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Music and Civic Culture: Ancient and Modern

Semester and Year SP 2017
Course Number IDSEM-UG1772
Section 001
Instructor Bruce King
Days MW
Time 4:55 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM, PREMOD



This course examines the role of music theory and musical performance in the formation of community, actual and utopic. We will begin our study with the musical, mathematical, and mystical thought of Pythagoras and his followers in the short-lived utopian community of Croton: How is “the Music of the Spheres” a paradigm both for ethical action within the community and for the progress of the soul within the cosmos? From Croton, we will turn to debates about music and civic culture in fifth-century democratic Athens: What forms of music and poetry sustain and subvert citizens and states? Is there a particularly “democratic” form of music? (Readings from Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes, Plato, and Aristotle.) From ancient Greece, we will then turn to the late-nineteenth century efforts of Wagner, partially inspired by Athenian tragedy, to create the “Total Work of Art” in his Ring cycle of music-dramas and in the festival at Bayreuth; we will also read Nietzsche’'s (and Adorno’'s) responses to Greek tragedy and to Wagner. Finally, we will consider some twentieth-century experiments in music and art, especially those associated with Fluxus and with New York City (e.g., John Cage, Steve Reich, La Monte Young, Yoko Ono, The Velvet Underground), in dialogue with our earlier readings.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)