MUS 135 Isn't it Good, Norwegian Wood?: Storytelling in Music (Not offered 2004-2005)

The Beatles' song "Norwegian Wood" tells the story of a mysterious encounter between a man and a woman that either does or does not culminate in sex and/or arson. How do the music and lyrics interact to communicate the dramatic events, emotions, and characters of the song? More generally, how have stories been told in music through the centuries, and why do some narratives retain a grip on our imagination? Even without text, music can relate compelling narratives, such as the heroic struggle for transcendence suggested by Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. What purely musical means do composers employ to tell stories? This course explores a broad range of archetypal narratives communicated in music: tales of unrequited love and star-crossed lovers; heroic transcendence and Faustian bargains; conflict, murder and revenge; and exotic and comic tales. Genres covered include chant, madrigals, opera, song cycles, concertos, symphonies, tone poems, musicals, film, and ballet, as well as popular ballads from country and western, the blues, and rock `n roll. Format: lecture/discussion. Evaluation will be based on attendance and participation, several short quizzes and papers, and a final exam. No prerequisites. Enrollment limit: 30 (expected: 30). Preference given by class year (will seek a balance of under- and upperclassmen) and interest in music.

BLOXAM HIRSCH