Music Appreciation for the 21st Century

The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village. (Marshall McLuhan, “Gutenberg Galaxy”, 1962)

One of our most successful avenues into McLuhan’s future is a full appreciation of musics heard around the globe. Western Art Music, once the subject of “Music Appreciation” courses, is now just one piece of a world-wide kaleidoscope of musical experiences. Some musics are labelled as art, like the Western symphonic repertoire and the Japanese gagaku orchestra, while others can be more easily appreciated as folk. The line between both becomes blurred, and even meaningless, in many places. In all cases, music is hard-wired into our genes, making it universal, even if its organized sounds differ from place to place.

The West and its culture continues to exert a dominant influence around the world, but in a curious turn of history, the resulting collision of Western and Other musical cultures has resulted in musical hybrids and derivatives. A global music appreciation course such as this course will be the kind of guide you need to navigate among these Brave New Musical Medleys.

This course will not be a Cook’s Tour of music instruments, symphonic repertoire, opera plots, etc. Instead, you will learn basic musical concepts that allow you to be comfortable in any musical setting. Because the class is drawn from non-music students, technical discussions involving music theory will be kept to a minimum.

Course Requirements

Each of the classes will begin with a lecture, supplemented by pre-lecture readings (available online at your class WebCT course website). Then you will participate in round-table discussions, either in the form of student-lead presentations of personal music pleasures, or student-lead readings and responses.

The readings consist of articles, outlined below, that will be summarized by one student, and then responded to by a second student. Students who are not summarizing or responding in a particular class will be expected to have at least three questions or comments prepared for the discussion. Therefore you will have to be equally familiar with the articles. The books from which some of the readings are excerpted will be available in the library. The other readings are from journals and e-books which are available online through the library system. When you are assigned a reading, you will submit a copy of your summary to your respondent a day or more before the two of you present your summaries. Both of you will create documents in point form that will equal three pages and then submit them online to me via your WebCT course site.

The second In-Class project is devoted to presentations. Individual students will be given the floor for 20 minutes to present one example of their favourite music, and explain why in detail. Then the rest of the class will be given 10 minutes to respond and ask questions, or even agree enthusiastically.

At the end of the week, you will be expected to add your comments about the week’s lectures and discussions to the WebCT Vista online Discussion Board. This format will resemble twitter in that it will consist of ongoing student discussions about any or all of the topics mentioned in class as the semester unfolds.

There will be no written exams. Instead, you will have two assignments:

Mid-term Project: You will write a review of a concert in any genre you choose, with additional information from the Net and the library in order to add depth to your personal perspective.

End-of-term Project: You will create an imaginary concert specifying all the factors that would make it successful, including repertoire, context, and publicity. For extra marks, use ideas that have been discussed in class, or read about in book reviews.

WebCT Connect

All the necessary components of the course including the lectures and listening tests can be accessed online from anywhere via WebCT Connect, using your WCL (Campus Wide Login) password and username.

Lecture outlines
Pre-lecture readings
In-Class Readings and Responses guidelines
In-Class Presentations
Assignment guidelines
Discussion board

All your In-Class and out-of-class assignments and projects will be submitted to me online using your Vista class account. The marks for each assessment or assignment will be posted in your personal Vista website instantly, giving you a running record of your success in the class.

Summary of Mark Distribution

In-Class reading summary or response 18 %
In-Class music listening presentation 18 %
Mid-term assignment 25 %
End-of-term assignment 26 %
Weekly online Discussion Forum (13 weeks) 13%

According to the School of Music guidelines, the grades awarded in this course will follow established university-wide practices with respect to both levels and distribution of grades. In addition, students are expected to adhere to the School of Music policy with respect to “Intellectual Honesty,” and “Academic Discipline”. (See the current general calendar.)


Bonnie Wade, Thinking Musically: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture (Oxford University Press, 2008)

Lecture Schedule and Required Reading List:

Week 1 Introduction and Expectations

Goal: To preview and debate the universal characteristics that lie at the heart of art, popular and world musics.

In-Class reading: Judith Becker, (1986) “Is Western Music Superior?” in Musical Quarterly, volume 72, number 3: 341-59

Book Review: Nicholas Cook (1998) Music: A Very Short Introduction

Week 2 Melody

Goal: To investigate the role of melody in different musical contexts to understand how tunes operate around the world.

