Music and Music Theory

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The primary goal of the music program is to offer our students the perspective of a composer: to give them not only the ability to appreciate and understand the craft of the masterpieces of Western music, but also the ability to write and think in gestures, textures, harmony, melody, and timbre. This program does not presuppose any prior musical training on the part of the child or parent, nor does it expect the instigation of supplemental education; we build that bridge for our students every day.

As with any kind of literacy, our task begins with teaching the symbols of musical notation. Their study continues with mastering the fundamentals of Western classical music, the age-old organization of notes into major and minor scales, modes, and other types of scales or rows. The study of intervals leads to that of functional harmony and both sixteenth and eighteenth century counterpoint. The mastery of these skills is complemented by a cyclical genre study, spanning the various stylistic eras, encompassing works for voice, orchestra, solo instruments, chamber groups, and opera.

We reinforce the lessons learned in class with the well-crafted examples at our disposal: the symphonies of Beethoven and Mahler, the fugues of Bach, the operas of Mozart and Verdi, the dance pieces of Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev, the miniatures of Schumann, Chopin, and Webern, the song cycles of Schubert and Schumann, the string quartets of Haydn, Beethoven, and Bartók. Because of our dedication to the understanding of music created in the present day, we also study works by composers whose influence steered the course of music in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, composers such as: Schoenberg, Britten, Barber, Ligeti, Babbitt, Carter, Reich, Ives, Cage, Gubaidulina and Adams.

In order to give our students a global perspective on music, our curriculum provides ear-training, theory, music history, and performance throughout the course of each year. For the more advanced classes, the emphasis is on research and writing prose that articulates the students’ knowledge of and views on musical thought and practice.