Jena Root


When first assigned to teach an undergraduate twentieth-century theory course in the early 2000s, I decided to begin the semester with an informal, anonymous survey: I gave each student an index card and asked them to write a few words that would describe their notions about twentieth-century music. Many of the responses were discouraging, though hardly surprising: "ugly," "chaotic," "can't be analyzed," and "no rules" were among the most common. Some students went so far as to express fearfulness, while others conveyed a more positive--though still unhelpful--attitude: "Now we can write whatever we want and call it 'music!'"