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WINDOW FOR THE EAR

Other Music Cultures Teach Us About Our Own

Fall 2002, Fall 2003


Instructor: Kitty Brazelton
Course Title: Window for the Ear: Other Music-Cultures Teach Us About Our Own
Times: 10:00am-12:00noon, Tuesday & Thursday
Place: Jennings 101
Credits: 4
Discipline: Music
Level: Beginning/open to freshmen


Learn about music by studying music-cultures from around the world. In order to learn, we must identify the hidden preconceptions that close our ears and minds to unfamiliar music-making. As we open to new ideas outside our experience, we are able to articulate those within our own cultural context, and to hear afresh music we have heard all our lives. We develop an understanding for Western musical tenets such as notation and the parameters of melody, harmony, rhythm, form, timbre, dynamics and degree of polyphony, thereby making conscious and freely expressible, linguistic elements hitherto unconscious. Along with this inward and outward ethnomusicological exploration, we delineate our individual musical abilities and identies through composition and group improvisation.


Required study materials:

  • Worlds of Music: An Introduction to the Music of the World’s Peoples, 4th edition Jeff Todd Titon, General Editor
    Book & 4-CD set, Schirmer (Wadsworth and Thomson Learning) © 2002

  • Book ISBN/ISSN: 0-534-59103-5
  • CDs ISBN/ISSN: ISBN/ISSN: 0-534-59104-3
  • Available in Bennington College Bookstore & in Music Library. Excuses due to unavailability in Music Library are unacceptable.

  • General course expectations:

  • Midterm exam on all material studied to date. Occasional quizzes to ensure timeliness in reading and listening homework. Be prepared to identify examples from our study by name, performer and to discuss study context. Study context questions based on class discussions as well as homework.
  • Musical compositions and performances throughout the term as part of our study. Participation mandatory but prior performance experience or instrumental expertise not.
  • If you miss a class (NOT recommended), you are solely responsible for getting class notes from classmates (urge more than one perspective).
  • Absences and tardiness noted in your final evaluation as well as their converse: contributive class participation, preparedness and a prompt and strong attendance record.
  • Final class project: individual study, class presentation and paper.


  • Homework example: Nov. 5-6, 2002

    Read, study listen---the remainder of the chapter on Africa

    In groups, select from:

  • Mande (recommend guitarists)
  • Dagbamba (recommend drummers)
  • Shona (anyone who can get hold of a thumb-harp)
  • BaAka
  • And make a modern composition translated into the subjects, sounds and skills which are relevant and possible for you as Bennington students here and now

    Be prepared to perform and to explain:

    1. how your music represents your chosen culture of study
    2. how it differs