Courses of Study 2021-2022 
    Jul 25, 2024  
Courses of Study 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


In the College of Arts and Sciences .

Course Offerings  


A. Madrid, chair; X. Bjerken, director of undergraduate studies; B. Piekut, director of graduate studies; C. Appert, X. Bjerken, B. Boettcher, K. Ernste, M. Fall, L. Fitz Gibbon, J. Haines-Eitzen, R. Harris-Warrick, A. Hicks, A. Kim, A. Lewandowski, E. Marshall, P. Merrill, C. Miller, R. Moseley, M. Papalexandri Alexandri, J. Pepinsky, J. Peraino, B. Piekut, S. Pond, A. Richards, L. Shuster, R. Sierra, M. Sparhuber, J. Spinazzola, S. Spinelli, M. Yampolsky, D. Yearsley. Emeritus: M. Bilson, A. Groos, M. Hatch, S. Monosoff, D. Randel, D. Rosen, S. Tucker, J. Webster, N. Zaslaw


Musical Performance and Concerts:

Musical performance is an integral part of Cornell’s cultural life and an essential part of its undergraduate academic programs in music. The department encourages music-making through its offerings in individual instruction and through musical organizations and ensembles that are directed and trained by members of the faculty. Students from all colleges and departments of the university join with music majors and minors in all of these ensembles:

Vocal ensembles:

  • Chamber Singers
  • Chorale
  • Chorus
  • Glee Club

Instrumental ensembles:

  • Brazilian Ensemble Deixa Sambar
  • Chamber Flute
  • Chamber Music Ensembles
  • Chamber Orchestra
  • Cornell Hip-Hop Collective
  • Gamelan Ensemble
  • Performing Chamber Wind Music
  • Jazz Band
  • Jazz Repertory Ensemble
  • Jazz Combos
  • Music Improvisation Ensemble
  • Percussion Group
  • Steel Band
  • Symphony Orchestra
  • Wind Symphony

Information about requirements and conditions for academic credit can be found in the following listings for the Department of Music. Announcements of auditions for vocal and instrumental ensembles are posted at during registration each fall semester and, where appropriate, each spring semester as well.

The university is also home to many student-run musical organizations not affiliated with the Department of Music, including the Big Red Marching Band and Big Red Pep Band, and several a cappella groups. Information is available directly from each group.

The Department of Music and the Faculty Committee on Music sponsor more than 140 formal and informal concerts each year by Cornell’s ensembles, faculty, and students and by distinguished visiting artists. The great majority of these concerts are free and open to the public. Lectures and concerts are listed at Additional information is available through the events office (607-255-4760).

Musical Instruction:

Cornell faculty members offer individual instruction in voice, organ, harpsichord, piano and fortepiano, violin, viola, cello, percussion, and some brass and woodwind instruments to those students advanced enough to do college-level work in these instruments. Lessons are available by audition only. They may be taken for .5 credit (MUSIC 3511  and MUSIC 3512 ), 1 credit (MUSIC 3513 ), 2 credits (MUSIC 3514 ) or 3 credits (MUSIC 4501 ). For more information, please go to

Lessons for beginners: The Department of Music does not offer lessons for beginners.

Auditions: Auditions are held at the beginning of each semester for lessons for advanced students. Contact the music department office in 101 Lincoln Hall for information.

Fees: For information about the fee structure for lessons, see the department’s web site or contact the music department office. All fees are nonrefundable once lessons begin, even if the course is subsequently dropped.

Scholarships: Music majors are granted a waiver of lesson fees per semester. All scholarships are intended only for lessons in the student’s primary performing medium. Scholarship/registration forms, available in the music department office, are to be returned to the office within the first three weeks of classes.

Individual Instruction in Musical Composition:

Analogously to private instruction in performance, Cornell faculty members offer private instruction in musical composition. Music majors may receive a waiver in lesson fees, just as for performance lessons. For nonmajors, fees are structured just as for performance study. Students may register for these courses in successive semesters or year although individual instruction may not be available during  semester where classroom composition courses are offered simultaneously.

The faculty members authorized to supervise composition study, both within Cornell and outside, are K. Ernste and P. Merrill.

Prerequisites: Satisfactory completion of MUSIC 2101 .

Auditions: Students must present a portfolio of previous compositions in order to assist the faculty in determining placement.

