Christopher Park is excellent. My Diatonic class came in with different backgrounds, both in terms of instrumental and theory experience, but Park did an excellent job making sure everyone was challenged, but not drowning. There are three main goals for the course: Counterpoint, Harmony and Keyboard Skills; these are pretty much the same whichever professor you have. Park introduces Counterpoint and Harmony right off the batâ€”he'll begin with one or the other and then transition in the middle of class. I liked this approach: the difficulty of assignments grows more gradually with your skill level, you don't get bored with one or the other, and it's pretty easy to see the connections diatonic harmony has with species counterpoint. Don't worry about the Keyboard Skills, especially if you're not a pianist. They're simple exercises, and even outer voices was acceptable for most of themâ€”the TA will have you play one or two during the lab sessions, which were Friday afternoons both semesters for my class.
Having Professor Kaila for Diatonic was a fantastic experience and I feel like I learned so much, despite having studied theory for 2 years. The first month of the course is spent on species counterpoint, and the rest of the first semester is spent usages of basic chords. The 2nd semester is spent primarily on ornamentation and learning how to write more than just music based off of chords. He works especially hard in getting everyone involved when working on assignments together in class to make sure that everyone understands the material. Also, he addresses every question fairly, even if it's been asked repeatedly in classes before, and doesn't make anybody feel like their question is dumb, which made the class very oriented towards learning. Grades are based more on the homework than on the exams, and the midterm and final should seem incredibly easy after the work you do throughout the course. He tends to stick straight to the textbook, but it is a great resource. If you can, get Professor Kaila for this class.
Professor Feld is a dedicated and straight forward professor. He is extremely detailed in his class lectures and makes sure that his students' questions are always answered. His method of teaching involves the use of colors, to facilitate the learning process and clarify the material. He always posts his lecture notes online, so that you have another source to learn from and he also has relevant homework assignments, which are corrected with comments for improvement. I recommend Feld for his clarity and playful attitude in class in combination with his ability to explain even the simplest of concepts in great detail.
Professor Cohen's course is very difficult, and very rewarding. He is rigorous and intense, both in-class and with the homework workload. He takes the subject matter seriously, and expects his students to do so as well. Professor Cohen clearly cares about teaching, his course and his students. He states at the beginning of the semester that he believes the best way to learn is to do, and the homework assignments are drawn up with this thought in mind. They are often tedious, long and difficult. However, they are doable, and they WILL teach you diatonic. Take this course if you have a serious commitment to music--you will find it rewarding.
The negative reviews of Professor Cohen are not a reflection on him but on the rest of the music theory sequence at Columbia. Rigorous and thorough curricula should no be confused with meanness. I learned more from his class about how music works than all the other classes combined.
When I started this class last semester (year-long course), I hated professor cohen. I had been warned that he was a harsh grader, and gave a ton of homework. And it is true. But after being in the class for some time, my mind was changed completely. He is a genuinely good person,he makes a point of saying 'hi' and having a casual conversation every time you happen to run in to him, or happen to be in class early. True, he does give a lot of homework. But all the assignments are worthwhile and really help you learn the subject. True, the assignments are torn apart once handed in (sometimes in front of the class) with long comments that can be taken as a bit insulting. But if you just ask him what he meant by some of the word choices, he explains what he meant, and that it's not as mean as you thought. Besides, his long commentaries really show that he takes time with each homework assignment, taking the time to correct everything to make sure everyone learns the subject. He has the best intentions at heart. He is a harsh grader. If you are worried about your GPA more than learning, his class is not for you. (My section dropped in half, from 12 to 6, from fall to spring) That being said. After taking his section of Diatonic, I feel like i have learned much more than students from other sections. Honestly, the other professors are good, but cohen really is the best. Now, I kind of wish he was teaching Chromatic Harmony and Counterpoint next year!
Ramin is the man. There's really no other way to put it. His classes are heavy on participation and discussion, lots of room for interesting questions and tangents. I have yet to be bored in this class.
