Elaine Sisman

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

May 2020

Subpar. I found her really disorganized, lectures seemed aimless at times, and exceedingly boring. I usually don't write CULPA reviews, but I found her final exam assignment to be inappropriately intensive given a) music hum, b) a P/F semester, c) online learning, and d) an unprecedented global pandemic. We were assigned a 5-6 paper and then assigned an additional final exam due a week after the paper was due (already unnecessary -- some of my other classes cancelled their finals and just had final papers). The final was 5 responses to particular pieces of music (250 words each) and then a 500 word essay on the two composers we found most engaging and why and the two readings (which we never discussed) we found most engaging over the course of the semester. That is an inappropriate amount of work for a final music hum exam for an in-person semester, let alone a P/F one done online. I found it tone deaf and disproportionate.

May 2020

Elaine was super enthusiastic and encouraging during class. It was clear that her only motive was for students to learn and care about music. Her class may be easier if you have prior music experience (obviously), but she really didn't expect it out of any student. She didn't really focus on technique and mainly only cared about how the music made you feel/ your opinion of a piece in discussion. On examinations you needed this and what she taught about technique, style, form etc.

Dec 2016

Sisman is an extremely knowledgeable lecturer who is very enthusiastic about her subject. In class, she will usually play clips from performances or operas and provide commentary. Sometimes, she will also play musical excerpts on the piano to emphasize certain sections. She definitely expects students to participate in discussions, so make sure you do your readings. Overall, the work is very manageable. As long as you don't procrastinate on your papers, you will be fine.

Dec 2010

This class was one of the best I have even taken at Columbia. Professor Sisman is incredible at teaching what she loves and makes the material covered very interesting. She also had various guests come perform during class. She often sits at the piano to explain concepts and to detail aspects of the pieces. Lot of anecdotes/jokes on the composers. Course covers Medieval music, Renaissance, Baroque, Early Classical, Late Classical, Modernism, Jazz, Post-Modernism and Electro-Acoustic. Class visit to a MET Opera.

Dec 2004

Sisman is extremely knowledgeable about her subject and very interested in teaching. She learns everybody's names (and remembers you throughout following semesters), is serious about reading and grading papers and making sure that everybody understands the material. The downside of this last point is that if you are a music major, or knowledgeable about music, you may find the course at times mind-numbing. When she refuses to discuss the meter of a piece because "compound meter" is too complicated a concept for the class to grasp, you may wonder why she bothers making this a 2000 level class. You will definitely wonder why she doesn't bother teaching any higher level courses. For those with a strong musical background, taking Sisman's class is a trade off: she is a leading musicologist, passionate teacher and neat person but the level of the class is disappointgly low.

May 2004

One problem I had with this class is that it's at a strange 2000 level. There are freshman from Columbia and grad students from Juilliard in this class....I don't know how Professor Sisman factors this in when she gives us our grades. Music analysis can get pretty technical and it is easy to get lost. I really wonder how many people in that class could follow what the professor was talking about. Readings can also get technical and boring, depending on the book.

Apr 2004

An amazingly accomplished and knowledgable professor teaching students on the subject for which she is most passionate: What more can you ask for? Prof. Sisman makes an effort to learn the names of all 50+ students in the class. She is very approachable and kind, and she encourages different interprations of the music than her own. The class is rich with information and intellectual discussion and musical analysis. Especially interesting are the classes devoted to Mozart's Operas and final symphonies. This class made me want to become a music major. Sisman gets an A+. Take this class if you can. Prior knowledge of theory and familiarity with Mozart's music are not required, but helpful.

Apr 2003

This is not a class for non-music majors. It is very difficult if you enjoy music as a whole, and not the challenge of analyzing it to death. I have a music background (RECREATIONALLY). Just because you played the violin in fifth grade, or the harp since third does not mean you will enjoy the class. I was in awe at the music majors, they are dedicated and powerful listeners. I am not one of them and longed to be a member of their group, but I was years and years behind. Prof. is nice, but has very little patience for those who thought to themselves "Beethoven? That sounds interesting. I'm studying MELAC... but I'll be fine."

Feb 2003

Generally, quite a good professor. She is extremely, extremely knowledgeable about Beethoven and classical music in general. Occasionally, she could be a bit sharp in responding to a stupid question, but generally she was very pleasant and approachable. This class seemed to be a mix of music and non-music majors. I (a non-music major) found it a bit challenging, but very do-able. Perhaps music majors would find it a bit on the easy side. My only real complaint was that some of the readings were not that engaging. However, they were not really that essential to the class. The listenings were the most important homework and they were (this is Beethoven, after all) terrific.

Dec 2002

Professor Sisman is the chairman of the department for a reason. She knows her stuff, and will come to class filled with information. (She also dresses very well and has a cute sense of humor.) In this class we studied a variety of works by Beethoven, all of which were very enjoyable because of the way she presented them. It was a pleasure being in her class, and I would highly recommend her.

Jan 2002

Students in Prof. Sisman's class should be ready to work. Sisman is very knowledgable, and she expects her students to learn and participate alot. It may seem like a pain during the semester, but learning from her definitely pays off on the midterm, final, and class reports.

Jan 2000

Elaine is quite knowldegdable in her field, which is classical/romantic music, especially Mozart and Haydn. She's the only female tenured prof in the music dept, which must mean something. She's a little soft-voiced, but her lectures are packed full of info, and boy does she know her stuff. She dresses sort of dainty and I'm still trying to figure out where she shops. I think she grades easier on non-music majors. She likes to go thru pieces in details at times but she'll always have a handout outlining the piece. Many of her classes "require" prior ear training exp or theory, but you really don't need it. If you want to learn alot of new music in the classical style as well as some relevant anecdotes, definately take a class with her.

Jan 2000

Sisman, though knowledegable, delivers dull lectures. Better on historical background than she is on analysis. Perhaps this is because of the odd intermediate level of 2000-level music classes.