Music Department


Academic Credit for Music Performance

All students participating in music performance courses (Music 101, 104, 105, 107, 108, and 109) must be registered. Private Instruction (Music 101) can either be taken for one-half unit, graded with a letter grade (which counts towards Group I distribution requirements and a student’s overall GPA), or for zero credit (which does not count towards the overall degree but is acknowledged in a student’s transcript). All other performance courses can be taken either for one-half unit on a credit/no credit basis (which counts towards the degree but not towards distribution requirements or GPA) or for zero credit. No more than one-half credit may be earned in music performance courses per semester. No more than two units may be received for the same music performance course. No more than three units of credit in music performance may be used toward the quantity requirement of 30 units for graduation."


Fees for private instruction are $630/semester for nine 60 minute lessons OR 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.

Music 101 - Private Instruction

Variable (zero or one-half)-unit semester course of individual instrumental or vocal instruction. This course is open to all students regardless of ability or previous experience. Private lessons are available for all orchestral instruments, guitar, harpsichord, piano, and voice, as well as non-Western instruments. Students will take weekly lessons with their private instructor. May be taken for one-half unit with a letter grade, or taken for zero units. If taken for one-half unit with a letter grade, students are required to satisfy weekly individual-practice requirements and/or listening assignments (minimum 5 hours/week), and attend (virtually or in person) one off-campus music event (concert, lecture, master class, etc.). Students will perform publicly at least once during the semester or take a performance exam at the end of the term. Students who are also registered in ensembles are encouraged to register for MUS 101. May be repeated for credit. 

Music 104 - Reed Orchestra

Variable (zero or one-half)-unit semester course. 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 if taken for one-half unit. Students are strongly encouraged to register for MUS 101 private lessons when registered for Reed Orchestra. May be repeated for credit.

Music 105 - Reed Chorus

Variable (zero or one-half)-unit semester course. 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 if taken for one-half unit. Students are strongly encouraged to register for MUS 101 private lessons when registered for Reed Chorus. May be repeated for credit. 

Music 106 - Treble Voices Ensemble

Variable (zero or one-half)-unit semester course. The Treble Voices Ensemble rehearses and performs vocal music from many historic periods and styles written for upper voices (sopranos and altos). Credit/no credit only if taken for one-half unit. Corequisite: MUS 105 or 107. May be repeated for credit.

Music 107 - Collegium Musicum

Variable (zero or one-half)-unit semester course. The Collegium rehearses and performs vocal music from many historic periods suitable for a small group. Prerequisite: audition required. Credit/no credit only if taken for one-half unit. Prerequisite: MUS 105. May be repeated for credit. 

Music 108 - Jazz Ensemble

Variable (zero or one-half)-unit semester course. 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 if taken for one-half unit. Students are encouraged to register for MUS 101 private lessons when registered for Jazz Ensemble. May be repeated for credit.

Music 109 - Chamber Music

Variable (zero or one-half)-unit semester course. 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. Students should expect to practice individually for 2.5 hours per week, and are strongly encouraged to register for MUS 101 private lessons when registered for Chamber Music. Prerequisite: audition. Credit/no credit only if taken for one-half unit. May be repeated for credit.

Music 110 - Fundamentals of Music

One-unit semester course. This course introduces basic elements of music, including notation of pitch and rhythm, intervals, melody, instrumentation/timbre, scales, keys and tonality, pulse and syncopation, triads and seventh chords, chord progressions and cadences. Labs will include some of the same activities in smaller groups, as well as playing (on keyboard or other primary instrument), dictation, identification of concepts/sounds introduced in lecture, close listening, and improvisation. Lecture and laboratory.

Music 142 - Latin American Popular Music

One-unit semester course. 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.

Not offered 2023–24.

Music 150 - The Cultural Study of Music

One-unit semester course. 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 critical approach to the study of music as a cultural phenomenon, this course will examine how diverse modes of attention to musical and other sounds contributes to larger struggles over sameness and difference, belonging and exclusion, and the status of music as a privileged category of social experience. We will focus on developing a critical vocabulary and particular mode of listening in order to explore and directly engage with these struggles. Lecture-conference. Cross-listed as CRES 150.

Music 185 - Music and the Environment

One-unit semester course. Drawing on a broad range of musical genres and sonic practices—classical and popular, local and global, historical and contemporary—this class will develop a set of tools that allows us to experience, analyze, critique, and interpret the multifaceted relationship between music and the environment. How have music and sound been used to represent the natural world, reframe the relationship between art and science, construct identity with reference to place, or participate in social activism? What is the environmental footprint of musicking? Can learning to listen encourage practices of sustainability? There will be both written and creative assignments. Conference.

Not offered 2023–24.

