Music Theory at Columbia

Music Theory Faculty Members

Joseph Dubiel
Professor of Music
Chair, Music Theory Area, 2013-14
Ellie M. Hisama
Professor of Music
Mariusz Kozak
Assistant Professor of Music
Benjamin Steege
Assistant Professor of Music
Director of Undergraduate Music Theory


Programs Offered

MA, PhD, undergraduate courses and lessons


Current Graduate Students in Music Theory

Eamonn Bell

Galen DeGraf

Dan DiPaolo (Thesis: "Analyzing the Music of Steely Dan")

Marc Hannaford

Benjamin Hansberry

Kate Heidemann (Thesis: "Hearing Women's Voices in Popular Song: Analyzing Sound and Identity in Country and Soul")

Orit Hilewicz

Will Mason

Caleb Mutch (Thesis: "A History of Cadence in Tonality and Its Precedents")

Mark Saccomano

Max Schmeder (Thesis: "Thirty-Three Miniature Dialectics: Hegelian Philosophy vis-a-vis Beethoven's 'Diabelli' Variations, Op. 120")

Maeve Sterbenz


Recently Defended Theses

Scott Gleason, "Princeton Theory's Problematics" (2013)

Victoria Tzotzkova, "Theorizing Pianistic Performance: Tradition, Instrument, Performer" (2012)

Justin Hoffman, "Listening with Two Ears: Conflicting Perceptions of Space in Tonal Music" (2011)

Olaf Post, "'The Way These People Can Just Listen!': Inquiries about the Mahler Tradition in the Concertgebouw" (2009)

Paul Sheehan, "Twelve-Tone Entities, Inquisitorial Mind, and the Network Model of the Multitude: Analyzing Luigi Dallapiccola's Il prigioniero" (2008)

Columbia theorists currently hold positions at Washington University (Paul Steinbeck, PhD '08), Rutgers University (Christopher Doll, PhD '07), University of Alberta (Maryam Moshaver, PhD '06), Kunitachi College of Music (Cathy Cox, PhD '06), Carnegie Mellon University (John Ito, PhD '04), University of Arkansas (Elizabeth Margulis, PhD '03), Hong Kong University (Youn Kim, PhD '03), Cleveland Institute of Music (Diane Urista, PhD '01), New York University (Martin Scherzinger, PhD '01, and Marilyn Nonken, PhD '99), Tamagawa University (Akira Takaoka, PhD '99), National Taiwan University (Yuh-Wen Wang, PhD '98), UC Santa Cruz (Paul Nauert, PhD '97), Eastman School of Music (David Temperley, PhD '96), University of Western Ontario (Kevin Mooney, PhD '96), and elsewhere.


Current and Recent Graduate Seminars

Advanced Analysis

Analysis of Popular Music

Debussy and Modernism


Hip-Hop (Spring 2014)

Interdisciplinary and Humanistic Approaches to Music Theory: Representations of the Listener

Interdisciplinary and Humanistic Approaches to Music Theory: Semantics and Pragmatics of Analytical Description

Introduction to History of Theory

Introduction to Schenkerian Analysis

Introduction to Set Theory

Proseminar in Music Theory

Ruth Crawford Seeger

Theorizing Musical Temporality (Spring 2014)


Area News and Events

Columbia Theory Alumnus Christopher Doll (PhD 2007, Asst. Prof. Rutgers Univ.) presents the AMS/Rock and Roll Hall of Fame lecture "The Unlikely History of Sixties Rock and Roll," Wed. 3/26 7PM, live streaming from the Hall of Fame in Cleveland.  More information here


Prof. Hisama will become Editor-in-Chief of Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture in 2013

Prof. Steege's book, Helmholtz and the Modern Listener was published with Cambridge University Press (2012).




