Musical Cities


Fall 2014, Winter 2015 and Spring 2015 quarters

Taught by

human development, family studies, education

The city is built to music, therefore never built at all, and therefore built forever. – Alfred Lord Tennyson

This program is a yearlong academic inquiry into the paired realms of music and the city. The history of modern music sits squarely in the emergence of cities. Can we get an impression of the waltz without getting an impression of 18th-century Vienna? Can we consider New Orleans without considering jazz? And certainly, urban recording companies, such as Cincinnati’s King Records in the late 1940s to early 1960s, influenced what urban dwellers listened to. The connected study of these aspects of society—music and cities—creates a lively academic journey. Inquiry in this program will bring to light how cities and music interact with one another, how each changes the essence of the other, how each are expressions of culture. Music and cities are “characters” for deep consideration.

The distinct topics of urban life and urban music will be explored through familiar modes of inquiry: readings, workshops, writing and listening. Furthermore, work that combines the two topics will move us to understand their interface. Fiction, such as An Equal Music (Seth, 2000), a tale set in Venice and Vienna that explores how music can both unite and divide, helps portray the urban, international music scene. Kurt Ambruster’s nonfiction Before Seattle Rocked: A City and Its Music (2011) connects the topics through a historical perspective. There are also specific collected urban sound experiments to think about: John Cage’s New York City art and score 49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs is one such experiment, and Steve Reich’s minimalist composition City Life is another. This program will experiment with its own collection of city sounds through student fieldwork projects.

In this program, expect to develop a new language to express what you are hearing and learning about in the world of music and cities. You will learn to listen critically, to become familiar with genres of music and to understand music’s cultural implications. At the same time you will be immersed in the concept of “city” by experiencing others’ visions of cities, how we navigate urban environments and how we change them. Fall and winter in-class work will be punctuated with fieldwork to explore the sounds of nearby cities. In spring, students will have the opportunity to design a field study that investigates the urban/music significance of a city of your choice and means. A formal field study proposal will be required as a tool to plan a five-week field study.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

urban studies and music-focused fields of study.

Academic Website

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$100 in fall and winter for performance tickets.


Date Revision
April 21st, 2014 Andrea Gullickson is continuing into spring quarter.
January 31st, 2014 This program will accept Sophomore-Senior students.
November 19th, 2013 This program now accepts students of all class levels (Freshmen-Seniors).

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter); 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 10132

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Accepting New Students


Students will need to demonstrate understanding of vocabulary and key concepts explored during the Fall quarter. Please contact the faculty ( and for more information.

Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 20077

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Enrollment Closed

Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 30059

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