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Department of Music


  • Berthold Hoeckner


  • Philip V. Bohlman
  • Thomas Christensen
  • Martha Feldman
  • Robert L. Kendrick
  • Marta Ptaszynska
  • Anne Walters Robertson
  • Augusta Read Thomas
  • Lawrence Zbikowski

Associate Professors

  • Berthold Hoeckner
  • Travis A. Jackson
  • Steven Rings

Assistant Professors

  • Jessica Baker
  • Seth Brodsky
  • Anthony Cheung
  • Jennifer Iverson
  • Sam Pluta

Senior Lecturers

  • James Kallembach
  • Barbara Schubert


  • Philip Kloeckner

Emeritus Faculty

  • Easley R. Blackwood
  • Philip Gossett
  • Shulamit Ran
  • Don Randel

Programs of Study

The Department of Music at the University of Chicago offers the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in three areas: composition, ethnomusicology and the history and theory of music.

The program in composition is designed to develop students’ creative and technical abilities at writing new music. Students take individual composition lessons with faculty members, often studying with more than one faculty member in the course of their residence. Students also receive training in a wide variety of related areas and skills, including score reading and conducting, orchestration, musical analysis, twentieth century styles, historical periods and (optionally) computer generated sound synthesis. A portion of this training will lead to the development of a minor field in ethnomusicology, musicology, theory and analysis or research in computer music. There is a weekly seminar for all of the students in the composition program, designed to broaden the perspectives and address the problems of aspiring composers.

The program in ethnomusicology prepares students to carry out scholarship and writing about the place of music in various cultures. Students receive grounding in cultural theory, anthropology, ethnographic methods, problems in cross-cultural musical analysis, and a variety of world and popular musics. They also conduct fieldwork on some of these musics. The program is interdisciplinary, drawing upon course offerings in music, anthropology and a variety of area studies.

The program in music history and theory prepares students to carry out various kinds of scholarship and writing about music, especially (but not solely) in traditions of European and American repertories. Students may emphasize either the historical or theoretical side of scholarship, according to their interests, and may also choose to pursue a minor field in composition. Students emphasizing music history typically concentrate on varieties of musicology that include cultural history, textual criticism, stylistic studies, institutional history, hermeneutics and critical theory. Students emphasizing music theory typically concentrate on detailed analysis of individual works, clusters of works (by genre or composer, for example), theoretical systems and the history of theory. Most students who complete the Ph.D. in music history and theory seek academic employment, but others have gone on to work in fields such as publishing, operatic production, and commercial editing.

The Degree of Master of Arts

Students seeking a master’s degree should apply to the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH), a three-quarter program of interdisciplinary study. MAPH students often take classes with students in the Ph.D. programs.  Further details about the MAPH program are available at


Students admitted to doctoral study are typically awarded a five-year fellowship package that includes full tuition, academic year stipends, summer stipends, and medical insurance. Teaching training is a vital part of the educational experience at the University, so all fellowships include a required teaching component. 


The following provides a general outline of educational opportunities and degree requirements in the programs, but in no way replaces the detailed information given to all prospective students and enrolled students in the department. Up to date information about academic programs and courses is available on the website of the Music Department at

During the first two years of study students take a number of required offerings (numbered between 30000 and 39900) including analysis courses, proseminars in historical periods and in ethnomusicology, courses on particular skills and individual composition lessons, depending on their programs of study. At the same time they take seminars (numbered above 41000), which tend to be more specialized and more advanced. About half of a student’s schedule consists of electives, which may include non-required courses in the department, courses given outside the department and reading courses (i.e. independent studies).

Students entering the program without a master’s degree in music from another institution take fifteen courses during the first two years of registration (before taking comprehensive exams). Those entering with a master’s degree from another institution normally take nine courses in the first year of registration (before taking comprehensive exams).

In addition to courses and other requirements (listed below), students who wish to obtain an M.A. must submit two seminar papers, or a composition of at least eight minutes, for approval by the faculty.

During the second two years of study, students in the scholarly programs are required to take three seminars, and students in composition are expected to develop a minor field of four courses. Standard minors for composition students include ethnomusicology, musicology, theory and analysis, or computer music research. After the comprehensive exams, students fulfill remaining requirements and begin work on the dissertation (see below).

Students entering their program of study without a master’s degree in music can expect to complete their course work in three or four years. Those entering with a master’s can expect to complete their course work in two or three years.

