic music.

The music department offers a wide range of courses and performance opportunities for majors and nonmajors, as well as private instrumental and vocal lessons. Many courses have no prerequisites.

Pursuit of the music major prepares students for a senior thesis in music history or analysis, ethnomusicological research, or composition. Majors should complete two units of music theory (Music 210 and Music 310), two units of music history (Music 221 and Music 222), one unit of ethnomusicology (Music 150), and one unit of musicianship (Music 205) before beginning the second semester of their junior year, and take the junior seminar.

Majors are expected to participate in performance activities; therefore, fees for private instruction in one instrument or voice are waived for junior and senior music majors.

Independent study courses (Music 481) in subjects not offered in the regular curriculum are available for junior and senior music majors.

Requirements for the Major

  1. Music theory—Music 211 (or 210) and 312 (or 310);
  2. Music history—Music 221 and 222;
  3. Ethnomusicology—Music 150;
  4. One unit of ensemble from among 104 (orchestra), 105 (chorus), 107 (Collegium), 108 (jazz ensemble), 109 (chamber music); 
  5. One unit of private instruction (vocal or instrumental);
  6. Junior seminar;
  7. Three additional one-unit courses in the department at the 200 level or above, one of which must include either Music 343 or an additional ethnomusicology course;
  8. Thesis (470).

In addition to the requirements for all music majors, the following courses of study are recommended for students writing a senior thesis in ethnomusicology or composition:

  • Students planning a thesis in ethnomusicology should take two units of anthropology for Group II and three additional units in ethnomusicology.
  • Students planning a thesis in composition should take Music 343 and Music 481 (independent study in advanced composition).

Senior Thesis
Before beginning their senior year, students planning to do a thesis in music must demonstrate their competence in the particular area in which they wish to work. That is, they may not use the thesis as an occasion to explore an entirely new area. The thesis may be an extended historical, ethnomusicological, or analytical project, which may include a performance; or a composition thesis, which must include a printed score, a recording of a performance, and an analytical essay. At the beginning of the senior year, students prepare short written proposals describing the nature of their theses for discussion with the entire music department prior to submitting proposals to the Division of the Arts for approval.

Music department facilities include Kaul Auditorium, where the orchestra, Collegium, and chorus perform; the Reed chapel, which is used for Friday at Four concerts and other chamber music; the instructional media center (IMC), where students can borrow audio sound media equipment; and the Performing Arts Building, which houses the performing arts resource center (PARC), teaching studios, practice rooms, and a large rehearsal hall for Collegium, chorus, jazz, and chamber ensembles. The PARC has a library of scores, recordings, and videos; workrooms; and a computer lab. Practice rooms are available 24 hours a day to students enrolled in music courses. 

Performing Opportunities
Many Reed students participate in performance activities sponsored by the department as solo players or singers, in chamber music ensembles, or in the ensembles conducted by faculty and staff members. The orchestra, chorus, and Collegium perform concerts in Kaul Auditorium each semester. Registration procedures for lessons and ensembles are explained in the schedule of classes and also on the music department web page at The Friday at Four series, consisting of approximately eight concerts each year, features performances by students, faculty, and guest artists. 

The department also helps organize and coach chamber and jazz ensembles, which are available by audition for students interested in playing together in small groups. In addition, coaching sessions with members of the music performance staff can sometimes be substituted for private lessons.

Private Instruction—Denise VanLeuven, director
Reed offers individual instruction in piano, organ, harpsichord, voice, guitar, and all orchestral instruments, as well as jazz and a variety of ethnic instruments. Our teachers, all of whom are accomplished performers, are selected from the best available in the Portland community. Some are members of the Oregon Symphony, the Portland Opera Orchestra, the Portland Baroque Orchestra, and various chamber, jazz, and ethnic ensembles in the area, and have appeared as solo artists with these groups. Instructors are added to the staff as need arises. Please visit the music department website,, for a detailed listing of private music instructors.

Fees for private instruction (Music 101) are $540 each semester for twelve 45-minute lessons; some scholarship aid is available. Private instruction fees are waived in one instrument or voice for junior and senior music majors, who are expected to enroll in private instruction for at least two of their final four semesters.

Academic Credit for Music Performance
All students participating in music performance courses (Music 101, 104, 105, 107, 108, and 109) must be registered; these courses are graded on a credit/no credit basis. The courses carry variable credit: either one-quarter, one-half, or zero credit for one semester (see the course descriptions below). No more than one-half credit may be earned per semester. No more than two units may be received for the same music performance course. No more than three units of credits in music performance may be used toward the quantity requirement of 30 units for graduation.

