2023-24 Edition

History and Theory of Music, Ph.D.

The Ph.D. in History and Theory of Music is unique and combines both historical musicology and music theory and analysis to offer a Ph.D. program with a particular emphasis on music theory and analysis, critical theory, and the aesthetics and philosophy of music. The program rests on two central pillars: a sustained engagement with musical works that is underpinned by a thorough grounding in musical skills and literacy, and a strong focus on critical theory, which students learn to apply to musicological sub-disciplines such as music analysis and historical musicology.

The doctoral program in the History and Theory of Music is taught by a core faculty whose primary and secondary research interests cover a wide area: vocal music of the Italian baroque, Central European music and culture from the 19th century to the present, experimental music of the 20th century, popular music since 1950, American musical theater, especially that of Stephen Sondheim, and the intersection of theory, philosophy, and culture.

The program seeks students with a strong academic foundation, excellent writing skills, and a desire to develop a research idea into an original thesis. Applicants should possess an undergraduate degree in music or an equivalent level of training, and should demonstrate potential for creative research. Students are expected to have reading knowledge of French, German, Italian, or Spanish.

Applicants are normally expected to have earned an undergraduate degree with a major in music (B.A. or B.Mus.) and to possess strong analytical and writing skills. Applicants whose undergraduate major was in a subject other than music but who can demonstrate a strong background in music are otherwise qualified may also be considered.

The online application and all supporting materials must be received by December 1. Supporting materials must include:

  • A personal statement of the applicant's experiences, primary interests, and career goals
  • Two samples of academic writing on historical and/or analytical music topics, demonstrating writing and critical thinking skills
  • Results of the GRE exam, taken within the last five years
  • Three letters of recommendation

Required Courses

At least 56 units must be earned in the first two years, excluding units earned in MUSIC 399. The number of units earned thereafter will vary in accordance with the time required to pass the qualifying examination, advance to candidacy, and complete the dissertation.

During the first two years in the program, students complete the following:

A. Complete:
MUSIC 202 Proseminar in Musicology
MUSIC 204 Proseminar in Music Theory and Analysis
B. Select six topical seminars 1
Seminar in Musicology 2
Seminar in Music Theory and Analysis 3
C. Select two elective courses 4
D. Complete the following research and writing courses:
MUSIC 242A- 242B First-Year Research and Writing Seminar I
and First-Year Research and Writing Seminar II
MUSIC 243A- 243B Second-Year Research and Writing Tutorial I
and Second-Year Research and Writing Tutorial II

During the third year, students complete the following:

A. Complete:
MUSIC 244 Readings for the Qualifying Examination (two quarters)
MUSIC 245 Prospectus Research (one quarter)

During the fourth and fifth years, as needed, students take up to three quarters each year of MUSIC 290.


En Route M.A.

For students who enter the program without an M.A. in an appropriate area of study, the substantial research paper written in MUSIC 243B will constitute the Master’s essay. If in the judgement of the advisor and the other two readers, the essay and the student’s overall academic record are determined to be satisfactory, the student will be awarded the en route M.A. and be considered to have met the standards for continued Ph.D. study.

Students who enter the program with an M.A. in an appropriate area of study are not eligible for the en route M.A. The advisor and the other two readers will determine whether the student’s essay in MUSIC 243B and overall academic record have met the standards for continued Ph.D. study.

Language Requirement

Before advancing to candidacy, students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of one language other than English relevant to the student’s program of study. This requirement is met by passing a translation examination administered by the Department.

Advancement to Candidacy

The Qualifying Examination, administered by a committee of three faculty members, is typically taken in late winter or early spring quarter of the third year. It consists of an oral exam and a written, take-home exam in music analysis. The oral portion of the exam comprises two parts. In the first, the student is given short excerpts from several musical scores and is asked to identify each as closely as possible in terms of style and period. In the second, the student is examined in the two fields. The first field is related to the topic of the student’s second-year research and writing project. The second field is prepared in the third year during completion of MUSIC 244. The take-home exam in music analysis is completed in 72 hours and shall take the form of an extended essay on an assigned composition.

The dissertation prospectus, typically growing out of one of the student’s two fields, is presented in a colloquium that includes all three members of the dissertation committee. It cannot be presented until the foreign-language requirement and all course requirements outlined above have been met. Upon acceptance of the prospectus the student will advance to doctoral candidacy.


The dissertation is an original research project of substantial length approved by the dissertation committee of three faculty members.