Cañada College

Syllabus for Music of the Americas (MUS 240)


Professor: David Meckler, Ph.D.

office hrs: MWF 9-11, room 3-242

Email: not for assignments; start subject header with “240” to get my attention

Voice-mail: (650) 306-3439


The course will present a variety of music from North, Central and South America.  The music will be of different styles and purposes.  Objectives: (1) listen to music (2) think about music analytically, relating it to its cultural purposes, context and history.  (3) Enjoying the music while being aware of its connections to society is the ultimate goal. 


Required textbook: The Garland Handbook of Latin American Music, second edition, edited by Dale A. Olsen and Daniel E. Sheehy, Routledge, 2008. 

Handouts and other material may be posted on the course website   

Additional recordings will be on reserve in the library or may be posted on the WebAccess site for this class: log in using your G number and 6-digit birth date, MMDDYY, no spaces or hyphens.

Check your student email account at least twice a week.  While hard copy is preferred for assignments, if you do submit assignments via email, put the text into the body of your email, and use your last name as the first part of the file name in any attachments. 



"Caribbean Latin America" (textbook pages 100-176)

Cuba (two and half weeks)

Haiti, Dominican Republic, & Puerto Rico

The intellectual framework (part one & part two of the textbook, pages 1-99)

Selected “questions for critical thinking” from page 176 due 11 Feb


South America (textbook pages 264-488)


Brazil (two 1/2 weeks)



other units as time permits

Selected “questions for critical thinking” from page 488 due 23 March


"Middle Latin America" (textbook pages 177-264)

Mexico (two weeks)

other units as time permits


Selected “questions for critical thinking” from page 264) due 11 May


Final exam: selected "questions for critical thinking" from page 493.  Tuesday, 25 May at the regularly schedule class time.


final project: a short research paper or creative project will be due at the end of the term.  Possibilities include:

q  a short (4-5 page) paper focusing on a genre, an individual song or an artist, with five references, three of which must be books, magazines or journals.

q  an in-class performance of a piece of music accompanied by a 1-2 page summary of the cultural context of the music

q  an interview with a musician active in one of the traditions discussed in this class, with audio or video excerpts presented to the class

q  a short (10 minutes) presentation to the class on an individual song or artist, with a short (3-4 page) paper with three references cited

q  a detailed (4-5 page) concert/performance review of music in one of the traditions discussed in this class

q  a multimedia webpage that explains or demonstrates a musical topic in this course

Project proposals will be due for approval on 1 April (10% of the project grade depends on simply making this deadline).


Late work will be accepted with penalty until graded papers of that assignment are returned to the rest of the class.  After that, late work will not be accepted.  Revised work (with the original assignment attached will be due one week after papers are initially returned. 


Grading:  Each set of questions (the regional ones and the final overview) and the final project is approximately 20% of the final grade.  In addition to the critical thinking essay questions, vocabulary worksheets and in-class listening tests may be used.


Academic Integrity = Personal Integrity

You must do you own work unless specified. Severe penalties, outlined in the Student Handbook, will be used in case of cheating or copied work without proper attribution. Plagiarism will result in zero points awarded for the assignment.  Never write about music that you have not heard as if you have heard it.  Cite all sources in your work; for the textbook, just the page number will do, but please give full citations to books and websites.  Even if you are paraphrasing and not quoting exactly your source, it should be cited. 


no class 11 March; Spring Break 5-9 April.


Student Learning Outcomes

1.     Students will be able to compare and contrast the primary musical styles from the cultures represented.

2.     Students will be able to identify the contributions to Latin American music from African, European, and indigenous cultures.

3.     Students will be able to interpret the relationship of the organization of the elements of music (pitch, melody, scales, rhythm, meter, timbre, form etc.) to cultural roots (indigenous, European, African) of the music.


Music of the Americas class website

Jan 2010

David Meckler

Cañada College

Other music class web pages