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I have mixed feelings about this class. On the one hand, the class and exams were pretty easy and Professor Beken is a very nice guy, but this class was one of the most unorganized, unapproachable, unclear classes I have taken at UCLA. The class content itself has the potential to be interesting, but we focused too much on musical terminology and had too many guest lecturers which made it impossible to take notes/learn anything for the tests.
Lectures: Lectures were live and lasted the full two hours. It consisted of going over key terms and ideas for different musical cultures around the world and listening to musical examples. For the first half of the quarter, the lectures were more straightforward as Prof. Beken lectured to us directly. However, the second half of the quarter consisted solely of guest lecturers who basically shared their personal experiences with music and often didn't come with slides so it was unclear what we needed to learn for tests. Participation was also expected during lecture using the Zoom chat.
Discussions: This is a mixed bag and will depend on your TA. I was fortunate to have a good TA and we basically used the time to review key concepts from lecture and focus in on key musical terms. I definitely felt like I learned more in discussion than lecture. Other TA's gave out assignments so be aware of that.
Homework/Readings: Homework consisted of multiple journal entries of 150 or so words each (usually 2-3 per week although he did stop assigning journals after Week 7). You would have to write either about a concept from lecture or your views on a documentary/reading. These were never strictly graded but make sure to hit the word requirement. We also had a good amount of reading assigned to us but it was never necessary to read it beyond a short skim and reading the articles that you needed for the journal responses.
Essay: We had one essay for the class - a concert review on a concert fo our choice. This was pretty easy and well explained.
Exams: Both the midterm and final in this class were super easy! Around 60 multiple choice questions (a lot of times with only 2 options) and one short answer question that was very straightforward. There is also a listening section where you have to identify different sample recordings. He does provide a study guide list of terms and a shortlist of recordings. As long as if you have a general understanding of the concepts, you will do well.
Clarity: Throughout much of the quarter, it was not really clear what was to be expected of us for the exams and the guest lecture format made that even more difficult. He also includes a lot of unnecessary information in his lectures that make it confusing for students (especially those without a musical background like many in the class). The study guide helped and he does answer questions, but you will have to make an effort.
Helpfulness: Prof Beken always had the student interest at heart and is a nice guy. He frequently updated us via email and answered most questions posed in the chat during lecture.
Overall, I would not recommend this class. Although it's not the worst and it is a pretty easy GE, the class format and lack of clarity make it difficult.