The Musicology Department provides students across the Eastman community with creatively designed courses that explore the intricacies of musical meaning and aesthetics in widely divergent historical, cultural, and geographical settings. Undergraduates learn to think critically about the history of music in courses that blend temporal breadth with topical focus, while graduate students receive broad training in a range of musical traditions and critical methodologies. We look forward to helping you design an intellectually invigorating course of study in musicology!
Music history is full of surprises—from the shock of recognition you experience when reading passionate commentary on music from hundreds of years ago to the sense of strangeness you feel when hearing a piece that challenges your understanding of what “music” is. At Eastman, music history courses emphasize the lived experience of music alongside the development of critical thinking and writing skills. Three semesters of history are required for all undergraduates. Recent courses include “Experiments at the Edges of Twentieth-Century Music,” “Music and the Literary Imagination from Classicism to Romanticism,” “Performing Politics in the Musical Marketplace,” “Musical Bodies from Pergolesi to Puccini,” and “Citation and Authority, 800-1750.”
Musicology at Eastman is intensely interdisciplinary and intimately informed by the rich musical environment of the school. The department offers a PhD degree, with an emphasis in historical and critical studies or ethnomusicology, and an MA degree in musicology or ethnomusicology. With eight full-time faculty plus affiliated faculty at the University of Rochester, the Musicology Department features expertise in subjects ranging from opera, jazz, and Renaissance sacred music to gender studies, ecomusicology, and intersections between music and politics. Recent seminars have focused on early opera, Romanticism and improvisation, sound and media studies, Black vocal music, Hildegard von Bingen, post-humanist aesthetics, and South Asian music.
Eastman’s Ethnomusicology Program offers students rigorous training in the history and methodology of the discipline, and engages cutting-edge approaches to studying music across diverse cultural and geographical settings.
Central to the work of music scholars at Eastman is the remarkable Sibley Music Library, the largest music library affiliated with any college or university in the United States. With nearly three-quarters of a million items, the Library offers vast resources for performance and research. Indeed, the holdings of the Ruth T. Watanabe Special Collections have launched more than one dissertation in recent years.
The Musicology Department sponsors two series of presentations:
- The Colloquium series offers talks by current faculty and graduate students.
- The Symposium series presents prominent guest speakers from other institutions.
Both series are open to the Eastman community. All events take place on Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. in NSL 404 (Sibley Library seminar room) unless otherwise noted.
Part of Curricular Core
From improvisation to idiophones, Hildegard to Husa, and Mannheim to Mumbai, the study of music history and ethnomusicology at Eastman encourages the open exploration of musics, musicians, and listeners across time and space. Our courses challenge students to probe how musical meaning is made—and to what ends—and to consider how their own musicianship contributes to this rich, ongoing process. Join us to listen to and critically examine the sound world around us.
The department offers the doctor of philosophy degree (PhD) in musicology and the master of arts degree (MA) in musicology or ethnomusicology. A master’s degree (MA) in musicology will also normally be earned in progress toward the PhD. At present, the department admits around three to five graduate students each year, for a total population of about twenty students.
For basic information on the nature of the MA and PhD programs at Eastman, please visit the main degree programs page of the School. Additional information, specific to the musicology program, follows:
The PhD degree in musicology requires reading proficiency in two foreign languages, German and either French or Italian. A student whose field of specialization requires a different language may petition the department to substitute it for French or Italian. Proficiency in one language is required upon entry to the program; proficiency in the other is required by the beginning of the second year.
The MA degree in musicology requires reading proficiency in one foreign language. German is the preferred language, but French, Italian, or another language relevant to the student’s work may be substituted upon petition.
The PhD qualifying examinations are taken in two stages. Before the beginning of the third year, the student takes the General Qualifying exam, which tests broad knowledge of musical style and musicological issues. Before the beginning of the fourth year, the student takes the Special Field exam. Over the course of the third year, the student will have worked with one or more faculty members to define a special field of interest and prepare for the exam. This exam will test for deep knowledge in a particular area of expertise, presumably the area in which the dissertation will be written.
MA students take a comprehensive oral exam after the special project proposal has been submitted and approved. The exam will be structured in two parts: part one will focus on the student’s coursework; part two will include questions pertaining to the project.
As a culminating demonstration of professional capability in the major field, students in the terminal MA Program must submit a final project that demonstrates advanced competence in research and writing. The final project may be a thesis, a series of special papers, an edition, or written work of equivalent scope and depth.
A dissertation is required of each candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. The dissertation must constitute a distinct contribution to knowledge and should exhibit on the part of the candidate evidence of outstanding ability in research and in the organization of material. Ordinarily, the dissertation must be written in residence. In any case, it must be written under the supervision of the candidate’s adviser and must be approved by the department chair and examining committee before the submission of a final draft.