Comprehensive Examinations

Students ordinarily take comprehensive exams just prior to the beginning of the third year in the program. Students entering with a master’s degree in music from another institution have the option of taking their exams at the beginning of their second year.

Students in composition take three comprehensive examinations:

  • The composition of a work based on a set of given guidelines
  • An oral examination on ten compositions from the repertory
  • A close analysis of a single work or movement

Students in ethnomusicology take four comprehensive exams:

  • Conceptual Foundations: essays covering broad issues of theoretical importance to
    ethnomusicology and musicology.
  • Cultural Areas: essays demonstrating knowledge of two world musical cultural areas. There will be three essay questions of equal length. Two questions will be based on a primary cultural area. One question will be based on a secondary cultural area; the secondary area may be a historical era.
  • Twelve Single Sheets: These will normally include six aural and six written examples drawn from Cultural Areas relevant to the student’s research and broader ethnomusicological work. Examples will be drawn from a list of works provided in the first year.
  • A close analysis of a musical work, selected by faculty prior to administration of the examination from three options:
    1. An ethnomusicological example (which may involve transcription from a recording, analysis of a previous transcription, or some combination of these)
    2. A tonal Western example
    3. An atonal Western example

Students in history and theory take four of the following eight examinations (within some distribution guidelines):

  • The identification of musical scores or excerpts drawn from European traditions of the 9th to the 20th centuries. Students pursuing a minor field in composition may substitute a two-hour oral examination on musical repertory.
  • History concentrators will take four sets of essays on the history of European traditions, corresponding to the four proseminars in music history (Music 32500, 32600, 32700, and 32800). Theory concentrators will take two such sets of historical essays—one on music before 1800, one on music after 1800—and two sets of essays in the history of music theory.
  • A close analysis of a single work or movement, to be selected from tonal analysis or atonal analysis.
  • One further set of essays, to be drawn from the following:

While course work helps prepare students for comprehensive exams, students are expected to be enterprising in their efforts to determine both areas of weakness that they need to work on, and ways to synthesize and interrelate knowledge about history, repertory, theory, and so forth. Students should expect to spend an extended period of time engaged in intensive individual study in preparation for comprehensive exams, particularly during the summer before taking them.

Special Field Examination/Dissertation Proposal

After having passed the comprehensive exams, students in music history and theory and in ethnomusicology also take a two-part oral exam at some time during the third or fourth year. For students in ethnomusicology, the first part of the oral tests the student’s knowledge of, and ability for, synthetic thought within a selected area of world music. For all students, the exam is a defense of the dissertation prospectus, demonstrating the propriety and feasibility of the topic and the student’s knowledge of the existing literature about it. Normally students take this exam in the third or fourth year. The exam is administered by the student’s dissertation committee (often including a person from outside the department), with additional faculty members sometimes attending as well.


For students in music history and theory and in ethnomusicology the dissertation for the Ph.D. consists of a book length study that makes an original contribution to research and thought. Students in composition must complete a large scale composition that shows professional competence, as well as a paper demonstrating ability to do advanced work in an area of musical scholarship (ordinarily the student’s minor field), normally 30–50 pages in length. All students are required to defend the dissertation before receiving the degree.

Language Examinations

Language Examinations are administered by the University. Specific details about language requirements are listed in the curriculum for each area of study.

Musicianship Examinations

Examinations in practical musicianship skills are administered by the Department of Music. These include examinations in basic musicianship skills and advanced musicianship skills. Examinations in basic musicianship include musical dictation, sight singing, and sight reading at the piano or another instrument in the Western musical tradition. Advanced musicianship skills include three skills to be realized at the piano (for students with advanced keyboard skills) or realized in written form (for students with no advanced keyboard skills): figured bass, reading of open vocal scores in old clefs and orchestral score reading (with a 24-hour preparation period). Other advanced musicianship skills are atonal dictation, transcription of music from oral or improvisatory traditions, improvisation in an improvisatory tradition, and playing in a University ensemble for at least one year concluding with a public concert. Students may petition to play in a recognized performing group other than official University ensembles. Students may also petition to fulfill the ensemble requirement through a solo performance in a university concert.

The number and kind of musicianship examinations for composition, ethnomusicology, history, and theory vary according to the respective programs as specified in the department’s Graduate Curriculum. Musicianship examinations are given during each of the three quarters. There is no limit to the number of examinations a student may take at a single sitting, and no limit to the number of times that a student may retake a musicianship examination. The Department offers free, informal, non-credit instruction in these skills. Instruction will be offered on an individual basis. The Department is not obligated to offer instruction in the area chosen by the student.