Recent Activities in Music Theory at Columbia (through Winter 2012)46.9 KB

News and Events in Music Theory

NEW SUMMER COURSE for 2014: Critical Approaches to Music Technologies (MUSI S3142, Summer 2014)

Course Information

Course Title: 
Critical Approaches to Music Technologies
CU Directory Course Number: 
MUSI S3142
Lucie Vagnerova
Contact Instructor:


Course Title: Critical Approaches to Music Technologies
CU Directory Course Number:  MUSI S3142
Section: 001 Points/Credits:  3
Instructor:  Lucie Vagnerova (Summer Teaching Scholars Program, PhD Candidate in Historical Musicology)
Instructor Email:

Course Description: Electronic and digital sound technologies have come to define many popular and avant-garde musical practices of the 20th and 21st centuries. How do technological histories factor into musical meaning? How do sound technologies shape musical discourse at large? Through guided listening and multidisciplinary readings, the course will trace the various ways sound-technological practices trouble classical musical concepts such as ownership, authorship, musical value, embodiment, performance, or virtuosity, and call for new constructs such as sound synthesis, liveness, mediation, or fair use. The course brings together the first music studios, World War II cryptography, synthesized voices, earbuds, Detroit Techno, karaoke, and Columbia's own Computer Music Center.

Open to all majors.

Last Offered: 
New for Summer 2014

Dr. Beau Bothwell Appointed Assistant Professor of Music at Kalamazoo College!

The Department of Music congratulates Dr. Beau Bothwell, a recent alumnus of Columbia's PhD program in Musicology, who has accepted an appointment as Assistant Professor of Music at Kalamazoo College, to begin in September 2014.  

Beau Bothwell is currently Music Humanities Core Lecturer at Columbia University and Adjunct Professor of Music History at the Juilliard School.  He completed his PhD in Musicology in 2013 at Columbia, with a dissertation entitled "Song, State, Sawa: Music and Political Radio between the US and Syria," advised by Prof. Ellie Hisama.  

Dr. Bothwell has presented his research at numerous national and international conferences, including gatherings of the American Musicological Society, the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Middle East Studies Association, and the Society for American Music, and in invited lectures at Boston College, NYU's Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, and Harvard University. Dr. Bothwell recently contributed a chapter to the volume The Soundtrack of Conflict: The Role of Music in Radio Broadcasting in Wartime and in Conflict Situations, and is writing a book on popular music and transnational radio in Syria and Lebanon.

Prof. Mariusz Kozak's Research Featured in Columbia News!

Prof. Mariusz Kozak, who recently joined Columbia's faculty in Music Theory, is the subject of a new article in Columbia News discussing his research. Author Gary Shapiro writes . . . 

"Kozak, who joined Columbia's Department of Music last July, is now taking that research interest a step further, studying the connection between how people listen and move to music. "Every known culture has some sort of combination of dance and music." Whether you're tapping your feet to jazz, nodding along to classical music or playing air guitar to rock 'n' roll, it is all material for his research. "The study of motion and music is an emerging area," said Kozak, who notes that interest in the subject has risen over the past decade or so as the technology for recording the movement of objects and people--motion capture--has improved."

Read more here!


Music Theory PhD student Orit Hilewicz Wins Founders Prize from International Society for the Study of Time (ISST)!

The Department congratulates Music Theory PhD Candidate Orit Hilewicz, who has received the Founders Prize for New Scholars at the triennial conference of the International Society for the Study of Time (ISST) for her paper "Tracing Space in Time: Morton Feldman's Rothko Chapel." 

The prize announcement may be read online here.

Ms. Hilewicz's paper explores the relationship between Rothko's chapel in Houston, TX, and Morton Feldman's 1971 composition titled Rothko Chapel, composed for the chapel space. Focusing on the temporal dimension of Feldman's work, she examines the piece as a case of musical ekphrasis, the musical representation of another artwork, and shows that the interaction between contrasting musical temporalities in Feldman's Rothko Chapel becomes a temporal trace of a visitor's experience in Rothko's chapel. This paper is part of a larger analysis project that explores points of intersection between music and the visual arts, studying ekphrastic musical works as text for the original works they represent. 

Commencement 2013: Congratulations to Our Music Grads!

