The Program

The academic study of music encompasses musicology (i.e., thinking, talking, writing about music) as well as the more familiar applied areas (i.e., making music). Earlham offers a surprisingly wide variety of courses — open to majors and non-majors alike — in both of these areas.

Musicology may be divided into music theory, music history and ethnomusicology. In music theory, students are taught how music is put together from a composer's point of view. They learn about scales, chords, rhythm and the intricacies of music notation. They also try to understand what conventions might inform the process of composition in various styles, through compositional exercises and analysis. Especially in advanced courses, musical form is studied in detail, one goal being to understand what makes specific compositions tick, what gives them their aesthetic power. The Music Technology course affords students extensive opportunity to work creatively with digital media.

In music history, students learn about the succession of musical styles and the various influences that gave rise to them. These influences include previous musical styles, of course, but also trends in the other arts, sociological factors (who makes, listens to and pays for music, and why), changes in technology, political events, philosophical ideas and biographical details. As in music theory, emphasis is usually on the written tradition of Europe and its diaspora.

Ethnomusicology takes all of the world's musics as its object of study, which it usually approaches from an anthropological perspective (etymologically, it is the ethnology of music). Many of the same issues arise as in music history and music theory, but the emphasis is typically on currently performed, oral musics that function to create a sense of identity for a given ethnic group.

The Department also offers a series of courses that are not repertoire based, and which do not fit neatly into the three standard branches of musicology. These "Music and..." courses look at how music intersects with other aspects of life. Examples are Music and Morality, and Music and Gender.

Applied Music includes private instruction and ensemble experience. Earlham offers private instruction in voice as well as in nearly all orchestral instruments. The many choirs for students to join range from the small, highly selective Madrigal Singers to the much larger Gospel Revelations. The Concert Choir and Women's Chorus offer mid-sized choral experiences.

Instrumental groups also range in size from the smaller String Quartet and Earlham Rhythm Project to the larger Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble. The Hand-Drum Ensemble emphasizes African-based music, and Javanese music may be studied in the Gamelan Ensemble. In all of these applied offerings, the Music Department's philosophy is that performance opportunities provide students with challenge, growth and fulfillment at various levels of skill and experience.

Graduates of the Department have gone on to further study, with recent alumni attending Ball State, Florida State, Harvard, Indiana, Penn State and Yale universities; the universities of Chicago, Oklahoma, Texas at Austin and Wisconsin at Madison, as well as the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and the New York Cantorial School. Earlham Music alumni enter such fields as choral conducting, composition, ethnomusicology, instrument making and repair, musicology, music theory and performance.

Among the career choices of Earlham music graduates, teaching is popular, and Earlham musicians are represented on college and university faculties and in numerous secondary and elementary schools. Other occupations include church musicianship (conductors, organists and instrumentalists), professional singing, professional performance (including shakuhachi playing in Japan), music librarianship, music management (Chicago Symphony Orchestra office), recording studio management, publishing (Boosey and Hawkes) and instrument building, maintenance and tuning (Fisk Organ Company of Boston). Composition and arranging are also well represented.

General Education Requirements

To fulfill the Arts General Education Requirement in Music, students may select any of the three-credit courses for their Theoretical/Historical component, and any of the listed one-credit applied studio or ensemble courses for the Applied component.

Several Music Department courses fulfill other General Education Requirements. Four courses meet the International component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement, MUS 161, 361, 363 and 364; two courses fulfill the Domestic component of this requirement, MUS 362 and 369. The Department also offers Earlham Seminars.

The Major

The Music Major includes study in five areas: Theory and Composition, Ethnomusicology (including courses on Non-Western Musics and Oral Traditions of the West), History of Western Music in the Written Tradition, Applied Skills and Art or Theatre. The total minimum number of semester hours for the Music Major is 40. This minimum assumes the student will have tested out of MUS 171, which is a prerequisites for the Music Theory sequence.