All departmental master’s degrees require successful completion of two musicianship examinations, except composition, which requires successful completion of three.


The Colloquium is a series of lectures followed by discussion and normally given by speakers from other institutions who are specially invited by the Music Department to share their recent research or compositions with students and faculty. Attendance at a total of six quarters of colloquium is required, and students may register for colloquium in any quarter. Students must attend at least half of the lectures in a given term to fulfill the colloquium requirement for that term.

Graduate Teaching

There exist a number of opportunities for teaching during students’ graduate careers. The various teaching opportunities range from assistantships to individual course assignments for which students have virtually full responsibility. The kinds of courses taught or assisted by graduate students include those in history, appreciation, theory, ear training, and world music. In addition to these assignments, students may be nominated for Stuart Tave Teaching Fellowships in the Humanities Collegiate Division, which allow advanced graduate students in the humanities to teach upper level undergraduate courses in their own areas of research.

Performing Activities

Students are expected to be able to perform creditably on some instrument or to sing, and candidates for the degree are encouraged to participate in one or more of the performance organizations on campus supported by the Department of Music. These include the University Symphony Orchestra, the Wind Ensemble, the University Chorus, the Motet Choir, the Early Music Ensemble, the New Music Ensemble, the Jazz Ensemble, the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, and the South Asian Music Ensemble.


Applicants to the programs in music history and theory and in ethnomusicology will be asked to submit two papers as samples of their previous works in addition to the usual application forms, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and GRE scores. Applicants in composition will be asked to submit scores, preferably three, and recordings if available, digitally or in hard copy.

In addition to their scholastic skills, students need at least a modicum of proficiency in fundamental musical skills in order to succeed in the program. It is expected that entering students have competence in playing a musical instrument or singing, as well as possess basic skills in ear training and music theory.

Prospective applicants seeking more detailed information about the course requirements, exams, etc. than is given here should refer to the Graduate Curriculum.

Further information about the various aspects of the graduate program, such as course descriptions and the Graduate Curriculum, can also be obtained from the Department of Music’s home page on the World Wide Web, Students interested in the program can apply online.

The application process for admission and financial aid for all graduate programs in Humanities is administered through the divisional Office of the Dean of Students. The Application for Admission and Financial Aid, with instructions, deadlines and department specific information is available online at

International students must provide evidence of English proficiency by submitting scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Questions pertaining to admissions and aid should be directed to or (773) 702-1552.

Music Courses

MUSI 30716. Opera As Idea and As Performance. 100 Units.

Is opera an archaic and exotic pageant for fanciers of overweight canaries, or a relevant art form of great subtlety and complexity that has the power to be revelatory? In this course of eight sessions, jointly taught by Professor Martha Nussbaum and Anthony Freud, General Director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, we explore the multi-disciplinary nature of this elusive and much-maligned art form, with its four hundred-year-old European roots, discussing both historic and philosophical contexts and the practicalities of interpretation and production in a very un-European, twenty-first century city. Anchoring each session around a different opera, we will be joined by a variety of guest experts, including a director, conductor, designer and singer, to enable us to explore different perspectives. The tentative list of operas to be discussed include Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppea, Mozart's Don Giovanni, Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Verdi's Don Carlos, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Wagner's Ring, Strauss's Elektra, and Britten's Billy Budd. (A) (I)

Instructor(s): A. Freud; M. Nussbaum     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): Students do not need to be able to read music, but some antecedent familiarity with opera would be extremely helpful. CD’s and DVD’s of the operas will be placed on reserve.
Note(s): Students should register via discussion section.
Equivalent Course(s): PHIL 31102,MUSI 24416,LAWS 43264,PHIL 21102

MUSI 31506. Modal Analysis. 100 Units.

No description available.

Instructor(s): Kaley Mason     Terms Offered: Autumn

MUSI 32318. Music and Disability Studies. 100 Units.

This course studies the ways that attitudes toward disability are constructed within a cultural sphere. From the perspective of disability studies, bodies and minds have many kinds of differences, but what is considered “disability” is determined by culture, not given by nature. Music, as well as film, literature, visual art, theatre, and so on, participate in the complex process of constructing and modulating attitudes toward disability. In this course, we will examine the interaction of disability and music in several ways: composers and performers whose creative production is shaped by bodily difference and disability; opera and film characters who embody and stage disability for our consumption; and more abstractly, music whose formal, sonic unfolding seems to engage issues of disability, even in purely instrumental art-pour-l’art works. We will read from the disability studies literature that critiques and theorizes disability themes in literature, film, and visual art, as well as musicology, music theory, and ethnomusicology literature that shows how disability themes are crucial in music. In this interdisciplinary class, students will gain a much more intimate understanding of the ways that attitudes toward abilities and bodies are constructed in art works, as well as be able to think, analyze, critique, write, and create with this understanding in mind. It is not necessary to read music notation for this course.

