By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Sing! Play! Dance! Make a Scene!

Get ready for the fourth and final installment in our survey of the most visited courses in the Humanities, this episode featuring courses from the MIT department of Music and Theater Arts. We present courses from each of these disciplines, which are combined in one department at MIT.

As with our other lists of most popular OCW sites, introductory courses stand out. These courses are distinguished by fascinating reading and listening and by creative activities and projects!

Photo of two singers on microphones with a recording engineering in the background.

21M.380 students run a recording session with the MIT Ohms acapella singing group. (Photo by MIT OpenCourseWare.)


  • 21M.051 Fundamentals of Music taught by Pamela Wood
    “This class introduces students to the rudiments of Western music through oral, aural, and written practice utilizing rhythm, melody, intervals, scales, chords, and musical notation. The approach is based upon the inclusive Kodály philosophy of music education. Individual skills are addressed through a variety of means, emphasizing singing and keyboard practice in the required piano labs.”
  • 21M.011 Introduction to Western Music taught by Professor Ellen Harris
    “This course gives a broad overview of Western music from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, with emphasis on late baroque, classical, romantic, and modernist styles (1700-1910). It is also meant to enhance students’ musical experience by developing listening skills and an understanding of diverse forms and genres. Major composers and their works will be placed in social and cultural contexts.”
  • 21M.351 Music Composition taught by Professor Peter Child
    “This course features directed composition of larger forms of original writing involving voices and/or instruments. It includes a weekly seminar in composition for the presentation and discussion of work in progress. Students are expected to produce at least one substantive work, performed in public, by the end of the term. Contemporary compositions and major works from 20th-century music literature are studied.”
  • 21M.380 Music and Technology: Recording Techniques and Audio Production taught by Professor Christopher Ariza
    “This course covers foundations, practices, and creative techniques in audio recording and music production, including microphone selection and placement, mixing, mastering, signal processing, automation, and digital audio workstations.”
  • 21M.301 Harmony and Counterpoint I taught by Professor Brian Robison
    “…[W]e will study the basic harmonic, melodic, and formal practices of western music, principally the classical music of central Europe during the eighteenth century. Topics will include diatonic harmony, simple counterpoint in two parts, and tones of figuration. The coursework will combine composition, listening, analysis, and work in sight-singing and keyboard musicianship.”

Photo of a student wearing assortment of costume elements.

A student in 21M.715 The Craft of Costume Design models various costume elements. (Photo by Leslie Held; costuming by an MIT student. Used with permission.)


  • 21M.732 Beginning Costume Design and Construction taught by Leslie Cocuzzo Held
    “This is an intermediate workshop designed for students who have a basic understanding of the principles of theatrical design and who want a more intensive study of costume design and the psychology of clothing. Students develop designs that emerge through a process of character analysis, based on the script and directorial concept. Period research, design, and rendering skills are fostered through practical exercises. Instruction in basic costume construction, including drafting and draping, provide tools for students to produce final projects.”
  • 21M.604 Playwriting I taught by Laura Harrington
    “This class introduces the craft of writing for the theater. Through weekly assignments, in class writing exercises, and work on a sustained piece, students explore scene structure, action, events, voice, and dialogue. We examine produced playscripts and discuss student work. This class’s emphasis is on process, risk-taking, and finding one’s own voice and vision.”
  • 21M.603 Principles of Design taught by Karen Perlow, Leslie Cocuzzo Held, Michael Katz, and William Fregosi
    “This course deals with advanced design theories and textual analysis. Emphasis is placed on script analysis in general, as well as the investigation of design principles from a designer’s perspective. Students also refine technical skills in rendering and presentation, historical research, and analysis. Class sessions include interaction with student/faculty directors and other staff designers. The goal of this course is for students to approach text with a fresh vision and translate that vision into design for performance.”
  • 21M.715 The Craft of Costume Design taught by Leslie Cocuzzo Held
    “This class provides an overview of some of the techniques used in creating costume pieces that are crafted rather than sewn. We will use a variety of materials and techniques to create specific costume pieces while at the same time exploring alternative applications possible for each material/technique. Students should come to class prepared to be painted, dyed, gilded, dusted and dirtied.”
  • 21M.675 Dance Theory and Composition taught by Thomas De Frantz
    “This course introduces students to the art and formal ideologies of contemporary dance. We explore the aesthetic and technical underpinnings of contemporary dance composition. Basic compositional techniques are discussed and practiced, with an emphasis on principles such as weight, space, time, effort, and shape. Principles of musicality are considered and developed by each student. Working with each other as the raw material of the dance, students develop short compositions that reveal their understanding of basic techniques. Hopefully, students come to understand a range of compositional possibilities available to artists who work with the medium of the human body.”

See all Music and Theater Arts courses on OCW