The First Two Years


Sixteen half-courses are required, and fourteen are usually taken during the first two years. Historical musicology students must take two half-courses in ethnomusicology and two half-courses in either theory or composition. No more than one seminar in medieval theory will count toward the theory requirement; no more than one analysis course can be counted towards the theory requirement. Ethnomusicology students are required to take at least two half-courses each in historical musicology and in offerings outside the department. Ethnomusicology students must also take at least two half-courses in music theory. It is recommended that at least one theory seminar be in cross-cultural music theory. Theory and composition students do not have a set curriculum and should plan their course of study with their advisor. All students may be allowed academic credit (normally no more than two half-courses) for work done in other graduate schools in the United States or abroad, subject to the evaluation by the department and acceptance by the Graduate School. Petitions may be submitted after the completion of one full year of graduate work in the department.

In general, for all students, 100-level courses should be taken as supplemental to the graduate program, and should not be the major portion of the student’s coursework.

In order to receive graduate credit, permission to take any half-courses at the 100 level must be granted by the graduate advisor before taking the course.

Graduate students who have one or more incompletes will not be considered for department summer grants. For additional information, go to music.fas.harvard.edu/gradinfo.html.

Analysis/Tonal Writing

Competence and fluency in traditional harmony, counterpoint, strict composition, and analysis (including analysis of 20th-century music) are prerequisites for taking the general examination. Incoming students will be given a placement test to assess skills. Music B will address these musicianship skills but does not count as one of the required sixteen courses. Work must be undertaken in the first year of study.


Written language exams are given at three specified times throughout the year. Reading knowledge must be proved before taking the general examination: Historical musicology—German and French or Italian. Alternative language choices should be discussed with the musicology advisor. Ethnomusicology—two research languages to be determined in consultation with the Ethnomusicology advisor. Theory—German plus one other language (French, Italian, Latin). Composition—German, Italian, or French unless an alternative language is approved in writing by the graduate advisor. Historical musicology students and ethnomusicology students must pass a third language appropriate to the field of specialization after completing the general examinations and within one year of the approval of a dissertation proposal. Requirements for languages not tested regularly within the department may be satisfied through special examination, or through presentation of other documentation at the discretion of the graduate advisor.


Advising in the department during the pre-generals period is primarily handled by the appropriate graduate advisors and faculty members in the various programs, with the director of graduate studies available for further advice. After successful completion of the general examinations, students consult with individual faculty members on their proposed fields of concentration, and when a dissertation proposal has been completed, it is presented to the faculty in that field of study. When the dissertation proposal has been approved by the faculty in the program, it is brought to the entire department for final approval, and a dissertation committee is set up for each student. The dissertation committee consists of an advisor and two readers. Any questions or concerns about advising in the department can be brought to the attention of the director of graduate studies or the chair.


The progress of all graduate students is reviewed at the end of each year. In addition to adequate coursework, there are special requirements for first- and second-year students. Every student must submit at least one paper written for a graduate course as part of the first-year review. In Musicology, every first- and second-year student must write a least one seminar paper per term.

General Examinations

The General Examination consists of two parts: written and oral. The orals are taken within weeks of passing the written portions. The exam dates differ by program but are usually between May and August of the student’s second year of study. Both the written and the oral parts can be repeated, but no more than once. The format, which is significantly different for each program, is as follows:

Historical Musicology

For historical musicologists, the general test will have three main parts—written, analysis and oral. The written exam consists of essays and short answer questions related to six of eight topics chosen by the student. The two prepared topics not selected for the written exam will be presented in the oral exam. The open-book analysis exam will be given in the summer, around mid-July. This will be a take-home exam, distributed on a Friday, and returned on Monday, mid-afternoon. It consists of two pieces of music chosen from (1) before 1700, (2) 18th or 19th century, or (3) 20th century. Students will choose one topic on which they will make a ten-minute presentation in the oral examination. Students will choose a second topic on which they will prepare a syllabus for a thirteen-week graduate seminar on the subject. This syllabus will be presented in written form, and may be the subject of discussion in the oral examination.


