2022-2023 Catalog

MUSC 264 The Total Artwork

While attempts to theorize a coming-together of all of the arts to create a unified artwork date to the eighteenth century, it is in the nineteenth century that the notion of a total artwork—in German, a Gesamtkunstwerk—gathers steam, famously in the writings of Richard Wagner, who sees in the total artwork the “artwork of the future” (the title of one of his most famous essays). This course examines the evolution of this concept within and beyond the Wagnerian context, from its prehistory in eighteenth-century theories of beauty and taste, to sound film and music videos, to contemporary Los Angeles dining experiences (such as at Craig Thornton’s Wolvesmouth and Jordan Kahn’s Vespertine) that pick up where Wagner’s theories left off. To chart this history will require us to consider theater, music, dance, painting, architecture, philosophy, film, and gastronomy. Throughout we will investigate the roles that attentiveness and perception play in these multi-sensory events, and consider how European thought and practices migrate and get translated to a contemporary, North American context. Guest lectures by artists and restaurateurs will be supplemented by field trips to Los Angeles arts and dining venues. No previous musical experience required. 


4 units

Core Requirements Met

  • Global Connections
  • Fine Arts