Students majoring in Music must complete all of the following:

  • MUS 161 Introduction to Music: Geographic Emphasis
  • MUS 271 Music Theory I: Introduction and Foundation
  • MUS 371 Music Theory II: Compositional Techniques — Counterpoint and Common Practice
  • MUS 441 Western Music History to 1827
  • MUS 442 Western Music History Since 1827
  • MUS 460 Ethnomusicology: Methods and Issues
  • MUS 471 Music Theory III: Compositional Techniques — Romanticism and 20th Century
  • One course in Art or Theatre Arts, to be chosen from:
    ART 210, 211 OR
    THEA 250, 350 or 351 OR
    FILM 215, 300, 342, 346
  • One additional theoretical or applied course (minimum 3 credits) in Art, Theatre Arts, Film Studies or Music
  • Six additional credits* (See below for specifics regarding each concentration)
  • Two credits of Applied Music ensembles** (See below for specifics regarding Music Education concentrations)
  • Four additional credits of Applied Music (private lessons or ensembles)*** (See below for specifics regarding Music Education concentrations)
  • Piano Proficiency Examination
  • Melodic and Harmonic Dictation Examination
  • Sight-Singing Examination
  • MUS 487 Senior Seminar
  • MUS 488 Senior Capstone Experience, including a Senior Project and Comprehensive Examinations

*The six additional credits for each concentration are as follows:

  • General Music Major: Six credits from MUS 340s, 350, 360s, 370s, 380s, 450 or 495
  • Performance Concentration: Three additional credits of private applied study and one course chosen from MUS 340s, 350, 360s, 370s, 380s, 450 or 495
  • Composition Concentration: Three credits in individual composition study and MUS 372
  • Choral Conducting Concentration: MUS 350 and 450
  • Western Music History Concentration: three credits from MUS 340s, 380s or independent study in Western Music History; and three additional credits in European History, Western Art History or Western Music History
  • Ethnomusicology Concentration: one SOAN course, to be chosen from 115, 216, 320s, 340, 341, 345, 361 or 366, and one additional Ethnomusicology course (MUS 360s)
  • Music Technology Concentration: MUS 372 and CS 128
  • Music Education Concentration (vocal): MUS 350 and 450
  • Music Education Concentration (instrumental): MUS 350 and 472

**For the Music Education Concentration, two credits of Applied Music ensembles must be chosen as follows:

  • For the Music Education Concentration (vocal), students must participate in choral ensembles, including at least one semester in Concert Choir
  • For the Music Education Concentration (instrumental), students must earn one credit each of Orchestra and Jazz Band

***For the Music Education Concentration, the four additional credits of Applied Music must be private lessons:

  • For the Music Education Concentration (vocal), must include two credits of voice lessons and two credits of piano lessons.
  • For the Music Education Concentration (instrumental), must include one credit each of lessons in a brass instrument, a wind instrument, and a bowed string instrument

The Minor

Students complete a minimum of 21 semester hours for the Music Minor. At least one course in Ethnomusicology (including courses in Non-Western Musics and Oral Traditions of the West) and one course in Western Music in the Written Tradition must be included. Students must complete areas A, B and C.

A. Entry-level (3 courses, 3 credits each)

  • MUS 141 The Care and Feeding of your iPod AND
  • MUS 161 Introduction to Music: Geographic Emphasis OR
    MUS 340s/360s Topics courses Music


  • MUS 271 Music Theory I: Introduction and Foundation

If competency is demonstrated through exam for MUS 141 or 271,
an upper-level course must be substituted.

B. Upper-level (2 courses, 3 credits each)

  • MUS 441 Western Music History to 1827 OR
  • MUS 442 Western Music History Since 1827 OR
  • MUS 460 Ethnomusicology: Methods and Issues


  • One additional upper-level history or theory course
    (MUS 371, 441, 442 or 471)

C. Six additional credit hours of the student's choice within the Music Department

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AP) = Arts - Applied
  • (A-TH) = Arts - Theoretical/Historical
  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IE) = Immersive Experience
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (SI) = Scientific Inquiry
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

(3 credits)

Have you ever marveled at all the different stuff that’s in your iPod? How did it all get there? What has shaped your tastes in music? Are you an adventurous listener? What do you know about the ways your music reflects the social, cultural and political forces clashing and clanging around us all? In this course we’ll sample some of the forces that have shaped styles, genres and audiences throughout Western history and in our own time. We’ll think about, talk about and take a listen to some rock, classical, jazz, opera, hip hop, ballet, grunge, chant, funk, country, blues, salsa, metal and whatever else might be on your iPods ... and maybe open up each other’s ears along the way. (A-TH, D-D)

(3 credits)
A first introduction to the study of music. Students learn to talk and write about music effectively, notice musical features when listening and understand the variety of ways in which music is made and valued around the globe. Explores musics of several distinct regions or ethnicities. (A-TH, D-I)

An introduction to the rudiments of Western notated music: notes, rhythms, scales, key signatures and simple forms. Designed to work in conjunction with Music 271, but open to all students.

MUS 173 SIGHT SINGING (1 credit)
Provides opportunities for developing and practicing sight singing skills using the movable do pitch system.