Instructor(s): Jennifer Iverson     Terms Offered: Spring,TBD
Equivalent Course(s): ENGL 25969,ENGL 45969,TAPS 22318,TAPS 32318,MUSI 22318

MUSI 32600. Pro-Seminar: Music 1700-1800. 100 Units.

No description available.

Instructor(s): Martha Feldman     Terms Offered: Autumn

MUSI 32800. Proseminar: Music from 1900-2000. 100 Units.

No description available.

Instructor(s): Seth Brodsky     Terms Offered: Winter 2014

MUSI 33503. Introduction to the Musical Folklore of Central Asia. 100 Units.

This course explores the musical traditions of the peoples of Central Asia, both in terms of historical development and cultural significance. Topics include the music of the epic tradition, the use of music for healing, instrumental genres, and Central Asian folk and classical traditions. Basic field methods for ethnomusicology are also covered. Extensive use is made of recordings of musical performances and of live performances in the area.

Instructor(s): K. Arik     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): ANTH 25905,EEUR 23400,EEUR 33400,MUSI 23503,NEHC 30765,NEHC 20765

MUSI 33718. Research and Performance: Latin American Baroque Music. 100 Units.

This course will examine the musical document as a source of musicological studies and its relationship to performance. We will look at various types of documents and assess specific problems of each age and geographical area. Topics include: major reservoirs of music documents in Latin America; the early music ensemble, Ars Longa, and the rescue of opera ominia; recording and performing Cuban and Latin American music in a historically informed way; the Sacred Music Collection from eighteenth century Cuba. There is a performance component to this course. Students are encouraged to have some background in music or Latin American history prior to entering the course.

Instructor(s): M. Escudero     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): Recommended background of MUSI 153 or MUSI 272 OR SPAN 103 plus a course in Latin American history or literature
Equivalent Course(s): LACS 35114,MUSI 23718,SPAN 23117,SPAN 33117,LACS 25114

MUSI 34000. Composition Lessons. 100 Units.

This course consists of individual weekly composition lessons.

Instructor(s): Athony Cheung, Marta Ptaszynska, August Read Thomas     Terms Offered: Autumn, Winter, Spring

MUSI 34417. Musical coursse. 100 Units.

No description available.

MUSI 34618. Literature of the Fantastic and Operatic Adaptation. 100 Units.

This co-taught interdisciplinary course, offered through the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, explores literature of the fantastic (here including ghost stories and fairy tales) and the adaptation of such materials into opera, primary “Western-style” opera but also including some examples from Chinese opera. We will read some theoretical essays on adaptation, trans- or re-mediality, and the uncanny, but our focus will be on concrete examples and the historical arc of their transformation (which often entailed at least one intermediary step from story to play on the way to opera). This history, as in the famous case of Turandot, often involves an interesting chain of East-West crossings, misappropriations, and reappropriations; Chinoiserie has been a potent force in the history of Western opera and, in a new form, is currently in vogue again (at least judging from the recent proliferation of Chinese-themed Western-style or fusion operas being created and staged). We will select several specific operas or excerpts from opera as cases, reading their libretti, studying their music, and watching select productions on recorded media.

Instructor(s): J. Zeitlin     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): EALC 36515,TAPS 26515,TAPS 36515,MUSI 24618,EALC 26515

MUSI 36618. Electronic Music I. 100 Units.

Electronic Music I presents an open environment for creativity and expression through composition in the electronic music studio. The course provides students with a background in the fundamentals of sound and acoustics, covers the theory and practice of digital signal processing for audio, and introduces the recording studio as a powerful compositional tool. The course culminates in a concert of original student works presented in multi-channel surround sound. Enrollment gives students access to the Electronic Music Studio in the Department of Music. No prior knowledge of electronic music is necessary.

Instructor(s): Sam Pluta     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): MUSI 26618

MUSI 36718. Approaches to Live Electronics. 100 Units.

