since 1965  (really?)

Historically Informed Performance & Classical Music Today

This course listing applies to a Spring 2016 course. To find current courses, check out the Find a Course page.

Spring 2016
Muisc 98/198
2 Unit(s)

Human friendly URL (OBSOLETE)


About the Course:

WHAT: Ever wondered what kind of rare resources we have in the UC Berkeley Music Department? Instruments from the 18th and 19th centuries, perhaps one on which legendary pianist Clara Schumann once played? Ever considered learning how to play the fortepiano? Or do you just want to spend time with fellow music majors and music lovers and share ideas about music history, performance, and technology in a friendly, low-stakes environment? This course is for you! 


WHO: Music majors/minors, classically trained musicians, and music lovers of lower and upper standing, of all backgrounds, and specializing in all types of instruments welcomed!!


WHERE: The class will be held in Morrison 120 (except for the occasional field trip), Mondays 6-8 p.m. 


WHY: Question of Course: So, what is "Historically Informed Performance," or "HIP," as it is generally called these days, and how can we use it to our advantage as contemporary musicians? For those of us who are not very familiar with this term and/or movement, here's a brief definition of what it (very broadly) means, according to the Society for Historically Informed Performance:


The main objective of our course will be to think about music not from the score directly to the instrument, but rather, to consider how it is a product of complex technologies - instruments, scores, other media, physical space - that make the music's transition from textual object to live performance possible. We will be putting the historical background surrounding the music's composition, and our contemporary perception of it, as focused through our own bodies, ears, and values, into conversation. We will also be discussing the many career opportunities that HIP could open up for the contemporary musician, and contemplating the changing role of classical music in our society.


In order to do this, we will interact with older instruments, particularly the fortepiano, learn how to play them, and most importantly, learn what these older technologies have to tell us about the music we all love and perform all the time. Our course will cover composers from C.P.E. Bach to Mahler and Prokofiev, so if you're into any music spamming these 200 years, you should find something of interest!


Our department offers a broad range of historical instruments, which we will all get to play on and interact with in different ways! Specifically for us to use, we have: 


-  a Regier copy of a 1796 Walter fortepiano: roughly, the "Mozart piano"

- a very rare Wieck piano: the "Schumann/Brahms" piano, manufactured by Clara Schumann's uncle (Clara herself most likely played this instrument!!)

- an Erard piano (roughly, the "Liszt piano")


**** As a pianist, I will be putting significant emphasis on keyboards throughout the course, but, based on enrollment and everyone's different backgrounds, I will be keeping my syllabus open to suggestions so that everyone will feel welcomed and fully involved in the topics we'll be studying. Other instruments will be available upon request and as I see fit; instrumentalists and vocalists equally welcomed. There is no pressure to perform publicly, and there will be a variety of tasks and assignments based on everyone's experience and comfort level. There will also be alternative assignments for those who are not performers, as the historical and conceptual sides of this course should also be of interest. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email me. ****


Our course will also include exciting events: 

  •  field trips to the Magnes in Berkeley where we currently keep two of our important historical keyboards 
  •  class outings to concerts featuring historical instruments, including world-renowned fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout’s Mozart performance with the Philharmonia Baroque (Feb. 3rd-7th) 
  •  guest artist appearances, including Mr. Bezuidenhout and professors from the Music Department; possible master classes



Due Date

Percentage Worth of Grade


End of Semester


Self-Evaluation 1 



Concert Review 1



Concert Review 2



Analysis Paper



Lecture Recital 



Self-Evaluation 2 and Practicing Log

May 9th 



  Attendance: Most of your grade will consist of coming to class and actively participating in discussion. This includes doing all the reading and listening beforehand, taking notes in class, and coming prepared with questions and concerns about each topic.There is no knowledge of concepts required before class, although a very general familiarity with performance and Western music history is assumed. This is a safe environment where all opinions are respected and valued, so there should be no stress about speaking up in class. Everyone is allowed one absence, but you must let me know in advance. In case of an additional emergency, please send me an email before class or bring me a note the following week. 


