The Department of Music Theory is distinguished by the range of achievement in scholarship of both the faculty and students, and by the broad diversity of approaches we foster in research and in teaching. One of the guiding principles of the department is that music theory does not stand alone as a specialty, but is integrated with both other musical and extra-musical disciplines. In fact, students have access to world-renowned faculty in humanities and sciences across the university, as well as Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshops and similar events.
As an integral part of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the Theory Department combines the focus and rigor of a conservatory with the academic breadth and depth of a major public research university, and all degree programs draw students with superlative musical training as well as outstanding academic qualifications. Musical performance experience provides a foundation for the development, investigation, and critique of ideas about music. Furthermore, small classes make possible lively discussion of music-analytical and theoretical questions.
At the graduate level, we offer the PhD in in both music theory and composition & theory; our alumni have joined some of the country’s most prestigious institutions. Additionally, we administer the Certificate in Music Theory Pedagogy, available to to graduate doctoral non-theory-majors. Our PhD students receive full funding and have the opportunity to teach a number of courses taken by the School’s talented undergraduates. In addition to departmental funding, PhD students have access to travel grants and fellowships offered by the Rackham Graduate School and the Institute for the Humanities. At the undergraduate level, we offer majors leading to both the BM and the BMA in multidisciplinary studies.
The faculty, one of the largest in the United States, includes 12 full-time members ranging in expertise from traditional specializations to the forefront of theory and practice. All members of the faculty are internationally distinguished members of the theory community with highly respected publishing records. (Faculty essays and books are listed on the “Research” page)
Active as composers and performers as well as scholars, the music theory faculty contribute field-leading research in counterpoint, Schenkerian analysis, analysis for performers, chromaticism, text-music relations, tonal and post-tonal forms, pedagogy, history of theory, sketch and source study, Ars subtilior and neo-medievalism, music of the Second Viennese School, 20th-century rhythm, the analysis of jazz, rock and pop music, film music, electronic music, cognitive theory, metatheory, music and mathematics, music-language connections, critical theory, philosophy of music, the sociology of knowledge, music and politics, literary theory, theories of gender, feminism and sexuality, and the musics of many particular composers, genres and worldwide styles. This range enables highly diverse seminars and independent studies at both undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as dissertation support that is broad and deep.
Similarly, students maintain a wide range of interests by exploring the latest research in cognate fields such as art history, literature, mathematics, philosophy, linguistics, and psychology to advance inquiry in the field of music theory.