Music 261F: Performance Practice

The course is a seminar in twentieth-century performance practice. It meets on Thursdays from 10:00 AM until 1:00 PM. Anyone registering for this seminar MUST attend all three hours of all classes (no exceptions). That means, do not sign up for this course if you have an extended tour in Afghanistan.


  • Calinescu, Matei, Five Faces of Modernity, (Durham, 1987).
  • Lester, Joel, Analytic Approaches to Twentieth-Century Music, (New York, 1989).
  • Supplementary Readings (xerox packet to be purchased in bookstore).

  • January 15; Introduction:
    Genres: Do traditional classifications work now?
    Style: What does this word mean today?
    Notation: What are the implications of notational reform?
    Aesthetic basis and philosophies in the 20th century.

  • Jan 22; Read the Greenberg and Treitler articles in xerox packet and Calinescu, pp. 13-42, "The Idea of Modernity."
    We will deal with underlying concepts of synchronic vs. diachronic views of history in terms of the plethora of emerging styles. Also we will explore the template of modernism in the arts and its impact on major composers before WW II.

  • January 29; Read Calinescu, pp. 95-148, "The Idea of the Avant-Garde."
    We will contrast experimentalism in the context of progressive and modernist works.
    Also read "Elements of Twentieth-Century Rhythm" and Chapter 3 "The Metronome and Metric Modulation" in Arthur Weisberg's Performing 20th-Century Music (xerox packet).
    Basic problems of rhythm and meter will be explored with collateral musical examples, drawn from the literature.

  • February 5; Read Lester, pp. 1-55, "Tonality and Twentieth-Century Music."
    We will try to get a foundation in the expansion of non-triadic and modal systems used in major works. The whole matrix of harmony vs. tonality will be compared to the common-practice model of traditional tonality.

  • Feb. 12; Read Lester, pp. 56-64, "Form."
    What is the impact of new formal models on traditions of interpretation?
    How do we deal with the concept of overt vs. covert form in works in which thematicism is not obvious and in works after WWII which contain an eclectic mix?

  • Feb. 19; Read Lester, pp. 65-172, " Pitch Structures," also Treitler, "Musical Analysis in a Historical Context," (pp. 67-94) in the xerox packet.
    Concepts of interval-content, pitch-class sets, etc.
    Limitations on this monolithic approach and alternatives.
    How do I make peace with harmony (towards an interpretation of melody and harmony) and global analysis (setting up long-term performance goals).

  • Feb. 26; Read Calinescu, pp. 151-221, "The Idea of Decadence," also Lester, pp. 173-273, "Serial Music."
    Why serialism failed: why do we play this stuff?

  • March 5; Read Calinescu, pp. 225-312, "Kitsch and Postmodernism," also Lester, pp. pp. 276-298, "More Recent Developments."
    Mininalism et al. and performance implications.
    Is all this eclecticism a way out or a deeper chasm?

  • Mar 12; Notation: An open forum,
    Students: bring in examples of pieces with notational problems.
    We attempt to reconcile the vast catalog of specialized musical signals with traditional approaches to interpretation.

  • Mar 19; A new Tradition: where does emotion fit in?
    In the absence of an interpretive lineage, how do we "feel" the music?

  • Notes:

    1. Throughout the quarter, students will bring in projects related to 20th-century works which they are preparing for recitals.
    2. Students will also be looking for examples from the literature which illustrate the basic issues.
    3. Feel free to call Reale at home any time between 9AM and 9PM or e-mail him for questions. This syllabus is available at under the Educational Resources heading.

    Updated: January 3, 1998.