Music Theory at Columbia

Music Theory Faculty Members

Joseph Dubiel
Professor of Music
Chair, Music Theory Area
Ellie M. Hisama
Professor of Music
Mariusz Kozak
Assistant Professor of Music
Director of Undergraduate Music Theory
Benjamin Steege
Assistant Professor of Music
(on leave 2014-15)

Programs Offered

MA, PhD, undergraduate courses and lessons


Current Graduate Students in Music Theory

Eamonn Bell

Galen DeGraf (Thesis: "Performing 'Polymeter': Action, Attention, and Modes of Perception")

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

Anthony Fort

Marc Hannaford

Benjamin Hansberry

Orit Hilewicz

Will Mason

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

Mark Saccomano

Maeve Sterbenz

Michael Weinstein-Rieman


Recently Defended Theses

Max Schmeder, "Thirty-Three Miniature Dialectics: Hegelian Philosophy vis-a-vis Beethoven's 'Diabelli' Variations, Op. 120" (2014)

Kate Heidemann, "Hearing Women's Voices in Popular Song: Analyzing Sound and Identity in Country and Soul" (2014)

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



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


Area News and Events

Fall 2014

- Eamonn Bell, a second-year graduate student in music theory, presented a poster (co-authored with Daniel Shanahan) at the 2014 meeting of AMS/SMT in Milwaukee, WI, titled "Examining Stylistic Change Through Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Incipits."

- Maeve Sterbenz presented a paper at the 2014 meeting of AMS/SMT in Milwaukee, WI, titled "Listening Through Movement: An Examination of Lar Lubovitch's Choreography of the Adagio from Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622."

- Prof. Steege's book, Helmholtz and the Modern Listener (Cambridge University Press, 2012) won the Emerging Scholar Award at the 2014 meeting of the Society for Music Theory in Milwaukee, WI.

- Caleb Mutch will have an article titled "Blainville's New Mode, or How the Plagal Cadence Came to be 'Plagal'" appear in the upcoming issue of Eighteenth-Century Music.

- Will Mason, a PhD student in music theory, accepted a competitive Lead Teaching Fellowship (LTF), awarded by the GSAS Teaching Center. The fellowship, in its first year of existence, offers eligible graduate students a stipend in exchange for organizing two pedagogical training events in their departments. More information on LTF can be found here.

Will also presented a paper titled "Grisey and the Posthuman Voice" at the Gerard Grisey, the spectral moment, and its legacy conference, held on October 19-21, 2014 in Montreal, Canada.

- Marc Hannaford, a second-year graduate student in music theory, presented a paper titled "Black Saturday, Planning and Improvisation" at the Vs. Interpretation Festival and Symposium, held July 16-20, 2014 in Prague, Czech Republic. His trip was supported by the H.S. Gerstle Travel Fund (GSAS) and by funds from the Music department.



Prof. Hisama became 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). It won SMT's 2014 Emerging Scholar Award.



Spring 2014

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.


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

News and Events in Music Theory

Position Announcement: Two-Year Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowships

Two-Year Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowships-Lecturerships in Music at Columbia University


The Department of Music at Columbia University invites applications for Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowships. Appointment will be at the rank of Mellon Teaching Fellow/Lecturer, for a period of two years to begin July 1, 2015.  A PhD, DMA or the equivalent is required. The degree must have been received between 1 January 2011 and 1 July 2015. Fellows will be expected to do research, participate in the academic life of the Department of Music, and teach one course per semester in each of the two years (three in Columbia's Core Curriculum and one in the candidate's area of specialization).


Review of applications begins immediately and will continue until the positions are filled. For more information and to apply, please visit:  

Columbia University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer.

Prof. George Lewis Interviewed in "I Care If You Listen" Magazine

Prof. George Lewis is featured in an interview in Issue 10 of I Care If You Listen magazine, entitled "The Past is Prologue," and written by Arlene and Larry Dunn. 

Fall 2014 Department of Music Newsletter Published!

The Department of Music is pleased to announce the publication of its Fall 2014 official Newsletter!

Please click here to open the Newsletter in PDF format. 

The Department also asks our friends and alumni to consider making a financial gift  in support of the Department's many initiatives and programs this holiday season.  Your generous gift will support many student needs directly, including graduate student conference and research travel, visiting speakers and performers, and needed improvements to classrooms and practice rooms. 

2015 will be an exciting year for the Department as we celebrate 50-year anniversaries for both the journal Current Musicology (in spring 2015) and the Center for Ethnomusicology (in fall 2015), in this the Department's 119th year.  

Please see the Newsletter for some of the outstanding upcoming events for the spring semester. 