Commencement 2013: The Department of Music Congratulates our Graduating Students!

Columbia College (Majors and Concentrators)

  • Andrew Dugue (Concentration)
  • David Halpern 
  • Emily Hamilton (Concentration)
  • Victoria Lewis - Cum Laude
  • Megan Maloney (Concentration)
  • Ilan Marans
  • Mark Micchelli - Cum Laude
  • Emily Ostertag - Cum Laude
  • Natalie Robehmed
  • Christopher Ruenes- Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Departmental Honors*
  • Rieko Shepherd
  • Ian Shirley - Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa
  • Jacob Snider
  • Gregory Somerville
  • Maria Sulimirski
  • Natalie Weiner

School of General Studies (Majors)

  • Sebastian Clegg
  • Iva Kupresak

Barnard College (Majors, except as noted)

  • Rebecca Gray  - Music & English (Writing), Departmental Honors
  • Martina Wiedenbaum - Ethnomusicology
  • Lucy Finkelstein-Fox - Ethnomusicology & Psychology, Departmental Honors
  • Rachel Bronstein - Music
  • Lisa Campbell - Music
  • Elissa Mendez-Renk - Music
  • Laura Pantley - Music
  • Emma Solomons - Music
  • Alexandra Vidal - Music
  • Xuela Zhang - Music

* Departmental Honors are awarded to Chris Ruenes for his composition "Rupt ures," written under the supervision of  Brad Garton.  Finalists for Departmental Honors were Emily Ostertag, Jacob Snider, and Rieko Shepherd.

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences


  • Cesar Colon-Montijo
  • Beatriz Goubert
  • Orit Hilewicz
  • Kevin Holt
  • Anne Adele Levitsky
  • Brooke Rosemary Lyssy
  • William Lowell Mason
  • Imani Danielle Mosley
  • Yoshiaki Onishi
  • Thomas Christopher Smith


  • Beau Bothwell
  • Sean Hallowell
  • Nicholas Higgins.


Congratulations also to Music major Trey Toy, who has won The Arthur Rose Teaching Assistantship.  Established in 1958, this Assistantship is awarded to to a senior in the College who is to assist the work of a member of faculty in one of the departments that contribute to the courses in Contemporary Civilization and the Humanities. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bennett Rose in memory of their son, Arthur Rose.

Columbia Welcomes Professor Mariusz Kozak!


The Department of Music is delighted to welcome Mariusz Kozak to our faculty in Music Theory.  Prof. Kozak will join Columbia University as an Assistant Professor of Music in July, 2013.  He is currently a post-doctoral scholar and visiting assistant professor of music theory at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.  His research focuses on the emergence of musical meaning in contemporary art music, the development and cognitive bases of musical experience, and the phenomenology of bodily interactions in musical behavior. In his work, he attempts to bridge experimental approaches from embodied cognition with phenomenology and music analysis, in particular using motion-capture technology to study the movements of performers and listeners. His current project examines how listeners' understanding and experience of musical time are shaped by bodily actions and gestures.

As a violinist, Kozak has performed with the Rochester Philharmonic, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, the Santa Fe Opera, and the Santa Fe Symphony. After a stint with a Chicago-based country band, he continues to fiddle around in his spare time.

Announcing a New MFA Program in Sound Arts at Columbia!

New Program Announcement!


A new Interdepartmental MFA Program offered by the Columbia University School of the Arts in association with the Department of Music and the Computer Music Center.

Applications for Fall 2013 Now Being Accepted (Deadline Feb. 20, 2013)
Columbia University has been at the helm of sound-technology innovation for over fifty years with faculty specializing in composition, improvisation, sound installation, computer music, digital sound synthesis, acoustics, music cognition and software development.  Columbia's Computer Music Center in the Department of Music has a long history of creative excellence; its primary mission is to operate at the intersection of musical expression and technological development. The Center has state-of-the-art facilities for working in electro-acoustic music.  Faculty of the Center for Computer Music led the development of the new interdisciplinary area in Sound Arts that leads to the Master of Fine Arts degree awarded by the School of the Arts.

