Introduction to Music, Fall 2017

Prof. Jake Cohen, Rutgers-Newark

Category: Announcements

organ recital

Hi class,

On Monday, Nov. 20th from 10:00, RU-N choral director Brian Harlow is giving a lecture demonstration of the pipe organ at St. Mary’s Church Newark Abbey. Brian is an internationally recognized organist and has performed in Europe and the United States. We’re very lucky to have him performing for us!

St. Mary’s is just down the street from Bradley Hall, at 520 Martin Luther King Blvd. If you arrive late, please enter the church quietly and respectfully. This is an optional performance! 

rap lyrics and reality

Hi class, I’m giving back your Thought Question 1 papers Tuesday and I thought you might like to read these op-ed articles written by a professor at the University of Richmond, Erik Nielson, who is often called to testify as an expert witness in legal cases where rap lyrics are used as part of a legal argument to secure a conviction. I thought that many of you had interesting things to say about the issue and this might illuminate some real-world ramifications of this complex issue.

NY Times

Washington Post

recitative and aria

Hi class,

Just wanted to share a couple more examples of the difference between recitative and aria. During the early Baroque era (what we’ve been listening to so far) the distinction between these two singing styles is not always super clear, but this becomes much clearer as the 18th century begins and the styles become more clearly delineated. Here are two examples, both from around the 1730s, that I think might help clarify these two singing styles better.

Pergolesi, La Serva Padrona (1733)

The lead female (Serpina) and male (Uberto) characters in this comic opera (or opera buffa as it’s known) begin this scene with a long-ish recitative, which then turns into an aria at 1:39. Note how the recitative is accompanied by just the basso continuo, in this case played by the solo harpsichord, but the aria has full orchestral accompaniment with strings in addition to harpsichord.

Handel, Messiah (1741)

This is from Handel’s oratorio Messiah. An oratorio is an unstaged opera, and they are often sacred (because it would be inappropriate to set a sacred text within  the worldly and lascivious genre of opera). The story here is the life of Christ, which is why Messiah is still performed all over the world around Christmas (and its most famous number, the “Hallelujah” chorus, is one of the world’s most well known classical works). This is in English, so you can really get a feel for how the rhythms follow English speech patterns.

The first part, “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened,” is a recitative that uses Biblical text from the Book of Isaiah. The second part (beginning around 0:28) is an aria, “He shall feed his flock,” which combines words from a variety of Biblical sources. The text is below the video.


Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing. (Isaiah 35: 5-6)


He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; and He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11)

Come unto Him, all ye that labour, come unto Him that are heavy laden, and He will give you rest.
Take his yoke upon you, and learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11: 28-29)

Thought question 1

Hi everyone,

The assignment for next Thursday, Thought Question 1, is now up on the front page of the website. It involves some of the reading on hip hop I’d asked you to do this past week. Thought questions are writing assignments that are still relatively low stakes: I am interested in what you think and the quality of your argument and thoughts. There is no right or wrong answer. The best papers will not only answer questions or make suggestions, but will expand on them with specifics and examples. I will be away this weekend but will be back Sunday, and will answer any questions you have then.


Blog Entry 2: Music Videos

DUE before class, Thursday October 12.

As we will discuss in class on Thursday, music videos began as a simple combination of video and music, often with the band simply performing their music “live” with possibly some rudimentary graphics or images. But soon artists realized the potential of video as its own unique media that could communicate artistically in ways that music alone could not. Michael Jackson was one of the most innovative music video creators in the early 1980s. His 1982 album Thriller, and especially its title track, revolutionized the genre of music video by turning it into a mini-movie. Watch, for example, how Jackson’s music video style evolved from his earliest hits such as “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” (1979) from his first solo album Off The Wall, to “Thriller” only  three years later.

Choose a music video by any popular artist and analyze how the artist uses their video to say something about themselves as an artist, about their music, or about their identity. You can choose a recent/current video or an older video, but it must be from the MTV era (1981 or after). The video does not have to have been released on MTV, however.

In your post, you can comment about anything you want, but you should be trying to make connections between the video and either the artist or their music. Some ideas might include:

  • how does the artist construct an identity using video?
  • are there parallels between the song’s form and the video?
  • why did the artist make this particular artistic choice in the video?
  • is the artist trying to make a point or prove a point?
  • is the artist making some kind of social/political statement?