Finally, we wish all our friends, affiliates, students, and colleagues a very happy, warm, and music-filled holiday season and extend our best wishes for the new year!


Fall 2014 Department of Music Newsletter  

(click to render each image in a new page)


Call for Papers: Current Musicology 50th Anniversary Conference, March 28-29, 2015 (Deadline for submissions is 1/15/15)

Call for Papers!

Current Musicology
50th Anniversary Conference

March 28-29, 2015 at Columbia University

Deadline for All Abstract Submissions: January 15, 2015

Submissions are invited for a conference commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the journal Current Musicology. As a tribute to Current Musicology's multidisciplinary orientation, which combines perspectives from different areas of music scholarship, we welcome proposals for 20-minute paper presentations on any topic related to the areas of historical musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory and analysis, philosophy of music, popular music studies, music education, and related fields. Papers presented at the conference will be considered for publication in the journal's celebratory special issue.

To submit a proposal, please e-mail your name, institution, e-mail address, and an abstract of no more than 250 words to by January 15, 2015, with the subject line "Conference Submission." The committee will select papers anonymously. All scholars who submit abstracts will be notified of the committee's decision by February 1, 2015.

About the Current Musicology Anniversary Conference
Georgina Born,
Professor of Music and Anthropology at the University of Oxford, will give the conference's keynote address. The conference will also feature a roundtable discussion on approaches to music studies, revisiting a theme from one of the journal's most popular issues (Current Musicology 53, 1993, "Approaches to the Discipline"). The panel, moderated by Professor George Lewis (Columbia University), will feature Professors Kofi Agawu (Princeton University), Lydia Goehr (Columbia University), Lawrence Kramer (Fordham University), and Ingrid Monson (Harvard University).

Please direct all inquiries to conference co-chairs, Orit Hilewicz ( & Tom Smith (

Prof. Ellie Hisama Wins Curriculum Development Grant from IRWGS

The Department of Music congratulates Professor Ellie Hisama, who was awarded an inaugural curriculum development grant from Columbia's Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Funded by the Mellon Foundation and the Heyman Center, the grant supports development of a new course titled "Feminist Listening: Critical and Intersectional Approaches to Popular Music," which Prof. Hisama expects to offer in 2015 or 2016.   

Columbia Theorists Triumph at the SMT Annual Meeting

At the Annual Meeting of the Society for Music Theory in Milwaukee (November 2014), held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society, the faculty, alumni, and affiliates of the Music Theory area garnered major awards, presented papers, and chaired panels.

The Emerging Scholar Award (for a book or article published no more than seven calendar years after the author's receipt of the Ph.D.) was awarded to Benjamin Steege (Assistant Professor), Helmholtz and the Modern Listener  (Cambridge University Press).
The Wallace Berry Award (for a distinguished book by an author of any age or career stage) was awarded to Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis (University of Arkansas; PhD 2003), On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind  (Oxford University Press).

The Outstanding Publication Award (for a distinguished article by an author of any age or career stage) was awarded to Nathan Martin (Yale University; Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow 2009-11), "Rameau's Changing Views on Supposition and Suspension," Journal of Music Theory.

Eamonn Bell (doctoral student in Theory) participated in the poster session "Empirical Approaches to Music Theory and Musicology" (a joint session with the American Musicological Society).

Maeve Sterbenz (doctoral student in Theory) read "Listening through Movement: An Examination of Lar Lubovitch's Choreography of the Adagio from Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622" on "Dancing Undisciplined" (AMS Music and Dance Study Group).

Kate Heidemann (Colby College; PhD 2014) read "Toward a System of Vocal Timbre Description in Popular Song" on "Timbre Rocks!" (SMT).

Maryam Moshaver (University of Alberta; PhD 2006) read "Fundamental Bass and Metalanguage: An Anatomy of Two Analytical Practices" on "Theorists vs. Theorists" (SMT).

Max Schmeder (UC Berkeley; PhD 2014) read "The 'Goldberg' Variations (1741) as a Rebuttal to Newton's 'Queries' from the Opticks (1704/40)" on "Religion and Enlightenment in Germany" (AMS).

James Currie (University at Buffalo; PhD 2001) participated in "Queer Music Theory: Interrogating Notes of Sexuality" (AMS LGBTQ Study Group & SMT Queer Resource Group).

Christopher Doll (Rutgers University; PhD 2007) chaired "Rocky Relationships" (SMT).

Lydia Goehr (Philosophy) gave the SMT Keynote Address "Does it Matter Where We Begin? Thinking about First Lines and False Starts."