Introduction to Western music theory rooted in a historical/ philosophical approach connecting the theory of music to ancient concepts of the spirituality of number. Discusses modes, scales, chords, melody, chord progressions and form. Provides an understanding of Western harmony through the concept of the secondary dominant and the basics of rock and jazz harmony. Emphasizes creative projects, exercises in part writing, harmonic analysis and ear training. Co-requisite: MUS 171 or successful completion of MUS 171 Pre-Test. (A-TH)

Courses present concentrated study of both the life and the musical compositions of the individual composer. Students gain an in-depth look at the composer's unique musical style within the cultural context of the time period.

Designed to be the experienced ensemble musician's first formal conducting training. Develops the ability to communicate the requirements of a score through a basic gestural vocabulary. Students gain understanding of the conductor's role in rehearsal and performance of various types of music. Addresses elements of meter, tempo, dynamics, texture, articulation and phrasing. Prerequisite: Consent of the instructor. Basic competency in music theory (equivalent to MUS 171 and 271) and consent of the instructor. (AY)

Courses introduce specific repertoires and survey the music of a geographic region, ethnicity or broad genre. Students explore what is valued in these musics by the people closest to them (musicians, patrons, intended listeners), identify regional or historical styles, and understand the factors contributing to their formation.

*MUS 361 MUSICS OF INDONESIA (3 credits)
(A-TH, D-I) (AY)

Also listed as AAAS 362. (A-TH, D-I) (AY)

*MUS 363 MUSICS OF AFRICA (3 credits)
Also listed as AAAS 363. (A-TH, D-I) (AY)

*MUS 364 MUSICS OF JAPAN (3 credits)
Also listed as JPNS 364. (A-TH, D-I) (AY)

(A-TH, D-I)

*MUS 366 MUSICS OF JAVA (3 credits)
(A-TH, D-I)

An introduction to the rich and diverse musical traditions of the Arabic-speaking world, including Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, the Gulf and Morocco. Topics will include traditional art musics, legendary singers and instrumentalists, contemporary pop, rock, and hip-hop, and the intersection of music and politics. No prior musical background necessary.
(A-TH, D-D) (AY)

*MUS 369 JAZZ HISTORY (3 credits)
(A-TH, D-D) (AY)

A seminar designed to train Music majors and other interested students in the skills of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic dictation. Prerequisite: MUS 171. Co-requisite: MUS 371.

Focuses on the harmonic language of the common practice period. A study of the music of the Baroque and Classical periods through harmonic analysis and through composition exercises in the styles of the great masters. Begins with a short study of Renaissance counterpoint, then explores the transition from modality to tonality, including an investigation of just intonation and equal temperament. Includes references to contemporary music. Prerequisite: MUS 271 and Keyboard Proficiency Exam or Placement Exam. Co-requisite: MUS 370 or equivalent. (A-TH)

Builds skills in composing, arranging and performing with computer music technologies. Studies sound synthesis, digital audio concepts, MIDI, and the Digital Audio Workstations "Logic" and "Pro Tools." Emphasis on the program "Abelton Live," coupled with an introduction to the programming language MAX, which now interacts with Ableton to enable live interactive performance and composition. The history of experimental electronic music is emphasized and built upon. Prior experience with computer music helpful but not required. Knowledge of music notation unnecessary. Course is limited to 15 students due to studio space. (A-TH)

Provides opportunities for developing and practicing advanced sight singing skills using the movable do pitch system. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

MUS 381 MUSIC AND MORALITY (3 credits)
Examines the following issues from a variety of historical and cultural positions: 1) the role of music in moral education; 2) what to do when aesthetic and moral evaluation conflict; 3) whether music — apart from words — can be morally good or bad; and 4) the vexing problem of ownership (is it immoral to "steal" someone's music?). (AY)

MUS 382 MUSIC AND GENDER (3 credits)
Explores how the practice of music is gendered — how it is overlaid with gender associations and expectations. Looks at the role gender and sexual orientation play in the music-historical canon and non-Western musical traditions. Prerequisite: An Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. (AY)

MUS 383 MUSIC AND LANGUAGE (3 credits)
Interdisciplinary exploration of the complex relationship between language and music. Considers the central question: In what sense can music be considered a language? Examines the features of language found and not found in music. Includes selections by philosophers, composers, psychologists, anthropologists, linguists and musicologists. (AY)

MUS 441 HISTORY OF WESTERN MUSIC TO 1827 (3 credits)
The study of Western music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras. Emphasizes musical style characteristics and important genres of the various musical periods, the social and historical contexts of the composers, and uses of the music. Included in the music to be considered are plainchant, Josquin, Palestrina, Monteverdi, Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Prerequisites: MUS 241 and MUS 271.

