Music: Theory of Music, PhD

Music Theory at Penn focuses on continental philosophy and criticism, listening and ethics, the history of theory in modernity, the anthropology of the senses, aesthetics and politics, sound art, urban sound, sound media and technologies, and technics. The program displaces the typical focus on how music is constituted, whether at the level of universal system or particular work, towards the ways in which listening is constituted in various practices and structures of thought.

The Department of Music at the University of Pennsylvania offers Ph.D. programs in three other fields of study besides Theory: Ethnomusicology, Musicology, and Composition. The goal of the graduate program is not to entrench these disciplinary distinctions, but rather to seek out productive and innovative means of placing them in dialogue with each other. This orientation toward holding all of the sub-disciplines in view is reflected in the graduate curriculum as well as in the multiple colloquium series that animate departmental life. The curriculum is designed with flexibility in mind—designed specifically to offer students the freedom to craft a path of study that best addresses the research needs and methodological concerns of their particular dissertation projects. It combines the wide range of courses offered by the world-class faculty in the music department with the possibility of enrolling in seminars in other Penn departments and taking classes at consortium schools such as Princeton, Yale, and Columbia. Our colloquium series provides another means of engaging in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary conversations. In addition, workshops, public performances, and working papers presented by graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty offer a wide range of perspectives on musical practice and scholarship, focusing variously on public lives in music, current research, craft and compositional issues.

View the University’s Academic Requirements for PhD Degrees.

Required Courses

The total course units required for graduation is 20. A minimum of 12 course units must be taken at the University of Pennsylvania.

Core Requirements
MUSC 620Creative and Compositional Approaches1
MUSC 621Analytical Methods: Twentieth-Century Music1
Select two of the following:2
Texts and Material Culture
Aesthetics and Criticism
Historical and Historiographic Approaches
Anthropology of Music
The Interpretation of Oral Traditions
Analytical and Theoretical Approaches
Seminar in Ethnomusicology
Studies in Medieval Music
Studies in Renaissance Music
Studies in Baroque Music
Studies in Classical Music
Studies in Romantic Music
Studies in Twentieth-Century Music
Seminar in Afro-American Music
MUSC 780Studies in Music Theory and Analysis1
MUSC 781Writing Sound--Sounding Literature1
MUSC 801Teaching Music Theory (or Elective)1
MUSC 508Advanced Musicianship1
MUSC 799Guided Reading in Musical Scholarship (or Elective)1
Select three electives 13
Concentration Requirements
MUSC 999Independent Study and Research1
MUSC 994Preparation of Ph.D. Proposal1
Select six electives 16
Total Course Units20

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2020 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.