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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jonathan W Bernard
MUSIC 575
Seattle Campus

Seminar in Theory

Development and discussion of current student and faculty research in compositional/analytical theory and metatheory.

Class description

The Winter 2014 offering of the Seminar in Theory is devoted to study of the music of Olivier Messiaen, probably the most significant French composer of his generation and a major figure in Western music of the 20th century in general. A wealth of new scholarship, focusing on, among other things, the analysis of his music, has appeared in connection with celebration of the centenary of his birth (2008) and since; topics to be covered in this seminar include Messiaen's innovations in rhythm and harmony; his unique modal system; the influence of his synaesthetic perception on his compositional technique; and his incorporation of birdsong into his music.

Student learning goals

General familiarity with the characteristics of Messiaen's stylistic periods

A working knowledge of the "technical" apparatus of Messiaen's compositional approach, as transmitted in his writings on the subject

Application of this received knowledge to new analytical tasks

General method of instruction

Seminar format

Recommended preparation

Suggested: Music 471 or 472, or the equivalent. There is no fixed prerequisite for this course, although some background in the analysis of 20th-century music and/or some previous listening experience (acquaintance) with the repertoire under study would be useful. Anyone in doubt as to whether s/he is ready for this course is encouraged to consult with the instructor.

Class assignments and grading

a good deal of listening; readings selected from Messiaen's writings and interviews as well as from the scholarly literature on his work; musical analysis

one in-class presentation; final paper; class participation


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Jonathan W Bernard
Date: 11/22/2013