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morrissey college of arts and sciences


Undergraduate Program Description

Whether for students intending a career in music or those pursuing their own love of the art, the Department of Music offers courses in theory and composition, in the history and current trends of both Western and non-Western music, and lessons in performance. All students, regardless of musical background, are welcome in any course unless a prerequisite or permission of instructor is indicated (as for certain theory courses).

The Department offers a variety of courses (MUSA1100, MUSA1200, MUSA1300) that satisfy the University Core requirement in the Arts and that serve as introductions to the various areas of musical knowledge. MUSA1100 Fundamentals of Music Theory focuses on technical aspects of the language of music and serves as a prerequisite to Harmony and further upper level courses in theory and composition, such as Chromatic Harmony, Counterpoint, as well as Jazz Harmony, Tonal Composition and the Seminar in Composition. MUSA1200 Introduction to Music offers a broad survey of music history and styles of music, while upper level courses focus on various periods of Western music history (Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical Era, Romantic Era, Modern Era), the historical development of various genres (Opera, Symphony, Keyboard Music, Dance), or the contributions of various individual composers (Monteverdi, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms). MUSA1300 History of Popular Music in the U.S. offers a socio-historical approach to the broad history and context of popular music; upper level cross-cultural courses deal with popular traditions (such as Irish Folk Music, Music in America, History of Jazz, Hip-Hop, the Beatles) and world music. In world music, MUSA1320 Introduction to Musics of the World, MUSA2306 Musics of Africa, MUSA2307 Musics of Asia, and MUSA2309 Music and Culture in the Middle East satisfy the Cultural Diversity requirement of the Core, but not the University Core requirement in the Arts.

For the music major, a liberal arts framework offers a broader outlook than that of a conservatory or a school of music. In a liberal arts framework, students encounter historical, theoretical, cultural, ethnographic, and performance perspectives on music. The student majoring in music at Boston College may find employment in teaching, communications, arts administration, liturgical music, or may major in music simply to provide a firm discipline for the mind or a source of lifelong enjoyment. Some students plan to go on to graduate school or a conservatory to become professional performers, composers, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, or educators. Within the major, all students receive a common base of knowledge with a specialization at higher levels in such areas as composition, performance, music history, or cross-cultural studies. A grounding not only in the traditional musical skills of Western art music but also knowledge of American music and of the traditions of other cultures is considered indispensable.

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The Music Department offers individual instruction in voice and instruments either for credit (MUSP1925—1 credit per semester) or not for credit (MUSP1920, 1910, 1900). Individual Instrumental Instruction, either credit or non-credit, requires an extra fee. In addition, several free, non-credit performance courses offer instruction and/or coaching in various instruments and ensembles. Private lessons, when taken for credit, require a juried performance at the end of the semester. Students may use up to 3 credits of individual instruction toward graduation.

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Major Requirements

(Minimum of 12 courses, 38 credits)

  • Theory, Analysis, and Composition Courses: (12 credits total)
    Prerequisite: MUSA1100 Fundamentals of Music Theory or equivalent
    Required of all majors: MUSA2100 Harmony, MUSA3100 Chromatic Harmony, MUSA3106 Counterpoint
  • Choice of any one course: MUSA3110 Form and Analysis, MUSA3114 Jazz Harmony, MUSA3120 Composition Seminar, MUSA3126 Tonal Composition, MUSA3130 Orchestration
  • Historical Courses: (9 credits total)
    Required of all majors: MUSA2209 Music of the Modern Era
    Choice of any two:* MUSA2201 Medieval-Renaissance Music, MUSA2202 Music of the Renaissance, MUSA2203 Music of the Baroque, MUSA2205 Music of the Classic Era, MUSA2207 Music of the Romantic Era
    *With permission of the Director of the Undergraduate Program in Music, a composer or genre course may be substituted for a period course.
  • Cross-Cultural Courses: (6 credits total)
    Required of all majors, a choice of one from each of the following two groups:

