The Music Major
You are here
The major carries the study of music to an advanced level through the integration of scholarship and performance, involving close engagement with the creation and reception of music across an array of historical, theoretical, and cultural contexts. It is designed to accommodate both students who are oriented toward eventual graduate study or professional work in music and those who wish to take a more general approach, often in conjunction with a major in another department.
Incoming students who intend to major in music should schedule a Pre-Major Advising Consultation during Orientation Week by signing up at the Arts & Science Open House or by emailing the Director of Undergraduate Studies. At this consultation, students will discuss their musical background and demonstrate their level of experience with theory and performance.
Students who decide to pursue the music major after their Freshman Year should contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies to devise a program of study.
All potential majors are strongly encouraged to enroll in MUSIC 1101 – Elements of Music in the Fall semester of their Freshman Year and MUSIC 2201 – Introduction to Music Studies in the Spring. This will maximize flexibility in scheduling the remaining Core Curriculum courses and electives.
MUSIC 2101 – Theory, Materials and Techniques I and MUSIC 2102 – Theory, Materials and Techniques II form a two-semester sequence that will generally be taken in the Sophomore Year. Based on their Pre-Major Advising Consultation and subject to the instructor’s permission, however, suitably qualified students may take MUSIC 2101 and 2102 in their Freshman Year.
Students in the College of Arts and Sciences usually declare their majors during their Sophomore Year. Prerequisites for admission to the major are completion of MUSIC 2101 – Theory, Materials and Techniques I and MUSIC 2201 – Introduction to Music Studies with a grade of B or better in both courses. In consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, students must choose an advisor from among the department faculty before applying for admission to the major, which is decided by the faculty as a whole. Once admitted to the major, students design their program of study with their advisors.
Music majors must complete the Core Curriculum plus at least two electives. The electives allow students to focus on diverse topics, such as composition, performance, jazz studies, Western art music, Asian music, vernacular musics, etc. Elective courses are generally numbered 3000-4000 and are 4 credits. A selection of 1000-2000 courses can be enhanced with additional content and an extra credit by combining the course with MUSIC 3901; students should consult the relevant instructor for information on this option’s availability and the extra work it entails. Students intending to pursue graduate study or professional work in music should consult with their advisors about taking further advanced courses in addition to the two required electives.
The following courses are pre-requisites for the major. A grade of B or better is needed to qualify
Music 2101 – Theory, Material & Techniques I (Fall only)
Music 2201 – Introduction to Music Studies (Spring only)
Core Curriculum Requirements
Majors are expected to meet the following curriculum requirements with a grade of C or better:
One 1/2000-level History & Culture (H&C) or Materials & Techniques (M&T) course
Music 3211 – Seminar in Advanced Music Studies
Materials & Techniques
Music 2102 – Theory, Materials & Techniques II
One 3/4000-level Materials & Techniques course
History & Culture
Music 2207 – Histories of Western Music I or Music 2208 – Histories of Western Music II or Music 2209 – Histories of Western Music III
One 3/4000-level History & Culture course
Two semesters of Collaborative Performance in a musical organization or ensemble is required. If the organization or ensemble is not sponsored by the Department of Music, participation must be registered and overseen via a 1-credit independent study with a faculty member. (Courses are typically numbered 3601-3660 and 4601-4651.)
