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Courses Taught At Rutgers University

Byrne Seminar

Sounding Play: Acoustic Ecology of Sports and Games

The intimate silence of the tennis court interrupted by a player’s grunt; the focused listening of a double Dutch jumper with ropes that move too fast to see; the country music song playing in the pickup truck you stole in a video game; chanting with 40,000 other fans against the wrong call the referee’s whistle just signaled. Sound is an essential component of sports and games. Both as players and spectators, people engage in listening, chanting, speaking, noise-making, music-making, and even staying silent as part of an auditory ecology that is intimately tied with the immersion, flow, and ultimately, the success of the activity. In this class we will explore a series of case studies within the game-sport continuum that address important questions about gender, race, social experience, and the nature and potentials of participatory sound making. These will include chanting and crowd noise in stadium sports (soccer, football, tennis), double Dutch rope skipping, diegetic and non-diegetic music in open-world action games (Grand Theft Auto, Lord of the Rings Online), sound-driven designer board games (Space Alert, Escape: The Curse of the Temple), the sound crisis of motorsports (Formula 1 and Formula E), and music-rhythm games (Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Dance Dance Revolution). Sound, ever present, becomes the basis for deep, intimate connections among and across players, gamers, and audiences.

MUS 419/20

Experimental Musics in the Americas

In this course, we will explore diverse case studies of musical practices in the Americas that were conceived and/or perceived as experimental. We will tune our ears to the strategies used by musicians working on the fringes of different musical traditions (although with a focus on classical music), including indeterminacy, open forms, microtonalism, collective improvisation, electroacoustic media, and the embrace of noise and silence. We will pay attention primarily to the history, practice, and aesthetics of experimentalism in the Americas during the mid-twentieth century but will also consider tendencies in earlier and later periods. We will engage in discussions about conventional narratives on music experimentation (from Cowell to Cage, from Nyman to Taruskin), and contemporary considerations that investigate the emergence of the category experimental as something that needs to be examined from its fabrication through networks of discourses, practices and institution (Beal, Piekut). Overall, this course looks at experimentalism not as a given category, but as a practice, the result of a set of stories, of groupings, and of enacted tropes that proliferate and are disseminated by composers, performers, critics, and patrons, always embedded in webs of racial, gendered, and geopolitical discourses.

Byrne Seminar

Latin Music U.S.A.

In this first-year seminar students will explore the making, playing, and dancing of Latin music in the United States. We will use case studies in salsa, reggaeton, Latin jazz, hip-hop, Chicano and Latin rock, cumbia, and bachata to explore how Latin America is not a geographical location but a set of ideas and relationships that cross the boundaries between North, Central and South America. In other words, we will be looking at the United States as yet another site for the production, consumption and articulation of Latin American and/or Latino/a expressive culture. We will address broader questions as they emerge within these case studies: What do we learn through music about transnational, post-colonial, or local-global relationships in the Americas? What is the role of migration, digital technologies and mass media in the creation, transmission, and interpretation of expressive cultural practices? How does music mediate identifications as American, Latin American, and Latino/a?

MUS 519/20

Social Theory and Problems in Ethnomusicology

This course is an introductory, but in-depth survey of major theoretical paradigms in the social sciences and humanities that have shaped the intellectual history of ethnomusicology, particularly in the United States of America. Many of the concepts, theories, and methods that we will study have come primarily through anthropology, but also sociology, historical musicology, linguistics, folklore, semiotics, and cultural studies. This course will be beneficial for those interested in socio-cultural musical analysis, and its objectives include sharpening your ability to read and think critically, to articulate ideas in talking and writing, and to employ social theory appropriately and beneficially in your own work. Ultimately, the primary goal of this course is to help you develop your own scholarly and analytical persona.

MUS 303

Principles of Ethnomusicology

This course is an introduction to the discipline of ethnomusicology understood in its broadest way. We explore multiple theoretical orientations of contemporary ethnomusicology, the history of ethnomusicology, and the nature of doing fieldwork and ethnography in relation to music and music making. Emphasis is placed on what it is that ethnomusicologists do by addressing fieldwork techniques, contemporary social theory, and the nature of ethnographic representation. Throughout the course we use diverse case studies from musical practices around the world that expand on the topics discussed.

MUS 292

Introduction to Musics of the World

This course is an introduction to the study of music as social life in different societies around the world. The central aim of this course is to examine the ways in which music and musical performance are important, useful, and meaningful for people. We will study indigenous, popular, and classical traditions from an ethnomusicological perspective, emphasizing aspects of performance, participation, and meaning, while highlighting the relationship of music with other domains of social life such as race, religion, cosmology, language, gender, politics, and economy. The musical traditions that we will examine include examples from South and Central America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Indonesia, Asia and North America. By analyzing the degree to which forms of human difference reflected and constructed through music shape a person’s experiences of and perspectives on the world, it is hoped that the student will gain greater insight into the similarities and differences of these musical traditions and their role in contemporary societies.

Past Courses

Spring 2012

Across Borders: Musical Flows Between North, Central, and South America

In this class students will explore the sonic and political interactions between North, Central, and South America, both in concert and popular music examining how Latin America and the U.S. exist in constant dialogue. We will consider music as constituted by international movements and exchanges and as a product that circulates globally in complex ways. Under this lens students will examine genres like rock, jazz, concert art music, bossa nova, son, salsa, tango, mariachi, hip-hop, nortec, and reggaeton. We will address broader questions as they emerge within these case studies: What does this musical exchange tell us about international, post-colonial, or local-global relationships? What is the role of migration and mass media in the creation, transmission, and interpretation of musical and cultural practices? How does music mediate concepts and categories such as race and nation?.


Introduction to Latin America and the Caribbean

Introduction to Latin America offers an interdisciplinary introduction to the ways of life of Latin American peoples, their origins, historical legacies, and current cultural expressions. This course assumes no prior knowledge of Latin America, and incorporates the insights of several disciplines including anthropology, history, political science, economics, cultural studies, literary criticism, and ethnomusicology. The course seeks to comprehend the region from multiple perspectives and to provide a broad conceptual overview of Latin America.