What is to be Experimental Music and Theater Now?


Fall 2014, Winter 2015 and Spring 2015 quarters

Taught by

music composition, performance


Two years of college-level work in music, theater or performance classes.


"MUSIC": The art of preserving relationships against their content.

"THEATER": Voice — Body — Look! — Here!  The invitation to observe and uncomprehend.

"IS TO BE": Not "What has been," nor "What is," but what is not yet, and so needs us to become it.

"NOW": Neither bygone nor anticipated glories, but an alluring trepidation with the intensity of "Hic Rhodus, hic salta!"
"EXPERIMENTAL": Not yet supported by existing facts and truths.

"WHAT": The result of our makings, thinkings, resistings, passions and becomings: what is not yet is to be our "what."

We will read about, listen to, talk around, compose towards, and perform experiments in musical and theatrical composition. There will be lots of listening to and watching compositions written in the past 60 years and discussion of the contexts in which those pieces were once experimental and whether they remain so.

Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, when capitalism has abandoned any pretense of accommodation, what must art be so that it resists the appeal of its commodification?

Can an experiment in art have foundations? What does it mean to "take a risk" in a composition? Can an experiment in art resist being dismissed as being merely "an experiment in art"? What does a work of art require of its audience? Can a work of art demand that its audience become more than it is? Are any of these questions still valid, or have they outlived their usefulness? Our readings and watchings and listenings will address these questions, among others.

Are there "bad ideas" for performance? How does one distinguish an experiment in art based on a "bad" idea and one on a "good" one? There will be lots of group performance projects and these quesitons will be brought up in workshops where groups will present to each other.

Readings on related subjects in contemporary music and theater history and aesthetics will be drawn from the works of Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Antonin Artaud, Jacques Attali, Susan Buck-Morss, Bertolt Brecht, Caryl Churchill, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and others.

As well as making performances, we will attend performances of new music and theater as they occur.

A strong emphasis in the course will be projects composed and performed by groups of students in the class.

Class meetings will be divided into lectures, seminars, listening sessions and performers' workshops. 

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

music, theater and the performance arts.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

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 per quarter for tickets for music and theater performances.

Registration Information

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

Class standing: Junior–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 25


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Accepting New Students

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Accepting New Students

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