Group I—Non-Western tradition

MUSA1320 Introduction to Musics of the World*
MUSA2304 Musics of India
MUSA2306 Musics of Africa*
MUSA2307 Musics of Asia*
MUSA2308 Music in the Medieval Islamic World
MUSA2309 Music and Culture in the Middle East*

*MUSA1320, MUSA2306, MUSA2307, and MUSA 2309 also satisfy the Core Cultural Diversity requirement

Group II—Western tradition

MUSA2320 Music and America
MUSA2330 History of Jazz
MUSA2334 Hip Hop in American Culture
MUSA2340 Introduction to Irish Folk Music
MUSA3350 The Beatles

  • Required Senior Seminar: (one semester, 3 credits)
    The Senior Seminar (MUSA4941) is ordinarily open only to senior music majors. The Seminar entails a series of weekly projects allowing majors to investigate issues in-depth with special emphasis in one of the areas listed above (history, cross-cultural, or performance). The Seminar serves as preparation for a senior project with supervised reading, research, writing, and discussion.
  • Electives: (6 credits)
    The student will choose a minimum of two 3-credit courses in whatever category is appropriate to his or her particular interest, whether it is in music theory and composition, performance, history, or cross-cultural studies. Students with performance emphasis must have three semesters of private instruction for credit. Three semesters of private instruction for credit may be used as an elective only upon completion of the juries at the end of each semester of lessons.
  • Performance Ensemble Experience: (minimum of two semesters)
    Each major must have two semesters of experience in performance in some capacity and may choose from any organized performance group at Boston College (such as Boston College Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music Ensemble, Popular Styles Ensemble, Irish Traditional Music classes, University Chorale, Voices of Imani, Liturgy Arts Group, student a cappella group, BC bOp, Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, etc.), through more informal student groups (by consultation with the Director of the Undergraduate Program in Music), or through private lessons.
  • Cumulative Listening Competency
    Majors will be asked to identify important works from the Western tradition in a series of Listening Competency exams. Each year of the music major (normally three), a list of works will be given to students that they must be able to identify by the end of the year. A listening test on each of three lists of works will be administered until the student passes.
  • Ear Training/Sight Singing: (2 credits)
    All majors must pass the minimum competency requirements in Ear Training and Sight-Singing before graduation. The courses MUSA1090 and MUSA2090 Ear-Training and Sight-Singing are 2-credit classes designed and recommended as an aid to passing this test.

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Minor Requirements

(Minimum of six courses, 18 credits)

The Music Department has designed a minor in music as an alternative for students who are interested in music, but do not wish either to make music their career or to go on to graduate studies, or who have majors that preclude taking music as a second major. The total number of courses required for the minor in music is six. Those wishing to minor in music should take the following:

  • One of the following (3 credits): MUSA1100 Fundamentals of Music Theory (required if they do not have the background in music theory needed before entering MUSA2100 Harmony), or MUSA1200 Introduction to Music or MUSA1300 History of Popular Music. Students who can pass out of MUSA1100 will substitute an upper-level course as an elective.
  • Two additional music theory courses (6 credits): MUSA2100 Harmony and MUSA3100 Chromatic Harmony.
  • Three historical and cross-cultural electives (9 credits): One period course, one composer or genre course, one cross-cultural course.

The choice of courses should be made in consultation with an advisor from the Music Department. In addition, each student must participate in at least two semesters of credit or non-credit performance experience (either as a member of an ensemble or through private lessons), as approved by the department.

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In order to graduate with departmental honors, a student must maintain a grade point average of 3.5 in the major and 3.3 in the University, pass the Ear-Training and Listening Repertoire requirements with a high score, and produce a final project, recital, or paper deemed worthy of honors. The project must be completed for a grade of A- or better to receive honors. There are various ways to fulfill the project:

  • A research paper of no less than 40 pages and a public presentation of approximately 20 minutes on their findings.
  • A recital of around 40 minutes (but no less than 30 minutes) with a paper of no less than 15 pages. Non-honors majors may still do a senior recital for credit as MUSA4600 Senior Recital Preparation but without it being considered for honors.
  • A composition or set of compositions of no less than 15 minutes.

