First off, let me say that I think it is important for music students, wait, no, everybody who likes music, to listen to a wide range of music. I am not against that exposure. However, I do not like music lit classes. Maybe I’ve had the wrong teachers, but in every music lit class I’ve been in, there was more focus on analyzing the music to death than widening our musical taste and knowledge. I don’t want to analyze single notes and why the composer might have used that note instead of this other one. I don’t want to pick different phrases of music and say which era/other composer/whatever influenced each one. By doing this, it takes the impact the music has on me away.
Anything we might say about any piece of music and why it is the way it is is just speculation. The only one who really knows is the composer, and even the composer may not have had a specific reason for picking the note he did. As an example, drawing from an english lit class, I remember having a book assigned on “how to read literature.” The author wrote down all these different things that could be in stories and what they apparently always symbolized. The one that comes to mind is(and paraphrasing from memory here) “A key represents a penis, or a man’s sexuality.” Really? Does every author who mentions a key in their story think “This key is a symbol of male sexuality” when they type the word? In the same vein, does every composer think “Okay, this next phrase will be reminiscent of Mozart, to contrast this other phrase that is clearly influenced by the Baroque period”?I don’t know about anyone else, but when I write music, I write what I think sounds good. I don’t have some complex plan of fitting influences together.
Let’s make music lit classes what they should be, an appreciation of music, a way to experience new music with our peers, and discuss it, yes, but please don’t analyze it to pieces. That’s not how music was intended to be listened to. The magic of it lies in the whole piece, not in individual notes.