The University of Massachusetts Amherst
HFA - College of Humanities & Fine Arts view HFA submenu
Section Menu

Graduate Music Theory

The Master of Music Degree in Music Theory

Course subplan/Degree checklist: M.M. in Music Theory, either Thesis track or Portfolio track  (pdf files)

The Master of Music is intended for students wishing to pursue advanced studies in music theory. The majority of students who enroll in the MM program in Music Theory do so in preparation for doctoral study, either at UMass or at other institutions. (Recent program alumni have continued at CUNY, The University of Indiana, UC Santa Barbara, The University of Western Ontario, and The Eastman School of Music.) Others use the MM program as a stepping stone to various career paths.

The program of study is designed to broaden students' knowledge and abilities in a number of areas, including general music and musicianship, analysis, oral and written communication, and pedagogy. To this end, students follow a two-year curriculum of classes culminating in a thesis document. The curriculum comprises a mixture of core classes (for example, Bibliography, General Readings in Music Theory, History of Theory, Pedagogy of Theory), electives in music theory and history, and thesis credits. Students typically take three courses (9 credits) per semester. See list of Graduate Music Theory Courses below.

In addition to this training, many Master's degree students receive hands-on experience as teaching assistants in undergraduate theory and aural skills classrooms. The standard Teaching Assistantship covers full tuition plus health benefits, and offers a competitive stipend.

Ph.D. program in Music Theory: Admission to this program is currently suspended.

Jason Hooper teaching
Jason Hooper teaching


List of Graduate Music Theory Courses

General Readings in Music Theory: Study of the major developments in modern music theory through close readings of seminal sources. Topics include Schenkerian analysis, motivic analysis, cognitive theory, GMIT and network theory, diatonic set theory, and theories of form. Class discussions/debates, response papers, in-class presentations, and a final oral exam administered by a panel of the faculty.

History of Music Theory: Exploration of the history of music-theoretical thought from ancient Greece through the twentieth century. Readings from primary and secondary sources.

Pedagogy of Music Theory: Approaches to the teaching and learning of music theory, aural skills, and related subdisciplines. Examination of research and textbooks. Teaching observations.

Schenkerian Analysis: Techniques of music analysis derived from the theoretical work of Heinrich Schenker.  Principles of voice leading, prolongation, structural levels, and reduction. Analytical applications in common-practice period music.

Post-Tonal Theory: Introduction to the theory and analysis of post-tonal music. Basic concepts including pitch class, pitch-class set, normal form, set-class, serialism, symmetry, and interval cycles. Analytical applications.

Motivic Analysis: Historical and current approaches to the analysis of musical motives developed from the writings of Reti, Schenker, and others. Concepts and techniques of motivic theory and their analytical applications.

Analysis of Counterpoint: Analysis of counterpoint from various music eras and styles.  Imitation, round, canon, invention, sinfonia, fugue and other forms.

Analysis of Rhythm and Meter: Investigation of recent scholarship in rhythmic and metric theory. New approaches to the relationship between rhythm and other music parameters. Analytical applications.

Musical Forms: Analysis of musical form, concentrating on common forms in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. Topics include binary, ternary, sonata, rondo, and concerted forms, and their associated harmonic structures.

Analysis for Performance: Explorations of connections between the musical score and its performance. Application of analytical insights to performing, comparison of different interpretations, and study of performance practice.

Analysis of Opera: Special approaches to the analysis of opera, including aspects of harmony, form, signification, and affect in music. Analysis of representative works from seventeenth- to twentieth-century opera.

Analysis of Post-1945 Music: In-depth study of selected post-1945 musical works with the goal of understanding compositional techniques and analytical strategies. Topics include integral serialism, indeterminacy, aleatory music, minimalism, electronic composition, and post-modernism.

Counterpoint: Writing of contrapuntal music, including invertible counterpoint, various canonic devices, and fugue.