Music 105

Graduate Seminar in Electro-Acoustic Music

Dartmouth College


Spring, 2008


Systems of Musical Thought:
The Origins of Music


class mascot (thanks kristina)

Class Description

This class will focus on reading, class discussion, and writing. The main topic of the class will be "origins," the evolution of "music" in humans. I hope that we will  range far afield in our efforts to discuss that, and in fact, to even decide what this topic is, what it might be. We will consider biomusicology, evolutionary theory, innate versus learned musical abilities, "old" musical abilities (that is, pre human), the relationships of music to language,  communication, "music" and communication in non-human species, cognitive research (on humans and not), biological art and music, and other fields. We will also consider the relevance and impact of the material we read on us as composers, musicians, and researchers in the field of elecro-acoustic music. One interesting question we can keep in mind is: "Is something innate or not, and if it is, what do we do with this knowledge?"


This is  primarily a "reading class." My goal is for us emerge from it with a  more considered set of opinions about the nature of fundamental questions regarding humans and music. To this end, my aims are:

Each student will be assigned to lead a short discussion on two papers (selected in collaboration with me), focusing on the readings. In true seminar form, graduate students will lead the class as an instructor, asking questions, posing problems, moderating the discussion on their selected readings.  I hope this will give everyone some practical teaching experience in this context, as well as to  get everyone involved in the subject matter as deeply as possible. These will, in general, take place on Thursdays.


In addition to the readings, students will do a "take home" test, which will be in the form of several very large questions, hopefully offering people the opportunity to summarize, via what they've read, their opinions and thoughts about various issues in the field.

Class Schedule and Readings

March 25, 27 (Week 1) Introduction


April 1, 3 (Week 2) The "origins of music"


Graduate student presenters: Courtney, Michael, Kristina

April 8, 10 (Week 3)

Graduate student presenters: Carmen, Beau, John April 15, 17 (Week 4)


April 22 (no class, Thursday, April 24)

April 29, 30
(no class, May 1) (week of the New Music Festival)

(Week 5, no readings)

May 6, 8 (Week 7)
Graduate student presentations (2)

Readings (biological art)

Graduate student presenters: John, Michael, Beau

May 13, 15 (Week 7) Biological art (Thursday)
Readings (language and music, for next week's guest)

May 20, 22 (Week 9) (Language and Music)

Graduate student presenters: Carmen, Courntey, Kristina

May 27 (Week 10)
Reading, discussing take-home finals



Students are asked to do four things in this seminar:


Guidelines for 1/2 hour grad. student-led discussions

Take-home exam
The assignment was simple: write a detailed 10-week syllabus for an undergraduate course in this field. These syllabi were handed in near the end of the term, marked up, and returned.
Final syllabi are here.