Degree Requirements: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The Department of Music offers programs leading to the PhD in Musicology with specialization in either historical musicology or ethnomusicology, or a double-specialization PhD in historical musicology and ethnomusicology—one of the only degrees of its kind in North America. The PhD degree is primarily for students preparing for a career in teaching and pursuing original research at a university, college, or conservatory. Offering both breadth and depth, the flexible and customizable curriculum for this degree is, however, also of value to administrators, executives, performers, conductors, and pedagogues at the very highest levels. Entering students usually possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree in music, with a background in musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory, composition, performance, 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.

Program Requirements

1) 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

There are no specific course requirements for the PhD specializing in Historical Musicology other than CFA MH 820, Pro-Seminar in Musicology and Ethnomusicology (taken in first semester) and MH 711, Research and Bibliography.  Students should customize their program in consultation with their advisor according to the following guidelines:

  • CFA MH 820: Pro-Seminar in Musicology and Ethnomusicology (taken in first semester)
  • CFA MH 710: Research and Bibliography
  • CFA MH 799: Masters Thesis
  • CFA MH 921: Research and Directed Study in Music
  • 40 further credits from among 700- and 800-level courses in musicology, ethnomusicology, and music theory, or  courses from other departments at Boston University or through the Boston Consortium
  • 8 credits of approved non-music electives

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
  • CFA MH 799: Masters Thesis
  • 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 other departments at Boston University or the Boston Consortium
  • At least 2 semesters of CFA MH 561, 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
  • 8 credits of approved non-music electives

2) Post-Master’s Requirements

A minimum of 32 credits must be completed for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Musicology. Candidates in the Historical Musicology or Ethnomusicology specializations must possess a master’s degree, 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 specializing in Historical Musicology other than CFA MH 820, Pro-Seminar in Musicology and Ethnomusicology (taken in first semester). Students should customize their program in consultation with their advisor according the following general guidelines:

  • CFA MH 820: Pro-Seminar in Musicology and Ethnomusicology (taken in first semester)
  • 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, or  courses from other departments at Boston University or through the Boston Consortium
  • 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 2 semesters of CFA MH 561, either as instructor or participant (worth 0 or 1 credit)
  • 16 credits in approved areas such as anthropology, musicology, music education, ethnomusicology, history, or specific area studies courses from other departments at Boston University or the Boston Consortium
  • 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

All incoming students must take proficiency exams in music history and music theory. These exams are administered just before the start of the fall semester and the results are used to inform course selections. Students who are found to be deficient in either area may be assigned remedial coursework as determined by their advisor. This remedial coursework will not count towards the requirements of the degree.

Historical Musicology and Ethnomusicology

  • CFA MH 820: Pro-Seminar in Historical Musicology and Ethnomusicology (taken in first semester)
  • 8 credits of musicology seminars (700-800 level)
  • 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 from other departments at Boston University or the Boston Consortium

Language Requirement

All students pursuing a PhD degree 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.

Students who choose to fulfill a language requirement through a GRS Reading Seminar (e.g., GRS LF 621, LG 621, LI 621, etc.) should obtain a copy of the Report of Examinations form from the department’s administrative coordinator to be signed by the Chair and then submitted to the GRS Records Office. Students who fulfill a language requirement by examination will have this form submitted on their behalf.

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 written and oral qualifying examinations for the doctorate when they have only four credits remaining to be fulfilled toward the degree (CFA MH 921).  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.  Students may enroll in Research and Directed Study (CFA MU 921) only after the successful fulfillment of the examinations.

Historical Musicology: Preparation for the Qualifying Exams should begin during the third semester of course work. After forming an examination committee in consultation with their advisor, students will compile substantial annotated bibliographies in  the following areas: 1) topic(s) in primary area of research; 2) topic(s) in a secondary area of research; 3) topic(s) in Ethnomusicology. Students should submit their completed bibliographies to their advisor for final approval at least three weeks before their written exams. After deciding on the dates for the Qualifying Exams, students should submit the Request to Schedule PhD Qualifying Exams form at least one month prior to the first exam and have it approved and signed by the Chair.

The Qualifying Exams are in four parts, comprising a take-home essay of 5,000-7,000 words on questions relating to each of the three topics, to be completed in one week each, and a take-home theory/analysis examination, to be completed over one weekend. Upon successful completion of the exams, the  committee will meet with the student for a two-hour oral examination, to be scheduled within three months following the written component, that may include questions arising from the written exams, but will concentrate mainly on the dissertation prospectus.

Ethnomusicology: Preparation for the Qualifying Exams should begin two or three semesters prior to the examination. Guided by their advisor, students will select three topics relevant to their dissertation on which to compile substantial annotated bibliographies. The completed bibliographies should be submitted to the advisor for final approval at least six weeks prior to to taking their exams. After deciding on the dates for the Qualifying Exams, students should submit the Request to Schedule PhD Qualifying Exams form at least one month prior to the first exam and have it approved by the Chair. The Ethnomusicology Qualifying Exams are in three parts, comprising three take-home essays of 5,000-7,000 words to be completed in one week each, to be submitted along with the annotated bibliography for each essay. In addition, students will be asked to analyze a recording from their research area. Upon successful completion of the exams, the  committee will meet with the student for a two-hour oral examination, to be scheduled within three months following the written component, that will deal with any questions arising from the written exams, but will concentrate mainly on the dissertation prospectus.

Double Concentration in Historical Musicology and Ethnomusicology Preparation for the Qualifying Exams should begin during the fourth semester of course work. Guided by their advisors, students will select two topics in historical musicology and two topics in ethnomusicology on which to compile substantial annotated bibliographies; at least two of these selected topics should be relevant to their dissertation. Students should submit their final bibliographies to their advisor for final approval at least six weeks prior to to taking their exams. After deciding on the dates for the Qualifying Exams, students should submit the Request to Schedule PhD Qualifying Exams form at least one month prior to the first exam and have it approved by the Chair. The qualifying exam for the Double Concentration in Historical Musicology and Ethnomusicology is in five parts: a take-home essay of 5,000-7,000 words for each of the four topics, to be completed in one week each, and a theory and analysis examination, to be completed in one weekend. Upon successful completion of the exams, the  committee will meet with the student for a two-hour oral examination, to be scheduled within three months following the written component that will deal with any questions arising from the written exams, but will concentrate mainly on the dissertation prospectus.

Residency Requirement

Every doctoral candidate must be enrolled as a full-time student for at least one academic year. See the General Requirements for the PhD on the College of Arts and Sciences site, under Residency.

Dissertation Prospectus

Before embarking upon the dissertation, the candidate must submit a dissertation prospectus to the department and the Graduate School. The first draft of the dissertation prospectus must be submitted to the department within ninety days of the completion of the qualifying exams.

See the General Requirements for the PhD on the College of Arts and Sciences site, under Dissertation Prospectus.

Dissertation

The candidate must write a dissertation that constitutes an original contribution to the field of musical knowledge.

Abstract and Dissertation Defense

The candidate must submit an approved abstract of the dissertation and pass an oral defense on the subject matter and the background of the dissertation. See the General Requirements for the PhD on the College of Arts and Sciences site, under Abstract and Final Oral Examination.

The final draft of the dissertation must be submitted to all the readers at least two weeks prior to the defense date. The dissertation defense must be scheduled at least two weeks prior to the filing deadline.  Failure to adhere to these dates will mean that the date of graduation will be delayed.

Research with Human Subjects

Students doing research with living human subjects, or with data from living human subjects, are required to comply with IRB regulations.

For further information and to begin the process of obtaining IRB compliance, see the Institutional Review Board website.