Music 205 - Musicianship

One-unit semester course. This course guides students in the development of their musicianship and aural skills in tandem with topics and concepts covered in Music 210. Class activities will include melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic dictations; group reading of assigned musical excerpts; discussions of challenges and strategies in music making; and student presentations of varied assignments, including transcriptions and covers of student-selected songs, duo and small ensemble performances of two-part musical excerpts, and other creative projects. Prerequisite: MUS 110 or equivalent skill, determined by an assessment. Laboratory-conference.

Music 207 - Musical Dialogues Across Disciplines

One-unit semester course. This course is a practice-based music composition seminar where students will engage in cross-disciplinary dialogues with works of literature, visual art, dance, and film in order to generate original musical compositions and hybrid multimedia works. Utilizing the sensory language offered by each medium, students will explore the synergistic and synesthetic language between the visual/sonic, sonic/spatial, spatial/temporal, verbal/nonverbal, and gestural and embodied languages to craft unique musical works inspired by and generated in conversation with these narrative and temporal mediums. Final projects will be presented in hybrid forms of multimedia and time-based arts. Studio.

Music 210 - Music Theory and Practice II

One-unit semester course. This course examines the conventions, fundamentals, and inner workings of tonal harmony as developed by composers of the Western art music tradition from the start of the seventeenth century to twenty-first century through the lens of classical and contemporary music practices. Through written exercises and analysis of selected works, students will identify musical elements such as harmonic rhythm and progressions, cadences, nonchord tones, secondary dominant chords, modal mixture, form, and idiomatic languages of musical movements from history to modern and popular music today. Prerequisite: MUS 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

One-unit semester course. Introducing students to a range of sacred and secular genres, this course will study the history of music in early modern Europe with a particular focus on ideas of encounter, exchange, and entanglement with people, sounds, ideas, and materials around the globe. What can music teach us about how people thought, felt, and acted in the past? When does music illuminate the past in ways other historical documents do not? How did encounter within and outside of Europe shape ideas about culture, mapping of the world, and racial and ethnic difference? History is an exercise in storytelling; you will work with primary and secondary sources in order to understand how music history has been constructed, and to craft your own stories that connect music making in the past to our present-day experiences as listeners, musicians, and writers. MUS 221 can be taken independently of MUS 222. Conference.

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

One-unit semester course. This course will study selected examples of art music cultivated in Western Europe and the United States from the mid-eighteenth century to the present. We’ll pay particular attention to the musical, philosophical, and social conditions that led to the emergence of a canon, as well as the ways canonicity has always been complicated and challenged by musicians, listeners, and scholars. Students will develop the listening, analytic, and critical skills necessary to formulate and engage music-historical questions relating to constructions of gender and race, cultural nationalisms, the impact of globalization, the ethics of borrowing and appropriation, and aesthetics. MUS 222 can be taken independently of MUS 221. Conference.

Music 234 - Listening to Dance Music

One-unit semester course. This class will explore the field of choreomusicology by engaging with topics including embodiment, movement as language, the work concept, and improvisation in repertoire from seventeenth-century French court ballets to Hamilton. How have bodies moved to music? Which music, and which bodies? How has dance been used as an aesthetic manifestation of social power? In an effort to “keep ourselves off-center in order to stay on target” (in the words of dance historian Brenda Dixon Gottschild), one way we’ll approach music and dance history is through doing. What can we learn about the 17th century through dancing that we couldn’t learn from a book? Is it possible to imagine historical experiences of listening with the right kinesthetic knowledge? Is dance a way of knowing? Conference.

Not offered 2023–24.

Music 254 - Africa in the Black Musical Imagination

One-unit semester course. “What is Africa to me?” asked the Harlem Renaissance writer Countee Cullen in his 1925 poem “Heritage.” This course will introduce students to the ways and ends to which Black musicians, primarily in the United States, have explored this question. The responses have varied, ranging from early twentieth-century musical theater reconciling modern identities with “dark continent” stereotypes, to the cultural-political embrace of Afrocentricity in Sixties jazz and soul, to the Afro-diasporic parable of Beyoncé’s 2020 visual album Black Is King. This is not a course on music from the African continent. Rather, through suggestive musical examples and literature on such topics as Ethiopianism, African retentions, and the politics of origins, students will consider how and why Black musicians have persistently asserted and negotiated relationships with Africa—whether as a homeland or as a space of fantasy—and the fluidity of these relationship over time. Conference. Cross-listed as CRES 254.

Music 271 - Studying Popular Music

One-unit semester course. 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.

Music 277 - Music and Politics

One-unit semester course. 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 283 - Musical Avant-Gardes

One-unit semester course. “Piano Piece for David Tudor #3: Most of them were very old grasshoppers.” —La Monte Young (1960). What is an avant-garde? How can music be “ahead of its time?” In this class, students will consider the histories, aesthetics, and sociopolitical contexts of musical avant-gardes and musical experimentalism post-World War II through the lens of critical vanguard studies. While the course focuses on music of the 1950s–1970s (from Fluxus artists such as Yoko Ono and Alison Knowles to the avant-jazz of Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane), we will also consider what a musical avant-garde in the 2020s might sound like, look like, or act like. Conference.

