Music 261F: Performance Practice, Winter 2000

The course is a seminar in twentieth-century performance practice. It meets on Tuesdays from 10:00 AM until 1:00 PM. Anyone registering for this seminar MUST attend all three hours of all classes (no exceptions).

The seminar is balanced between a detailed examination of performance-practice issues and masterclasses in specific 20th-century pieces the students are actually preparing for their recitals. Open rehearsals and critiques will make up the other half of the course. Approval of each composition must be secured from Reale before 1/18. Try to be daring rather than expedient in your choice of piece(s).


  • Butler, Christopher, Early Modernism, (Oxford, 1994).
  • Nyman, Michael, Experimental Music, (Cambridge, 1999).
    This book will only be available around the third week of February. It has an excellent bibliography and discography of experimental music.
  • Weisberg, Arthur, Performing Twentieth-Century Music, (Yale, 1993).
  • Xeroxed handouts of various articles (Treitler, Greenberg, Lester, etc.)

  • January 11; Introduction: Charles Ives as a case in point (Piano Sonata No. 1 opening).
    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. 18; Read the Greenberg and Treitler articles and Butler, Introduction and PP. 1-87 (Chaps. 1 and 2).
    The dynamics of change and the underlying concepts of Modernism.
    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.
    Students will have selected their pieces for the masterclass portion of the seminar.

  • Jan. 25; Read Butler, PP. 89-131: The Modernist Self.
    We will contrast experimentalism in the context of progressive and modernist works.
    Also read "Elements of Twentieth-Century Rhythm" (PP. 3-20) and Chapter 3 "The Metronome and Metric Modulation"(PP. 44-69) in Arthur Weisberg's Performing 20th-Century Music. We will also discuss rewriting and composite rhythms (Weisberg, Chap 2).
    Basic problems of rhythm and meter will be explored with collateral musical examples, drawn from the literature.

  • February 1; Read Butler, pp. 241-286. The Avant-garde: how does it affect the study of structure?
    We will also 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 using musical examples and xeroxed handouts from Lester.

  • Feb. 8; Read Weisberg. PP. 70-96 ("The Basics of Conducting').
    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. 15; Read Lester, pp. 65-172, " Pitch Structures," (xerox handout).
    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. 22; Read Nyman, PP. 1-49 ("Towards (a definition of) experimental Music" and "Backgrounds.")
    Read Weisberg, PP. 97-139, "Preparing the Score."
    Why serialism failed: why do we play this stuff?
    Can we be hurt by playing experimental pieces: what are the benefits?

  • Feb 29; Read Nyman, PP. 50-71. and PP. 110-138.
    Indeterminacy et al. and performance implications.
    Is all this eclecticism a way out or a deeper chasm?

  • Mar 7; Notation: An open forum. Minimalism.
    Read Nyman, PP. 139-171.
    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 14; 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. ALL students are expected to participate in the rehearsal of works, and pianists should be ready to serve as accompanists.
    4. 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 10, 2000.