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 A&H 295 - Music in Context


​Music does not exist in a vacuum, but interacts with its surroundings. In order to properly understand it, one has to be aware of extra-musical determining factors. Each culture has its own music, and each musical genre has its own context. Sacred music, for instance, is not a goal in itself, but serves as a tool in worship: the duration of a piece played during communion should be roughly equal to that of communion itself. A church cantata – to mention just one other example – has to take into account the readings in a service and the musical interpretation of the text ha​s to conform to the prevailing theological understanding in a congregation. Popular music, jazz music, film music, etc., also have their own contexts.

In order to understand both the outer necessity and the inner motivation that influence the forms and functions of music of all centuries, this course provides fundamental contextual knowledge about Western art music. The study of musical scores will not only allow students to achieve a deeper level of understanding of musical masterworks than could be gained from purely inner-musical analysis; the introduction to contextual themes and issues such as “music and its instruments”, “music and rhetoric”, “music and its notation”, etc. will also provide them with a better understanding of the role and place of music in present-day society.

Prof. Albert Clement






One of the following courses is required in order to take this course:

  • ​A&H 195 A History of Western Music
  • A&H 196 Introduction to Music Theory

Required for

This course is required in order to take the following course:

  • A&H 395 Case Studies in Music