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The Classical Canon (214-0-1)


Andrew J. Talle
RCMA 4-133
Office Hours: by appointment

Meeting Info

Regenstein Hall of Music MCR: Tues, Thurs 9:30AM - 10:50AM

Overview of class

The term classical music is used in many different ways. One commonly recurring notion is that it may be understood as a canon? a select group of composers and compositions which, through their timeless value and universality, set the standard for artistic accomplishment in the art of music. A closer examination, however, reveals all kinds of difficulties with this simple notion. Before 1800, nearly all performances presented exclusively contemporary music, and works more than about fifty years old were considered hopelessly outmoded. This changed over the course of the nineteenth century as European musicians, audiences, and publishers set about identifying certain composers - originally Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven, but subsequently also Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Wagner, Verdi, etc. - and valorizing their contributions with lavish biographies, marble busts, and complete-works editions. But is classical music truly universal? Are there identifiable, qualitative musical differences between music in the canon and other works which have not entered the repertoire? To what extent canon-formation by factors such as nationalism, racism, and gender bias? This course seeks to both introduce a variety of extremely famous classical works and to interrogate the processes that made them famous.

Class Materials (Required)

No materials required for purchase.