The diverse dissertation projects that our doctoral students propose reflect the unique combination of interests.
Recent and current Ph D topics include microtonality and colonialism in the 19th century, musical forgery and forensics, the practice of recomposition in music theory, Scandinavian death metal, transformation theory and Hollywood film, and musical and visual lines in the early 20th century.
The deep holdings of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library include a substantial recording archive, and the Isham Memorial Library houses rare original books, scores, and personal archives ranging from the Randy Weston Archive to Sir Georg Solti’s annotated conducting scores.
Additional resources on campus include the Special Collections at Houghton Library and the Harvard Theater Collection, one of the largest performing arts collections in the world.
Faculty and graduate students hold conferences each year on a variety of topics; artists in residence and visiting artists often enrich coursework, and some courses provide opportunities for students to perform. The languages will be chosen in consultation with the program's graduate advisor, and wherever possible should be relevant to future research.
We encourage students to pass both languages before taking the general exam.All students take courses on Schenkerian theory and on a range of tonal and post-tonal analytical practices, as well as an introductory course to explore current issues in the field.At the same time, the program also encourages students to build a framework in which to place these techniques and to reflect on the underpinnings of music theory.Students often also take seminars in other departments – and are encouraged to do so.Accreditation in secondary fields is available through many programs, such as American Studies, Critical Media Practice, Medieval Studies, Romance Languages and Literatures, and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, to name but a few.By the end of the second year of study, students select primary and secondary fields of specialization, which may be defined by region (for example, Turkish or West African music); by musical styles (such as jazz or popular music); or by topic or theoretical approach (organology or aesthetics).The Harvard program has particular strengths in regions stretching from the Mediterranean to India, in Africa and African diasporas, and in urban America.There are excellent resources both in the music department and across the disciplines at Harvard in critical theory.Collaborations are encouraged among ethnomusicology and other music department programs in historical musicology, music theory, composition, and creative practice and critical study.Faculty and graduate students hold conferences each year on a variety of topics; music faculty, artists in residence, and visiting artists often enrich coursework and provide opportunities for students to perform. The languages will be chosen in consultation with the program's graduate advisor, and wherever possible should be relevant to future research.The Ph D in music theory is characterized both by a deep involvement in the inner workings of music and by an engagement with the wider philosophical, cultural, and psychological questions surrounding music.