Learn about MUS 21A: History and Practice of Electronic Dance Music: A Global Perspective, taught by Charles H. Stratford.
A note from the instructor: Originally from Los Angeles, I am currently a fourth-year PhD candidate in musicology here at Brandeis; my wife is a Speech Language Pathologist, and we have a two-year-old son who likes to boogie!
Last summer, I taught MUS 35A “History of Rock,” which was well received by my students; we spent a whole unit on EDM, and many students gave their semester presentations on their favorite EDM tracks. This experience prompted me to design a course solely devoted to this fascinating topic.
What makes your course unique?
This is the first time the music department at Brandeis has offered a course that focuses entirely on the history and practice of EDM. Other undergraduate surveys on popular music mainly focus on the development of rock and hip hop in English-speaking countries. This course will dig deeply into the roots of this genre by examining pioneering artists whose music has been revitalized in recent years, namely because of the explosion of dance culture worldwide. Due to the diversity of the Brandeis student body, each student brings their own unique perspectives on EDM (and music in general), often influenced by contact made with musical traditions outside of the US. In this sense, I hope that our learning will be collaborative, since everyone has their own story about what kind of music might move them. However, this course also reaches the layperson with little or no experience with this genre.
What draws you to this subject area?
I bring over a decade of experience as an electronic musician, dancer, and scholar of music history. As a teenager, I was first exposed to the music of Stockhausen, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Josh Wink, Paul Oakenfold, The Orb, and Aphex Twin, to name a few. These formative experiences prompted me to ask philosophical questions that one commonly encounters in studying the history of classical music, for example. To illustrate, how does one’s national identity affect the way one writes music? Why and how does this matter? What goes into making a particular composition/track a work of art? Will this artist’s work withstand the tests of time and endure beyond being just a “one hit wonder”? I firmly believe that serious, infectious “art music” takes many shapes and forms and is not confined to the orchestral concert hall. We live in a day in age when skilled EDM artists (Daft Punk and their recent soundtrack to “Tron: Legacy” comes to mind) are considered composers in their own right: they draw upon advanced compositional techniques, they think deeply about the music they write, and they unite people around the world through creating positivity and community. I am passionate about this music and its history, and I devote a significant part of my activities as a classically-trained musicologist to pursuing scholarship on EDM.
What do you hope students will learn from your course?
I hope that my students can enrich their understanding of music they are already familiar with, as well as broaden their horizons with respect to music that is new to them. Moreover, as technology is key to EDM, we will learn to analyze this music in terms of how the means of production influence artists’ distinct sounds. Due to the large cross-section of pieces we will study (ca. 1970s through the present day), I hope that my students can understand the history of EDM as a totality by tracing a thread of stylistic development; that is to say, without “Krautrock” or funk, there would be no Detroit techno, without Detroit techno, there would be no trance, without trance, no electro, no breaks, no dubstep, etc. It is my hope that the analytical and writing skills gleaned from this course will aid students in all of their collegiate studies, since thinking and writing well are helpful tools in many disciplines outside of music.
Enroll in MUS 21A today!