Walter Frisch

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Dec 2012

Frisch is nice, approachable, and he honestly expects his students to be interested in learning about music history. Do not take his class unless you REALLY care about the content music hum. He uses “Music in the Western World: A History in Documents” instead of the normal textbook. This book is essentially the bastard child of the CC and Music Hum texts; it’s incredibly boring and expensive. Frisch rarely goes over the assigned readings in class, but he expects students to identify and analyze the passages. Instead he spends the ‘extra’ time (30+ minutes) showing scenes from operas. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that it was almost the end of the semester and we hadn’t covered American music yet. Also, he sings; it’s terrible and hilariously awkward. He has forced the class to sing on two different occasions, despite the fact that everyone was clearly uncomfortable and half of us did not know the words to the song.

Oct 2010

I was pleasantly surprised to see the music department offer a class validating musical theater as a serious discipline worthy of study. Based on our class size, it should be offered every semester. Sadly, the class was intent on focusing on some rather obscure composers and works at the expense of iconic creators. There was no mention of Jule Styne, Marvin Hamlisch, Cy Coleman, or Comden and Green, for example. Masterpieces like "Annie Get Your Gun," "Gypsy," and "A Chorus Line" were negated for shows like "Lady in the Dark," and "The Cradle Will Rock." Moreover, our class was blessed with outstanding pianists, composers, and performers, some of which were actual working professionals. Accordingly, we would have been better served having such students provide musical examples rather than suffering through Frische's piano playing. Although Frische is amusing and charming, he lacks the "it" factor. In short, he does not possess the star quality of the performers or creators that he references in class. It is that quality that defines the American Musical Theater. I still enjoyed this class especially the guest speakers, but the American Musical is rather like a mediocre Broadway show. Novices or out of towners may enjoy it, but hard core students may want to attend something more theatrical.

Jun 2010

I'm not sure why Frisch teaches this class. He is not a scholar in the area by any means; he seems to just have a mild interest in musical theatre, and perhaps a deeper interest in one or two composers. I'm also not sure why Music Hum is even a prereq for the class; the material one learns in MH was referenced once or twice, and the depth of the class was about the same. Content-wise, it's probably not worth your time. I would guess that the class as a whole already knew most of the material he covered. The main draw is the guest speakers, all of whom were far more interesting than WF could ever hope to be. Sadly, neither Kander nor Sondheim could make it this semester, but the men Frisch did get to come were quite entertaining and informative. Lastly, you would be hard pressed to find a more boring individual than Walter Frisch. He does seem to have a sense of humor, but it very rarely comes to class with him. And his speaking voice is rather reminiscent of Marlon Brando, but not in a good way by any means.

Dec 2009

Frisch knows his stuff - although the same just can't be said of his TA however. His class is generally enlightening, but not enough to keep everyone awake in the dreadful 9:10am slot (someone is always asleep in the class, but he doesn't really care). If you stay awake for the most part and take notes, you won't need to do any assigned readings. He is a very busy person and although he cares greatly about the subject topic, he does not have that much time to deal with the details of the class. As a result, the writing assignments are graded lightly - as long as you focus on the topics that he covered in class. If you can manage to drag yourself to his class every other day, then take him! There are no "required readings", no quizzes, no responses that other Music Hum sections are required to do. In fact, if you got him, you have lucked out (besides the 9:10 part). Midterm and Final were both the same structure, both very fair. Just know your listening, terms and you should be fine.

Oct 2009

Walter Frisch is obviously a brilliant scholar and a wonderful teacher; I'm not sure why these people complained about the class so much. In itself, the class wasn't too difficult, but I at least found that I learned a lot about many periods of music. Since he is a musicologist, he focused on the history and culture of various musics and how that influenced the finished product. The only thing, frankly, that seemed to hold back the class was that the vast majority of students never did the reading or listening in a serious way and struggled throughout the semester with the technical vocabulary required to have interesting discussions about music. When people can't talk about the significance of bitonality in Stravinsky or serialism in the Second Vienna School, its hard to get into the nitty-gritty of musical analysis. I didn't find that he was particularly nit-picky about grammar and thought on the contrary that he was rather generous (at the very least, fair) in his grading of papers. I suppose that grammatically incoherent papers should be downgraded if only because it makes understanding them more difficult.