Musical Organizations and Ensembles:

Students may participate in musical organizations and ensembles throughout the year. Permission of the instructor is required, and admission is by audition only (usually at the beginning of each semester), except that the Cornell Gamelan Ensemble is open to all students without prior audition. Registration is permitted in two of these courses simultaneously and students may register in successive years, but no student may earn more than 8 credits in these courses. Membership in these musical organizations and ensembles is also open to qualified students who wish to participate.

The Music Major:

The Department of Music offers training in the study, creation, and performance of a broad spectrum of music. Course offerings reflect the breadth of faculty expertise, which ranges across global and local musical practices and activities, including Western art music in all periods, historical and contemporary Latin American music, African and Afro-Caribbean music, East and Southeast Asian music, jazz, rock and pop music, improvisation, experimentalism, sound art, electronic music, and digital game music.

The music major provides avenues for students to capitalize on the strengths, experiences, and training that they bring to the program as well as opportunities to engage deeply with unfamiliar sounds, traditions, and ways of thinking and behaving musically. As a Bachelor of Arts degree, it equips students with a liberal arts education and emphasizes music as a historically situated and culturally embedded human activity entangled with personal identities, social structures, psychological states, and aesthetic ideals. Music majors gain an array of analytical, historical, argumentative, creative, and performative skills that provide a solid foundation for career paths as creative musicians and scholars as well as in business, law, and other professional endeavors.

As a music major, you will take courses in three areas: Materials and Techniques, History and Culture, and Performance. You will also have the opportunity to specialize in a sub-area by pursuing a sequence of courses that investigate topics in greater depth. Our many ensembles provide practical experience and training in collaborative music making, and our lessons program offers instruction at the highest level. There are also opportunities to get involved in arts outreach and organization in both local and international contexts. 

The major balances specialization in the particular areas of music creation, performance, and study with the acquisition of the following broadly applicable skills:

  • the creative application of practical and theoretical knowledge within and across musical traditions
  • the ability to listen critically, openly, and deeply to support analysis, study, and collaboration
  • the ability to think critically and communicate creatively across social, cultural, and artistic differences

Courses within the Music Department fall into one of three overarching categories:

  • History and Culture [H&C]
  • Materials and Techniques [M&T]
  • Performance and Lessons

The flexibility of the music major allows for maximum exploration of the department’s course offerings while ensuring students gain exposure to different methodological approaches to the study of music through a mixture of H&C, M&T, and Performance requirements.

Broadly speaking, H&C courses situate musical practices or repertoires in their historical and cultural contexts. This involves studying how music frames, constructs, and reflects personal, social, political, and philosophical dynamics, and also how musical values vary according to time and place.

M&T courses are primarily concerned with how music works, involving both the sonic and conceptual elements that compose it and the techniques with which they can be combined and manipulated. Some of these courses focus on creative methods while others teach analytical skills.

Performance and lessons courses focus on the individual expression and listening skills required to perform music at a high level. Such courses typically emphasize students’ musical growth, involving the broadening of horizons as well as the acquisition of advanced techniques.

Prerequisites and procedures to become a music major:

  • Complete three music courses with a B-minus average across the three courses
  • Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies to register your intention to become a music major
  • Identify and meet with a faculty music major advisor
  • Fill out the application form

Required Courses for all Music Majors:

Note: In addition to the major requirements outlined below, all students must meet the college graduation requirements .

Majors are expected to meet the following curriculum requirements with a grade of C+ or better. The minimum number of credits needed for the music major is 32.

  • MUSIC 1101 - Elements of Music  (explores a wide range of musics to reveal the surprising complexity within seemingly universal musical elements: pitch, melody, harmony, rhythm, and form)
  • MUSIC 1105 - Building Musical Skills  (introduces practical listening and making skills, and explores analytical concepts and terminology that are applicable both across and within specific musical traditions)
  • MUSIC 2201 - Introduction to Music Studies  (introduces students to the critical study of music as an expression of history and culture, and explores different styles of writing about music, including journalistic, academic, and creative)

Performance Requirements for all Music Majors:

  • Two semesters of performance courses or experiences *one must be collaborative music making; the other may be private lessons, or other approved music-related performance experiences such as dance, DJ-ing, and vetted student ensembles. Approval requires consultation with your major advisor together with a member of the performance faculty.

Elective Requirements: A minimum of six courses chosen in consultation with your music major faculty advisor:

  • Three electives must be at the 2000 level or higher
  • Two electives must be at the 3000 level or higher
  • One can be at any level
  • Additional electives beyond the minimum can be at any level

At least one elective must be a Materials and Techniques course

At least one elective must be a History and Culture course

Honors and capstone projects research and writing workshop:

a course offered at the 3000 level required of students who wish to do an honors project, but also open to students who wish to develop an independent research project outside of honors. This course would count as one of the elective courses.

