The Music concentration within The Arts at Eugene Lang College is an innovative program for undergraduate music studies in a liberal arts context. This program explores the vibrant global diversity of contemporary musical life along with music's broader social, cultural, political, and philosophical concerns. It also highlights creative musical thinking and music-making in the spirit of The New School's significant history of modern experimentation in the arts.

The curriculum of the Music concentration is structured around three focus areas:

  1. Courses on popular and global music exploring both mainstream and alternative genres, international repertoires and musical practices, as well as the musical life of immigrant and diasporic communities within New York City;
  2. Courses in music technology and new media focusing on the digital production and distribution of music as well as the uses of music in film, video, and other media;
  3. Courses in music history, theory, and criticism, including music philosophy and aesthetics, the poetics of music, the study of music in its social and cultural contexts, and interdisciplinary connections linking music and the other arts.

Lang students explore "contemporary music" in the broadest definition of that phrase, whether classical or popular, local or global, mainstream or underground, canonical or cutting-edge music genres. New York City presents a wealth of opportunities for students to experience music of all styles and eras. Courses regularly include outings to Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, BAM, and Symphony Space; events at more experimental venues such as The Kitchen, Le Poisson Rouge, The Stone, and Issue Project Room; and excursions to The Metropolitan Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, the Steinway piano factory in Queens, and The Dream House. Internships with local music and arts institutions tap into the city's diverse cultural resources to facilitate students' professional development and their practical experience in many different fields of creative work.

By examining the past, present, and the rapidly evolving future of contemporary musical life, graduates of this program are uniquely prepared for further studies in music or related fields, and professional careers as composers, performers, producers, critics, journalists, and arts managers.

Music at The New School

Contemporary music has long played an important role at The New School. Since the 1930s, the school has championed modern and experimental music by supporting composers and performers who went on to make their mark in the history of the arts.

In 1927, music critic Paul Rosenfeld recruited Aaron Copland to take over his lectures on modern music. With Roger Sessions, Copland organized the famous Copland-Sessions concerts, debuting their own compositions and works by Virgil Thompson, Roy Harris, and Walter Piston. In 1930, Henry Cowell joined Copland on the faculty; composers Ernst Toch and Hans Eisler and the musicologist Charles Seeger also taught at The New School during a notable decade of musical innovation and experimentation. Copland's well-known book What to Listen for in Music (1939) is a collection of his New School lectures. Henry Cowell's landmark book American Composers on American Music developed from a 1933 symposium on contemporary music at the school, and his course "Music of the World's Peoples" helped to establish the field of ethnomusicology and inspired younger composers such as John Cage and Lou Harrison. In the late 1950s, John Cage offered his famous "Experimental Composition" courses, challenging virtually every convention of traditional concert music and influencing several major artists of the New York School and Fluxus movement. John Watts, a pioneer of synthesized music, established the Composers Theatre residency at The New School in 1969 and developed one of the first academic electronic music programs in the country.

In 1941, The New School became the first school to offer a course on jazz history from a scholarly perspective. Taught by British authors and historians Leonard Feather and Robert Goffin, the course brought an incredible array of jazz artists into the classroom, including Teddy Wilson, Jimmy Dorsey, Cy Oliver, James P. Johnson, Benny Goodman, Earl Hines, and Louis Armstrong, among others. Jazz appreciation courses continued in the 1950s with renowned jazz historian Marshall Stearns and in the 1960s with jazz editor Martin Williams. In 1986 what is now The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music was established, and it has since provided exceptional training in performance, jazz history, and music theory for undergraduates, including Lang students who take cross-listed courses there.

Founded in 1916, the Mannes College of Music, located on the Upper West Side, is a renowned conservatory for classical music studies which joined The New School in 1986. Through its Extension Division, Lang students take courses in performance, composition, theory, history, and career development. The Schneider Concert Series has presented chamber music ensembles and concert artists at The New School since 1957. This series highlights outstanding and promising young musicians and ensembles early in their careers, and presented the New York Debuts of pianist Peter Serkin, the Guarneri and Cleveland String Quartets, as well as artists like pianist Murray Perahia and cellist Yo Yo Ma before they came to wide public attention.