The study of Western music since the death of Beethoven, including romanticism, impressionism, expressionism and other movements through postmodernism. Emphasizes the musical style characteristics and the important genres of the various periods, the social and historical contexts of the composers, and uses of the music. Goals include understanding historiography and other issues related to the study of music history, such as patronage, gender, performance practice, reception and canon formation. Prerequisites: MUS 141 and 371.

A theoretical and practical introduction to the field of ethnomusicology. Theory taught through readings in linguistics, anthropology and musicology that reflect or have shaped the concerns of ethnomusicologists. Practical dimension explored mostly through an ethnographic field project. Increases understanding of musical processes from an anthropological or cross-cultural perspective, and provides students new insights into their own experience of music. Prerequisite: MUS 161 or any course in the MUS 360s series or consent of the instructor.

Completes the cycle of courses in Western music theory. Analysis of the compositional techniques of the great composers who wrote in the middle to late 19th century, coupled with the completion of compositional exercises in emulation of their language. Students learn to identify chromatic harmony and express themselves in this idiom. Also focuses on 20th century analysis and compositional exercises, including those of Impressionism, 12-tone and serial techniques, pan-diatonicism, mixed-modal writing and the latest trends in compositional thought. An original composition is the final project. Prerequisite: MUS 371 and completion of Keyboard Proficiency Exam.

MUS 472 ORCHESTRATION (3 credits)
A comprehensive study of the art of composing and arranging for the Western symphony orchestra. Emphasis is on score study, including the playing of orchestral scores at the piano, and weekly writing exercises for combinations of instruments. The orchestrational techniques of the master composers are examined in detail, culminating in the production of a full arrangement for symphony orchestra. Prerequisite: MUS 471.

Collaborative research with faculty funded by the Ford/Knight Program.

Topics may include: Western music history, conducting, ethnomusicology, composition or interdisciplinary studies.

MUS 487 SENIOR SEMINAR (1 credit)
Integrates what students have learned in their previous courses and provides opportunities to think beyond Earlham to broaden their knowledge. Class members present individual senior projects for comments and criticism. Professionals from outside the College sometimes participate.

(1 credit for each of two semesters or 2 credits for one semester)

Students develop and complete a Senior Project.

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AP) Arts - Applied
  • (A-TH) Arts - Theoretical/Historical
  • (A-AR) Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) Analytical - Quantitative
  • (CP) Comparative Practices
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IP) = Interpretive Practices
  • (SI) = Scientific Inquiry
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

While the number of rehearsals vary, the total weekly time required to participate in a performing group is about three to four hours. Upper-level credit is given to students with at least four semesters of prior participation, or to students in advanced ensembles. Any performing credit may be used to fulfill the Applied Component of The Arts General Education Requirement.

Ensemble Descriptions

*MUSG 121/321 HAND-DRUM ENSEMBLE (0-1 credit)
Open to all students. This 20-30 member ensemble encourages drummers of all ability levels. No prior experience required. Concert performances twice a semester in addition to impromptu events, jam sessions and collaboration with student groups (dance groups, brass groups, choral groups). (A-AP)

Open to all students. Consists of tuned bronze metallophones, gongs and other Indonesian instruments that use non-Western tunings. Typically culminates in a single performance. Offered Spring Semester only. (A-AP)

*MUSG 131/331 GOSPEL REVELATIONS (0-1 credit)
Open to all students. This ensemble performs traditional and contemporary African-American gospel music, both a cappella and accompanied. Both on-campus and outreach performances. (A-AP)

*MUSG 219/319 SMALL ENSEMBLE (0-1 credit)
Ad hoc groups formed by student initiative upon faculty consultation. (A-AP)

*MUSG 220/320 ORCHESTRA (0-1 credit)
The Earlham College Orchestra is a large ensemble dedicated to the performance of both standard and unusual orchestral repertoire. It is comprised of music majors and of non-majors who seek an opportunity to continue playing their instrument of choice, even as they pursue other academic interests. (A-AP)

*MUSG 222/322 BRASS ENSEMBLE (0-1 credit)
Brass Ensemble membership is typically drawn from participants in Orchestra. (A-AP)

*MUSG 223/323 WOODWIND QUINTET (0-1 credit)
Woodwind Quintet membership is typically drawn from participants in Orchestra. (A-AP)

*MUSG 224/324 FLUTE CHOIR (0-1 credit)
Open to all experienced flute players. (A-AP)