Music 101 - Private Instruction

Variable credit: one-half or zero course for one semester of individual instrumental or vocal instruction. Credit/no credit only. May be repeated for credit. 

Music 104 - Reed Orchestra

Variable credit: one-half or zero course for one semester. Availability of credit is dependent on instruments needed for repertoire to be performed in any given semester. The orchestra rehearses and performs works from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century. It presents one or two concerts each semester. Prerequisite: audition required. Credit/no credit only. May be repeated for credit. 

Music 105 - Reed Chorus

Variable credit: one-quarter or zero course for one semester. The chorus, open to all members of the Reed community, rehearses and performs works from all periods of music, often with the orchestra. (No audition required.) Credit/no credit only. May be repeated for credit. 

Music 107 - Collegium Musicum

Variable credit: one-half or zero course for one semester. The Collegium rehearses and performs vocal music from many historic periods suitable for a small group. Prerequisite: audition required. Credit/no credit only. May be repeated for credit. 

Music 108 - Jazz Ensemble

Variable credit: one-quarter or zero course for one semester. Jazz ensembles selected by the instructor rehearse regularly and give one performance each semester. Rehearsals include improvisational techniques, soloing, accompanying, and jazz theory. Prerequisite: audition required. Credit/no credit only. May be repeated for credit.

Music 109 - Chamber Music

Variable credit: one-quarter or zero course for one semester. Available by audition when there are enough students at an appropriate level to form an ensemble of one player per part. This course consists of weekly coaching sessions and several performances during the semester. Prerequisite: audition. Credit/no credit only. May be repeated for credit.

Music 110 - Fundamentals of Music

Full course for one semester. This course introduces basic and essential elements of music, including notation of pitch and rhythm, scales and key signatures, intervals, triads, and diatonic seventh chords. Labs include singing, playing (on keyboard or other primary instrument), dictation, and identification of concepts introduced in lecture. Lecture and laboratory.

Music 142 - Latin American Popular Music

Full course for one semester. This course examines Latin American popular musics within their social, political, and cultural contexts. Musical genres to be studied include tango, samba, son, nueva canción, tropicália, rock nacional, and funk carioca, among others; themes to be discussed include music and the nation, music and dictatorship, and the crisis of cultural inclusion and exclusion in contemporary Latin America. Understanding how these musics are framed by broader assumptions regarding race, class, gender, and ethnicity will be a key concern of the course. Our focused listening will be complemented with analytical, critical, and contextual readings, including relevant selections from Latin American literature in translation and occasional film screenings. Lecture-conference.

Music 150 - The Cultural Study of Music

Full course for one semester. Music carries a tremendous range of meanings and functions, serving as both a symbol and generator of other forces in social life and history. Taking a comparative approach to a variety of world musical cultures (including selected examples of folkloric, popular, and art musics from Africa, the Middle East, India, Asia, the Americas, and Europe), this course will examine how music communicates and is made meaningful within specific historical and cultural contexts. We will focus on developing the critical vocabulary and listening skills needed to account for music as a cross-cultural phenomenon. Lecture-conference. Cross-listed as Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies 150.

Music 205 - Musicianship

Full course for one semester. This course reinforces concepts and principles learned in Music 210 (including harmonic progressions and cadences, inverted triads, nonchord tones, and secondary dominant chords) through lab activities and exercises focused around singing, playing (on keyboard or other primary instrument), dictation, and identification. Prerequisite: Music 110 or equivalent skill, determined by an assessment. Laboratory-conference.

Music 210 - Diatonic Harmony

Full course for one semester. This course covers topics in intermediate tonal harmony (including harmonic progressions and cadences, inverted triads, nonchord tones, and secondary dominant chords), reinforced through written exercises, analysis, and composition. Prerequisite: Music 110 or equivalent skill, determined by placement exam given at the beginning of the academic year. Lecture-conference.

Music 221 - Music History I: Unexpected Encounters in Early Modern Europe

Full course for one semester. Introducing students to a range of sacred and secular genres, this course will study the history of music in early modern Europe through focus on European entanglements, cultural exchanges, and integration with the Islamic world, particularly the Ottoman Empire. Memory of the Crusades, repercussions from the “Fall of Constantinople,” and imperial confrontation and diplomacy reverberated in music produced in Europe from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries. How did encounters with the Ottoman Empire during this period, as represented through music composition, shape ideas about European culture, mapping of the world, and racial and ethnic difference? How were understandings of the language of “classical music” constituted and reaffirmed through imagination about the Ottomans and Islam? Music 221 can be taken independently of Music 222. Conference.

