Syllabus (F23)

Inclusivity in Learning

Your success in this class is important to me. We will all need accommodations because we all learn differently. If there are aspects of this course that prevent you from learning or exclude you, please let me know as soon as possible. Together we’ll develop strategies to meet both your needs and the requirements of the course.

I encourage you to visit Disability Services to determine how you could improve your learning as well. If you need official accommodations, you have a right to have these met. If you have a documented learning disability or other condition that may affect academic performance you should: 1) make sure this documentation is on file with Disability Services (SUB I, Rm. 4205; 993-2474; to determine the accommodations you need; and 2) talk with me to discuss your accommodation needs.

Community Agreements

Adopted by Dewberry School of Music Voting Faculty on August 17, 2022

I am committed to being respectful

I am committed to respecting the personhood of all community members across sociocultural identities, social status, and affiliation in the Dewberry School of Music, CVPA, and at Mason. This includes using community members’ preferred names and pronouns. I am committed to respecting others’ artistic professionalism with open and timely communication and input on decision-making whenever appropriate. This atmosphere of respect applies both in-person and across digital media platforms.

I am committed to being an active participant

I am committed to participating as actively as I can and will communicate when something is taking away my attention. I understand that active participation may look different for each community member and I trust that seach member is showing up to the best of their capacity.

I am committed to using “I” statements and hearing “I” statements

I am committed to speaking from my own experience and feelings by using “I” statements rather than generalizing. (I think, I feel, I believe.) I am committed to practicing hearing the experiences of historically and institutionally marginalized community members individually. And seeing each community member as individuals who represent themselves and not the whole socio-cultural groups to which they belong.

I am committed to practicing empathy

I am committed to appreciating how others may be feeling and thinking. Practicing empathy also means considering how internal and external context, such as societal issues, affects how community members may show up.

I am committed to acknowledging intent, and addressing impact

Not all harm that is experienced comes from an intentionally harmful place, often bias-based harm is rooted in stereotypes and prejudice formed through socialization. This doesn’t mean that the harm feels any less hurtful. I am committed to acknowledging the harm intentional or unintentional, tending to the hurt person, and working to prevent future harm. I recognize that there is both burden and value in the contribution of community members with historically marginalized identities.

I am committed to acknowledging the liveliness of language

Language and the way we engage with language are contextual and constantly evolving. Our community includes individuals with various cultural identities, ethnic and racial identities, religions, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and intersecting backgrounds. Having sensitivity to language is essential in cultivating the conditions of inclusion for all community members. As an example, “guys” is often used in addressing groups of people however the phrase is not gender-neutral and may feel exclusionary to some non-binary members in our community (recommended replacements, folks, y’all, everyone).

I am committed to being okay with agreeing and disagreeing respectfully and challenging my assumptions

I am committed to the practice of separating the point of view or statement with which I disagree from the person when actively engaging in moments of disagreement. I am committed to the practice of calling in (suspending judgment without shame) instead of calling out (shaming). I will lead with curiosity, listen to understand, and ask for clarity. I recognize that meeting people where they are, requires each of us to do the internal work to challenge our assumptions and build self-awareness of our socialization that is connected to those assumptions.

I am committed to seeking harmony

While I will do my best to show up for and with other, I understand that there may be moments of disharmony. I am committed to self-reflection and concern for others and being an instrument of positive change. When moments of discord, dissent, or disagreement happen, I am committed to doing the individual internal work for the co-creation of peace.

Instructor Info

  • Name: Dr. Lavengood (she/her), pronounced “LAY-ven-good”
  • Email:
  • Office: deLaskiPerforming Arts Building (PAB) A-421 
  • Communication: I will answer emails within 24 hours. I am also happy to use Teams to chat with you in a channel or one-on-one. I may work odd hours; please do not feel pressured to email me back outside your own working hours.

One-on-one appointments

  • You may drop in without an appointment during my office hours:
    • Tuesdays, 1:00–2:30
    • Wednesdays, 1:30–2:30
  • If you like, you can book time with me to let me know that you’ll be coming.
  • If you want to meet virtually instead of in-person, please book in advance so I know to be online.
  • If you are not available during my office hours, email me to schedule a special appointment time.

Course Information


  1. Review techniques of analysis that music theorists commonly use
  2. Critique and apply academic music theory literature
  3. Develop several crucial skills for the professional musician:
    • analysis skills, through your assignments
    • writing skills, through your weekly responses
    • presentation skills, through your video presentations

Recommended Prerequisite

MUSI 501, 502, and 516 or appropriate score on graduate placement exam.


This is an asynchronous online course, with different “venues” for different activities.

  • This website is for distributing information about assignments.
  • Blackboard is for submitting assignments and receiving grades/feedback.
  • Microsoft Teams is for communication and collaborative work. You can also use Teams to ask questions to the whole class about assignments, etc.