The written exam consists of an analysis test and a general test. The analysis test includes two musical examples, one from the student’s major area (i.e., North Indian music, Swedish music, etc.) and a second drawn from a contrasting musical tradition agreed on in advance in consultation with the ethnomusicology faculty. The general test is divided into four sections: one on ethnomusicological theory and method; a second on world music; a third on interdisciplinary problems; and a fourth on the intellectual history of ethnomusicology. By request of the student and in consultation with the ethnomusicology faculty, another subject area may be substituted as the focus of the fourth section of the test. The oral examination in ethnomusicology focuses on the special field or area chosen by the student, but may include questions about general ethnomusicology not necessarily related to topics covered in seminars. The remainder of the examination focuses on questions posed in the written examination.


The written examination consists of four different parts: 1. A preliminary oral examination on repertoire and analysis (“single sheets”), lasting 30 minutes, with 30 minutes preparation time, usually taken at the beginning of the summer. 2. Four written exams of 3 hours each: (a) systematic theories, (b) history of music theory, (c + d) two examinations in special fields relevant to dissertation research. 3. Analytical essays on two musical works from different periods (take-home paper over 4 days). 4. A two-hour oral examination will allow discussion on the written work and may broaden to engage a variety of related issues in music theory.


For composers, a written analysis is to be completed in three days at the end of the spring term of the second year of graduate study. It consists of a piece or set of pieces that should be analyzed by the student in the allotted time period. Students are also required to write an original composition of 7–10 minutes length with an imposed instrumentation, to be submitted by mid-August. The oral examination is based on an in-depth discussion of three major works that are assigned in the late spring of the second year of graduate study, plus an analytical presentation of the student’s original composition.


Beginning in the third year, graduate students in good standing are eligible for teaching fellowships. Most teaching fellows devote two-fifths TIME to teaching. Following successful completion of the general exam, students are required to take M250ht (Teaching Practicum). This course does not count towards the 16 required courses.

Third Year Requirements

The third year is primarily devoted to developing a dissertation proposal and the beginning of work on the dissertation. All students will complete their required courses; in most cases, that will mean two half-courses. Musicology students will begin their third language (to be completed within one year of the approval of a dissertation proposal). Music 250hf, “Colloquium on Teaching Pedagogy” is required.


Within the academic year in which the general examination is passed, the PhD candidate is expected to develop a proposal for a dissertation, which should be a major original contribution to the field. The proposal must be submitted for approval to the program, which is responsible for assigning the student a committee consisting of a dissertation advisor and two other faculty members. Normally, the complete dissertation must be submitted within five years after passing the general examination, and satisfactory progress must be demonstrated every year in order that the student remains in good standing. If the dissertation is submitted thereafter the department is not obligated to accept it. The formal requirements for the dissertation are set forth in The Form of the PhD Dissertation, provided by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The department requires one bound copy for the Music Library, in addition to a digital copy for ProQuest and one bound copy for the GSAS registrar

Doctoral Colloquium/Conference

All departmental doctoral candidates (including composers) who are about to submit or have submitted their dissertation are required to make a final presentation of their work. A dissertation workshop (Doctoral Conference) is required of all dissertation-writing students in historical musicology, ethnomusicology, and theory.

AM Program and Degree Requirements

The AM in Performance Practice is a two-year program in which students take departmental courses focused on this specialty and write an AM thesis. Students wishing to continue at Harvard for the PhD will apply in the normal manner, and their applications will be considered in the customary way. Students admitted to the PhD program will be granted credit for work done at Harvard or elsewhere according to departmental guidelines, which normally grant credit for two graduate courses taken before entering the PhD program.


The student’s program must be approved by the department at the time of registration. The AM degree will be awarded on completion with passing grade (B- or above) of at least eight and no more than twelve half-courses. Courses, selected with approval of the department, typically include Music 201, Music 182, Music 183, three graduate seminars, Music 300, and Music 299.


Students will be expected to demonstrate a reading knowledge of French, German, or Italian by the beginning of the third term.


There is a minimum residence requirement of three terms. Two years will ordinarily be required to complete the degree.


Students will submit an AM thesis, the subject and scope of which will be determined in consultation with the advisor. A thesis proposal should be submitted for department approval by March of the first year of graduate work.

Secondary Field in Musicology

Please see the description of a secondary field in Musicology/Ethnomusicology at the end of Chapter VI.

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