Hand-built circuits, tape loops, feedback, filters, ring modulators, turntables, live-processing software environments, microphones, and human-machine interface designs. In this course, we will study current and historical approaches to the performative use of hardware and software environments in music, and will follow the practice as it continues to redefine music composition and improvisation in the 21st century. Study will be repertoire-based, drawing from the work of artists ranging from David Tudor to Herbie Hancock to Grandmaster Flash to Kaija Saariaho.

Instructor(s): Sam Pluta     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): MUSI 26718

MUSI 36918. The Jazz Orchestra and Orchestral Approaches to Jazz. 100 Units.

This course offers several views of what it has meant to write for the “jazz orchestra.” In the history of jazz, which has largely been defined by solo improvisation, valued individualism of language and technique, and has since the advent of bebop been primarily associated with small combos, what does it mean for composers who have ambitions that extend beyond typical expectations of instrumental forces, duration, and form? Instead of offering a comprehensive overview of large ensemble jazz writing, we will focus on specific examples that have challenged conventions and redefined idioms. From the innovations in orchestration and scale of the Duke Ellington Orchestra and the classic Gil Evans/Miles Davis albums, to the “progressive” experiments of Stan Kenton (and later Don Ellis), to the intergalactic theater of the Sun Ra Arkestra, we will examine complex issues of tradition, community, and race that have accompanied these collaborations, and the compatibility (or not) of musical challenges regarding improvisation, notation, and pedagogy. An important though less emphasized component of our discussion will be the response of primarily orchestral composers who incorporate elements of jazz scoring and improvisation, and the impact of movements such as Third Stream on such confluences of tradition. 

Instructor(s): Anthony Cheung     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): MUSI 26918

MUSI 37918. Catalan Multipart Singing in Modern and Contemporary History. 100 Units.

To sing together “a veus” (multipart) has historically been an experiential way to build social groups. The aim of this course is to present this activity across Catalonia from the 16th to the 21st century, paying special attention to how multipart singing has articulated a large part of association and shared community life since the middle 19th century. The Catalan example will be placed among multipart singing in Mediterranean Latin countries, where the phenomenon is shared with great intensity.

Instructor(s): J. Ayats     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): Reading knowledge of Arabic, Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish. Prerequisite for students taking course for music credit: MUSI 23300.
Equivalent Course(s): CATA 37917,SPAN 27917,SPAN 37917,MUSI 27918,CATA 27917

MUSI 38115. Orchestral Conducting. 100 Units.

This two-quarter introductory course focuses on the art as well as the craft of orchestral conducting. Designed primarily for undergraduate students who have had experience playing in an orchestra, wind ensemble, chamber group, or choral ensemble, the curriculum includes practical instruction, podium experience, background reading, and concert/conductor observation. Through a combination of classroom work, individual instruction, and supplemental ensemble sessions, students will gain significant practical experience in conducting. Weekly class meetings will incorporate singing, keyboard work, and instrumental participation by class members and guest musicians. Important technical exercises will be assigned every week, along with modest reading selections. Several short papers and classroom presentations will be assigned each quarter, in conjunction with background readings and classroom topics. The overall goal of the course is to promote the students’ understanding and appreciation of the technical responsibilities and the artistic possibilities of the conductor’s role, and to promote a basic proficiency in the craft of conducting an instrumental ensemble.

Instructor(s): B. Schubert     Terms Offered: Various
Note(s): This is a 2-quarter course, and 100 units will be awarded upon completion of the final quarter.
Equivalent Course(s): MUSI 28000

MUSI 44713. Post-Punk. 100 Units.

No description available.

Instructor(s): Travis Jackson     Terms Offered: Autumn 2013

MUSI 44817. Words and Fifteenth-Century Sacred Music. 100 Units.

Scholars have studied the development of sacred music in the fifteenth century from the viewpoints of institutions, musicians, art, architecture, repertories, rituals, archival documents, styles, sources, culture, and other perspectives. This evolution can also be captured in another way: in the basic idea that the ancient medieval bond between music and number loosens during this period, and that a new alliance between music and words emerges. Words tell the history of musical institutions, words form the books that musicians read, words make up the texts of musical repertories, words delineate rituals, words comprise archival documents, words inspire musical styles, words fill musical sources, words shape culture. Musical examples by Dunstaple, Du Fay, Obrecht, and Josquin signal the multi-faceted interactions of music and words, along with a richer understanding of the well-known concept of music-as-rhetoric in the late middle ages.

Instructor(s): A. Robertson     Terms Offered: Autumn