Pace and workload

Each week will typically have 1–2 readings/videos and a reading response. Some weeks will also have analysis assignments. This is a 3-credit-hour course, so you should plan to spend 6–9 hours per week on coursework.

Due dates are typically Thursdays and Sundays—more details are given below in Assignments.

Calendar of Topics

Course Materials

  • There is no required text. Materials will be accessible online or on our readings page.
  • You should have access to a microphone and camera for video chatting and making videos of yourself.

Recommended (not required):

  • Spotify (app)
  • Microsoft Teams (app)
  • An app for making black-and-white .pdf scans from your phone. I recommend ABBYY FineScanner, which has a free version suitable for our purposes. Most phones also have an app built in. On iPhones, you can scan documents within the Notes app.


Your grades and rubrics will be on Blackboard.


Expand each category for more details on how the grade is calculated.

15% – virtual participation
Participation is pass/fail and based on your timely engagement in the Teams channel each week.
25% – weekly assignments
  • Weekly assignments are graded pass/fail, where anything above 70% is a passing grade.
  • Your assignments grade will be equal to the percentage of assignments you passed. For example: if there were 4 assignments, and you passed 3, your homework grade would be 75% (3 ÷ 4 = .75).
10% – symposium participation
Symposium grades have two components: 1) your individual analysis, and 2) your participation in the group discussion.

  • Your individual analysis will be given a grade according to a rubric.
  • Your participation in the group discussion is another separate grade.
  • Your analysis symposium grade will average individual analysis and participation grades together equally.
50% – final project (15% video, 35% paper)
The final project is the majority of your grade, so your grade may change significantly based on your performance on this project.

Letter grades

93–100: A
90–92: A−
87–89: B+
83–86: B
80–82: B−
70–80: C
0–69: F


The course is organized into weeks. You will have work due on most Thursdays and Sundays of the semester.

Due Thursday: weekly reading and responses

Most weeks, you will have two readings and/or videos to complete.

On Thursday, please check in on Teams in the #reading-responses channel with some type of response about the reading. You might ask clarifying questions, summarize an important bit of it, or just relate to it in some way. You can also respond to someone else’s message (start a thread). This counts toward your participation grade (pass/fail). There’s no word count to worry about; I just want to see you engage with the reading.

Due Sunday: analysis assignments

Most weeks include a written assignment. Assignments are Sunday of that week, end-of-day. Assignments are submitted on Blackboard, in PDF format.

I ask that you complete seven out of eleven total assignments in this course:

  • Four assignments are required for all: the first two assignments (1. Intertextuality; 2. Narrative) and two activities associated with the final project (Final Project Prep Worksheet; peer review).
  • The remaining three assignments are up to you to choose. I refer to these as Student Choice Assignments. Select three assignments from the following list:
    • 3. Set theory
    • 4. Serialism
    • 6. Hypermeter
    • 7. Sonata Theory
    • 9. Timbre
    • 10. Lyrics
    • 11. Tonality in pop music
  • You will communicate your selections to me by signing up for exactly three (no more, no fewer) assignments on Blackboard—there is a link in the sidebar.
  • Consider several factors when you decide which three Student Choice Assignments to take (and feel free to talk things over with me):
    • What topics interest you?
    • What repertoire might you like to study for your final project?
    • Do you have any personal conflicts with the due dates on a specific week that would make it hard for you to complete the assignment?

Redo policy

Everyone has an off-day. I offer a one-time opportunity to redo a failed Sunday analysis assignment, which you can take advantage of by following these instructions:

  1. Within one week after the original due date,* email me to 1) request a redo of the assignment, and 2) propose a date by which you can submit the redo. I can be flexible on the due date but I want you to submit your work as soon as possible, so that it doesn’t distract you and make it difficult to keep up with the class.
  2. In Blackboard, I will “Allow Additional Attempt” for the assignment, which will let you submit again.
  3. Re-upload your assignment redo in the same place as your original, by the due date we agreed upon.
  4. I will re-evaluate your work. Your highest grade will be recorded; the other grade will be ignored.

* If I graded the work late (>2 days after the due date), I can be flexible with this timeline. The point is: I want you to request the redo right away after receiving a failing grade, not weeks later.

Analysis Symposia

A few times during the semester, we will have group projects that I call “analysis symposia.” On symposium weeks, you will not have any additional reading. Instead, you will practice implementing the techniques you have already learned.

For each symposium, I will assign two pieces and divide students into groups. Within each group, half will do one piece, and half will do the other.

