Matthew Brown photo

Matthew Brown

Professor of Music Theory




Professor Matthew Brown has taught at the Eastman School of Music off and on since 1986; during that time, he worked in the departments of musicology and music theory. Dr. Brown was born in London and studied violin with Montagu Cleeve, legendary string teacher and expert on super heavy artillery. After winning a scholarship to the Preparatory Division of the Royal College of Music in London (1968-1975), he studied as an undergraduate at King’s College, London, where his interest in music theory was developed under the guidance of Arnold Whittall. Brown graduated with a First and came to Cornell to begin a Ph. D. in musicology. Before he completed his dissertation, he was elected to the Society of Fellows, Harvard University (1983-1986) and it was there that his professional interests really took shape. Dr. Brown accepted a position in musicology at the Eastman School of Music in 1986.

After teaching at Louisiana State University for a few years, Professor Brown returned to Eastman in 1997. Since then, he has also served as a faculty member at the Mannes Institute for Advanced Studies in Music Theory (2002), as a Visiting Professor at the University of Texas at Austin (2003), the University at Buffalo (spring 2019) and received the first Provost’s Interschool Interdisciplinary Award from the University of Rochester in 2007. Over the past thirty years, Dr. Brown has supervised eighteen Ph. D. dissertations; his students have not only won numerous accolades (e.g., Presser, Fulbright, and Chateaubriand awards), but they have also become tenured faculty members at major music departments, such as New York University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Arizona, the University of Western Ontario, and the Eastman School of Music. He has also authored or co-authored five books (Debussy’s ‘Ibéria’: Studies in Genesis and Structure (Oxford, 2003), Explaining Tonality: Schenkerian Theory and Beyond (Rochester, 2005), Debussy Redux. The Impact of His Music on Popular Culture (Indiana, 2012), Heinrich Schenker’s Conception of Harmony with Robert Wason (Rochester, 2020), and Ariane & Bluebeard: From Fairy Tale to Comic Book Opera with Th. Emil Homerin (Indiana, forthcoming), and over fifty articles/reviews in such periodicals as the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Music Theory Spectrum, Cool and Strange Music! and Science. He served as editor for the journal Theory and Practice from 2012 until 2015.

In 2011, Prof. Brown founded TableTopOpera, a chamber ensemble that specializes in multi-media projects. The group brings together a group of distinguished faculty, friends, and alumnae of the Eastman School of Music. Their projects combine powerful visual images and texts drawn from comic books, photographs, and film with newly composed music or new arrangements of existing music. TTO has collaborated with an impressive array of artists and institutions: comic book artist P. Craig Russell, photojournalist Paolo Pellegrin, choreographer/film maker Betty Jenkins, dancer Leanne Rinelli, Hollywood film composer Jeff Beal, archivists at the George Eastman Museum, and URMC. The group has received two major grants from the University of Rochester’s Humanities Project has been described by eminent critic Laurence Vittes as the “world’s greatest 8-member operatic comic book ensemble.” Dr. Brown’s work with TableTopOpera has also led to research projects at URMC and there is a patent pending for a mobile App for delivering individualized mental health therapies via networked computing devices with members of URMC’s Health Lab. Prof. Brown is currently involved with a project sponsored with the NSF: “Exploring Creative Design at the Human-Technology Frontier Through the Emerging ‘Artist-Technologist’ Occupation.”

Works / Publications

Works in Press or in Progress

2004 Explaining Tonality: A Schenkerian Perspective (University of Rochester Press).

2004 “Music Theory, Music Cognition, and “The Case of the Iguanodon’s Thumb”,” Intégral.

2004 “‘My Hovercraft is Full of Eels’: Or, The Ups and Downs of Translating Schenker’s Das Meisterwerk in der Musik,” In Theory Only.

2004 “Composing with Prototypes: Charting Debussy’s L’Isle joyeuse,” Intégral.

2005 Claude Debussy’s Images sér. 3 for the Oeuvres complètes de Claude Debussy with Pierre Boulez (Durand).

2005 Debussy Redux (new book, about half written).

Papers and Reviews

2003 “Consonance/Dissonance,” “Rhetoric,” “Theory,” in the revised edition of The Harvard Dictionary of Music , ed. Don Randel (Harvard University Press).

2003 “Review: Carl Schachter, Unfoldings, ” Journal of Music Theory, with Panayotis Mavromatis.

