Beyond Post-Tonal: A Broader Approach to the Fourth Semester Course

Kristina Knowles


In this article, I argue for organizing the undergraduate curriculum around topics that are applicable to a wide variety of repertoires. Doing so allows students to continue to learn the central concepts and skills that theorists seek to impart via the core curriculum but through a wider variety of musical styles and traditions. Pairing this approach to the curriculum with a wide range of musical activities and projects that extend beyond analysis to include improvisation, arranging, performance, composition, and research helps students connect the content to their own instruments, degree programs, and musical interests. I describe my application of this philosophy towards curricular reform within the context of a fourth semester course on twentieth-century music, where twentieth-century music was treated as a broad category encompassing post-tonal and avant garde music alongside jazz, popular, and world music. This article presents a broad overview of the course, discusses the successes and failures of this approach, and offers some suggestions for how it may be implemented and adapted for various teaching contexts.


diversity; post-tonal music; popular music; curriculum; music theory

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ISSN: 2689‐2871