  1. You will begin with individual analyses. Make a video explaining what you discovered in the piece.
    • The video should be at least 5 minutes long, but no more than 10.
    • I would like to see your face in the video, because in an online class, I think that’s helpful for understanding that we’re all humans and not just names on a screen (but if you can’t do this for some reason, just discuss with me).
    • Note that this is an individual analysis, so you should not be collaborating with your group mates yet.
    • It will probably be helpful to have a visual of some kind, too, whether it’s in the video or in a PDF you upload to the channel.
  2. By Thursday end-of-day, upload your video to your designated Teams channel so your peers can view and respond to your video.
  3. After submitting their individual analysis, each group member will discuss how their findings interact with those of the other members (all other members, not just those who did the same piece!). Use the chat function in the Teams channel to do this.
    • Approach discussion like a chat conversation rather than a response essay—ask people questions, wait for their replies—just have a conversation! Don’t be too stiff.
    • Try to do this as soon as possible after all videos are submitted, to allow plenty of time for back-and-forth interactions. Your group may find it helpful to set expectations for when people will submit initial responses (i.e., make sure not everyone submits at the last minute).
    • Be sure you have something to say to each person that shows that you understood their analysis and makes a connection between theirs and your own.
    • I’ll evaluate these discussions on Sunday after noon, but again: please do not wait until the last minute to do this—everyone needs time to receive, understand, and respond to discussion. Timeliness in responding is part of your grade.

Late work policy

Weekly reading responses and discussion of all kinds may not be submitted late. Discussion and participation only works if people do this (more or less) at the same time. If you have not participated in discussion by the deadline, then you will receive a 0 for that participation grade.

Analysis symposia center around group discussion, so these also must be submitted on time, and failure to do so will lower your grade. If you are going to submit analysis symposium materials late, please notify me and the rest of your group well in advance so that your group knows what to expect from you.

I can be more flexible with work that you do independently (e.g., Sunday analysis assignments), but as graduate students, I expect you to generally have good time management skills and to submit assignments on time. Late submissions should rarely occur, and if you cannot meet a deadline, I expect you to communicate with me in advance so that I know what to expect from you.

Final project

For the final project, you will analyze a piece of your own choosing, demonstrating your understanding of techniques learned in class. The final project has two components: a video and a final paper. Read more about the final project.


Honor code

Mason is an honor code university. Read the honor code. Students are expected to abide by the honor code.

ChatGPT and other AI tools

Please be thoughtful if you choose to use AI tools. I understand that AI tools can aid your learning—for example, checking your grammar and suggesting better phrasing—but it should not be replacing your learning.

AI-produced text likely will not meet the standards of the course, because AI currently doesn’t have the capability to do effective music analysis. And above all, as graduate students, you should be working to become an expert on music and music studies, and writing yourself without using AI is an important part of that process.

If you use AI to generate text, you should indicate that clearly in your assignment submission; failure to do so constitutes a violation of academic integrity.

Title IX

As a faculty member and designated “Responsible Employee,” I am required to report all disclosures of sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and stalking to Mason’s Title IX Coordinator per university policy 1412. If you wish to speak with someone confidentially, please contact the Student Support and Advocacy Center (703-380-1434), Counseling and Psychological Services (703-993-2380), Student Health Services, or Mason’s Title IX Coordinator (703-993-8730;


Students must use their Mason email account to receive important University information, including communications related to this class. I will not respond to messages sent from or send messages to a non-Mason email address.

Week 13 (Nov 13): Project preparation

Our focus for the remaining weeks of the semester will be creating your own projects and learning to write a music-academic paper. Essentially, a music theory paper is an argument paper. You are going to argue for your own interpretation of a piece/idea, and you will support your argument through musical facts.

Continue reading Week 13 (Nov 13): Project preparation

Week 10 (Oct 23): Lyrics

This week we’ll learn how to analyze the structure and poetry of lyrics. This goes beyond the kinds of meaning-based lyric analyses you see on sites like and looks instead at how the lyrics are written and what kinds of subtle messages might be present there. We will learn through Lori Burns’s excellent approach and then you’ll do your own analysis.

Continue reading Week 10 (Oct 23): Lyrics

Week 9 (Oct 16): Timbre

The final unit deals with pop music. You will need to familiarize yourself with pop form terminology if you are not already comfortable with terms like verse, chorus, prechorus, bridge, or refrain.

This week we’ll talk about my research specialty: timbre. (I won’t have you read my research, since I feel that might be awkward to respond to, but you can access my article outlining my methodology here if you are interested.) We will focus on Kate Heidemann’s excellent article on vocal timbre, and you will analyze a song a la Heidemann.

Continue reading Week 9 (Oct 16): Timbre

Week 6 (Sep 25): Hypermeter

This week you will learn how to approach a large-scale metrical understanding of tonal music: hypermeter. You’ll get introduced to the concept through Edward Klorman’s excellent summary of popular approaches, listen to several pieces by Strauss, Mozart, Bach, Haydn, and others, and do your own analysis of a song by Clara Schumann.

Continue reading Week 6 (Sep 25): Hypermeter