Black Atlantic Music (click here for full syllabus)
In Black Atlantic Music students will work to understand how histories of slavery, colonialism,
diasporic imagination, and networks of cultural exchange form the basis for popular music in
Africa, the Americas, and the African diaspora. Tracing musical and political histories through a
series of case studies routed throughout the diaspora, this course aims to develop a theory of “the
Black Atlantic” as a sonic geography. After establishing a foundation in the key historical forces
leading to the creation of the African diaspora, students will explore case studies related to the
development of local and transnational musical styles from salsa to hip-hop, funk, reggae and
more. Equal weight in the course will be given to reading, listening, and writing as valuable modes
of interacting with music.
Arts and the Anthropocene (click here for full syllabus)
Arts and the Anthropocene explores how visual, theatrical, and sonic arts can play a role in
educating publics, provoking action, and imagining resilient futures in the era of the
Anthropocene. We will start by exploring how both scientists and artists of all stripes have sought
to address social and ecological crises and entanglements. Students will then design and execute art
projects that speak directly to a specific instance of how human and ecological communities have
been transformed in the Anthropocene. Ideally this course would be co-taught with an
This course introduces students to the practice of sound recording, developing their skills in
recording, editing, mixing and critical listening. Alongside practical learning, students will study
the last 100 years of music technology—from shellac to Spotify—to discover how inseparable music
technology is from aesthetic histories of popular music. Ear training modules will focus on
teaching students to identify signal processing on recordings—from identifying frequencies and
spatial placement, to recognizing compression and equalization techniques, to hearing time-based
effects like reverb and delay, and being able to listen for component parts of a mix.
Music and Black Freedom
This course explores music shaped by movements for Black freedom, and the roles that music
plays in sustaining these movements. The course takes up case studies from decolonial struggles in
Africa and the Caribbean to historic and contemporary abolition movements in the United States.
We explore ways that Blackness has been contested through musical expression, from PanAfricanism to Afrofuturism, Reggae to Hip-Hop. In Music and Black Freedom, students study the
historical formation of the race construct, and how it has been challenged, reclaimed and
redefined through musical expression.
Brazilian Percussion Ensemble
The Brazilian percussion ensemble will be open to students with a range of musical skills. The
structure of a samba bateria (or drum ensemble) allows for beginner and advanced students alike to
be challenged. The tightly arranged and coordinated music can accommodate a large number of
students, and may be performed indoors or outdoors, on the move, in the street, or on the stage.
Alongside rehearsing and performing the music, students will learn about the history of samba in
Brazil (as well as forms such as maracatu from other regions in the country). Students will read
Barbara Browning’s Samba: Resistance in Motion during their first trimester in the ensemble, and will
discuss what the music’s recontextualization to a college campus in Maine means for its
Sound and Social Life
This course introduces students to the field of Sound Studies by considering sound as a socially
situated phenomena. Students develop their critical listening skills both through listening
assignments and by creating their own sound recording projects. The course will explore how
sound shapes knowledge of our world in spaces ranging from cities to rich ecological
environments—from settings of war to religious ceremonies and social gatherings. Through the
course students will gain a deepened practice of listening and a heightened awareness of how
sound generates and expresses knowledge.
Exploring the great American art form, students with experience performing on any instrument
(including vocalists) will develop their theoretical knowledge and apply their skills by developing a
repertoire of jazz standards and original compositions. Class time will be divided between
rehearsal and inquiry into the history of the music, from social, historical and performance
perspectives. Emphasis will be placed on frameworks for improvisation (include relevant music
theory), balancing individual and group expression, and exploring various eras of the music’s
development, from ragtime to bebop to the avant-garde and by examining international
perspectives on jazz.