May 2009

Professor Frisch is a decent professor who clearly likes music (though he doesn't play the "out of tune" piano all that well) and has a genuine interest in music history and theory. Of course, this means that the class focuses quite heavily on historical and theoretical interpretations of music, leaving more "what do you feel" questions aside. Frisch clearly values quality writing and grades well-written papers much higher than those which contain similar arguments less eloquently stated. The reading is more or less optional as the tests only cover material discussed in class, but this makes attendance and attentiveness important. As the class is at 9am, these can be a struggle some days. The listening portions of the exams also come from material played and discussed in class, which is nice - Frisch isn't out to trick you and seems to genuinely want you to do well. All in all, a decent class, making Music Hum tolerable if not fun.

May 2009

Besides music humanities in itself being a sketchy field of study (how can you actually define what music really is, and analyze it? Who says Arnold Schoenberg was great? Maybe no one, and that's why they weren't famous like rising commercial artists and the whole jazz/rock scene ((Which is scantly mentioned)). A couple of decaying farts in a music conservatory? They're so disconnected from reality....) Seriously, if it weren't for large colleges allocating so much of their budget into these classical music departments, this man would be out of work! There is no marketable skills here! The course itself is a little sketchy to someone majoring in economics, mathematics or any hard science that requires brain activity. The course can be described to being an enjoyment experience (listening to music) fused with reading and the creation of a vocabulary to describe music. The textbook even attempts the usage of graphs to illustrate a few points. Frisch harshly criticizes one's writings, and spends more time critiquing one's grammar and choice of words than actual substance. Unless one is entirely consumed in the class and writes lovely sentences about the concerts and the songs, he really acts like a vicious viper raping your every line. They are the true daggers to your grade, and there are 4 of them. The exams are literally a joke, and as long as you can listen to the music and pay attention in class, you'll be fine, and walk away with at least a B+ on the exams. However, its the papers once again that will do you in. More on the professor - he's is sloppy with the notes he writes on the board, and is very engaging with the class. he occasionally sings and plays the piano, and is somewhat klutzy with technology, but not as much as his even blunter T.A.'s. Throughout the class, he frequently looks at his notes and reads often from a variety of texts in front of him, giving the impression that he isn't the brightest light bulb. The man does little justice to what I feel actually is great music, and he used to be the chair of music humanities apparently. Don't take him if you have the option, unless you're a senior in my case, and had no choice in choosing quickly filled sections.

Jul 2007

Unfortunately, I have to diagree with the review below. Perhaps Professor Frisch is a better teacher for classes on Brahms, Music History, and other musicologist based courses, but he is certainly not qualified to teach a class on musical theatre. Everything in this class was approached from a musicologist's standpoint and not from that of a lover of musical theatre. Frisch even admitted to not having seen many of the classic shows that we talked about. And, with the course being called "The American Musical" you would think that we would have discussed American shows that made some kind of impact on theatre as an art form. We didn't discuss A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls, Gypsy, or many of the other classics of theatre. While the class was incredibly easy, it was a huge bore for anyone who already had any knowledge of musical theatre. The one class that the TA, Daniel, conducted was much more exciting and passionate. He should teach the class in the future. I would recommend this class to anyone under the assumption that Frisch didn't teach it again.

Dec 2006

This class was freaking amazing!!! I can't believe it has taken Columbia this long to offer a course on the American Musical! I definitely hope they have it again in the future. Professor Frisch did a thorough job of covering the best of Broadway from 1900 to the present day and somehow he got THE MOST AWESOME guest lecturers to visit our class! (Kander and Sondheim actually came to our class and answered our questions personally! Ahh! What more could you want from a class? It was amazing! Plus we got to hear from Andy Hammerstein III and a professor from Manhattan School of Music too.) Everybody should write to the music department and tell them to run this class again. The readings were interesting and not overwhelming. Prof Frisch made great use of audio and visual aids in class, and he sent great emails to funny and interesting music-related web links. The work-load was reasonable. The final paper was challenging but I was in love with my topic (we got to choose our own) so it was a joy to write, despite it being stressful (but I think all papers are stressful...). And I must give kudos to the TA, Daniel Callahan, because he was awesome too. He taught one class (and although he was nervous, he was excellent and informative!) and he was super-helpful outside of class too. Okay, I guess I'll wrap it up here although I could go on raving for pages... TAKE THIS CLASS!!!

May 2005

Absolutely worthless. All you need to bring to this class is a pillow and a blanket, and it'll be productive in that way. As soon as you leave the classical stuff, which Frisch takes from fascinating and inspiring to painfully deadbeat, you'll find that he knows next to nothing, even though he thinks he's the shit. He rambles on about history and tangents and does not bother to talk about musical specifics much at all - even though this is what the majority of the midterm and final is about. Worse yet, he grades according to the exact statements he had in mind, while the ones written down could be equally valid. Haughty, insecure, self-centered, and frankly quite unfriendly professor. I'd say stay away, but if you're there in the first place you probably don't have a choice.

