Studying music at Hampshire is unique in its approach to performance, scholarship, composition, theory, and improvisation.

Hampshire College's music program encourages students to engage in an interdisciplinary process to understand music as a creative expression and its role in culture. Students can take courses in ethnomusicology, popular music, jazz, and electronic and computer music as well as in improvisation, composition, and music theory.

Through the Five College consortium, students study Western historical musicology and a wide range of theory and performance courses. Students with a particular interest in ethnomusicology are encouraged to pursue the Five College Certificate in Ethnomusicology

Student Project Titles

  • `Soundin' like weself': The Trinidadian Rapso Music Tradition (a radio documentary)
  • `Chi e Costei'? The Rise of Women Composers in Italy During The Late 16th and Early 17th Centuries"
  • `That Wasn't Me! Cultural Criticism and Ironic Satire in The Personas and Alter Egos of Popular Musicians
  • The Mind and Music: An Exploration of Music, Soundscapes, and Pop Culture Through Synthesis and Psychoacoustics
  • Process in the Music of John Luther Adams
  • Individualism, Community, and Instrument Making in Santa Cruz, California: An Insider's Perspective on Luthiery
  • Music as a Rehabilitative Tool for Cochlear Implant Users
  • Adapting Buddhist Ritual/Voice Recital
  • Maine Fiddle Camp: The New Tradition of American Fiddle Music
  • when the night ended, it rained:: the politics & poetics of collective improvisation
  • Staging the Voice in the Theatre of Limits: Gender, Vocality, & the Creative Act
  • The Resounding Unknowable: Lacanian Perspectives on Sonic Aesthetics
  • Kde je Äechy?: The reinvention of Czech musical identity after World War II
  • sculptural sounds, auditory spaces
  • Analysis of Three Prog-Rock Albums and Their Associated Music Scenes

Sample First-Year Course

  • Jazz Ensemble Seminar I

In this performance-based introductory class, students will begin to develop the skills and techniques of jazz performance, including ensemble playing and improvisation. Students will study the forms and concepts of jazz composition and theory and apply them in the composition and performance of repertoire. They will learn to compose elements of jazz pieces and will present their original work in a spring concert performance. There will be assigned readings and a short, final paper. This course is open to all instrumentalists and vocalists who want to acquire proficiency in the basic elements of jazz. Students are expected to have a basic music theory background (Musical Beginnings or equivalent) and reasonable proficiency on their instrument, including basic scales and rudimentary reading ability.

  • Encapsulating Sounds:

Every culture bears unique sensibilities to sounds. People cultivate distinctive ways of hearing, understanding, and relating to them. These sensibilities are also reflected in the processes of sound- and music-making. Different instruments are devised to encapsulate distinctive cultural values not only acoustically but also visually in their material forms. This course aims to explore diverse music cultures of the world through the lens of organology (the study of musical instruments). We examine a wide range of sound-making devices broadly defined as "musical instruments" in their sociocultural and historical contexts. Our investigation encompasses topics such as social functions and significations of the instruments, e.g., ritual objects, status symbols, and exotic commodities; myths and symbolism attributed to the instruments; technology and craftsmanship involved in the fabrication, and ecological and ethical concerns for the use of certain materials, e.g., exotic wood, tortoise shells, and ivory.

Sample Courses at Hampshire

  • The Afrological Orchestra: The Philosophy of a Groove
  • American Strings: Old Time and Bluegrass
  • Applied Ethnomusicology
  • Audio Culture: Theories & Practice in Music Today
  • Chorus
  • Computer Music I and II
  • Contemporary Music Cultures
  • Encapsulating Sounds
  • Introduction to Ethnomusicology: Problems and Methods
  • Jazz Ensemble Seminar I
  • The Jazz Improvisation Orchestra
  • J-Pop and Beyond: Japanese Popular Culture in the Transnational Context
  • Master Musicians of Africa: West Africa
  • Musical Beginnings (introduction to music theory)
  • Music Composition from the Jazz Continuum
  • Music of Immigrant America
  • Music Journalism for Radio
  • "Musicking" or the Critical Study of Music Otherwise
  • Tonal Theory I and II (second and third semesters of music theory)
  • Tributaries in American Music

Through the Consortium

  • Chamber Music, Mixed Ensemble (Mount Holyoke College)
  • Topics in World Music: Popular Music of the Islamic World (Smith College)
  • Tonal Harmony and Counterpoint (Amherst College)
  • History of Music: 1700-1900 (UMASS-Amherst)
  • Topics in Music: Shakespeare and Music to 1800 (Mount Holyoke College)
  • Introduction to the Music of Africa (Mount Holyoke College)
  • The History of the Opera: Courtesans, Divas and Femmes Fatales at the the Fin de Siècle (Smith College)
  • Dance Music, Sex, Romance: Popular Music, Gender and Sexuality from Rock to Rap (Smith College)
  • Sacred Sound (Amherst College)
  • Sight-Singing (Smith College)
  • Composition Seminar (Amherst College)
  • Music Education (variety of courses) (UMASS-Amherst)

Facilities and Resources

The Music and Dance Building in the Longsworth Arts Village contains classrooms, practice rooms, a recital hall, and a multi-track recording studio (equipped with ProTools and other editing and sound software). Other campus resources include the computer music studios at the Harold F. Johnson Library, as well as the Library's collection of books, scores, periodicals, films, videos, and recordings. Extensive music collections from all of the Five College libraries are also available to Hampshire students.

Student-organized bands and music groups in jazz, folk, world music, pop, rock, punk, and a capella, to name just a few, are integral to the music program. The music program supports these endeavors through providing rehearsal space, performance venues, and coaching. Instrumental ensembles and groups at the Five Colleges are open to Hampshire students by audition, including Smith College's Chamber Music program, the Five College Early Music Program, the UMASS-Amherst University Orchestra, the Indonesian gamelan at Smith College, the West African Drumming Ensemble at Mount Holyoke College, and many others.

Students can take workshops and independent study courses in sound and recording technology and can gain valuable hands-on experience working as sound technicians for the Music Program.

The larger Five College music community offers hundreds of concerts and musical performances every year, featuring internationally renown classical, jazz, and world music performers. The Pioneer Valley (and particularly Northampton) offer many opportunities to hear and play music in numerous local venues and clubs. Private lessons are also available as part of the Five College consortium. The Private Lessons Fund helps offset the cost of private lessons for Division II and III music concentrators; other funding sources for private lesson are also available.

Through the Early Music Program, a faculty of distinguished performers and scholars at the Five Colleges, together with the program director, make it possible for students to participate in a wide variety of experiences in the study and performance of music of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Baroque Era.