Music 222 - Music History II: Enlightenment, Romanticism, Modernism

Full course for one semester. This course will study selected examples of art music cultivated in Western Europe and the United States since the mid-eighteenth century, with particular focus on the philosophical and aesthetic features of Enlightenment thought, romanticism, and modernism. We will study major genres spanning the transition from late baroque to classical style and the distinctive iterations of the modern in music produced in the United States during the twentieth century. Students will develop the listening, analytical, and critical skills necessary to formulate and engage music-historical questions relating to aesthetics, social context, and intellectual history. Music 222 can be taken independently of Music 221. Conference.

Music 225 - Electroacoustic Music

Full course for one semester. Electronic music technology has changed the course of composition and performance since the late nineteenth century, reaching beyond stylistic and geographic boundaries. This course encompasses the study and application of electronic music composition from its origins through contemporary practice. Students will learn about acoustics, psychoacoustics, composition, various tools and techniques of recording and audio production using Logic, Max/MSP, and other software to meet the course’s primary goal: creating original electroacoustic works. Students will examine the development of the medium and explore future directions through weekly labs; quizzes; reading, listening, and writing assignments; and a student-produced public performance at the end of the semester. Conference-studio.

Music 230 - Tango: Music, Culture, History

Full course for one semester. Tango is a rich and diverse cultural practice. Focusing on music and its connections to other expressive forms, especially dance and verbal art, this course will examine tango in its cultural and historical contexts. We will develop a detailed knowledge of the history and stylistic development of tango as a global genre, and explore how musical debates within tango have both reflected and contributed to the broader transformations of twentieth-century society, culture, and politics in Argentina and beyond. Lecture-conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Music 238 - Music and the Cold War United States

Full course for one semester. Post–World War II negotiations of anticommunism, national identity, and global membership reverberated throughout U.S. musical life in the 1950s. These sociopolitical developments impacted the careers of musicians as disparate as Aaron Copland, Hank Williams, and Dizzy Gillespie; shaped the reception of repertories ranging from experimental music to the Broadway musical to rock and roll; and transformed the meanings of ethnic assimilation, the civil rights movement, and ideologies of modernism and populism. Through study of selected music examples and relevant historical literature, this course will examine the performance, composition, and consumption of music in the United States during the early Cold War period. Conference. Cross-listed as History 298.

Not offered 2020–21.

Music 249 - Race, Sexuality, and Empire on the Operatic Stage

Full course for one semester. This course will focus on three operas that premiered during what some European historians have called the “Age of Empire”: Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida (1871), Georges Bizet’s Carmen (1875), and Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (1904–07). Set in Egypt, Spain, and Japan, respectively, these works are famous for their scores, which feature some of opera’s best-known music, but also for the complex, romantically doomed, and racially marked women who are the title characters: Aida the enslaved Ethiopian princess, Carmen the “gypsy” femme fatale, and Cio-Cio San the tragic geisha. Students will be introduced to opera as a genre, to late romantic musical aesthetics, to the literary origins of these works, and to relevant scholarship theorizing empire and representations of difference. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing. Conference.

Music 255 - Beethoven and Schubert

Full course for one semester. This course is an introduction to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) and Franz Schubert (1797–1828), who shared overlapping heydays in Vienna during the age of romanticism. Read against each other, the careers of Beethoven, commonly identified with the monumentality of the symphony, string quartet, and sonata, and Schubert, who earned fame as a master of such “small forms” as the art song and the piano miniature, illuminate the politics of genre and the interpenetration of public and private spheres in early nineteenth-century Europe. Students will critically assess constructions of “genius” in Viennese musical culture and the gendered aesthetics of the “heroic” Beethoven and of Schubert, famously characterized by one critic as “the feminine Beethoven.” We will also consider Schubert’s “Beethoven Project,” his conscious effort at self-rebranding as a composer of large-scale works in “Beethovenian” genres toward the end of his short life. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Music 271 - Studying Popular Music

Full course for one semester. This course is an introduction to some of the key aesthetic, theoretical, and methodological concerns in the burgeoning field of popular music studies, which has explored the performance, (re)production, and consumption of popular music. Seeking to develop listening skills and drawing on both field-defining work and new scholarship, the course will explore topics including the analysis of recorded music, the politics of style and genre, the role of technological and social mediation, the production of intersectional identities, and fan reception. Though the focus will be music originating in the United States, students will also consider the circulation of popular music in international contexts. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Lecture-conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Music 277 - Music and Politics

Full course for one semester. This course will examine the relationship between music and politics in a variety of historical and cultural contexts, exploring how and why music has been such a powerful carrier of ideology. Grounded in core readings on the politics of music and the arts, we will address themes of musical nationalism, censorship, cultural policy making, the cultural industries, musical activism and social movements, and the broader expediency of musical culture in the global era. Conference.

