Okay, here comes another course evaluation, this time for MUSC 110, or Intensive Tonal Music Theory. Or something to that effect.
Course Description: This is a brand new course this year, and it’s music theory, but for students with a strong background in theory already. When you audition for the School of Music, you write a theory test, and there will be some hard questions on there that not everyone is expected to get right. The ones who DO get them right, about 15-20 people, will be invited into the Intensive Theory stream. Basically, this means that you’ll do four hours of theory lectures per week each term for three terms instead of three hours per week (plus tutorials) for four terms. Not to mention, since the regular theory doesn’t start until the second term of first year, everyone else finishes theory in third year while you’re done in second year. Plus the class starts at 11:00 rather than 8:30. It does go at a fast pace, but if you show up and do the homework and such, and as specified you are in fact rather good at theory and have a fair bit of education on the subject in the first place, it shouldn’t be too bad.
Textbook use: This course requires two textbooks, The Complete Musician and the accompanying workbook by Laitz. The first half of the course doesn’t use the textbook at all, but the second half and the two terms that come next will use the textbooks a lot. Well; the professor often assigns readings, some of which are helpful, but a lot of the time he disagrees with what is in the textbook which can be frustrating at times. The workbook you will use pretty much every week after the first half of the course, because that’s where your assignments come out of, as in, you literally tear out the pages and do assignments in the book. You definitely need to buy both books. (The prof says he wants you to have your books in class, but they’re really heavy and I never do. I was fine.)
Homework: This class has a lot of homework, as expected of an intensive stream. There are two assignments due each week, one on Monday and one on Thursday (unless the prof doesn’t cover enough material for another assignment – which no one minds). The assignments can actually be quite difficult and take a LOT of time to do, and they count for 40% of your grade.
Professor: Professor Benjamin certainly is a character. He is clearly extremely knowledgeable about music theory, although at times our class found he didn’t always communicate his knowledge extremely effectively. Once you get past the fact that he only finishes about half the sentences he starts and is nearly always late, his class is quite enjoyable. He comes up with the best analogies for EVERYTHING – they definitely make class more interesting! He knows the name of everyone in the class and takes an interest in the students. If you don’t understand something, he is happy to talk to you after class or make an appointment to see you in his office.
Class format: Small class size of about 15-20 people. It’s great because you sort of have a “Theory Family” that you see almost every day; the class meets four times per week for one hour lectures. All the classes are with the professor (no TAs). Assignments twice a week. The first half of the semester is doing MUSC 100 in five weeks, a midterm on that, and then you start using the textbooks. Material on the midterm was not on the final, which was nice.
Additional comments: This was the first year this course ran, so it’s a given that there are some things to be worked out. The first half of the course was rather confusing because we had no textbook to reference, and the lecture notes we were supposed to fill in weren’t made by our professor so he didn’t always stick to what was on there and we didn’t get answers to everything on the sheet, and it was more difficult to tell what was the important stuff to know. Often times the professor wouldn’t have the assignment ready until Saturday, which meant we had less time to do the long assignment before Monday, and this was problematic for me sometimes when I would be going home over the weekend and wanted to get it done on Thursday, but then I couldn’t. The exam was REALLY hard, and although I think I did well on it, it was very difficult and I thought it had a few things on it that we hadn’t really ever covered. That said, I’m glad I’m taking this course and for the most part I enjoy it and the assignments are fair. Not to mention I’ll get out of theory way sooner than everyone else!