In addition to the above required courses, majors must take either one further 3/4000-level elective (History & Culture, Materials & Techniques, or a suitable course cross-listed in another department), or 4 credits of Individual Instruction (Music 3511, Music 3512, Music 3513, Music 3514 and/or Music 4501)
When to take Courses
A form is kept in the department office through which music majors and their advisors keep track of the student’s progress through the music curriculum. The ideal sequence of required classroom courses for a music major would be as follows:
- Freshman Year: 1/2000-level H&C or M&T course (preferably MUSIC 1101 in Fall); Music 2201
- Sophomore Year: MUSIC 2101 (Fall); MUSIC 2102 (Spring); Music 2207 or Music 2208
- Junior Year: Music 3211; one 3/4000 H&C or M&T
- Senior Year: Remaining 3/4000 H&C or M&T; 3/4000 Elective, if necessary
MUSIC 1100 - Elements of Musical Notation
MUSIC 1101 - Elements of Music
MUSIC 1105 - Introduction to Music Theory
MUSIC 1466 - Physics of Musical Sound (crosslisted)
MUSIC 2101 - Theory, Materials & Techniques I (taught annually in Fall only)
MUSIC 2102 - Theory, Materials & Techniques II (taught annually in Spring only)
MUSIC 2111 - Songwriting
MUSIC 2112 - Collaborative Songwriting
MUSIC 2421 - Computers in Music Performance
MUSIC 3111 - Jazz Theory and Improvisation I
MUSIC 3112 - Jazz Theory and Improvisation II
MUSIC 3121 - Choral Conducting
MUSIC 3122 - Conducting
MUSIC 3160 - Analyzing World Music
MUSIC 3431 - Sound Design (crosslisted)
MUSIC 4112 - Composition
MUSIC 4121 - Advanced Conducting
MUSIC 4181 - Psychology of Music (crosslisted)
MUSIC 4340 - Fieldwork Methods in Ethnomusicology
MUSIC 4360 - The Art of Field Recording: Philosophy, History, Practice
MUSIC 1201 - European Music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque
MUSIC 1202 - European and American Art Music from 1750
MUSIC 1212 - Music on the Brain (crosslisted)
MUSIC 1312 - History of Rock Music (crosslisted)
MUSIC 1313 - A Survey of Jazz (crosslisted)
MUSIC 1320 - Music of Latin America (crosslisted)
MUSIC 1321 - Music of Mexico and the Mexican Diaspora (crosslisted)
MUSIC 1330 - African Music (crosslisted)
MUSIC 1350 - Music of the Arab World (crosslisted)
MUSIC 2006 - Punk Culture: The Aesthetics and Politics of Refusal (crosslisted)
MUSIC 2201 - Introduction to Music Studies (taught annually in Spring only)
MUSIC 2207 - History of Western Music I
MUSIC 2208 - History of Western Music II
MUSIC 2209 - History of Western Music III
MUSIC 2221 - Bach and Handel
MUSIC 2224 - Mozart in History, History in Mozart
MUSIC 2241 - Music as Drama: An Introduction to Opera (crosslisted)
MUISC 2244 - The Music, Art and Technology of the Organ
MUSIC 2260 - Music of the 1960s
MUSIC 2270 - Thinking with Music
MUSIC 2311 - The Art and Craft of Music Journalism
MUSIC 2320 - Latino Music in the U.S.(crosslisted)
MUSIC 2330 - Music in and of East Asia (crosslisted)
MUSIC 2340 - The Beatles (crosslisted)
MUSIC 2341 - Gamelan in Indonesian History and Cultures (crosslisted)
MUSIC 2350 - Music of the African Diaspora (crosslisted)
MUSIC 2360 - Music and Islam
MUSIC 2380 - Performing Hip Hop
MUSIC 2642 - The Art of Math: Mathematical Traditions of Symmetry and Harmony (crosslisted)
MUSIC 2701 - Music and Digital Gameplay (crosslisted)
MUSIC 2703 - Thinking Media (crosslisted)
MUSIC 3205 - Cultural Studies of Music
MUSIC 3211 - Seminar in advanced Music Studies
MUSIC 3304 - Remixing Hi-Hop History
MUSIC 3314 - Resistance, Reform, and Revolt: Sound and Music in Early Modern England
MUSIC 3480 - Brazilian Culture through Its Music (crosslisted)
MUSIC 3490 - Hip Hop in Global Perspective
MUSIC 4222 - Music and Monstrous Imaginings
MUSIC 4224 - Mozart in Context
MUSIC 4250 - The Album
MUSIC 4304 - Imaging Music, Imagining Culture in Medieval Persia (crosslisted)
MUSIC 4306 - Historical Performance Practice
MUSIC 4312 - Synthesizing Pop: Electronics and the Musical Imagination (crosslisted)
MUSIC 4333 - U.S. Pop Music & Racial Common Sense (crosslisted)
MUSIC 4345 - Sound, Silence and the Sacred (crosslisted)
MUSIC 4352 - Medieval Cosmologies: Text, Image, and Music (crosslisted)
MUSIC 4454 - Writing on Tape in the 1970s (crosslisted)
Request to become a Music Major form
Independent Study in Music (MUSIC 4901) affords students the opportunity to pursue special interests or research not treated in the regular curriculum. Credit is variable, depending on the nature of the project (1-4 credits), and experience in the proposed area of study is required. A faculty member, who becomes the student’s instructor for the independent course, must approve the proposed study and agree to provide continuing supervision of the work. Students must prepare a proposal for independent study; application form needs to be submitted via Data.Arts.
