PhD in Musicology

The Doctor of Philosophy in Musicology program offers two tracks: Historical Musicology or Ethnomusicology, as well as a double concentration in Historical Musicology and Ethnomusicology. It is primarily for students who are preparing to pursue research and teaching at a university, college, or conservatory. The curriculum for this degree offers breadth, depth, and considerable flexibility, and is therefore also of value to those wishing to pursue executive careers in administration and the music industry, as well as to performer/scholars, 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, or performance. Please see also the College of Fine Arts policies for graduate students, which apply to this program.

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of the program, students are expected to:

  • Be able to conduct research in Historical Musicology and/or Ethnomusicology.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the disciplinary history of Historical Musicology and Ethnomusicology.
  • Demonstrate mastery of multiple theoretical and methodological paradigms.
  • Understand and convey the relationship between musical sound and broader intellectual, social, economic, and/or political spheres of human endeavor.
  • Use graphic representation (transcription) to visually represent musical sound, whether using Western staff notation or other systems.
  • Conduct original research that contributes to knowledge in the field.
  • Demonstrate mastery of subject material of a main field.
  • Demonstrate proficiency with subject matter of a secondary field (Historical Musicology).
  • Demonstrate familiarity with a breadth of musical systems and traditions from different parts of the world (Ethnomusicology).
  • Be able to analyze music from a variety of periods or cultural settings.
  • Be able to conduct scholarly activities in a professional and ethical manner.
  • Be able to present and defend their research in public forums.
  • Have reading knowledge of two languages apart from English.
  • Be able to teach the discipline at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Course Requirements

A minimum of 64 units must be completed for the Master of Arts in Music and PhD in Musicology. Students with a master’s degree can petition to have previous graduate-level courses taken count toward the degree. Students accepted for the program may be required by the faculty to take prerequisite courses if their undergraduate degree was not in music or in the case of necessary remedial work. Students may take up to four seminars per term, though the normal load is two or three. This program does not lead to the double specialization in Historical Musicology and Ethnomusicology. Students pursuing this degree must apply to this program separately upon completion of their MA requirements.

Candidates choose one of the following tracks:

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-unit graduate-level foreign language reading course offered by Boston University or an accredited outside program.

  • PhD candidates in the Historical Musicology track must demonstrate a reading knowledge of German and one other foreign language.
  • PhD candidates in the Ethnomusicology track must demonstrate a reading and speaking knowledge of two foreign languages relevant to their studies.
  • PhD candidates in the double track 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.

Qualifying Examinations

Students should take the written and oral qualifying examinations for the doctorate when they have only 4 units 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 units 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). The oral exam may include questions arising from the written exams, but will concentrate mainly on the dissertation prospectus. For more information on the qualifying exams, and a general timeline for progress toward the degree, please see the department website.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

The final outcome of the PhD program in Musicology/Ethnomusicology is the completion of a dissertation representing original research or creative scholarship. A prospectus for the dissertation (and any IRB compliance, if necessary) must be completed and approved by the readers, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the department chair/program director. Candidates undergo a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation as an important contribution to knowledge in their field and demonstrate a mastery of their area of specialization. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed according to department and University guidelines.

Students who wish to obtain an MA in Music must meet the stated requirements for the MA, pass a comprehensive exam, and submit a master’s thesis.