Variable Topic Courses

Variable courses are senior-level studies that explore special topics and perspectives in music. These courses, which vary in subject matter from year to year, are available to both graduate and undergraduate students and focus on unique subject and perspectives in musicology, ethnomusicology, theory and harmony, instrumental literature, composition, music technology, and popular music.

Students from other departments and faculties are invited to join us in these special topics to complement their chosen course of study or to expand upon their understanding of music and it's broader social, sonic, and historical impact.

A current listing of this year's special topics are available below. For further information on course content, consult the instructor directly. To view variable offerings from previous years, see Variable Course Archive.

How it Works: Eligibility and Registration 

  • Course numbers starting with 4xx courses are for undergraduate study, while slash courses (ie. 4xx/5xx) denote courses that are open to both undergraduate and graduate enrollments.
  • Undergraduate students who wish to enroll in slash courses will need permission of the department prior to enrolling.
  • Course listings on this page that are followed by an asterisk (*) show all topics open to undergraduate students.
  • Courses labeled as 6xx are available to graduate students only.

Once you have identified the variable topic(s) you are interested in and eligible for, you must then access BearTracks to verify that the course number and schedule is correct. All courses are subject to schedule and content changes, however BearTracks will list all current course information.

To find variable topics in BearTracks, go to "Search for Classes" and ensure that you have selected "Show Open Classes" in your query.

The department strongly recommends that you consult your Academic Advisor and Associate Chair before enrolling in any variable topic course.

Special Topics offered in 2016-2017



Music 365: Music For Global Human Development
Instructor: Michael Frishkopf

This course will focus on Music for Global Human Development -- the ways music can be used for social progress on a variety of issues -- with an applied ethnomusicology project in tandem with the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, focusing on immigration, refugees, and socio-cultural integration through music.


Music 483/583: Studies in Musical Genre/Advanced Studies in Musical Genre
Instructor: David Gramit

Variations suffer from an image problem. Although variation forms constitute one of the
longest-lived genres in Western music history and are found throughout the world, and
although some of the most revered works in the canon are variations (Bach’s Goldberg
Variations, Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, and Brahms’s Haydn Variations to name
only a few of the most prominent), variations have also been criticized as repetitive, as
superficial, and as vehicles for empty virtuosity. Precisely because of this ambiguous
position, variations offer an excellent opportunity not only to explore the workings of a
wide variety of remarkable music, but also to explore some of the ideologies through
which hierarchies of musical value have been established and challenged. Through
listening, analysis, reading, and discussion, participants in this course will explore
variation as a principle and as a musical genre across several centuries of vocal and
instrumental music, not only in Western art music, but in other musical cultures where
the principle of variation has had an impact.

As Music 483, the course is open to any undergraduate music students who have
completed Music 280 and 283 or 284, or Music 256. Undergraduates without this
background may consult with the instructor about taking the course. As Music 583 it is
open to any graduate students in Music, and to other graduate students after consulting
with the instructor. Music 583 will fulfill the MMus research writing requirement.

Music 484/584: Studies in Music and Society: Music Scenes and Cities

Instructor: Brian Fauteux

This course investigates the various relationships between cities and their local musical activity. It considers the ways in which local identities and popular histories are shaped by music cultures (and vice versa). Drawing on a number of interdisciplinary theoretical and conceptual frameworks for studying local music (including popular music studies, media studies, cultural studies, and cultural geography) this course explores issues and themes such as: the transition from subcultural studies to music scene studies; cultural and municipal policies for local music; the cultural histories of specific music scenes; the role of music in branding “creative cities;” the ways in which music can be a force for forming localized social movements; the role of cities in shaping the sound and lyrics of songs; and, technology and global/translocal scenes. Students will be required to participate frequently throughout the course and to reflect critically on their own experience of music scenes (both here in Edmonton and beyond).



Music 489/589  Music and Identity
Instructor: Julia Byl

How does music help us to understand ourselves, and to express that understanding to the world? This course is an exploration of how music forms both communities (in a garage band or a marching band, in a drag show or a stadium bleachers) and individuals (through the music in our headphones). While reading the works of some key contributors to theories of identity (Erving Goffman, Judith Butler and Martin Stokes), we will explore a broad range of musical activity in a world of cultural contexts: from Detroit techno and Northern Soul to Indonesian kinship ritual and Cuban santería, to the "Music in Everyday Life" project and what ever musical activity you are involved with most.

MUSIC 508 Seminar on Music in Canada
Instructor: Dr. Mary Ingraham

This seminar explores multi- and intercultural encounters in music and music-making in
Canada. Through readings, listening, and discussion, students will consider current and
historical perspectives on Canadian culture, including issues relating to cultural identity,
ways of listening, the impact of historical narratives, and potentialities for counter-
discourse, as ways to develop new approaches to creative work. Repertoire considered
will include art, popular, folk and traditional music, as well as documentary and film
creations. Sources considered will be interdisciplinary, and although the primary focus of
the course is musical, the seminar will draw on theoretical models and approaches from
the disciplines of musicology, ethnomusicology, cultural studies, critical anthropology,
and sociology (among others). There is no pre-requisite for this course. Upper level
undergraduate students and graduate students in music or related disciplines are
welcome to register.

Music 650 Proseminar In Music Theory
Instructor: Maryam Moshaver
This seminar focuses on the intersections between Music Theory and the principal academic sub-disciplines of Musicology and Ethnomusicology.  It will examine the modalities of theoretical exploration in broad range of scientific and humanistic discourses, as exemplified in recent representative music-theoretical writings.  Topics include the interaction of theoretical languages and forms of representation with aesthetics, postmodernist and structuralist discourse, phenomenology, psychology, history, semiotics, and literature, among others.  The special emphasis of the course is on exploring the impact of descriptive and theoretical viewpoints on the perception and experience of music from a range of past and present repertoires.

MUSIC 614 Pro-Seminar in Musicology
Instructor: David Gramit

This graduate seminar offers an intensive introduction to a broad range of musicological
discourse. Through weekly readings and discussions, students will become familiar with
and examine the issues, methodologies, and writing styles that serve historical,
theoretical, and performance objectives in recent scholarship within the discipline of
musicology. The goal of the seminar is to enhance students’ conceptualization of these
topics and the critical evaluation of scholarly research. Selected interdisciplinary
approaches will be considered in order to increase familiarity with a wide range of
musical concerns and interpretations applicable to many genres of music. Topics may
include: history and historiography, biography, approaches to listening, intercultural
encounters, intercessory studies, gender and sexuality, cultural and sociological
perspectives on music and society, music and text, or music and place. Students will be
involved in directed research topics, weekly readings, and in-class discussions and
presentations. This course is open to all graduate students in music; students in related
disciplines will need permission from the Department of Music to register.