Music 291 - Women and Performance in 1960s Popular Music

Full course for one semester. If U.S. popular music in the 1950s exhibited a relatively narrow bandwidth of performances by women, the possibilities—in sound, style, approach, and affect—expanded dramatically in the 1960s. This course studies how women popular musicians in the sixties, along with their audiences, enacted these diversifying musical performances. Particularly influential for this multiplication of performance modes were seminal developments in second-wave feminism, the cresting civil rights movement, sixties counterculture, and transformations within the music industry. Students will cultivate skills for close listening to recordings and analysis of musical style, and will read literature by a range of scholars thinking through musicology, media studies, U.S. history, African American studies, feminist theory, and performance studies about such artists as Nina Simone, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, the Supremes, Astrid Gilberto, Barbra Streisand, Loretta Lynn, Miriam Makeba, and others. We will also consider how musical performances by 1960s women were mobilized intersectionally with racial, ethnic, class, political, and geographic identities. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Lecture-conference.

Music 305 - Musical Ethnography

Full course for one semester. This course will introduce the theory and practice of musical ethnography, the key mode of ethnomusicological research and representation, to advanced students in ethnomusicology, anthropology, and related disciplines. Combining critical readings on ethnography from music scholarship, anthropology, and a variety of disciplines with hands-on projects (including the production and analysis of field recordings, musical transcriptions, and various forms of qualitative ethnographic data), the course will prepare students to both conduct and critically reflect upon ethnographic research. Conference. Cross-listed as Anthropology 305.

Music 308 - Music as Material Culture

Full course for one semester. Questions of materiality are surprisingly absent in scholarly accounts of music, which tend to emphasize ideologies of ephemerality and performance, on the one hand, and the transcendent monumentality of “the work,” on the other. Nevertheless, modern musical culture is saturated with things: sheet music, sound recordings, audiovisual materials, digital file formats, and the articulating equipment they require, to name only a few objects of everyday musical consumption and engagement. How can we account for what Jane Bennett (2010) calls the “vibrant” materiality of these musical objects? How do the different materialities of music relate to one another across affective networks of style, genre, and media production? How do musical materials become subjects of knowledge regarding the past? How is that knowledge mobilized in the practice of collecting and managing historic material culture? How might ongoing practices of remediation challenge our assumptions regarding the stabilities of material forms? Employing a variety of methodological perspectives and drawing upon a wide array of listening examples, this course will introduce students to debates regarding music as material culture and question the ontological presuppositions of contemporary music scholarship. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing. Conference.

Music 310 - Chromatic Harmony

Full course for one semester. This course will examine topics in advanced tonal harmony (including modal mixture, chromaticism, and the development of harmonic and rhythmic resources in late-nineteenth-century musical idioms) through written exercises, analysis, and composition. Prerequisite: Music 210 or permission of instructor. Lecture-conference.

Music 314 - Composition

Full course for one semester. This course is an introduction to contemporary composition. Students will compose and perform short works. The course will deal with problems of instrumentation, notation, and performance, as well as the larger aesthetic issues of coherence and gesture, within a broad range of styles and media. Prerequisite: Music 210 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Music 316 - Songwriting

Full course for one semester. Students will develop skills in song composition drawing upon a range of genres and styles, including rock, rap, blues, music theatre, folk, protest, and jazz standard. We will examine relevant models of these styles to inform composition, and hone musicianship skills in hearing melodies, rhythms, and harmonic progressions and in setting different kinds of lyrics. Students will notate songs as lead sheets and then make arrangements for performances at a final concert. Prerequisite: Music 210 or consent of the instructor. Conference-studio.

