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Matan Rubinstein

Music courses at Marlboro are designed for liberal arts students, and there is something for everyone. We offer courses for experienced musicians and for those who are absolute newcomers. We offer courses that are practical and performance-based, and those that are historical and theoretical. Music courses often complement Plan work in fields other than music. The music department gives students both a comprehensive background in traditional Western theory and history and an opportunity to explore less traditional fields after one has completed the regular course of study.

We offer three categories of courses:

  1. Applied Music Skills: These courses include:  Madrigal Choir and Chamber Music, which require some ability to play an instrument and read music;  Applied music is offered on a number of instruments through the Brattleboro Music Center (BMC) and Vermont Jazz Center (VJC). Students interested in arranging for music lessons through the BMC or VJC should see Stan Charkey. Instrument instruction may not be taken for more than one credit in the freshman or sophomore years.
  2. History/Culture: These courses are for both musicians and non-musicians who have an interest in music. There are no prerequisites, and the courses are designed to help students better appreciate and understand music in its societal and historical context. These are particularly useful to students working in history, philosophy or cultural history and are as much about history and cultural theory as music, although music is the lens through which we conduct our examination.
  3. Theory and Composition: Theoretical courses are designed for students who want to learn the nuts and bolts of music, its grammar and structure. Students should begin with Theory Fundamentals, which is an introduction to basic principles and notation. It is a prerequisite for all other theory courses, which include Harmony, 16th-Century Counterpoint and 18th-Century Counterpoint. These are challenging courses for those interested in serious musical study. Composition Workshop is open to students who wish to explore writing music and the expressive possibilities of sound. An ability to read music, play an instrument or sing, and an understanding of basic theory are prerequisites.

Electronic music is also offered. Students who want to explore electronic music can do so as part of a complete music program. Any student who wishes to do a Plan in electronic music will be held to the same requirements as students doing Plans in other areas of music. Minimum Requirements:

  • The Two Music Fundamentals Classes
  • Two years performance ensemble

Areas of Interest for Plan-level Work:

  • History, philosophy or cultural history through the lens of music
  • Electronic music
  • Music composition
  • Music performance (for experienced instrumentalists and/or singers)

Starting Points (Basic and Introductory Courses)




A study of music from non-Western cultures and “folk” traditions of Europe and the United States using contemporary ethnomusicological concepts and procedures. Goal: To give the student an understanding of approaches to the study of music of Western and non-Western and/or traditional cultures through a series of case studies from a variety of regions and cultures. Ongoing journal of listening and observations (twice weekly), a final project and class presentation. This course entails a great deal of listening. Prerequisite: None     Multi-level | Credits: 4

The course will make an inquiry into the last century of “Western” music from an initial vantage point of five works written from 1913 to 2004: Igor Stravinski’s Rite of Spring; George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess; Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Gesange Der Jünglinge; Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz To Come; and DJ Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album. Each work will serve as a springboard for consideration of a wide range of notions that have gained special prominence in music of this time. Modes of transmission and reception, developments in technology and their effect on both production and dissemination, “high brow” vs. “low brow”, artisanship vs. industry, authenticity and fakeness, all inform these works in

different and multifaceted ways. Course work will involve focused listening to those works and others related to them, reading of related materials drawn from both primary and secondary sources and some on-going writing projects about music, as well as regular presentations of assigned topics as starting point for discussion. Prerequisite: None     Introductory | Credits: 4



In this course we will examine jazz from two points of view: musical and historical. We will begin each session by listening to a relevant piece of music and discussing the actual building blocks that went into its creation. Over the course of the semester, we will build a limited but significant familiarity with the breadth of musical techniques involved in jazz and the critical significance of interplay. Using audio and video recordings we will then observe the evolution of jazz from its origins and follow its course through New Orleans, swing, bebop, modern jazz, the avant-garde and rock eras. We will also witness how jazz has been influenced by music from other cultures. We will learn methods to listen to jazz with a discerning ear, so that we understand the distinctions between different time periods and the characteristics of different styles. Prerequisite: None     Introductory | Credits: 4

Ensemble singing for more experienced choristers. Ability to read music and sight-sing. An exploration of repertoire from Renaissance to contemporary music for small choral ensemble. Course may be repeated for credit.Prerequisite: Audition or permission of instructor     Multi-Level | Credits: 1


An opportunity for students to meet on a weekly basis to read and rehearse music from the standard chamber music repertoire. Woodwind, string, brass instruments welcome. Course may be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: Ability to play an instrument and read music    Multi-Level | Credits: 1


Jazz Ensemble presents an opportunity for students to come together to study and perform music that is improvisational in nature. Ensembles begin with Participants will learn the interactive skills necessary to play in jazz combos and study various jazz forms, composing skills and improvisational styles. After an ensemble has been established,  This class meets with the instructor each week, as well as rehearse once a week without supervision. The Marlboro College Jazz Ensemble will stage at least one performance at the end of the semester. Course may be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: Basic musical proficiency on your instrument     Multi-Level | Credits: 3

A study of musical signatures, melody, modal counterpoint and introduction to tonality.


Improvised music practices and the conceptual frameworks, techniques and musical vocabulary associated with them. As a general rule, we will divide our time between improvisation in workshop format and a seminar setting with readings on and by improvisers, intensive listening to recordings and discussion of the topics—equal parts practical music making and academic enquiry. Prerequisite: Proficiency with a musical instrument or in singing; music literacy, while recommended, is not necessary     Introductory | Credits: 4

The electronic music course provides an outlet for students with or without music recording experience to both explore the historical context of electronic music production and development as well as learn some basic recording and editing techniques. This course combines lectures, demonstrations and critique sessions, with hands-on experience in computer-based audio recording, editing mixing and mastering. It offers both a practical and theoretical foundation in electronic music history, sound production and recording, while encouraging creative expression and critical analysis. Topics covered include basic techniques, field recording techniques, basic audio production, basic digital signal processing, various sound synthesis techniques, simple microphone set-ups, use of digital audio editing software, multi-track mixing and mastering techniques. Prerequisite: None     Introductory | Credits: 2

Pursuing Interests (Intermediate and Thematic Courses)


Study of counterpoint in the style of Palestrina. Two-part and three-part writing. Imitation, canon and free counterpoint will be covered. Prerequisite: Theory Fundamentals; sight-singing ability or permission of instructor     Intermediate | Credits: 4

Study of contrapuntal techniques of the 18th century. Two-part invention, chorale elaborations and fugue in the style of Bach will be covered. Prerequisite: None     Intermediate | Credits: 4

A course intended for musicians interested in exploring music composition. Students should have facility on an instrument (or voice) and have some sight reading ability. Short compositions will be written and performed every week. Musical structure, notation, etc. will be discussed in relation to the student’s work. Course may be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: Ability to read music; basic theory; ability to play an instrument     Intermediate | Credits: 4

This semester the workshop will emphasize compositions for small choir or vocal ensemble. Students will write compositions weekly which will be performed by fellow students in workshop. Course may be repeated for credit. Prerequisites: Theory fundamentals, ability to sight-read and sing     Intermediate | Credits: 4

Sample Tutorial Topics

Matan Rubinstein

  • Readings in Musical Aesthetics
  • Harmonic Analysis
  • Electronic Music Workshop
  • Music Composition
  • Instrumentation/Orchestration