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Graduate Studies in Music History & Literature

The study of musicology as it is practiced at Berkeley values critical and sustained engagement with musical works, studied in relation to the historical and social conditions that shaped their genesis and to the meanings ascribed to them by diverse audiences at the time of their creation and since. Graduate students are encouraged to become conversant with related fields such as anthropology, history, literature, cultural studies, and sociology through formal or individual study. Yet the study of music, musicians, listeners, and the mechanisms that create and disseminate music remain at the center of our course of study. We aim for a balance between the study of historical and social factors that shape music (and are shaped by it in turn) and a deep and detailed probing of musical texts. If our approach to teaching music history and to practicing it in our research differs from more general definitions of the field, it is in a tacit belief in music’s agency on political and social levels, a conviction that music’s multiple meanings are recoverable through research and attentive listening, and a commitment to the details and texture of the musical work itself, as experienced both in the score and in performance.

Coursework in both the M.A./Ph.D. and the Ph.D. program begin with pro-seminars devoted to research methods, musicological thought, and (in the second year) ethnomusicology. From the outset, though, students are encouraged to enroll in as many research seminars as possible. The topics for these center on topics chosen by the faculty from year to year, reflecting both current research enthusiasms and perceptions of what the current group of students want and need. Thus our graduate students begin significant independent research and writing projects immediately upon their arrival at Berkeley. Guiding them in writing well and thinking independently about research are two values that distinguish Berkeley’s approach to musicological education at the graduate level. The program is structured at every stage to support and foster individual approaches to musicological work. The M.A. exam is individually designed, beginning from a list of eight topics spanning different historical periods, musical genres, and methodological approaches chosen by the student. The qualifying exam, taken just before a student embarks on writing the dissertation, is intended to establish a strong base for dissertation research and teaching in one’s area of specialization, and focuses on three broad topics relevant to the dissertation. Lively conversation marks the Berkeley musicology program at all stages, from seminar discussions to question periods after talks by visiting speakers to one-on-one mentoring on the dissertation and professional activities.