In-Class Reading: John Blacking (1974) How Musical is Man? pp. 3-31, 32-53

Book Review:  Aaron Copland (1957/2011) What to Listen for in Music

Week 3 Rhythm

Goal: To understand the place of rhythm in various musical settings and see how it crosses musical boundaries and contributes to the world of dance.

In-Class Reading: Robert Philip (2004) “Quest ions of Authority: the Composer,” in Performing Music in the Age of Recording, pp. 140-182

Book Review: Philip Bohlman (2002) World Music: A Very Short Introduction

Week 4 Form

Goal: To recognise how music patterns in individual compositions and genres are repeated in all music cultures and the consequences of that aural experience on the listener.

In-Class Reading: Peter Van Der Mere (1989) “The Riddle of the Twelve-Bar Blues,” in Origins of the Popular Style: The Antecedents of Twentieth-Century Popular Music, pp. 213-286

Book Review: Mark Slobin (2011) Folk Music: A Very Short Introduction

Week 5 Context

Goal: To appreciate the profound manner in which the context of a music performance can influence the experience of listening to the music.

In-Class Reading: Matthew Riley (2004) “Introduction, Attentive Listening,” in Musical Listening in the German Enlightenment, pp. 1-46

Book Review: Jonathan Buckley et al (2010) The Rough Guide to Classical Music

Week 6 Western Art Music – Harmony

Goal: To recognize the unique contributions and complications that Western harmony has made to our understanding of how music works.

In-Class Reading: Ross W. Duffin (2006) How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care)

Book Review: Simon Broughton et al (1999) World Music: The Rough Guide, volume 1 and 2

Week 7 Western Art Music – History

Goal: To identify how a study of the history of music in the west reveals trends and innovations among composers and performers who strive for a balance of the new and the old.

In-Class Reading: Regula Hohl Trillini (2008) “‘Glorious Disability: The Piano and the Mid-Victorians,” in The Gaze of the Listener: English representations of domestic music-making, pp. 1-11, 111-164

Book Review: Roger Kamien (2010) Music: An Appreciation

Week 8 Popular Music

Goal: To understand how popular music follows many of the same cultural imperatives of Western art music while standing outside of the domain of conventional art music.

In-Class Reading: Chris MacDonald (2009) “‘Anywhere But Here’ Rush and Suburban Desires for Escape,” in Rush: Rock Music and the Middle Class, Dreaming in Middletown, pp. 27-61

Book Review:Terry Miller, Andrew Shahriari (2012) World Music: A Global Journey

Week 9 Popular Music – History

Goal: To appreciate the cycles of trends and interests that parallel Western art music history, despite their radical differences.

In-Class Reading: Paul DiMaggio and Toqir Mukhtar, “Arts participation as cultural capital in the United States, 1982–2002: Signs of decline?” in Poetics 32 (2004) 169–194

Book Review: Joseph Machlis et al (2011) Enjoyment of Music

Week 10 Folk Music

Goal: To understand how folk music has had a major influence on the art musics of the world, including the West.

In-Class Reading: John Holt (1978) “Beginning the Cello,” in Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story, pp. 139-171

Book Review: Jeff Todd Titon, editor (2009) Worlds of Music

Week 11 World Music Zones

Goal: To recognise the geography of musical trends around the world, and how they have are maintaining and adapting their traditions in the face of the dominant effect of western art and popular music.

In-Class Reading: Simon Frith (2004) “What is Bad Music?” in Bad Music: The Music We Love to Hate, edited by Christopher Washburne and Maiken Derno, pp. 15-38

Book Review: David Willoughby (2009) The World of Music

Week 12 World Music Contexts

Goal: To see how the various contexts of world music have provided new understandings of the listening experience in the West.

In-Class Reading: Nicholas Cook (2003) “Music as Performance,” in The Cultural Study of Music edited by Martin Clayton at al., pp. 204-214

Book Review: Larry Starr, Christopher Waterman, Jay Hodgson (2009) Rock: A Canadian Perspective

Week 13 The Local Musicscape

Goal: To appreciate how music in its many forms has become a vital component of Vancouver’s multicultural environment.

In-Class Reading: Norman Lebrecht (2007) “Maestros,” in The Life and Death of Classical Music, pp. 1-140

Book Review: Michael Bakan (2007) World Music: Traditions and Transformations

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