Overview and Learning Goals

Overview and Learning Goals

The Department of Music offers courses in the following three areas: music in social and historical context (x1xx-x3xx); music theory and composition (x4xx-x5xx); and music performance (x6xx-x8xx). Majors can choose either to pursue a broader curriculum with some balance among these areas, or to concentrate in one of them as indicated in the concentrations listed below. Through coursework, independent studies, musicianship labs, ensemble participation, and private musical instruction, students acquire skills and knowledge. The learning goals for each of the department’s concentrations are listed below.

General Concentration

The general concentration allows a music major to fully engage with multiple aspects of the department. Majors with a general concentration are also required to complete a senior project, which may be performance based, composition based, or critical prose.

General music minors study theory and composition, and social and historical context, as well as participate in either a department ensemble or individual performance studies.

Learning Goals

  • Understand the role of music and sound as a social practice. (MUS 1101 Sound, Self, and Society: Music and Everyday LifeMUS 2101 Asking Questions about Music-Making: Musicological Methods)
  • Read and write basic western music notation; understand diatonic functional harmony. (MUS 1051 Fundamentals of MusicMUS 1401 Introduction to Music Theory)
  • Perform in an ensemble. (MUS 27xx)
  • Acquire intermediate-level proficiency in individual instrumental or vocal performance. (MUS 28xx)
  • Effectively communicate and present on a specific musical topic; organize and research a larger scale project. (MUS 4040 Senior Project in Music)

Social and Historical Context Concentration

Students interested in musicology or music history critically engage in global perspectives of historical and contemporary music history through seminars and writing. Students may incorporate studies in other departments into this concentration with department approval. Majors are also required to complete a senior project in the form of critical prose.

Learning Goals

  • Become familiar with a range of musicological methodologies. (MUS 2101 Asking Questions about Music-Making: Musicological Methods)
  • Understand, read scholarly work on, and articulate persuasive arguments about social, political, and economic aspects of music. (MUS 22xx–23xx, 32xx–33xx)
  • Effectively organize, research, and present on a specific musicological topic. (MUS 4040 Senior Project in Music)

Theory and Composition Concentration 

Students are encouraged to study theory and composition through both a western and non-western lens with coursework offered in areas such as: tonal analysis, non-western harmony, jazz theory, orchestration, audio recording, and improvisation. Majors are also required to complete a senior composition project.

Learning Goals

  • Understand concepts in large-scale musical form. (MUS 2401 Tonal Analysis)
  • Understand instrumental and vocal arrangement, chromatic harmony, basic keyboard harmony, sight-singing, and dictation. (MUS 2403 Songwriting and Song Analysis)
  • Acquire technical facility in instrumental and/or electro-acoustic composition. (MUS 2501 Introduction to Composition, MUS 2551 Introduction to Electronic Music, MUS 3551 Computer Music Composition and Sound Synthesis)
  • Compose and present on a large-scale original work. (MUS 4040 Senior Project in Music)

Performance Concentration

Performance students focus their studies on an intensive exploration of the different aspects of music performance. They are required to engage in Bowdoin music ensembles and individual performance studies, as well as theory-based and historical discourse seminars. Majors are also required to complete a senior project in this field.

Performance music minors study theory and composition and social and historical context, participate in a department ensemble, and take individual performance studies.

Learning Goals

  • Understand concepts in large-scale musical form. (MUS 2401 Tonal Analysis)
  • Understand instrumental and vocal arrangement, chromatic harmony, basic keyboard harmony, sight-singing, and dictation. (MUS 2403 Songwriting and Song Analysis)
  • Acquire interpretive and improvisational skills. (MUS 26xx)
  • Acquire advanced-level proficiency in instrumental or vocal performance. (MUS 38xx)
  • Prepare, perform, and present on an advanced-level recital. (MUS 4040 Senior Project in Music)

Options for Majoring or Minoring in the Department

Students may elect to major in music or to coordinate a major in music with digital and computational studies, education, or environmental studies. Students pursuing coordinate majors may not normally elect a second major. Non-majors may elect to minor in music or music performance.

Department Website


This is an excerpt from the official Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook. View the Catalogue