Recommended best practice in choosing electives:

In consultation with their major advisor, students will create a program from the six electives tailored to their academic and performance interests and development. Students will be strongly encouraged to explore at least two musical traditions through their coursework.

For more information about the music major, please visit the Music Department’s website.


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.

For more information about honors, please visit the Music Department’s website.


In addition to its performing, instructional, and concert activities, the department offers numerous courses for nonmajors, many of which carry no prerequisites and presuppose no previous formal training in music. Consult the following course listings, and for further information consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the department office, 101 Lincoln Hall (607-255-4097).

The Music Minor:

Admission to the minor must be declared no later than the second semester of the junior year.

To apply:

  • Submit the online Music Minor Application Form.
  • Please submit the application by the end of the Junior year.
  • Based on your interests, select and obtain the agreement of a faculty member who is willing to serve as the minor advisor. 

After the start of the seventh semester, admission is by petition only. Such students should attach a statement outlining their credentials and reasons for wishing to pursue a minor in Music.

All students must submit an exit statement to the advisor and the DUS articulating the intellectual interests that were developed by work done for the minor and how his or her program of musical studies reflects a coherent learning agenda.

Those enrolled in the Music minor are considered members of the Music department and are encouraged to participate in all program activities.

The following courses are required to fulfill the undergraduate minor in Music:

1. Theory, Materials, and Techniques (3-5 credits)

At least one three to five credit course in the category of Theory, Materials, and Techniques.

2. History and Culture (3-4 credits)

At least one three to four credit course in the category of History and Culture.

3. Performance (3 credits)

At least three credits of courses in the category of Collaborative Performance and/or Individual Instruction. At least two credits must come from Collaborative Performance courses. Students may earn the remaining credit from a course in either category.

4. Electives (8 credits)

Eight credits from any other Theory, Materials, and Techniques, History and Culture, or Collaborative Performance courses.  A maximum of five of these credits may be earned from Collaborative Performance courses.

Computing in the Arts Undergraduate Minor:

A minor in Computing in the Arts with an emphasis on music is available both to music majors and to students majoring in other subjects. This program remains open for current students (those due to graduate between 2020 and 2023), but will cease to be available for students due to graduate after 2023. Students should contact the Director, Graeme Bailey, for advising about the minor.


Music Library. The Sidney Cox Library of Music and Dance in Lincoln Hall has an excellent collection containing periodicals, books, scores, parts, sound and video recordings, microforms, rare materials, and electronic resources. Its depth and breadth serve the needs of a wide variety of users on the campus and its listening and video viewing facilities are open to all members of the Cornell community.

Concert Halls. The Department of Music sponsors more than 140 concerts annually. Cornell’s principal concert halls are Bailey Hall Auditorium (about 1,400 seats), Sage Chapel (about 800), and Barnes Hall Auditorium (about 280).

Rehearsal Spaces and Practice Rooms. Departmental ensembles rehearse primarily in Lincoln Hall, Bailey Hall, Barnes Hall, and Sage Chapel. Twenty-six studios in Lincoln Hall are available for individual practice by pianists, vocalists, and instrumentalists who are members of the Cornell community. Of these, seven have grand pianos, five have upright pianos, and one has percussion instruments.

For information about access to the practice rooms, see or contact the department office.

Instruments. Six concert grand pianos are available for performances in the various concert halls, plus several historical keyboard instruments, including fortepianos, harpsichords, and clavichords. Four distinctive organs are available to qualified individuals for lessons and practice. In addition, the music department owns a limited number of string, wind, and percussion instruments that may be used by members of the department’s ensembles.

Cornell Electroacoustic Music Center (CEMC). The Cornell Electroacoustic Music Center comprises three project studios, a 14-workstation teaching lab in the Music Library, and a primary multichannel studio. Several live performance and recording rigs are also available, from hand-held to solid state. A combination of commercial and open-source software solutions service an array of student and faculty interests, including sound manipulation and sound specialization, live performance, multimedia, intelligent music systems (adaptive and algorithmic composition), music notation, sound art and experimentation, and high-resolution recording. The center operates its own web server with space for web hosting, data backup, and remote login. CEMC’s facilities are state-of-the-art and can accommodate almost any creative inclination.