Site ©1996 Timothy A. Smith
Mus 698 Bach: the Baroque & Beyond
| description | when offered | prerequisites | hardware & software | synchronization |
| textbook & assignments | course navigation | printing |
- Course Description: Bach: the Baroque & Beyond is a graduate seminar in music theory and analysis that Northern Arizona University is developing for delivery via the World-Wide Web. The course explores themes which emerge in the 18th century, reach heights of tonal complexity in the music of J. S. Bach, and have continued to inspire and inform composers into the 19th and 20th centuries. The underlying proposition of the course is that music composition for the last two centuries probably owes more to J. S. Bach than any single person. In the words of: GOUNOD "If all the music written since Bach's time should be lost, it could be reconstructed on the foundation which Bach laid" and RIMSKY-KORSAKOV "I had no idea of the historical evolution of the civilized world's music and had not realized that all modern music owes everything to Bach."
Each unit contains three modules: BAROQUE presents a concept and its history; BACH demonstrates the concept in one or more works of Johann Sebastian; and BEYOND presents the concept in a work since 1800. The purpose of each unit is to illustrate how musical structure and style in the western classical tradition draw from a continuum of techniques composers have sought consciously to exploit. Many of these techniques originated in the baroque with pedagogies transmitting them to musicians of the last two centuries having consistently used Bach as model. Students are introduced to an eclectic array of analytical techniques including pitch-class set, Schenkerian, psychological, formalistic and semiotic approaches. Familiarity with analytical methods other than theory of the common practice is not expected.
- When Offered and Registration: First taught in the fall of 1997, "Bach the Baroque & Beyond" will be offered again in the summer of 1999 for two credits. If you are interested, please communicate with me (Tim.Smith@nau.edu) at your convenience. Students will be able to register through NAU Online. In brief, there will be a $35.00 "quick admit" fee to NAU plus $334.00 per credit hour. The textbook will cost $59.00 plus there will be some CDs to purchase.
- Prerequisites: Qualified students will have earned an undergraduate degree in music or have completed two years of harmony and ear training plus a course in Form at the undergraduate level. Exceptions may be granted at the discretion of the instructor. In addition to the above it is expected that students enrolling in this course will be disciplined, self-motivated, able to work alone, write in the English language, have reasonably good typing skills, conversant with technical applications on the Internet, and have access to the World-Wide Web. An e-mail account is a must. Finally, students who are impatient or who do not have a sense of perspective about the experimental nature of this technology and pedagogy, should consider waiting to take a virtual course until things mature a bit.
- Required Hardware & Software: Students should have access to a computer with CD-ROM drive and fast modem or Ethernet connection to the World-Wide Web. Course materials are graphically intensive so the fast modem is essential. The browser should Java 1.1.5 (or later) enabled. The helper applications CDLink and Yamaha MidPlug (both free) must be installed. Before registering for the course, interested students are expected to have perused the course materials, determined that download times are acceptable and that the CDLink helper is functioning properly. It must be emphasized that students shall be entirely responsible for the technical setup at the receiving end. The instructor will serve information in as bug-free HTML as possible and will provide information as to how one would enter the instructional site successfully via a Macintosh computer and Netscape 3.0. But, inasmuch as the instructor cannot possibly have expertise in all possible hardware and software configurations, it shall be the student's responsibility to determine that equipment is operative before registering for the course. By registering, students certify that they have tested CDLink and the MidPlug and that instructional materials are reaching them properly.
- Synchronization of Sound and Animation: This site contains animated Gif files that are quasi-synchronized with compact disk recordings. Animations will never be synchronized with the CD the first time they are loaded. Synchronization is pretty good after files have been loaded into Netscape cache. Even when loaded into cache, the first time CDLink is used in a session, the splash screen will knock the animation out of synch. with the CD. If an animation seems hopelessly out of synch., click the replay button.
Internet technology does not yet exist to synchronize Gif files to CD sound perfectly. To say that the technology used here pushes the envelope would be an understatement. I use a PERL script written by Tobias Kreidl of NAU's Computing Technology Services that serves two files simultaneously--a command to start your CD and begin a Gif animation. I have no control over these files once your computer receives them and, depending upon how your CPU processes incoming data, the sound may or may not be synchronized with the animation. The technique feels to me a bit like Columbus launching the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria simultaneously and hoping they arrive in the Bahamas within minutes of each other (possible hurricane en route). I have tested the process on all desktop PowerMacs and find the synchronization to be acceptable but somewhat variable depending upon time of day, Internet traffic, etc. Synchronization is slow on the Powerbook 5300 series but I haven't tested the newer Powerbooks. Although it is desirable, perfect synchronization is not required for this course. Much can be learned from score animation without sound. Hopefully the technology will improve soon and we will be able to synchronize things reliably. Until then, please have patience and a sense of humor.
- Textbook and Assignments: All instructional material for this course will be delivered via the World-Wide Web. Academic quality reading is coming online daily and I am linking to these as I become aware of them. In lieu of a text, students will be required to purchase compact disk recordings to accompany the musical examples. It is anticipated that these CD's will cost in the range of $150.00 and will be obtainable from Classical Insites or some other online source. Some CDs should be available from your local library. On-campus students would, of course, have access to these disks in the School of Performing Arts Computer Media Center and would not need to purchase them. Prospective students should not be dissuaded from taking this course because of the cost of CDs. I encourage interested persons to consider the CDs an investment in the most important thing musicians do...listen to music...an investment that will reap dividends far "Beyond" the writing and reading about music.
At the conclusion of each unit students will find questions to which they must respond via e-mail. Students may answer these questions on their own or in collaboration with other students via the Mus 698 Bach WWW site in NAU's Virtual Conference Center. There are no tests or quizzes. Responses to unit questions will be evaluated for completeness and articulate prose as well as creativity and depth of theoretical conceptualization. I am very interested in encouraging students to think theoretically and abstractly and will be looking for eloquent prose as evidence that this is happening. Exceptionally fine work may be added to this site (with permission and proper credit of course).
- Navigating this Course: "Bach: the Baroque & Beyond" contains an Index page with links to a series of Unit pages. Each Unit contains Satellite pages, usually entered by means of a Notebook or Score Link. Satellite pages contain bracketed links, either at the bottom or left margin, that will return you to the Unit level. Clicking on the Header at the top of each Unit will return you to the Index. The Footer graphic on each page contains links to the NAU and SPA pages as well as my Sojurn Bach materials, personal homepage, and course index. Because some scores are large, I recommend that you hide Netscape's toolbar, location and directory buttons and use the pop-up "Back" button to retrace your steps in the hierarchy (click the mouse on any non-link and hold until the Netscape "Back" menu pops up).
- Printing: To print copy from this site, Netscape must be configured to use a light background with dark text. Pull down Netscape's "Options" menu to "General Preferences," then click on the "Colors" tab. Select a dark font color and light background color, then click on "Always Use Mine" in the Color Control box. It is recommended that you default to the proportional font Bookman (12 points) as it produces the best italics. To set the font, click on the "Fonts" tab. Click OK and print the pages you want. When you have finished printing, return to the Color Control box and select "Let Document Override" to resume browsing.