The Sound Arts area is currently accepting applications for Fall 2013. The program is highly selective. Each year only three to four students will be offered admission to the two-year program. Prospective students with a deep engagement with sound as medium, a familiarity with contemporary audio tools and techniques, and a demonstrated use of those tools in different contexts (sculptural or video installations, creation of performance interfaces, circuit-bending productions, innovative fusion of digital audio with digital graphics, imaginative use of network technologies) are encouraged to apply. While the Visual Arts Program in the School of the Arts currently accommodates students working in digital media, sculpture, installation, performance, film and video art, applicants who wish to base their research and studio practice primarily in the area of sonic or sound arts are to apply to the area of Sound Arts. 

The core of the Sound Arts curriculum is comprised of individually centered studio research projects. It is expected that Sound Arts students will pursue composition in a variety of genres and focus on the integration of sound with other media. The project-based research structure offers students the opportunity to expand the depth and complexity of their studio practice as well as their ability to think critically. Students have access to the expertise of the Sound Arts and Music faculty as well as to a variety of internationally known adjunct faculty and visiting artists appointed to work with Sound Arts students each year.

To this end, Music and Sound Arts faculty meet regularly with Sound Arts students to offer critical insight into the form and underlying ideas behind students' work to assist them in building a solid and provocative studio practice. A Thesis Project begins in the student's second year with a written proposal that delineates the student's artistic practice and outlines how he or she aims to fulfill the thesis requirement. A thesis committee composed of full-time and adjunct faculty of the Music Department and Sound Arts area is developed in consultation with each student. A large part of the Thesis Project will also be consideration of how the work will be situated and presented in the world. Sound Arts is a relatively new creative practice, thus site-specific, possible virtual/web-based components, and performative aspects will be necessarily included in planning the final Project.

The studio core of the program is augmented by the course "Critical Issues," a portion of which is offered in association with the Visual Arts Program, and features lectures and discussions led by prominent artists, composers, critics, art historians and curators. This course exposes students to a variety of artistic forms and perspectives and assists them to develop a strong base of history and theory related to their area of practice. Sound Arts students may also attend the Visiting Artists Lecture Series organized by the Visual Arts Program that exposes students to an array of artists from around the world on a weekly basis.

Through the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the Department of Music also offers degrees in Musicology (M.A., leading to M.Phil., and Ph.D.) and Composition (M.A., leading to D.M.A.). Sound Arts students may fulfill their electives by taking courses offered by the Department of Music. The Musicology program incorporates three areas: historical musicology, ethnomusicology, and music theory. Within these areas, research and teaching focus on a wide range of topics, including music history in the West, non-Western musics and cultures, popular and urban musics, jazz, analytical methods, music cognition, music aesthetics, and the philosophy of music. The program in Composition offers instruction in a variety of contemporary styles and media.

Sound Arts students may also fulfill elective requirements by taking classes across the University, taking full advantage of the intellectual and scholarly resources available at Columbia (see the Columbia University Directory of Classes for potential course offerings. This will allow Sound Arts students to benefit from the critical, theoretical and scholarly perspectives offered by faculty throughout the University. Sound Arts students are encouraged to enroll in electives offered by a variety of other Columbia departments, programs and institutes. Selection of appropriate electives will be done in consultation with Sound Arts faculty working with individual students.

A shared laboratory studio adjacent to The Center for Computer Music (CMC), and near the shops and studios of the School of the Arts Visual Arts Program, serves as the students' home base. Second-year Sound Arts students will also be assigned individual spaces to complete work on final projects. Students will have access to all of the resources of the CMC and to the Shop facilities of the Visual Arts Program, as well as to the Gabe Wiener Music & Arts Library. Students also have access to the extensive sound archives of the Center for Ethnomusicology and other musical resources available through the Music Department.
A national search is being conducted by the Department of Music and the School of the Arts to fill a new faculty position to oversee the Sound Arts area. Visit Jobs at Columbia for more information.