Music Theory

The music theory field is interdisciplinary, linking with diverse academic areas including history, composition, literary theory, science, and philosophy. That inclusive spirit is evident in the faculty members and students as well, making for a close-knit, collegial, and supportive community of scholars.

Teaching and research span from ancient music to music of today, and from art music to jazz and popular music.

Theory faculty members are known for their research in a wide variety of topics; including Schoenberg’s atonal and twelve-tone music, musical form in the music of Berlioz, text and musical structure in nineteenth-century song, the music of living composers, and the influence of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century thought on the development of music theory.

Faculty members publish their research with prominent academic publishers and in leading journals; present at regional, national, and international conferences; and remain active as composers and performers.

The music theory area at Oregon has grown in size and quality over the past twenty years, to the point where it is now considered a prominent regional center for the discipline. Since 2000, the West Coast Conference of Music Theory and Analysis has had its base of operations at the UO, and the university has hosted four of the WCCMTA’s meetings.

Bachelor of Arts in Music Theory

The Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Theory includes a strong core of analysis, counterpoint and musicianship courses, but also emphasizes performance skills in an instrument or voice, and encourages the student to explore interests such as composition and computer music/music technology. The BA course of study culminates in a senior thesis, which is written with the supervision and assistance of a faculty advisor and one other faculty reader. Some senior theses involve an oral presentation component, while others are conceived as lecture-recitals.

Master of Arts in Music Theory

The Master of Arts degree enables students to gain advanced knowledge and skills in music theory, as well as in closely related areas. Graduate courses and seminars provide extensive exposure to problems in analysis and the history of music theory.

Master’s students learn to be teachers through our Graduate Teaching Fellow program, and many of them gain experience in presenting at regional conferences.  A thesis in music theory is required for the degree and is carried out under the guidance of a faculty advisor and two other readers, who work closely with the student. Master’s students from our program have been accepted into a number of the top PhD programs around the world (including our own).

Doctoral Degree in Music Theory

The University of Oregon is one of only four universities on the West Coast that offers a doctoral program in music theory. The program is distinctive in the way it prepares students for careers both as practicing theorists and as teachers of music theory.

The placement record for graduates of the doctoral program in music theory during the last twenty years has been impressive. Doctoral students have become widely known across the United States for their excellent national and regional conference presentations.

The PhD program emphasizes both intellectual and practical skills while enabling students to become as broadly knowledgeable in the field as possible. Included in the course of study are classes in advanced analysis (including Schenkerian, post-tonal and Neo-Riemannian analysis), advanced aural skills, keyboard techniques, pedagogy, composition, history of theory, college music teaching, world music, and electronic/computer music, among other subjects.

Each student experiences a great deal of personal attention from the faculty, and most students gain teaching experience through participation in our Graduate Teaching Fellow program. There is an especially supportive relationship between the student and his or her major advisor, and with members of the student's doctoral committee. The PhD program culminates in a public presentation of the candidate’s research, as well as a dissertation.