Reconsidering Undergraduate Music History: Some Introductory Thoughts

Douglass Seaton


Discussions of music history curricula in various colleague organizations – the American Musicological Society, the National Association of Schools of Music, and The College Music Society – have raised questions about the efficacy of the traditional multi-semester, chronological music history course sequence. Consideration of the appropriateness of such survey sequences in the twenty-first century might consider a number of questions about the discipline itself, about the needs of students, and about the practicalities that affect curricular change. Is the postmodern rejection of historical narrative compelling, or is it misguided? After “the end of history,” might we see new reasons to justify the writing of history? Is history something that our students should learn? Is a survey sequence an effective way to teach it? Should our emphasis be on teaching historical knowledge or on skills? What kind of curriculum options make best sense to a postmodern and digital generation? To what extent do we owe it to our students to help them to meet national norms, expectations of them when they arrive at graduate schools, or accreditation standards? What are the administrative resources or obstacles we face in either continuing or abandoning the sequential music history survey course?

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ISSN 2155-109X