Music: Under the Hood


Course Description


We all love our favorite music, but we are often unaware of the compositional craftsmanship that underlies it.  This course shows how a peek under the hood, at how composers actually put notes together, can give us a keener appreciation of their music.  The course begins with brief review of musical basics (scales, keys, harmony, part writing, musical form).  It then analyzes excerpts from the works of a wide variety of composers, both classical and popular.  On the classical side are Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, Debussy and Janacek. Popular composers receive equal emphasis, including such jazz legends as Pittsburgh’s own Erroll Garner and Billy Strayhorn, and creators of the “Great American Songbook” (Fats Waller, George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Jule Styne, and others).  No prior musical training is necessary.  We will also examine the lives of the individuals who gave us the wonderful music discussed in the course.


The Study Leader


John Hooker is Professor of Operations Research and Holleran Professor of Business Ethics at Carnegie Mellon University.  He is also an amateur composer, pianist, and clarinetist.  He studied music theory and composition at Princeton University, and he has published research in music theory.  He enjoys analyzing the music he plays, with a particular interest in harmony and how it relates to musical structure.  Several of his compositions, with audio files, can be found on his website