Table of Contents

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.

Content Warning

This class will discuss a lot of popular music. Popular music often involves themes that can be offensive and/or upsetting to various groups of people—violence, sexism, racism, explicit language, overt sexuality, transphobia, fatphobia, etc. I recommend you be prepared to encounter these subjects at any point in the course content, as it would be difficult for me to promise to warn you each time something arises.

It can be instructive to feel uncomfortable in your learning to some degree, but at the same time, you can’t learn if you don’t feel safe. 

If you have a particular concern along these lines, please let me know so we can work together on how best to deal with this. 

Anyone should feel free to take a break from class at any point, and especially if you are feeling distressed to the point that you cannot learn.

Community Values

Adopted by Mason School of Music 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 each 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”
Phone/text: 703-993-6272 (this is a work number so don’t worry about intruding) Office: deLaski Performing 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.

One-on-one appointments

  • You may drop in without an appointment during my office hours, which are Tuesdays/Thursdays, 11:00–1:00.
  • 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


  • Time: Tuesday evenings, 7:20–10 PM
  • Location: Online via Teams


  1. Familiarization with the techniques of analysis of timbre that music theorists commonly use
  2. Introduction to academic music theory literature on timbre
  3. Development of several crucial skills for the professional musician:
    • analysis skills through your assignments
    • writing skills through your weekly responses
    • presentation skills through your in-class presentations
  4. Exposure to new types of music from myself and your peers

Organization and Modality

  • This course is run as a discussion-based seminar. There will not be substantial lecturing from me. Instead, you will be expected to do the readings and contribute to a lively discussion in our meetings.
  • Microsoft Teams will be used for most functions of the class, including meetings, file sharing, grading, and so on.

MUSI 611

Course Materials

There is no required text. Materials will be accessible via the library or in our readings folder.

Recommended (not required):

  • Teams (app)
  • Spotify (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. I have also used CamScanner.



  • 20% – In-class participation. Because participation means different things to different people, participation will be self-evaluated at the end of the term. You will be asked to provide the grade you think you deserve and a brief explanation. 
  • 20% – Weekly assignments. These are also graded pass/fail. 
  • 10% – Discussion leading.
  • 50% – Final project (15% presentation, 35% paper). Your final project will be an analysis of a piece of your choosing using one or more of the methodologies from our readings. More information will be provided.

Letter grades

Percentage/Points Letter Grade
93–100% A
90–92% A–
87–89% B+
83–86% B
80–82% B–
77–79% C+
73–76% C
70–72% C–

Weekly Assignments

Due Tuesday, 7PM EST: Reading

Each week, you will be assigned one or two readings to complete before our synchronous meetings on Tuesday evenings. This will be the basis of our in-class discussion. 

Due Friday end of day: Written assignment

After our Tuesday discussion, you will have some type of written assignment to submit to me. This may be a simple listening journal, a summary of a reading, an analysis of a piece, a transcription, or some other kind of activity. You’ll submit this by uploading it to your folder in the General channel of teams: General > Files > homework submit > lastname.


These assignments are graded pass/fail. If you do the assignments on time and do a good job (or at least try to!), you will get a “pass.” 

Late work

Your readings must be done on time in order for the class to work. However, I am somewhat flexible on the written assignments. If you need to submit late, please let me know (preferably in advance) so I know what to expect from you.

Discussion leading responsibilities

Students will sign up for one reading for which they will lead discussion. Most classes have two readings, which means that there may be two discussion leaders per class.

A discussion leader should:

  • Create a Spotify (ideal) or YouTube playlist of the music cited in the readings and post it to Teams by the Friday before class
  • Clearly and concisely summarize the main argument of the text, to begin discussion. This should take up no more than five minutes of time. Everyone should have done the reading, so this is a reminder of the reading, not a full explanation. Try to identify:
    • Thesis statement
    • Repertoire discussed (artists, songs, albums, genres, etc.)
    • Analytical focus (harmony? form? culture? rhythm? etc.)
    • Connections to other readings we’ve done
    • A favorite sentence/paragraph and why you liked it
    • Important conclusions
  • Have a few discussion questions prepared
  • Interact with the guest expert (if there is one in attendance)

If you do each of these things satisfactorily, you will get an A. Please note that you are not lecturing or presenting on the reading. You are leading discussion, which means your primary goal is to get the class to discuss and participate.

Final project

In 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 details about the final project.

Mason policies

Honor code

Mason is an honor code university. Read the honor code here:

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;


  • Email: 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.
  • Video recordings: Our synchronous meetings in this class may be recorded. Any student may initiate recording. Recordings will be stored on Teams and will only be accessible to students taking this course during this semester.