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Course Descriptions

Popular Music Studies

Course Descriptions

Music 27103, A Survey of Popular Music

A Survey of Popular Music examines general historical trends in popular music from approximately 1900 to the present.

Music 42000, Rock Analysis

This seminar explores rock analytical literature by academic music theorists, with an emphasis on post-1965 music and post-1990 essays. Students examine representative examples of close analytical readings of specific rock songs, as well as some more ambitious attempts to define this repertoire through broad theoretical generalizations. Work culminates in original analyses modeled on, and ideally expanding, the existing literature. 

Music 43100, Popular Music Composition

The goals of Popular Music Composition are to analyze the formal structure of popular music songs, identifying features of harmony, melody, rhythm, lyrical content, instrumentation, layering, timbre, vocal issues (timbre, style, articulation), and socio-cultural context in different popular music styles. Students will create Pro-Tools or multi-track-style analyses that model the working format of popular music compositions. After demonstrating proficiency in analysis, students will demonstrate through model composition (recorded music) an understanding of important artists and groups in popular music history. Finally, students will also demonstrate through model composition (recorded music) an understanding of contemporary popular music genres. The objective is to make students aware of the most important features in varying popular music genres through analysis and to apply that knowledge through composition. By the end of the term, students will be versed in many popular music genres through compositional modeling, and will have developed an informed and insightful analytic ear for popular music. 


Popular Music Electives 

21600: Music Production MIDI and Audio. An introduction to the basics of audio recording, MIDI, mixing, and mastering.  This course is intended to help students get started with Logic, ProTools, sequencing, and other tools for audio production.

23300: Songwriting Workshop. Coming soon.

24400: A Concise History of Jazz. A chronological survey of jazz from its origins to the present focusing on the key innovators and diverse styles. Emphasis will be placed on listening directed towards the techniques of improvisation, arranging, and performance practices. Guided classroom listening, as well as attendance at concerts both on and off campus, will aid in the development of perception and communication skills. The influences of music from other styles and cultures will be included as well as social issues that affected jazz's development. This an elective for BA music majors only.

27404: Music & Politics. This course offers an introduction to the field of ethnomusicology through one of the field’s major concerns, the political life of music. The first part of the course focuses on listening and engagement with music from various cultures, key terms and figures of the field, and the politics of fieldwork. The second part explores relationships between music and politics through case studies from the Cold War and the Iraq War. Students will have an opportunity to apply techniques they have learned in the course by conducting projects on a musical culture of their choice.

29900: The Musician Entrepreneur (Business of Music). Analysis and class discussion of critical music industry issues. Weekly Internet assignments and written written reports. Examination of intellectual property, performing rights organizations, music publishing, contracts, licenses, royalties, business plans, entities, and taxes. The art of negotiation, self-promotion, and the selection of advisers. Guest industry speakers.

Rock Ensemble (26018), Guitar Ensemble (26016), Blues Vocal Workshop (26017), Pop Vocals Workshop (36002), and Studio Ensemble Singing (35000) are performance courses.

Note: each course has different pre-requisites.  The courses in the Popular Music Studies Track are usually taken during the second, third, and fourth years of study.




Jonathan Pieslak

Shepard Hall
Room 72
160 Convent Avenue
New York, NY 10031

p: 212.650.7665
f: 212.650.5428