2000 “Ethel Smith: Weird Organ Lady or Mondo Organista?” Cool and Strange Music! Magazine 18, pp. 16-19 with Elizabeth Galand.

1998 “Rothstein’s Paradox and Neumeyer’s Fallacies,” Intégral 12, pp. 95-132 .

1997 “The #IV(bV) Hypothesis: Testing the Limits of Schenker’s Theory of Tonality,” Music Theory Spectrum19/2, pp. 155-183 with Dave Headlam and Douglas Dempster.

1997 “‘Little Wing’: A Study in Music Cognition,” in Understanding Rock, ed. John Covach and Graeme Boone (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 155-169.

1997 “Adrift on Neurath’s Boat: The Case for a Naturalized Music Theory,” Journal of Musicology 15/3, pp. 330-342.

1993/4 “Composers’ Revisions and the Creative Process,” College Music Symposium 33/34, pp. 93-111.

1993 “Tonality and Form in Debussy’s Prélude à ‘L’Après-midi d’un faune,’” Music Theory Spectrum 15, pp. 127-143.

1993 “Review: Robert Chapman, Selling the Sixties and Sheila Whiteley, The Space Between the Notes,Notes September, pp. 203-205.

1993 “Review-Article: Leonard B. Meyer, Style and Music, ” Intégral 6, pp. 151-172 with Douglas Dempster.

1992 “Review: Harry Shapiro and Caesar Glebbeek, Jimi Hendrix Electric Gypsy, ” Notes December, pp. 528-530.

1992 “Review: Joseph Straus, Reshaping the Past: Modernism and the Influence of the Tonal Tradition, “Intégral 5, pp. 125-140.

1991 “Review: Hedi Siegel ed., Schenker Studies and Allen Cadwallader ed., Trends in Schenkerian Research,” Music Theory Spectrum 13/2, pp. 265-273.

1990 “Evaluating Musical Analyses and Theories: Five Perspectives,” Journal of Music Theory 34/2, pp. 247-279 with Douglas Dempster.

1989 “The Scientific Image of Music Theory,” Journal of Music Theory 33/1, pp. 65-106 with Douglas Dempster.

1989 “Isolde’s Narrative: From Hauptmotiv to Tonal Model,” in Analyzing Opera ed. Abbate and Parker (Berkeley: University of California Press), pp. 180-201.

1989 “Review: John Rothgeb and Jürgen Thym, Counterpoint, A Translation of ‘Kontrapunkt’ by Heinrich Schenker ,” Music Theory Spectrum 11, pp. 232-239 with Robert Wason.

1988 “Review: Nicholas Cook, A Guide to Musical Analysis, ” Journal of Music Theory 32/1, pp. 148-158 with Douglas Dempster.

1986 “The Diatonic and the Chromatic in Schenker’s Theory of Harmonic Relations,” Journal of Music Theory30/1, pp. 1-33.

1986 “Theory,” in The New Harvard Dictionary of Music ed. Don M. Randel (Cambridge:Harvard University Press), pp. 844-854.

1985 “ ‘Ancora un bacio’ : Three Scenes form Verdi’s Otello,” Nineteenth-Century Music 9, pp. 50-62 with Roger Parker.

1984 “Conference Report: Sixth Annual Meeting of the Society for Music Theory,” Music Analysis 3, pp. 91-95.

1983 “Motivic and Tonal Interaction in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 36/2, pp. 243-265 with Roger Parker. Reprinted in The Garland History of Western Music vol. 14, ed. Ellen Rosand (N.Y.: Garland, 1985), pp. 363-385.

Conference Papers

2003 “The Lodovico Way’ Eastman School of Music.

“A Declarative Model of Schenkerian Theory/Analysis Using Prolog” SMT Madison WI with Panayotis Mavromatis.

“C’est l’extase”: Debussy’s Experiments in Chromatic Tonality Oxford University.

2002 “Panel Discussion: Popular Culture and the Academy,” Inaugural Conference on Popular Music and American Culture, University of Texas at Austin.

2001 Prélude à ‘L’Après-midi d’un faune: Ars erotica or scientia sexualis ? University of Texas at Austin.

2000 “Learning How To Build and Test Music Theories: A Prolog Primer” Eastman School of Music, with Panayotis Mavromatis.