Music 319 - Collaborative Creativity

Full course for one semester. Collaboration is the foundation upon which many celebrated art projects achieve a whole greater than the sum of their parts. Whether poets and composers writing songs, choreographers and visual artists creating intermedia performance, or any devised-performance group developing new work together, this course seeks to engage students from varied disciplines in collaborative creativity. The central focus of the course is to create collaborative performance projects based upon the unique skill sets and interests of the students enrolled that will be presented in a student-produced performance. Students will study and apply the process of collaboration, group improvisation, and interdisciplinary performance spanning diverse genres, time periods, and media through reading, discussion, and creative work, and learn practical skills to bring such a project to fruition in a professional setting. Conference-studio.

Music 343 - Theory IV: Form and Analysis

Full course for one semester. This course prepares students to analyze the fugue as exemplified in the music of J.S. Bach and the sonata forms found in the music of Beethoven, as well as later developments in musical structure from romanticism to contemporary compositional practice, using score study and critical listening. Prerequisite: Music 310. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Music 344 - Junior Seminar: Ideologies of Improvisation

Full course for one semester. This junior seminar will examine improvisation as a musical practice, analytical object, and subject of critical discourse in a variety of historical and cultural contexts, attending to the musical techniques and artistic ideologies of improvisational performance in equal measure. Case studies will engage a diverse selection of historically significant improvisational practices in world musical culture and reflect the scope and range of critical music scholarship on these issues. Students will also conduct and workshop significant research projects on an improvisatory practice of their choice, together developing the methods and skills needed to undertake substantial independent projects. Prerequisite: Music 150, 221, 222, 312, and junior standing. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Music 357 - Introduction to Conducting

Full course for one semester. The conductor’s role in ensemble leadership is largely misunderstood. A casual observer might claim that setting the tempo is the principal concern of a conductor, but that is only one of the myriad of considerations that go into preparing a performance. This course will provide an introduction to the craft of conducting, including focus on score study rehearsal technique, performance practice, effective gesture, and the role of collective (group) intelligence in large-ensemble music. Students will conduct one another and guest musicians in a laboratory setting to allow for real-time feedback. Assignments will be drawn from a wide variety of genres (choral, instrumental, opera, chamber music) in order to address the specific conducting challenges of each category. Prerequisite: Music 110 and 210. Lecture-conference-studio.

Not offered 2020–21.

Music 360 - Music and the Black Freedom Struggle, 1865–1965

Full course for one semester. The civil rights movement in the United States, demanding full citizenship for African Americans, is most commonly associated with the momentous sociopolitical developments of the 1950s and 1960s. Increasingly, scholars have situated this “classical” period of the movement within a broader historical arc encompassing an ongoing “black freedom struggle” that dates to Reconstruction. Over the course of this century of struggle and resistance, music has continuously been a terrain on which U.S. citizens conceptualized, articulated, and negotiated the terms of an equitable society. Through close study of primary and secondary historical texts and musical repertory that will include the spiritual, jazz, and concert music, this course will explore ways in which ideas about musical sound and musical performance, from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of World War II, articulated the stakes of the black freedom struggle and the meanings of freedom. Prerequisites: Sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as History 390 and Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies 359.

Music 364 - The Blues: Forms, Styles, Meanings

Full course for one semester. In this course we will study one of the most important wellsprings for twentieth-century popular music, the blues, proceeding along three lines of inquiry: musical elements that characterize the blues, focusing on formal and harmonic structure, melodic and poetic ideals, and improvisational strategies; stylistic manifestations of the blues, including country blues, “classic” blues, postwar commercial styles, and influences on gospel music, rock, and jazz; and interpretations of the “blues aesthetic” as a cultural signifier, as reflected in music criticism, documentary film, literature, its production and consumption, and international reception. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Music 372 - Music and Voice

Full course for one semester. The bel canto ideal of Italian opera, the “flow” produced by a rapper’s delivery, the crooning of pop vocalists, the growl of heavy metal vocals, the microtonal inflections of Indian classical singing: such examples indicate a range of vocal practices that shape the production and experience of musical sound. What functions are served by the presence of a voice in music? Is a voice simply a bearer of words, or something more? Through study of selected musical examples and relevant music-historical and theoretical “voice studies” literature, this course will explore the manifestations, roles, and significance of the voice in music, as deployed artistically and as engaged by listeners to make meaning of musical experience. We will also consider how singing voices become linked to gender, race, ethnicity, class, and geographic region, and the ways in which the voice has been reimagined through avant-garde composition and technological intervention. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Music 470 - Thesis

Full course for one year.

Music 481 - Independent Study

One-half or full course for one semester. Prerequisite: approval of instructor and division.