Not offered 2023–24.

Music 291 - Women and Performance in 1960s Popular Music

One-unit semester course. 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.

Not offered 2023–24.

Music 302 - Sound Studies

One-unit semester course. This course will provide an introduction to sound studies, an emerging field of inquiry situated at the intersection of critical music scholarship, anthropology of the senses, science and technology studies, and a wide range of sonic practices, artistic and otherwise. Students will read foundational texts in the field (including R. Murray Schafer, Steven Feld, Jonathan Sterne, and Emily Thompson, among others), listen to and discuss a wide variety of sonic practices (musical performance, sound art, acoustic ecology, etc.), and conduct original research projects on current issues regarding the making, experience, meaning, and power of sound in social life and history. Conference.

Not offered 2023–24.

Music 305 - Musical Ethnography

One-unit semester course. 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 ANTH 305.

Music 306 - Writing About Music

One-unit semester course. Music is a tricky subject for the writer. On the one hand, the technical vocabulary of music studies is specialized such that it is accessible only to the narrowest of audiences. On the other hand, what often seems most important about our experiences with music can feel nearly impossible to capture in words at all. In this writing-intensive course, we will navigate these extremes via the study and practice of writing about music, from general descriptive writing to the many genres of music criticism, journalism, ethnography, memoir, and other creative nonfiction forms. Through conference-style discussion of exemplary work in these areas and regular peer workshopping of our in-progress writing projects, students will cultivate both a critical understanding and practical aptitude regarding the hows and whys of compelling writing about music. Prerequisite: MUS 150 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Music 310 - Music Theory in Practice: Introduction to Conducting

One-unit semester course. What skills and responsibilities are expected of the conductor of a musical ensemble? When and for what purposes is gesture necessary? How can this role adapt to meet the individuals in the room and their strengths? This course will offer an introduction to the craft and tasks of conducting, with emphasis on score study and analysis, audiating and imagining the score, keyboard and score reading skills, basics of gesture and baton technique, rehearsal methods and strategies, and the evolving considerations of programming and performance practice. Students will start the term by introducing a song by ear to the class, develop skills and awareness in conducting labs which will involve preparing to sing and/or play assigned musical excerpts and leading one another to gain real-time feedback, and end the term by conducting one of the Reed College choirs in a public lab setting. Prerequisite: MUS 205 and 210, or permission of instructor. Lecture-conference-studio.

Music 314 - Composition

One-unit semester course. 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: MUS 210 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2023–24.

Music 315 - Electroacoustic Composition

One-unit semester course. Utilizing original field recordings and samples of varying spectra, registers, textures, qualities, and durations, students will learn and apply creative recording techniques and dynamic approaches in audio manipulation and studio transformations to create distinct sonic worlds and musical languages. Engaging in practices of musique concrète and informed by methods and forms employed by contemporary electroacoustic artists such as Matmos, Alvin Lucier, Janet Cardiff, Christina Kubisch, La Monte Young, Björk, and Laurie Anderson, students will work towards the final presentation of a generative, narrative, musical work featuring original aural architectures and crafted works of time-based sensory storytelling. Students are encouraged to perform in their own works, engage in studio collaborations, and compose and present final works for traditional and non-traditional settings. Studio.

Music 316 - Composition: Songwriting and Storytelling

One-unit semester course. Students will develop skills in song composition drawing upon a range of genres and styles, including rock, rap, blues, opera, music-theater, 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: MUS 210 or consent of the instructor. Conference-studio.

Music 319 - Collaborative Creativity

One-unit semester course. 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.

Not offered 2023–24.

Music 344 - Junior Seminar: Ideologies of Improvisation

One-unit semester course. 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: MUS 150, 221, 222, and junior standing. Conference.

Not offered 2023–24.

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

One-unit semester course. 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 HIST 390 and CRES 359.

Music 372 - Music and Voice

One-unit semester course. 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 2023–24.

Music 410 - Post-Tonal Theory and Beyond

One-unit semester course. This course will examine topics in post-tonal music theory (including set theory, serialism, and other methods of post-tonal composition and analysis) and trends in contemporary music since the twentieth century through written exercises, analysis, essays, presentations, and composition. This advanced seminar will focus on synthesizing knowledge of various theoretical approaches to better analyze and discuss music drawn from a broad spectrum of styles and origins. Prerequisite: MUS 310 or permission of instructor. Lecture-conference.

Not offered 2023–24.

Music 470 - Thesis

Two-unit yearlong course; one unit per semester.

Music 481 - Independent Study

Variable (one-half or one)-unit semester course. Prerequisite: approval of instructor and division.