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Contemporary Music Theory

Tarleton State University

Instructor:  Dr. Vicky V. Johnson 


vjohnson@tarleton.edu   254/968-9238  Office: 122


MUSC 3249  Syllabus


For week by week description of requirements, assignments, and exams, refer to the Course Outline at the following link:





Course Description




A study of scales, chords, key centers, set-theory, polytonality, sound mass, electronic and computer techniques in analysis and writing.




Required Texts and Materials




Stefan Kostka.  Materials and Techniques of Twentieth-Century Music, (4th  ed.)



Music staff paper:  Go here to print staff paper with keyboard and here for various other configurations.



Notebook:  it will not be graded, but returned assignments will be your exam study materials.  If you get a spiral notebook, make sure it has pockets.


bullet3X5 cards

Pencil and eraser:  I will not accept any assignment written in ink.  Mechanical pencils are a good choice. 



Bring these materials to every class session.


Course Work Includes




In-class lectures, discussions, and analyses



Assignments, including student compositions



Individual work on computer programs








All homework assignments are due at the start of class on the due date specified in the Course Outline. Specific instructions for assignments will often be listed in the Course Outline which will be updated on the course web page.  It is important to refer to this page often.  Modifications to the schedule will be announced in class or posted on the Course Outline.


bulletIn case of building closure, students will be notified by Tarleton email through Blackboard of alternate online assignments.

Late assignments will only be accepted with prior approval and then at a penalty of ten points per calendar day.




Grading Will Be Based On




Class assignments, including compositions 55%



Midterm exam 15%



Final exam 20%



Class participation 10%




Grade calculator

Note:  Music exists in time.  It is important for music professionals to be able to perceive and identify musical elements quickly or they will be of little use.  For this reason, proficiency in the areas of music theory includes speed as well as understanding and assessment will include both.

Some assignments are based upon answers that are right or wrong and will be graded objectively.  Other assignments will have subjective content.  In grading those assignments, students do not begin with a 100 percent and lose points for infractions.  Rather, these grades are judgments about overall performance.  That is to say, students who have earned an 85% did not necessarily "lose" 15 points through error, but were judged to have performed at a B level.  These levels are basically described as:

A:  Excellent

B:  Good

C:  Average

D:  Below average

F:  Unsatisfactory

A grade of C or above is required to pass the course.



Tarleton differentiates between a failed grade in a class because a student never attended (F0 grade), stopped attending at some point in the semester (FX grade), or because the student did not pass the course (F) but attended the entire semester. These grades will be noted on the official transcript. Stopping or never attending class can result in the student having to return financial aid monies received.  For more information see the Tarleton Financial Aid website.




Attendance Policy




Attendance is required. Absences will only be excused with proper written documentation on letterhead. This includes a note from a healthcare provider in case of illness or a form signed by a sponsor (presented in advance) in the case of a University sanctioned activity.  Attendance at funerals and court appearances will also be excused with proper documentation.



Attendance will be documented and class will begin on time according to the clock on the Course Outline.  It is the student's responsibility to remain after class and request that the absence marked in the gradebook be changed to a tardy.  Use this link to set your watch.



A student's absences will not change any deadline or assignment requirements.  You are always responsible for any material you miss, so check the Course Outline and/or a fellow classmate for announcements, assignments, and requirements.


Classroom Policy




No food in the classroom.  Drinks in hard-sided containers with lids are allowed.



Turn off your cell phones and put them out of sight - mine and yours.  Text messaging is prohibited in the classroom.  Please see me if you have a special emergency situation requiring this type of communication.



Attention will be given to the lesson at hand, or you will be excused from the classroom.  (In other words, no working on other homework, personal business, sleeping, etc.)



Keep your backpacks and other personal belongings out of the aisles for the sake of convenience and safety.



Do not leave the room during class except for emergency as this disruption is almost always (except for an emergency) avoidable.  Although it may not be disruptive to slip out, coming back in is always distracting.


bulletIf your conduct for any reason is unacceptable, you will be asked to leave.  Do not return to class until you have made an appointment to see me and the situation has been resolved.

Leave your space better than you found it.


Academic Conduct

Cheating, plagiarism (submitting another person's materials or ideas as one's own), or doing work for another person who will receive academic credit are all impermissible.  This includes the use of unauthorized books, notebooks, or other sources in order to secure or give help during an examination; the unauthorized copying of examinations, assignments, reports, or term papers, or the presentation of unacknowledged material as if it were the student's own work.

Any student caught cheating or plagiarizing will automatically receive a grade of "F" for the class.  Further disciplinary action may also be brought against the student.  This decision will be mine in consultation with the department head.  Cheating is serious business and the penalties for engaging in this sort of activity will be severe. 


Students With Disabilities Policy

It is the policy of Tarleton State University to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other applicable laws.  If you are a student with a disability seeking accommodations for this course, please contact the Center for Access and Academic Testing at 254.968.9400 or caat@tarleton.edu.  The office is located in Math 201.  More information can be found at www.tarleton.edu/caat, in the University Catalog, or at www.ada.gov.


Health and Wellness Policy

It is the Department of Fine Arts' policy to provide and maintain a safe and healthy work environment for students, faculty, and staff, and to accept responsibility for the health and safety of others, including visitors, who may be affected by our activities.  This policy applies to all activities and areas of the department, including performance spaces, classrooms, studios, practice rooms, faculty and staff offices, and communal areas. 


Academic Affairs Core Value Statements

Academic Integrity Statement

Tarleton State University's core values are integrity, leadership, tradition, civility, excellence, and service.  Central to these values is integrity, which is maintaining a high standard of personal and scholarly conduct.  Academic integrity represents the choice to uphold ethical responsibility for one's learning within the academic community, regardless of audience or situation.


Academic Civility Statement

Students are expected to interact with professors and peers in a respectful manner that enhances the learning environment.  Professors may require a student who deviates from this expectation to leave the face-to-face (or virtual) classroom learning environment for that particular class session (and potentially subsequent class sessions) for a specific amount of time.  In addition, the professor might consider the university disciplinary process (for Academic Affairs/Student Life) for egregious or continued disruptive behavior.


Academic Excellence Statement

Tarleton holds high expectations for students to assume responsibility for their own individual learning.  Students are also expected to achieve academic excellence by:

  • honoring Tarleton's core values

  • upholding high standards of habit and behavior

  • maintaining excellence through class attendance and punctuality

  • preparing for active participation in all learning experiences

  • putting forth their best individual effort

  • continually improving as independent learners

  • engaging in extracurricular opportunities that encourage personal and academic growth

  • reflecting critically upon feedback and applying these lessons to meet future challenges


Academic Affairs Service Statement

Tarleton faculty, staff, and students are expected to model responsible citizenship through service activities that promote personal and academic growth while enhancing the university, local, regional, national, and global communities.  These activities will foster a culture of academic/public engagement that contributes to the achievement of the university's mission and core values.


Note:  Please see the Course Outline for specific topics, schedule, requirements, and deadlines.


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Created and Maintained by Vicky V. Johnson