Don’t feel limited by these ideas! You can write about whatever you want, provided that you show that you have thought about the matter beyond just simply describing what happens in the video. You should be making some kind of connection between the music/artist and the video.

To submit:

  • Create a New Post following the same guidelines as for the first blog post.
  • Be sure to choose the category “Blog Entry 2”
  • Paste the YouTube directly link into the post. Do this by clicking the “Share” button beneath the YouTube video and pasting the link right into the post, as I did above with the Michael Jackson videos. If it doesn’t appear, email me and I’ll help you out.
  • Make sure you’ve selected the “Blog Entry 2” category, and then hit “Publish.”
  • This assignment is due by 10am on Thursday October 12

Listening Exercises

Hi everyone, here are a few listening exercises that you can do if you’d like to practice hearing things like major/minor keys, duple/triple meter, and also counting measures and phrases. Below each one is a link to an answer key. These might prove helpful while studying for your test, and more importantly, for clearing up any difficulty you might be having in hearing these elements. The meter/key exercises both use classical music only, while the measures and phrases exercise uses a New Orleans jazz recording by Louis Armstrong.

1. Hearing meter

The following track contains 10 excerpts of classical music. For each one, identify whether the meter is a duple meter or triple meter.


2. Hearing major and minor keys

The following track contains 10 excerpts of classical music. For each one, identify whether the key is major or minor. Remember, the key represents how the music is organized around a central or “home” chord. If something is in a major key, it will often have a cadence that arrives on a major chord (a cadence is a resting point or arrival point in a harmonic progression or series of chords). Pieces will also often, but not always, start on that “home” chord.


3. Hearing measures, phrases, and form

The following track is “Willie the Weeper,” written and recorded in 1927 by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five. You can “fill in the blanks” and answer questions below.

0:00-0:03: Four-measure ___________.

0:04-0:24: Full band, ______-measure section.

0:25-0:45: Full band, ______-measure section. How does this relate to the previous section?

0:46-0:56: ______ measures, _______ key. Who is playing the main melody here and what else is happening?

0:57-1:06: ______ measures. How does this relate to the previous section?

1:07-1:27: _________ solo, ____ measures.

1:28-1:48: _________ solo, ____ measures.

1:49-1:58: _________ solo, ____ measures.

_____-_____: Piano solo, ____ measures.

_____-_____: Guitar solo, ____ measures.

2:29-2:48: _________ solo, ____ measures

2:49-end: Who is playing here, how many measures, and what are the instruments doing?






schedule change?

Hi class,

In reviewing the next couple of weeks, I’d like to be able to spend a little more time on jazz and pop music, and also perhaps get rid of a week of classical music. So…

I’m considering moving the first test from October 10 to October 17. Normally I don’t move tests, so I wanted to check with you all to see if this is OK. If anyone has any reason why taking the first test on October 17 instead of October 10 is a problem, please email me and we will figure something out together. We’ll talk about this in class next Tuesday, as well.

This will also result in a bit of shifting around of some other due dates, which will be noted on the syllabus and which I will make very clear in class and on the front page of the website.

-Prof. Cohen

Listening for Thursday and blog entry responses

Hi everyone, this is how emails to the class will look from now on. You will receive an email notification with the first part of the message displaying and the rest of the message clipped. Please ALWAYS CLICK THE LINK to view the entire message on our course site; there might be other elements that don’t show up in your email such as attachments, images, rich text, etc.

I’ve added some listening to the playlist for Thursday, as indicated on the front page of the website. I’ll be redesigning the course website this weekend a little bit but it will still function identically, just with slightly different look and layout. For these songs, a number of them are quite long (“All Blues,” “Chameleon”) and you don’t have to listen to the entire thing if you don’t want to (although you’re more than welcome to!) but take in at least 5 minutes or so of each so that you get a good feel for what the song’s form and content are like. For Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, please listen to the whole thing.

Lastly, I am going to comment on all your blog posts by the end of the day tomorrow. So far, they are all great, thanks for taking time and care with them. My comments will be private so only you can see them.

See you Thursday,

Prof. Cohen