The History & Literature program at UC Berkeley has been at the forefront of every major development in musicology over the past several decades. We have an enviable track record and success rate in placing graduates in tenure-track and postgraduate academic positions in top institutions across North America, the UK, and Europe. Recent alumni of the musicology program hold faculty appointments at the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins University, Boston University, Brandeis University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mount Holyoke College, University of Manchester, Eastman School of Music, University of Utrecht (Netherlands), King’s College London, and Cornell University. A full list of every graduate of the H&L program since 2002 is available on this web page.
The study of musicology as practiced at Berkeley values critical and sustained engagement with music, studied in relation to the historical conditions of production and to the meanings ascribed to them by diverse communities. A flexible curriculum allows graduate students to become conversant, through formal or individual study, with such fields on campus as anthropology, literature, the history of science and technology, sociology, philosophy, performance studies, political science, urban studies, and more. We encourage cross-disciplinary inquiry. 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 to strike a balance between the study of historical factors that shape music (and are shaped by it in turn), including the 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 political efficacy, a conviction that music’s multiple meanings are recoverable through research and attentive listening, and a deep commitment to music’s materiality, as experienced in scores, recordings, sound, and 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.
Recent seminar offerings include:
Music, Capitalism, Materialism
Sound and the City
Voice and Political Knowledge
Music as Biopolitics
The Theory & Practice of Operatic Staging from Wagner to the present
Late Medieval Motets
Air(s): Atmospheric Theories of Music
Global Nineteenth-Century Music