1999 “Panel Discussion: ‘The #IV/bV Hypothesis,’” MTSNYS with Robert Gauldin, Ian Quinn, Douglas Dempster, Dave Headlam, and Charles Smith.

1999 “Debussy, Schenker and the Psychology of Composition,” UNC, Chapel Hill.

1999 “The Foundations of Schenkerian Theory,” UNC, Chapel Hill.

1998 “Choosing Between Music Theories,” University at Buffalo, SUNY.

1997 “A Rational Reconstruction of Schenkerian Theory,” Graduate Center, CUNY.

1996 “‘The Scientific Image’: Ten Years Later,” Eastman School of Music.

1996 “More on Schenker the Progressive,” Austria Conference, Ottawa.

1995 “Adrift on Neurath’s Boat: The Case for a Naturalized Music Theory,” SMT N.Y.

1995 “ Pelléas, Nuages, and Le Rossignol : Critical Concepts and Cognitive Consequences,” Southern Chapter AMS.

1993 “The Bonamassa Test of Musical Understanding,” Cornell University with Douglas Dempster.

1993 “Schenker, Cognition, and the Compositional Process,” North Texas State University.

1992 “‘Little Wing’: A Study in Music Cognition,” University of Kansas.

1992 “Composer’s Revisions and the Creative Process,” Music Theory Midwest.

1992 “Tonality and Form in Debussy’s Prélude à ‘L’Après-midi d’un faune,’” South-Central Chapter SMT.

1990 “Schenkerian Theory and the Limits of Tonality: The Problem of #IV,” SMT Oakland, with Dave Headlam.

1990 “Axis: Bold as Love: Jimi Hendrix and Psychedelic Blues,” SMT Oakland, Music Theory Midwest, International Society for the Study of Popular Music.

1990 “Why Study Rock Music?” Brigham Young University.

1990 “Debussy and Symphonic Form,” Brigham Young University.

1989 “Is Rock Music Really Evil?” University of Rochester.

1988 “Tonality and Octatonicism in Petrouchka : A Schenkerian View,” SMT Baltimore, OXMAC, Cornell University.

1988 “Value Systems in Rock Music,” University of Rochester.

1987 “The Nature of Explanation in Music Theory,” SMT with Douglas Dempster.

1986 “Debussy, Schenker, and Post-Tonal Analysis,” Eastman School of Music.

1986 “Schenker and the Problems of Extended Tonality,” Yale University.

1984 “Isolde’s Narrative: From Hauptmotiv to Tonal Model,” Verdi-Wagner Conference Cornell University.

1984 “Schenker’s Theory of Harmony,” Columbia University.

1983 “Sketch Studies and Analysis in Haydn: From ‘Chaos’ to Creation ,” Harvard University.

1983 “Problems of Structure in Verdi’s Otello ,” American Verdi Institute/New York Chapter AMS, with Roger Parker.



Schenkerian Theory I & 2 (Eastman School of Music, Louisiana State University, Harvard)

What is Music Theory? (Eastman School of Music)

History of Theory II 1600-1900 (Louisiana State University)

Introduction to Tonal Theory (Eastman School of Music, Louisiana State University)

Debussy (Eastman School of Music, Louisiana State University)

Stravinsky (Eastman School of Music, Louisiana State University)

Sketch Studies (Eastman School of Music)

Musicology Seminar–20th-Century Topics (Eastman School of Music)

Music History Survey: 20th Century (Eastman School of Music)

Modal and Tonal Counterpoint (Eastman School of Music, Louisiana State University)


Freshman Theory (Eastman School of Music, Louisiana State University)

Sophomore Theory (Louisiana State University)

Form and Analysis (Louisiana State University)

Music History Survey: 20th Century (Eastman School of Music)

Stravinsky (Eastman School of Music)

Rock Music (Eastman School of Music)


Honors and Awards

2002-3 Faculty Leave Eastman School of Music
2002 Faculty Mannes Institute for Advanced Studies in Music Theory
1993, 1996 Summer Research Fellowship Louisiana State University
1990 Reappointment Leave (Fall) Eastman School of Music
1983-86 Junior Fellow, Society of Fellows Harvard University
1980-81 Continuing Humanities Fellowship Cornell University
1979-80 Sage Graduate Fellowship Cornell University
1978 Purcell Prize (Best Degree) King’s College, University of London
1977 Sambrooke Exhibition King’s College, University of London
1968-75 Full Scholarship Royal College of Music, London