University of California, Irvine

Music 230

Time Structure in Music
[and other time-based art forms]

Course Syllabus




Course Description

Time is the medium in which music transpires. Form and rhythm are sonic articulations of time on the large and small level; and now computers enable us to study time with great objective precision, even on the microscopic level. However, time remains largely a mystery. We don't have a specific sense organ that perceives it (as we do for light and sound), we can't feel it or grasp it, and we perceive it differently in different contexts. Scientists and philosophers have written extensively on the elusive nature of time. Musicians and other time-based artists (e.g., filmmakers) have established many ways of contemplating, managing, and composing the passage of time. This course will study what time is, some of the many ways it is perceived, measured, and discussed, and how musicians "shape" time with sound. The course will be conducted as a graduate seminar, with assigned readings, student-led discussion, and individual research/writing/presentations on selected subtopics. Ability to read a musical score is highly recommended.

Summary of Course Topics

This course will approach the issue of time structure in music from three main angles: philosophical and psychological views of time perception (empirical physics and cognitive science, phenomenology, etc.); models of musical time structure proposed by musicians, theorists, and other thinkers (notations and theories of rhythm and form); and analysis of works of music that deliberately challenge accepted understanding of musical time (time as a flexible, subjective, and nonlinear medium).

List of Topics by Class Session

...can be found online.

List of Readings and Music

...can be found online.

Course Requirements

Students will each be required to:


Students will be graded on the basis of:

Regarding Academic Honesty

Plagiarism of any kind is a violation of UCI policy on Academic Honesty, and penalties for plagiarism can be severe. In this class you will be expected to attribute due credit to the originator of any ideas, words, or work which you incorporate substantially into your own work. This applies particularly to citation of sources for quotes and ideas included in your writings and projects.




This page was last modified April 2, 2006.

Christopher Dobrian