Completing the music major with honors offers outstanding music students the opportunity for advanced, independent research that results in a substantial scholarly thesis, an extended music-making project, or a combination of these. For many students, the sustained, original work undertaken for honors over the course of their senior year is the most challenging and rewarding study they pursue as undergraduates at Cornell. Successfully completing honors provides students with an extended piece of critical writing or portfolio that can be of great value to applications to graduate programs and also constitutes a substantial scholarly or creative achievement in its own right.
Honors projects require preparation, dedication, enthusiasm, and the ability to work independently. They can be difficult to sustain and bring to completion. It is important to recognize that they are not for everyone: as an alternative, taking two 3000- or 4000-level classes in the music department during the final year at Cornell might provide a more structured but equally satisfying course of study.
Students who are interested in pursuing an honor project should talk to their faculty advisor and other department faculty members as early as possible, and no later than the beginning of the Spring semester of the Junior year. They should also attend the Department of Music’s annual Honors Showcase (typically held during Study Week), which features presentations of honors projects by current Seniors.
Criteria for Success in Honors:
Project in music scholarship must address an original research question, demonstrate the ability to investigate and think critically about primary and secondary sources, present a cogent thesis, and exhibit scholarly writing at a high level, with properly formatted bibliography and notes.
Projects in music-making will consist of either a) the creation of an original work of a substantial nature or b) the public presentation of a performance project. The nature of these projects will be determined by the student in consultation with the supervising composition or performance faculty.
a) For the creation of an original work, the result must demonstrate technical proficiency in the chosen medium as well as a deep understanding of the formal aspects involved. If a public performance is to take place, the student will be responsible for its organization (see separate concert planning document for requirements and deadlines). A substantial (c. 10- to 15-page) analytical essay will be submitted with the composition.
b) Performance projects will involve the rehearsal and public presentation of a program (recital, lecture-recital, or other multi-media formats, as appropriate) designed by the student in consultation with the committee. The program should be creative and coherent, presented with a high level of technical and musical skill, and represent a synthesis of performance and scholarship. A c. 10- to 15-page essay demonstrating associated research, insights gathered through the rehearsal process, and critical writing skills will accompany the program.
In order to apply for honors, students must have maintained a 3.5 GPA in the major, and an average of at least 3.0 overall. Admission to honors is by approval of the whole faculty, based on the application (detailed below) and the student’s academic record.
If you are eligible and interested in applying for Honors, please read the following timeline and guidelines carefully.
Early in the Spring semester of your Junior year, you should talk to your advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies as well as other relevant faculty. A project may be interdisciplinary, but for Music honors the chair of your committee will be Music faculty; one member of the three-member committee can be from another department. As you think about a possible topic for an honors project, review work from previous classes that you have found particularly interesting and identify a faculty member who is willing and able to serve as Chair of your Honors Committee.
By April 15th of your Junior year [NB: this stage is not required this spring 2020, but you should talk to your prospective Honors Committee chair right away!]:
Submit to your prospective Honors Committee Chair a paragraph (200-250 words) describing your idea for a project and arrange a meeting to discuss it. At this meeting, your Chair may make suggestions for revising the scope of the project, direct you to scholarship for your bibliography (see below), etc. In consultation with your Chair, you will invite two other faculty members to serve on your Honors Committee.
Early in the Spring semester of your Junior year, you should talk to your advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies as well as other faculty whom you’d like to work with on the project. As you think about a possible topic for an honors project, review work from previous classes that you have found particularly interesting and identify a faculty member who is willing and able to serve as chair of your honors committee. A project may be interdisciplinary, but for Music honors the chair of your committee will be Music faculty; one member of the three-member committee can be from another department.
By May 1st of your Junior year [this spring 2020, the date is extended to May 15th]:
Submit formal application to the faculty (via the Director of Undergraduate Studies). The application consists of:
- Application Form, signed by prospective Chair of Honors Committee and including the names of two other committee members. For music-makers, the Chair must be either a member of the composition faculty (for the creation of an original work) or the instructor in your primary instrument or performance medium (for performance projects).