Self-Evaluation 1: This is just to let me know who you are! It will be due before class starts or, if that is not possible, at the end of the first week. This will help me figure out what, if anything, I should change in the syllabus, and how to adjust the final objectives of the assignments and expectations. Although a large part of assignments will be geared towards pianists and will focus on keyboard-oriented issues, there will be alternative assignments for vocalists and other instrumentalists, based on the final enrollment of students. 


Self-Evaluation 2 and Practicing Log: Throughout the semester, the pianists will be required to practice for two hours on one of our historical keyboards - the Regier replica fortepiano, the Wieck and Erard pianos, or the clavichord from the Baroque room. There will be a sign-up sheet with 30-minute intervals for each instrument. A student may choose a minimum of two instruments to try and can request more hours upon availability once they are done with their mandatory two. For singers, there will be special assignments, and for other instrumentalists, it will hopefully be arranged with the Baroque department to have you try historical string instruments such as the viola da gamba. 


Concert Reviews: The first concert, which we will all hopefully be attending for free with help from the Arts and Creativity Fund, will be Kristian Bezuidenhout’s all-Mozart extravaganza in early February. This should be the perfect event, relatively early in the semester, to get us all thinking about the broader implications of classical music today as it relates to historical instruments. Two to three pages in length, it should describe not only your experience at the concert but any specific observations or claims you can make about Mozart’s music and its performance on historical instruments. The second concert will be one of your choice from our music department, which are free (or any concert series of your choice, like Cal Performances or SF Performances, for which student discounts are available). The only requirement is that the event has to feature historical instruments. As an alternative, you can pick a concert that focuses on Mozart and that features “modern” instruments and compare it with Bezuidenhout’s concert.


Analysis Paper: Pick any piece of music of your choice from the standard (or almost-standard!) Western repertoire and analyze it using features of topic theory which we have learned in class. No previous knowledge of this kind of analysis required. The point here is to get you thinking in other ways about music, perhaps ways in which you haven’t thought of before - namely, something other than roman numeral, Schenkerian, or contrapuntal analysis. Specifics for this assignment will be discussed in class. 


Lecture Recital: At the end of the semester, all the pianists with performing experience will be required to give a 20-25 min presentation on a piece or pieces of music of their own choice, preferably related to what we have studied in class. There will be three requirements: 1) the use of a historical instrument; 2) background information about the history of the piece and composer; and 3) discussion about “translation” - how, if at all, the piece, as informed by the historical keyboard, can be transferred on “modern” keyboards in a way that is stylistically and aesthetically informed. The more detailed options for this assignment will be handed out in class. Singers and instrumentalists can either partner up with a pianist and work on a slightly larger project together, or choose to do the alternative assignment, which will also be given in class. 


Self-Evaluation 2 and Practicing Log: The practicing log will document the students’ practicing throughout the semester, and will have to include observations about what it was like to interact with the historical instruments. 


For general schedule, please see attached syllabus. 

How to Enroll:

If you are interested, please email me two short sentences about yourself. I will carefully consider all interested students and pick based on a variety of factors. My main deciding factor will be to assemble a friendly, interesting group of people that includes students from a variety of different musical backgrounds; preferably, however, at least half the students in the class will have had some kind of experience with keyboards in the past. 

Course Contact: theodora.martin AT

Faculty Sponsor: Prof. Nicholas Mathew

Time & Location:

Section 1Theodora Serbanescu-Martin
10Morrison 120M 6p-8p2/01started
Section 1Theodora Serbanescu-Martin
10Morrison 120M 6p-8p2/01started

Uploaded Files:

Syllabus: Historically Informed Performance DeCal Syllabus.pdfJan 21136kbAdobe PDF (Viewer)View Download

Course info last modified January 21, 2016. This page has been viewed 1373 times.

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