I've only had one semester of Ramin's Diatonic class so far, but I can say that the man is incredible. The way he thinks about music is very logical while still recognizing the power of music that cannot be explained. This thinking carries over into his teaching, and you can tell that he loves imparting the material in his own way. His emphasis on the class singing is a huge help as well. I hope I can snag him for Chromatic too. And he's hilarious. Take himmm.
Without getting into the question of evaluating Prof. Cohen, I'd like to note that it is not the case that "all but four" students switched sections in the spring. Several students did switch but considerably more than four remained. Also, Diatonic is taught on both M/W and T/Th, so a few of the switches could be people with schedule issues.
You know, I have REALLY tried to come up with something good to say about Professor Cohen ... and I keep coming up short. Is he a good professor? Sure -- if you are a natural at music theory and grasp concepts the first time you hear them. Not every Columbia student is this gifted, and Professor Cohen is not very patient with those who are not. His workload is insane -- at first, I thought I was the only student spending anywhere from 4-8hrs. per assignment (3 assignments a week!), but I was not alone on that. I am not exaggerating in the slightest. His grading is equally harsh and feedback is informative, yet very often seems rude and insulting. This is a class for the theory natural, NOT for someone who needs some extra help. Please know this going in. He has the potential to be a great professor, but one is not considered "great" in my book unless he can cater to all of his student's needs, especially in such a small class. (fyi - all but four of my original class switched sections in the Spring)
Cohen is the man, hands down. Beyond being a music theory expert, he is a lover of all knowledge, and loves to use just the right vocabulary words for whatever he is describing. The homework is tedious--harmony exercises from a workbook and counterpoints--but just like Cohen says, this is the type of work that makes you learn the information. He has the notorious reputation for turning back homeworks so late that you forget that you did the assignment that semester, and I didn't get my first semester grades until far into second semester. However, these are trivialities. He knows his shit and will get you to know it too.
I struggled in this class and dreaded the counterpoint assignments, but I must say that Prof. Cohen is a great professor. He's clear and extremely knowledgable and although he comes off a little harsh in the beginning, he's a really good person. From what I hear he is much better than the other Diatonic profs.
Professor Cohen is fabulous! He has a great sense of humor and really apprciates hard work. Cohen gets so excited about music theory during our lectures. It's so great to see someone so passionate about the class. One-on-one he's a little intimidating. Cohen reiterates counterpoint and voice leading rules so often that they are practically drilled into your head. Since he does this so much, Cohen also expects his students not to make those same mistakes over and over and sometimes gets frustrated when they do. He's very friendly and availble for help outside of class. Syllabus is a little vague and I'm not quite sure how grades will work out since only 3 homeworks actually had grades. Overall, I really loved Professor Cohen's class and highly recommend it to others. He's a great guy!
Hmm...not a thrill to say the least. He explains the most trivial detail so much that you either stop listening or become more confused than when he had started speaking. Fairly nice but a bit condescending when answering questions. If he didn't like what you had to say, he would cut you off and not listen. Creativity is not very welcome in this class either. I guess everyone has to go through the basics. The TA (Paul) was much better, but Cohen did not stay coordinated with him. Whatever...I strongly dislike Cohen, but the class is pretty light.
He's relatively new. Looks like a lovechild of Beethoven and Woody Allen. This is possibly the easiest class one could ever take at Columbia. Case in point: I looked at my transcript and both semesters (it's a year-long class), more than 75% of the class received A's. Now, you do the math. He teaches in a pretty straightforward manner. He's very nice and patient to whatever you may ask him during office hours. If his office hours don't match your schedule, you'll inevitably run into him at either Ollie's or Riverside Park. This man is ubiquitous. The tests, midterm and final are all E-A-S-Y. Homeworks are graded on some unknown scale, but also easy. You will have to write a 4-part composition at the end of the semester and a student string quartet will perform it in front of the class. Pretty much anything goes for that assignment.