What’s behind brouhaha over Harvard’s music curriculum changes?

Posted on: April 28, 2017

“University curricular reform doesn’t typically ignite fiery internet controversy,” writes William Robin in Tuesday’s (4/25) Log Journal. “But last month, when The Harvard Crimson reported on the adoption of a new undergraduate curriculum at Harvard, the classical music corner of the internet—composers, performers, theorists, musicologists—briefly erupted in intense discussion. The college’s elimination of typical core requirements for concentrators (Harvard’s word for ‘majors’), including its introductory theory courses, caused some commentators to voice concern about the decline of traditional analytical skills; others instead pointed out that older curricular models often exclude non-Western musics and limit diversity…. Illustrious [Harvard] alumni—including none other than composer John Adams—weighed in.… I sat down last week with three members of the music faculty: music theorist and department chair Suzannah Clark; musicologist and director of undergraduate studies Anne Shreffler, and theorist Alexander Rehding, who planned the curriculum with musicologist Carol Oja…. As a musicologist and professor myself, I wanted to learn about the background behind these changes, what they mean for students, and the implications of the controversy for our field.” Robin posts an edited transcript of the conversation.

Posted April 28, 2017