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Information for First Year Majors and Non-Majors

Included in the University's Core Curriculum is one course in the Arts (Art, Art History, and Film, Music, or Theatre). MUSA1200 Introduction to Music, MUSA1100 Fundamentals of Music Theory, and MUSA1300 History of Popular Music in the U.S. are the Music Department's Core offerings. They are designed for the non-musician as well as the student who has studied music. Prospective music majors should reference the Recommended Course of Study below. Students with advanced musical backgrounds and interests should speak to the Director of the Undergraduate Program in Music, regarding appropriate upper-level courses. The department offers MUSA1320 Introduction to Musics of the World, MUSA2306 Musics of Africa, MUSA2307 Musics of Asia, and MUSA2309 Music and Culture in the Middle East as options for the Cultural Diversity requirement of the Core.

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Information for Study Abroad

For the Core: Students who wish to satisfy the Arts Core through Music while abroad should consult with the Director of the Undergraduate Program before their departure. Acceptable courses should be similar in scope and content to those offered at Boston College. Many abroad programs do not offer classes that fit these requirements.

For the major and minor: The department requires that the music theory sequence for minors and majors through Chromatic Harmony, and the Senior Seminar for majors be taken at Boston College. Music of the Modern Era and Counterpoint (required of majors) should be taken at Boston College, but exceptions may be possible depending on equivalent courses offered by the host school. Majors may not be abroad first semester senior year in order to take the required Senior Seminar at BC.

Before going abroad, both minors and majors should have completed Chromatic Harmony in theory, and majors, in addition, should have taken a few of the history or cross-cultural courses. Thus acceptable offerings from abroad tend to lean towards courses in music history or in cross-cultural studies, with some upper-level theory courses acceptable. Usually students complete 6 or 9 credits; however, majors have had as many as 12 credits fulfilled abroad.

Students should contact the Director of the Undergraduate Program in Music, to plan an acceptable course of study for their semester or year abroad. The department recommends the music programs offered at King's College, London, and University College, Cork, Ireland.

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Recommended Course of Study

Freshman Year

All students with a serious interest in music should try as freshmen to take or test out of MUSA1100 Fundamentals of Music Theory. The theory courses (especially MUSA1100 Fundamentals and MUSA2100 Harmony) are essential and necessary indicators of how well a student will be able to succeed in the major. Those who can test out of MUSA1100 and who wish to fulfill the Arts Core requirement with a music course should take MUSA1200 Introduction to Music or MUSA1300 History of Popular Music. Arts Core courses in Art, Art History, and Film or Theatre are also possible instead of Music and are recommended for those who wish for a broader understanding of the Arts.

Sophomore Year

Harmony and Chromatic Harmony should be taken in sequence along with MUSA1090–2090 Ear Training/Sight Singing Labs. Two history courses in Western Music (selected from Medieval-Renaissance, Baroque Music, Music of the Classical Era, Music of the Romantic Era, Music of the Modern Era, or a composer or genre course) or one history course and one cross-cultural course should be taken. The first year's required Listening Repertoire should be mastered. Some performance experience (Orchestra, Chorale, Band, Chamber Music, non-Western performance, and/or private lessons) should be started and pursued throughout the rest of the major.

Junior Year

Counterpoint and a choice of Jazz Harmony, Form and Analysis, or Composition and a second or third history course and/or a cross-cultural course should be taken. The second year of the required Listening Repertoire should be mastered.

Senior Year

Any advanced courses in the department relevant to the particular emphasis the student has chosen—performance, composition, history, or cross-cultural—and the Senior Seminar, which will help the student synthesize previous course work. The final year of the required Listening Repertoire should be mastered.

Recommended Course of Study: Minors

Students can add music as a minor as late as their junior year, but no later than second semester as the minor requires a minimum of three consecutive semesters in order to complete the theory sequence of the following: Fundamentals, Harmony and Chromatic Harmony. The history and cross-cultural component may be taken at any time in conjunction with various levels of theory, although some understanding of Fundamentals is recommended for students with little previous, formal background in music.

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