- A three-to-five-page proposal that reflects any suggestions and recommendations from your prospective Chair and includes a preliminary bibliography/discography/list of relevant primary and secondary materials. (NB: The proposal is not necessarily expected to be definitive and is only the starting point for the project, which will evolve over the course of the senior year.) Proposals for composition projects should include a preliminary description of the work (estimated length, instrumentation, formal approach, etc.). Proposals for performance projects should include a tentative draft of the proposed program (works to performed, length, performing forces necessary, a general timeline for rehearsal, etc.). Proposals for research projects should outline the main thesis and the general direction of the proposed work.
- With the proposal you should submit a sample term paper/composition/performance as evidence that you will be able to bring the proposed project to a successful conclusion.
Faculty will meet to consider applications before the end of the spring semester of your junior year. If your application is successful, you must schedule a meeting with your full Honors Committee before the start of the summer to plan work that you will undertake over the break. Performances planned as part of music-making projects will take place within the two weeks either side of Spring Break of the Senior year.
Fall of Senior Year:
At the start of the semester, you must meet with the Chair of your Honors Committee and set up a timetable of regular meetings and deadlines for project milestones.
You must register for MUS 4911 (4 credits of independent honors research) in the Fall and MUS 4912 (4 further credits for honors research) in the Spring of your Senior year.
If your project involves a public performance, you must meet with the Events Manager to finalize a performance date and associated deadlines before Fall Break. Failure to do so may result in cancellation of the project.
One week after the final class of the Fall semester, you must submit a summary of progress to your Honors Committee Chair. In the case of a scholarly research project, this will be a bibliography of works read, a revised proposal (including a precise statement of your thesis), and a min. 20-page draft of a central section of the document. In the case of composition, this will be a substantial portion of the creative work and a description or sketch of how the work will ensue; for performance, students must demonstrate evidence of mastery of a substantial portion of the proposed repertoire. Both performers and composers will also submit a rough outline/precis of the accompanying written paper, and all candidates will submit a revised schedule for completion.
If your Honors Committee determines that you have not made adequate progress toward successful completion of the project, you will receive a letter grade for MUS 4911 and will not continue towards honors (and will not enroll in MUS 4912). If your project is on track for successful completion, you will receive an “R” for MUS 4911 until the completion of the project.
Spring of Senior Year
(Dates may be adjusted slightly to accommodate University breaks and holidays)
You must register for MUS 4912 (4 credits of independent honors research).
February 1st of Senior year: a complete outline of the remaining work due must be submitted to your Honors Committee by this date.
March 15th of Senior year: you must submit a final draft to your Honors Committee chair of the complete thesis/composition/critical and/or analytical writing associated with performance/composition projects. Performers must present a substantially ready version of their final performance to their Honors Committee, allowing its members time to suggest corrections and for students to apply the finishing touches to the project.
By April 1st of Senior year: you will receive edits, suggestions, or other feedback from your Honors Committee.
Public performances must take place within two weeks of Spring Break (either before or after).
April 1st-April 20th: editing, polishing, rehearsing, incorporating committee suggestions.
An Oral exam will be scheduled and completed no later than May 1st (for composers/performers, this will occur as soon as possible after presentation of project).
Two weeks before the deadline for honors grades (as determined by the Registrar) you must turn in the completed thesis to the Honors Committee Chair. Failure to submit the project on time will automatically disqualify you from receiving the highest honors (summa cum laude). If the project is submitted so late that the committee does not have time to evaluate it properly, you will be disqualified from honors altogether.
During Study Week: Presentation of your honors research to the department at the annual Honors Showcase, sharing your results and inspiring the next crop of honors students!
Possible Outcomes of honors study:
- No honors. If the work is incomplete, inadequate, or too late, your committee will not be able to award honors. You will still receive letter grades for MUS 4911 and MUS 4912, considered as courses of independent study.
- Honors. If your complete your project to a high standard, you will graduate with honors at the level decided by your Committee (cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude). Separate grades are assigned for MUS 4911 and MUS 4912 by your Committee Chair for the research you have conducted over the course of the year.
The College of Arts and Sciences Career Services Center is a valuable resource for music students. Examples of music specific services include one-on-one practice interviews, career events, internships and summer programs, job searches, help with resume and cover letter writing, and individual career counseling.
Visit the Career Services website.