PhD in Musicology

The Doctor of Philosophy in Musicology program offers two specializations: historical musicology or ethnomusicology, as well as a double specialization in historical musicology and ethnomusicology. It is for students who are preparing for a position in academia pursuing research and teaching. The curriculum for this degree is structured in breadth as well as in depth, and is therefore also of value to administrators, executives, performers, conductors, and pedagogues at the very highest levels. To enter, students usually possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree in music, with a background in musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory, composition, or its equivalent. The PhD in Musicology is offered by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GRS) in close collaboration with the College of Fine Arts (CFA) School of Music.

Course Requirements

Post-Bachelor’s Requirements

A minimum of 64 credits must be completed for the post-bachelor’s Master of Arts in Music and PhD in Musicology. Students accepted for the program may be required by the faculty to take prerequisite courses if their undergraduate degree was not in music. Students may take up to four seminars per semester. This program does not lead to the double specialization in historical musicology and ethnomusicology. Students who wish to pursue a PhD with a double specialization in historical musicology and ethnomusicology must apply for this program separately upon completion of their MA requirements.

Candidates choose one of the following fields of specialization:

Historical Musicology

Requirements are as follows:

  • CFA MH 820: Pro-Seminar in Musicology and Ethnomusicology (taken in first semester)
  • CFA MH 711: Research and Bibliography (Music) (taken in first year)

There are no specific course requirements for the PhD specializing in historical musicology other than CFA MH 820 and CFA MH 711, but students should customize their program in consultation with their advisor. A general guide for the distribution of remaining courses can be found on the department website.

Ethnomusicology

Requirements are as follows:

  • CFA MH 820: Pro-Seminar in Musicology and Ethnomusicology (taken in first semester)
  • CFA MH 860: Research Methods in Ethnomusicology
  • CFA MH 861: Contemplating Ethnomusicology
  • At least two semesters of CFA MH 561 or MH 562: World Music Ensemble, either as instructor or participant (worth 0 or 1 credit)
  • Knowledge of the undergraduate survey course CFA MH 336/436 Musical Cultures of the World, either as a teaching fellow or by auditing the course
  • 4 credits of CFA MH 799: Master’s Thesis
  • 4 credits of CFA MH 921: Research and Directed Study in Music
  • 36 credits in approved areas such as anthropology, musicology, music education, ethnomusicology, history, or specific area studies courses from Boston University or the Boston Consortium
  • 8 credits of approved non-music electives

Post-Master’s Requirements

A minimum of 32 credits must be completed for Doctor of Philosophy in Musicology. Candidates in the historical musicology or ethnomusicology specializations must possess an MA or MM in Music, usually with a concentration in musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory, composition, or its equivalent. Deficiencies must be made up without credit. Additional prerequisites may be required if deemed necessary by the faculty.

Candidates choose one of the following fields of specialization:

Historical Musicology

There are no specific course requirements for the PhD in Musicology other than CFA MH 820, but students should customize their program in consultation with their advisor using the following distribution as a general guide:

  • CFA MH 820: Pro-Seminar in Musicology and Ethnomusicology (taken in first semester)
  • 4 credits of CFA MH 921: Research and Directed Study in Music
  • 20 further credits from among 700- and 800-level courses in musicology, ethnomusicology, and music theory
  • 4 credits of approved non-music electives

Ethnomusicology

  • CFA MH 820: Pro-Seminar in Musicology and Ethnomusicology (taken in first semester)
  • CFA MH 860: Research Methods in Ethnomusicology
  • CFA MH 861: Contemplating Ethnomusicology
  • At least two semesters of CFA MH 561 or MH 562, World Music Ensemble, either as instructor or participant (worth 0 or 1 credit)
  • Knowledge of the undergraduate survey course CFA MH 336/436: Musical Cultures of the World, either as a teaching fellow or by auditing the course
  • 4 credits of CFA MH 921: Research and Directed Study in Music
  • 16 credits in approved areas such as anthropology, musicology, music education, ethnomusicology, history, or specific area studies courses from Boston University or the Boston Consortium

Historical Musicology and Ethnomusicology

  • CFA MH 820: Pro-Seminar in Historical Musicology and Ethnomusicology (taken in first semester)
  • 8 credits of musicology seminars
  • CFA MH 860: Research Methods in Ethnomusicology
  • CFA MH 861: Contemplating Ethnomusicology
  • 4 credits of CFA MH 921: Research and Directed Study in Music
  • 3 credits of a music theory (MT) seminar at the 800 level
  • 12 credits of approved non-music electives

Language Requirement

All students pursuing a PhD in Musicology are required to demonstrate graduate-level reading proficiency in two foreign languages prior to completion of the degree. Language proficiency can be demonstrated either through a language examination or successful completion of a non-credit graduate-level foreign language reading course offered by Boston University.

  • PhD candidates in the historical musicology specialization must demonstrate a reading knowledge of German and one other foreign language.
  • PhD candidates in the ethnomusicology specialization must demonstrate a reading and speaking knowledge of two foreign languages relevant to their studies.
  • PhD candidates in the double specialization in historical musicology and ethnomusicology must demonstrate a reading knowledge of German and a reading and speaking knowledge of one other foreign language relevant to their studies.

Master’s Thesis and Comprehensive Exam

Post-bachelor’s students who wish to obtain an MA in Music must pass a comprehensive exam and submit a Master’s Thesis. For more information please see the MA in Music.

Qualifying Examinations

Students should take the qualifying examinations for the doctorate when they have only four credits remaining to be fulfilled toward the degree (CFA MH 921). Students must have the written approval of the advisor for each attempt at these examinations. As part of the evaluation of the written and oral examinations, the examiners may specify areas for further study above the minimum credit requirement for the degree, whether or not the examinations were passed. In the case of an unsuccessful attempt, the examiners may specify such further requirements before allowing the student to repeat the examinations. The examinations may not be taken more than three times.

The oral examination takes place approximately one month after the completion of all written exams and receipt of the dissertation prospectus (see below). It deals primarily with the dissertation prospectus (proposal).

For more information on the qualifying exams, please see the department website.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent study in a dissertation representing original research or creative scholarship. A prospectus for the dissertation must be completed and approved by the readers, the director of graduate studies, and the department chair/program director. Candidates must undergo a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation as a valuable contribution to knowledge in their field and demonstrate a mastery of their field of specialization in relation to their dissertation. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.