2018-2019 Catalog

MUSC 285 Topics in the Critical Study of Music

Various topics are offered. Each may be used by Music Majors to fulfill the College-wide Second-Stage Writing Requirement.

The Music Video

Since its emergence in the late 1970s the music video has become the dominant means of advertising popular music and musicians as well as one of the most influential multimedia genres in history.  Music videos have affected aesthetic style in a wide range of film and television genres introducing experimental and avant-garde techniques to a mass audience.  Because most music videos last only a few minutes it is difficult to make sense of their often-conflicting images sounds and messages.  This course challenges participants to read music videos as texts by engaging with their visual and auditory materials.  We will explore how the gender race and class of video participants shapes meaning as well as how pacing and editing contribute to (or detract from) a narrative flow. We will also consider the music video in relation to notions of stardom and celebrity and will speculate on the future of the music video amid drastic changes in the production and marketing of media. The second portion of the course applies these analytical skills to a wide variety of media including video games live concert films film and television music placements television title sequences and end credits user generated content YouTube remixes and more. 

Performance and Politics of the United States-Mexico Border. 

This course examines the ways that the United States-Mexico border has been represented as a space of violence and creativity limits and possibility in music theater literature and film. Shuttling back and forth between the border as a geopolitical boundary and as a trope of emergent identity the cultural texts we will examine challenge dominant narratives of national belonging self and other gender and racial hierarchy and economic marginalization. Engaging in a historically situated analysis of cultural texts that offer alternative perspectives on the lived experiences of those who inhabit the dynamic contact zone between the United States and Mexico students will critically engage the concepts and issues that have shaped the master narrative of the border. In addition to writing a twelve-page research paper students will produce a multimedia digital project. Not open to frosh. 

Music and Social Protest 

Over the past century, music has played a central role in political and social movements that seek to shift the balance of power in local, national, and transnational contexts. From the songs of the African American freedom struggle to the music of the nueva cancion movement in Chile, from the live performance practice of the Occupy and immigrant rights movements to the raucous sounds of Russia's Pussy Riot, music has been an important mode of circulating alternative political messages and inspiring rebellion against the status quo. How can music be used to convey political messages and extend the reach of social movements? Why does music enhance cohesion and solidarity among movement participants and/or sway or destabilize oppositional forces? Are there differences between mass-mediated modes of political protest and live, grassroots political performances? When voices raised in song become powerful, what protocols are established to censor and repress them? We will examine these questions in the context of social movements which have inspired mass participation, comparing and contrasting case studies from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Additional Core Requirement: Global Connections.


4 units

Core Requirements Met

  • Fine Arts