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MUS 121 — A Practical Introduction to Music Theory and Harmony

Quarter: Summer
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: On-campus course
Duration: 7 weeks
Date(s): Jul 5—Aug 16
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Jul 18
Unit: 1
Tuition: $310
Instructor(s): Ilias Chrissochoidis
Limit: 40
On-campus course
7:00—8:50 pm
Jul 5—Aug 16
7 weeks
Drop By
Jul 18
1 Unit
Ilias Chrissochoidis
Music theory is often considered to be irrelevant to our experience of music. This course will demonstrate that the opposite is true—understanding the laws governing the art of sound enhances our ability to appreciate, enjoy, and even remember music.

Reversing the traditional academic practice of moving from concepts to real music, we will start with concrete musical examples and seek to extract their theoretical premises. The opening of Richard Strauss’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra will serve as a roadmap, introducing concepts such as the overtones series, music intervals, major and minor modes, and chord progression. We will then use a repertory of well-known themes, songs, and large-scale compositions, from Greensleeves to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and from Flight of the Bumblebee to Star Wars, to expand our understanding of the theoretical foundations of Western music. Finally, we’ll learn how to use chords to harmonize a melody, and we’ll explore basic ways of composing music. A review at the beginning of each class and an online library of listening examples will help students absorb the teaching material.

No music-reading ability is required.

Ilias Chrissochoidis, Visiting Researcher, WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Ilias Chrissochoidis is a music historian, composer, and pianist. He has authored dozens of research articles on Handel and opera, and has received fellowships from numerous institutions, including the American Council of Learned Societies and the Library of Congress. His music albums are titled Inspiratorio, Ringtones, Hellenotropia, and Eviva! He received a PhD in music from Stanford.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.