Nov 2004

I haven't got a clue what the other reviewers were smoking. Prof. Frisch is so flighty, disorganized, and unclear about everything that this class turned into a total headache. He asks questions looking for a specific answer and is surprised when none of the students can read his mind. He'll play a beautiful piece of music but keeps pausing it and offering banal commentary so you can't even enjoy it. He would play pieces on the piano poorly and then ask us to analyze it. Our 4-5 page listening assignment was RETARDED, basically an analysis modeled exactly by the textbook. I didn't learn a thing about the history or development of music in this class other than a couple of names. He's a nice guy who likes his students, but he really can't get it together to do music hum.

Jul 2003

Professor Frisch made Music Hum the most enriching experience I have had since getting to Columbia. He is a giant in his field, as a quick galnce at his published books will show. His greatest talent is making his scholarship accessible to his students; there wasn't one class I walked away from not enjoying and retaining a tremendous amount of what was taught. Studying for exams and writing papers was thouroughly enjoyable, and the class instilled in me a love for wonderful composers and their works, something I did not come in with. Walter is personable, funny and a pleasure to talk to, especially when bumping into him on the way to a Handel opera at Lincoln Center. He is passionate, engaing and a truly special professor.

Jun 2003

This was a fantastic class, largely due to Frisch's immense knowledge, interest in his students, dry and unexpected humor and amazing ability to convey his information in a way that sticks in your mind. Studying for the 2 exams in this class I was amazed at how much I had retained simply from the class meetings. The exams seemed like good points to consolidate knowledge instead of useless exercises to cram for. Frisch learns all the students names quickly and is very present in the music department activities, attending student concerts, etc. One negative note is that because there is only one paper of serious length, 8-10 pages, there is no chance to understand what Frisch expects in such a paper before the graded paper comes back to you near the end of the class. Don't let his straight forward exams and short papers mislead you, he is a hard grader and expects a lot from the long paper. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this class and professor.

May 2003

At first glance, he may look and speak like Dudley Moore, but Prof. Frisch knows his stuff. He's the head of the Music Hum department and an expert on music history, and he also is sensitive to how daunting all this may seem to someone whose only contact with the music world was that time you played the recorder in sixth grade. He's very patient and has a way of making the most difficult musical concepts relate to the real world and lay- person understandings, and he's flexible if you have legitimate conflicts with workload. Don't take advantage of his kindness, though; he's no doormat and doesn't appreciate it any more than you would. Grading is fair, and you'll do fine if you show up to lectures and read the textbook occasionally.

Dec 2002

Frisch is a class-act. A very devoted teacher with a very sound grasp of the material. There are two types of professors in the music department at Columbia: those with a bubbly, quirky sense of humor; and those with a more dry and witty disposition. Frisch surely falls into the latter category, which, in my opinion, is preferred. He was available outside of class and very approachable. The time period we studied in this class was a very rich one in the history of music, and Frisch did a great job of navigating through the terrain. Highly recommended.

May 2002

I think that Professor Frisch is the best professor for Music Hum. I was just placed into this section by the lit hum office and i am very thankful that I was. He really cares about his students and knows his stuff. He explains everthing very well and is open to students' comments and opinions. Although the class may be boring sometimes, if you participate and speak then you'll really enjoy class and have a great music hum experience. He's a pretty easy grader and the midterms are very easy. He really looks out for his student's best interests and he's good with deadlines. He calls the midterms quizzes because I don't think he even cares that much about them. Basically, he expects you to memorize some music (not even so much), identify a few terms and do fill-ins for each midterm. MAny of my friends had horrible teachers and after sitting through a music hum marathon before the final and having five random music hum teachers teach me, i was very happy to have Professor Frisch as my teacher. I would recommend him to anyone!

Mar 2002

The course spans a wide range of time and there is not a lot of time devoted to each big composer ( a week for Mozart, Beethoven, and Wagner each). He is not an exciting lecturer, but tries to touch on the main points and key works. Take good notes because the tests are pretty much straight from them. Grading is really picky. Answer the questions with the EXACT same words he uses in class. Offers students to perform the works that we study in class. Reading did not seem necessary in retrospect, but required listening is. Nice guy at heart, but a little flakey. Approachable outside of class. I found it all relatively enjoyable.