*MUSG 225/325 JAZZ ENSEMBLE (0-1 credit)
The Jazz Ensemble performs big band jazz and encourages self-expression through jazz improvisation. (A-AP)

*MUSG 226/326 SALSA BAND (0-1 credit)
Open to instrumentalists and percussionists who would like to learn the Latin Jazz style. (A-AP)

*MUSG 229/329 EARLHAM RHYTHM PROJECT (0-1 credit)
Open to all percussionists by audition. Frequently includes mallet and some non-percussion instruments. (A-AP)

*MUSG 230/330 WOMEN'S CHORUS (0-1 credit)
Open to all women by audition. This ensemble performs women's chorus repertoire from all time periods, both sacred and secular, including classical, popular and non-Western selections. The group is involved in several performances each semester, including outreach performances such as the highly popular annual benefit concert for the Genesis Women's Shelter. The Women’s Chorus performs on campus, in the community and on tours. (A-AP)

*MUSG 233/333 CONCERT CHOIR (0-1 credit)
Open to all students by audition. This large ensemble performs widely varied repertoire, both secular and sacred, from throughout Western music history, as well as music from non-Western traditions. Recent performances have included masterworks like Orff’s Carmina Burana and Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, folksong settings by Brahms and Schumann, choral compositions by Arab, African and Cuban composers, and jazz and Broadway compositions by Ellington, Kern, Porter and Sondheim. The Concert Choir performs on campus, in the community and on tours. (A-AP) 

*MUSG 328 STRING QUARTET (0-1 credit)
Open to all Orchestra string players by audition. Occasional off-campus performance opportunities. (A-AP)

*MUSG 334 MADRIGAL SINGERS (0-1 credit)
Open to Concert Choir and Women’s Chorus  members by audition. This highly selective small ensemble focuses on the rich repertoire of 16th-century madrigals from a variety of countries, but also performs repertoire from other time periods and genres, including Baroque music, vocal jazz and music by living composers. (A-AP)

*MUSG 335 MEN'S VOCAL QUARTET (0-1 credit)
Open to men in Concert Choir. This is a selective group with four members. This group performs a variety of styles ranging from Renaissance music to barbershop quartet repertoire. (A-AP)

Open to all students with consent of instructor. An introduction to the notation and performance of Gregorian chant. Possible off-campus rehearsals and performances outside the regular schedule. (A-AP) (AY)

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AP) Arts - Applied
  • (A-TH) Arts - Theoretical/Historical
  • (A-AR) Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) Analytical - Quantitative
  • (CP) Comparative Practices
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IP) = Interpretive Practices
  • (SI) = Scientific Inquiry
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

Instrumental and Vocal

Earlham offers instruction in instruments, voice and composition to all students. To register for instruction consult first with the Music Department. A fee for individual instruction and Applied Music classes provides one half-hour lesson each week and one-hour daily access to a practice room. Please see registration materials for fee information.

All lessons fulfill the one-credit Applied component of The Arts General Education Requirement.

Lessons on an instrument that is not usually offered are sometimes possible if arranged well in advance. Upper-level credit is given for advanced study.

*MUSL 100/300 APPLIED HARP (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 101/301 APPLIED VOICE (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 102/302 APPLIED PIANO (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 103/303 APPLIED ORGAN (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 104/304 APPLIED VIOLIN and/or VIOLA (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 105/305 APPLIED CELLO (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 106/306 APPLIED BASS: ACOUSTIC and/or ELECTRIC (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 107/307 APPLIED FLUTE (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 108 /308 APPLIED OBOE (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 109/309 APPLIED CLARINET (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 110/310 APPLIED BASSOON (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 111/311 APPLIED SAXOPHONE (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 112/312 APPLIED TRUMPET (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 113/313 APPLIED FRENCH HORN (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 114/314 APPLIED TROMBONE (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 115/315 APPLIED TUBA (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 116/316 APPLIED GUITAR (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 117/317 APPLIED PERCUSSION (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 132 VOICE CLASS (1 credit)
Student explore the fundamentals of good singing technique applicable to a wide variety of musical styles: posture, breathing and breath support, diction, healthy tone production, range expansion, and the basics of music notation. Public performance opportunities available on student recitals throughout the semester. Particularly recommended for singers in preparation for or in conjunction with choral ensembles. (A-AP)


*MUSL 219/319 APPLIED COMPOSITION (1 credit) (A-AP)

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Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts, including the sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Earlham College
801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana
1-765-983-1200 — Main Switchboard
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