Students in a musicology class

Welcome to the Department of Musicology!

Musicology is the study of music as an academic discipline. Because music is inextricably bound up with the people who make and listen and move to it, who teach and learn it, who write and think about it, who value and judge it, musicology is deeply interdisciplinary and integrative. That means that musicology intersects with many other fields of study and that those fields can help us in our work. That also means that musicology connects to so much that you do here at Lawrence, as a musician and as a student of the liberal arts.

When you take a musicology course at Lawrence, you will be a practitioner of musicology. You will investigate and think about some of the multitude of ways in which people engage with music. You will consider why and how musicking matters to people, in specific contexts in different times and cultures. You will think about where and how meaning happens in relation to musicking and how that meaning might function and change. You will consider the ways that your personal experiences might influence the way you process and respond to a specific soundscape or musical practice or ideology. You will ask questions, consider multiple perspectives, and explore ambiguities.

Department Photo

Musicology Courses for Students in the College

We welcome all students, regardless of major, to explore music and music-making in our musicology courses! In courses designed for students in the College, you will examine musical meanings, performance and listening practices, musicians and audiences, and various musical genres in social, cultural, and historical contexts. Musicology courses that have no prerequisites include: 

  • American Popular Music
  • The Beatles
  • Big Works, Big Questions
  • Introduction to Jazz History
  • Music in the Monastery
  • Musics of Latin America
  • Popular Music 1954-1979: The Rise of Rock and Roll

Some of our courses are cross-listed with programs in the College, including Gender Studies, Film Studies, Global Studies, Art History, and Environmental Studies.

See here for a broader list of academic music courses open to non-music-majors throughout the entire Conservatory. Additionally, opportunities for students of all majors to participate in other departments of the Conservatory of Music abound!

Required Core Courses for Music Majors

The two-term sequence Introduction to Musicologies (MUCO 211 and 212) takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of music and is required for all music majors. A growing number of music departments and conservatories have begun shifting away from the conventional model of the music history survey, and Lawrence Conservatory's Department of Musicology was one of the first departments in the U.S. to replace the traditional music history survey with a new type of introductory course that does not use as its structure a chronological history of Western classical music. Our new core courses have been offered since Fall 2018. Students should plan to enroll in the courses in their second year.

In MUCO 211 and 212 you will encounter scholarly approaches from ethnomusicology, popular music studies, sound studies, cultural studies, music hermeneutics, gender studies, critical race theory, post-colonial studies, historiography and performance studies. You will explore musical styles, practices, functions, meanings and values in cross-cultural and transhistorical contexts, while engaging in the variety of activities that constitute the academic study of music: listening critically to recordings, reading and discussing primary source documents and scholarly literature, studying scores, and undertaking library research and ethnographic fieldwork. As you work through the course, you will develop new ideas about the music you are already know and love, you will consider other musical perspectives, and you will gain insight into the ways that music is practiced, valued, and interpreted in both familiar and unfamiliar contexts. The new course aims to prepare you to approach all the music you encounter with open ears and intellectual curiosity.

Lawrence's core courses in musicology no longer position as central the repertoire of the Western classical canon. Instead, students grapple with an assortment of music topics and case studies chosen collaboratively by the four instructors who teach the course. We assign scholarly articles and essays that we hope will be most transformative, and provide students with opportunities to discover and contemplate their own musical assumptions and ideas. In the core courses we study a selection of topics in Western classical music along with many other types of musical works and practices drawn from various times, places, and cultures. Students with particular interest in studying the history and repertoire of Western classical music may choose to enroll in upper-level seminars on Western classical music topics.

Upper-Level Course Offerings

After the musicology core sequence, you are required to take upper-level musicology courses. You may choose which seminars you take; multiple seminars are offered each term. You are encouraged to enroll in a variety of courses so as to dramatically expand your awareness of global and historical diversity and complexity; develop your familiarity with different culturally based aesthetic systems; hone your understanding of the power of music in group formation and identity construction; and enhance your awareness of music as a process and activity that is often crucial for human life. Upper-level seminars have limited enrollments so as to foster a collaborative classroom environment in which every student contributes to the intellectual work of the course. Recent course offerings include:

  • Aesthetics of Music 
  • Borrowed Music in the Movies
  • The Blues 
  • Claude Debussy
  • Concepts of Authenticity in Popular Music
  • Cultural Histories of Sound Recording
  • Divine Love in the 17th Century
  • Early Music Revivals 
  • History of the String Quartet
  • History of the Symphony
  • History of the Wind Band
  • Introduction to World Music and Culture
  • Jazz History
  • The Lied and German National Identity
  • The Madrigal
  • Music and Disability
  • Music and the Environment
  • Music and Fairy Tales
  • Music and Gender
  • Music and Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspectives
  • Music and Globalization
  • Music and Memory
  • Music and Politics
  • Music and Power Under the Sun King
  • Music in the Age of Exploration
  • Music in the U.S.
  • Music of India
  • Music of the Middle East
  • Opera and Betrayal
  • Performing Arts of Bali
  • Popular Music: History, Analysis, Interpretation
  • The Public Concert in 19th-Century Europe

Independent Studies in Musicology

Students with special interest in musicology who have completed the core sequence and required number of upper-level courses for their major may undertake faculty-supervised independent studies in which they investigate specific musicological topics in depth in the process of completing a substantial scholarly project.

Recent Alumni

Please visit our Alumni News page for profiles of several recent graduates who are pursuing further studies and careers in historical musicology and ethnomusicology.