Phrase Rhythm and Form in Brahms Chamber Music

TH 481 (Cross-listed for noncredit as WKS 481)
Phrase Rhythm and Form in Brahms Chamber Music

As of June 24, 2021, this course has closed. We are no longer accepting registrations.

June 28-August 6, 2020 / weekly synchronous classes to be scheduled with students
Online course

Dave Headlam

This course focuses on analysis of the instrumental chamber music of Johannes Brahms. The approach combines phrase rhythm in Classical music with the flexible approach toward the downbeat and other beat levels of Baroque music. The main issue addressed is how the status of the bar line is continually called into question. The notated meter is treated as an element in the continual process of developing variation in Brahms’s music, where each beat in the meter is explored as a temporary downbeat, in a type of rhythmic modulation that creates metric dissonance and shifts (or displacements) from the notation, and resolves to the notated meter as part of the formal reconciliation associated with tonal structure. Rather than the poetic basis of earlier phrase rhythm, which stems from a duple norm in which odd measure units are heard as altered even groupings, the basis of phrasing in Brahms’s music is often irregular prose, and does not necessarily stem from a duple norm.

The course requires weekly readings and analysis, and a seminar-length paper. The repertoire in the course will change every year. Enrollment limited to 10 students.

Please note: Undergraduates and all students not matriculated at Eastman must obtain instructor permission before registering; this applies to both the noncredit and for-credit versions of the course. Contact Professor Headlam at before applying. 

$5,370 / 3 credits     TH 481-2
$900 / noncredit     WKS 481-2

“This course has been one of the best classes I’ve taken at Eastman. I have gained new eyes and ears from it for me to study any piece of music with new perspectives and in greater depth.” — 2020 student