Vienna: Music in Western Civilization

A student poses for a photo. The theater stage and seating is in the background.

Program Term:

Spring

Language Requirement:

None

Coordinator:

 Eric Benjaminson

Application Deadline:

Final:

Please note: Offered in alternating years. Following the Spring 2025 program, the next program will run in Spring 2027.

The College is pleased to announce a new offering in Vienna during the 2025 Spring quarter. Vienna: Music in Western Civilization is devoted to a study of music in Euro-American history from the ninth century to modern day with a distinct emphasis on Austria.

    At the core of this program is the two-course civilization sequence “Music in Euro-American Cultures” plus a third Arts Core course connected to Viennese culture around 1900, compressed into the ten weeks of Spring quarter. Program participants also take a German language course, which runs at a normal pace through the quarter and is designed to help students connect with Austrian (and Viennese) culture.

    In addition to classroom instruction, the program features a number of excursions to sites of considerable historic and cultural interest both within and in the vicinity of Vienna. The Austrian capital and its environs offer numerous opportunities to connect readings, discussions, and lectures with the surviving monuments of Vienna’s past, and it is assumed that students will use their free time to explore this remarkable city apart from program-organized outings.

    Music in Western Civilization I – Professor Anne Walters Robertson, Claire Dux Swift Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Music and the College, 2023–24 Center in Paris Academic Director

    This course, part of the Social Sciences Civ core, looks at musics in different moments of Euro-American history and the social contexts in which they originated, with particular emphasis on music in Vienna at some critical moments. It aims to help students develop: a better understanding of the social contexts of European music over this period; tools for the basic sound structures of pieces from these different moments; and convincing writing in response to prompts based on source readings or music pieces. Among the many topics we will cover, our first quarter (MUS 12100 etc.) begins with the period following Charlemagne’s coronation as Holy Roman Emperor (800 CE); passes through the first polyphonic music that appeared in Paris (12th c); the works that Bach and Handel composed for 18th-c churches and courts of northern Germany; the premieres of symphonies, quartets, and operas by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven in Vienna starting around 1780; and ends with the dissolution of the Empire (1806) and the triumph of Napoleon across Western Europe. Music reading is not required.

    Music in Western Civilization II – Professor Robert L. Kendrick, Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Music and Romance Languages and Literatures, and the College

    This course, part of the Social Sciences Civ core, looks at musics in different moments of Euro-American history and the social contexts in which they originated, with particular emphasis on music in Vienna at some critical moments. It aims to help students develop: a better understanding of the social contexts of European music over this period; tools for the basic sound structures of pieces from these different moments; and convincing writing in response to prompts based on source readings or music pieces. This second course (MUS 12200 etc.) runs from the beginning of European Romanticism around 1800 to the turn of the 21st century. Music reading is not required.

    Vienna around 1900 (MUS 12300 99) – Professor Robert L. Kendrick, Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Music and Romance Languages and Literatures, and the College

    We look at this city, for which music was so central, from the perspective of musical works (Mahler’s Symphonies 2, 3 and 4, songs by Schoenberg and Alma Mahler, chamber music by Zemlinsky) but also architecture (Loos, also including walking tours), painting (Klimt), literature (Hofmannsthal, Zweig, Schnitzler), urban planning, and a few secondary readings (Schorske, Boyer). We thus concentrate more closely on themes first introduced in MUS 12200. Students will be encouraged to concentrate on just this historical moment in the city’s life; final projects can be musical or not, according to students’ interests.

    Program participants typically live in the Residenz Molkereistrasse, a modern student residence hall designed according to environmentally responsible, energy-efficient principles. It is located in the Leopoldstadt section of Vienna near the Prater Park (with its famous Ferris wheel). Like their Austrian peers, students will make their way to the University using public transportation, which is ample and user-friendly.

    Students usually reside in single rooms arranged into apartments. Each apartment includes a common area, kitchen, bathroom, television, and internet access. The building also includes bike and laundry rooms.

    It is important to recognize the cultural context of student housing in Austria and understand that the amenities of the student apartments may vary. Although some of these differences may take some getting used to, remember that cultural differences extend to all aspects of your experience abroad. Having realistic expectations for your term in Vienna will help you approach the study abroad experience with a positive attitude.

    Participants in the Music in Western Civilization program remain registered as full-time students in the College. They take and receive credit for four courses: two Civilization courses, one Arts Core course, and a German language class. If not counted toward Core requirements, these courses are also cross-listed and approved as credits in the Departments of Music and History. The use of any of these courses in another major is subject to the approval of the undergraduate chair of the respective department. All courses are usable, without further approval, as general electives. The language course will normally count as an elective. This course is neither keyed to Chicago’s German language sequences nor equivalent to any specific on-campus course. Course titles, units of credit, and grades are placed on the College transcript.

    Study abroad students pay regular College tuition, a program fee, and a nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the Vienna program during the 2024–2025 year are listed below:

    Spring tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

    Study abroad administrative fee: $675

    Vienna: Music in Western Civilization program fee: $5,960

    Program fee includes:

    Out-of-pocket expenses include:

    • round-trip airfare to and from the program site
    • transportation on site
    • meals
    • course materials
    • personal entertainment and travel
    • communications (including cell phone usage)
    • health insurance and upfront payments for care
    • other miscellaneous expenses 
       

    Previous program participants report spending in the range of $200 to $275 per week on meals and incidentals while on the program, though frugal students may spend less, and others could spend much more. Bear in mind that the cost of living in Vienna is relatively high and that, while it is possible to live frugally, it is also possible to run short of money if you are unwary. It is therefore essential that you budget your funds prudently, apportioning your resources so that they last for the duration of the program. If you are planning to travel before or after the program or on weekends, you should budget accordingly.

    Study abroad students retain their financial aid eligibility. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our Tuition, Fees, and Funding section.

    The Vienna program is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

    The program is designed for undergraduates in good academic and disciplinary standing who are beyond their first year in the College. While the program stipulates no minimum grade-point average, an applicant’s transcript should demonstrate that they are a serious student who will make the most of this opportunity. Because the program courses (aside from the German class) are taught in English, there is no language prerequisite, although students are encouraged to take German on campus before the program begins.

    Because of the considerable demand for the Chicago civilization programs abroad, no student may participate in more than one of these programs. Each application is examined on the basis of the student’s scholastic record and personal statement. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

    To discuss the Vienna: Music in Western Civilization program and the possibility of participating, please contact Eric Benjaminson.