Ellie Hisama (Theory and Historical Musicology) chaired "Timbreland" (SMT).

Dr. Bryan Parkhurst Appointed Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Music!

The Department of Music is delighted to welcome Dr. Bryan Parkhurst as an incoming Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow for 2014-16!

Dr. Parkhurst earned his PhD in philosophy and music theory from the University of Michigan, where he was supported by both a Regents Fellowship and a Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship.  His dissertation, "Sound's Arguments: Philosophical Encounters with Music Theory," which was written under the supervision of Kendall Walton, Ramon Satyendra, and Kevin Korsyn, engages closely with the thought of such figures as Schenker, Lewin, Kant, Hegel, Hanslick, Schopenhauer, Dewey, and Wittgenstein.   He is currently researching a book about Hegel and Hauptmann.  Additionally, Bryan is interested in Marxist philosophy generally and Marxist aesthetics in particular, as well as in the grand question of whether and how it is possible for music to be philosophy (Marxist or otherwise).  Bryan's recent publications appear in Music Theory Online, The Journal of Aesthetic Education, The Journal of Interdisciplinary Humanities, and elsewhere.  He is a also a harpist and accordionist. 

Graduating Seniors Olivia Munson, Josh Owens, & Alexander Porter Win Departmental Honors!

The Department of Music is pleased to announce that Departmental Honors for 2014 are awarded to the following graduating senior music majors:

Alexander Porter (Columbia College) for his project (advised by Prof. Joseph Dubiel), "Of Diagrammatology in Music and Architecture," which included both an extended essay and two original creative works, a composition called "Diachronism" and a short play called "Broken Images."  All were woven together by Alex's stimulating, imaginative exploration of time, memory, and space across both musical and architectural dimensions. A complete PDF version of Alexander's thesis can be downloaded here.

Olivia Munson (Columbia College) for her essay (advised by Prof. Aaron Fox) "A Space for Musical Therapy: On Nationalism, Modernity, Music, and Medicine in the Transition from Ottoman Empire to Turkish Republic."  This essay looks at the use of music for medicinal or therapeutic purposes across broad historical span of Turkish history.  Olivia's essay represents an impressive combination of on-the-ground fieldwork and sophisticated theoretical-historical analysis.

Joshua Owens (General Studies) for his software project (advised by Prof. Peter Susser) openScore.  openScore is capable of parsing four-part MIDI files, creating independent audio signals from each voice, and sending those audio signals to any combination of the four speakers weighted by the cursor's distance from the predefined speaker nodes. This gives the student/listener the ability to hear the full polyphonic texture while using location and timbre to distinguish the separate voices.  Learn more about Josh's music and research at

The Department also is pleased to recognize the other graduating seniors who undertook ambitious and impressive Honors projects, and their advisors: Lukas Matern and Robert Frech (advised by Prof. Ellie Hisama), Jerome Genova (advised by Prof. Jeffrey Milarsky), Solomon Hoffman (advised by Prof. Peter Susser), David Su (advised by Prof. Brad Garton), Kevin Lee (advised by Prof. Aaron Fox), and Trey Toy (advised by Prof. Fred Lerdahl).

Congratulations to all!!!

Congratulations to our 2014 Doctoral Graduates!

Photos: Smiles at the GSAS doctoral convocation on Sunday, May 18, 2014 and at the department's luncheon on Wednesday, May 21 after Commencement.

We congratulate our new doctoral alumni!

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences  PhD/DMA:

Belkind, Nili (PhD)
Bryan, Courtney (DMA)
Di Castri, Zosha (DMA)
Eggert, Andrew (PhD)
Forshaw, Juliet (PhD)
Heidemann, Katherine (PhD)
Johnson, Aaron (PhD)
King, Jonathan (PhD)
Kisiedu, Harald (PhD)
Morrison, Matthew (PhD)
Nail, Ashley (DMA)
Newland, Marti (PhD)
Schmeder, Maximillian (PhD)
Tallgren, Johan (DMA)



Dr. Toby King Appointed Assistant Professor of Music at UNC Asheville!

The Department of Music warmly congratulates Jonathan "Toby" King (PhD, Ethnomusicology, 2014), who has been appointed Assistant Professor of Music at The University of North Carolina at Asheville!  Mr. King's dissertation is entitled "Implications of Contemporary Bluegrass Music Performance at and around a New York City Jam Session," and it is sponsored by Prof. Aaron Fox. Dr. King defended his dissertation on June 2, 2014. 

Dr. Kate Heidemann Appointed Faculty Fellow at Colby College!

The Department of Music congratulates Music Theory PhD alumna DrKate Heidemann.  Dr. Heidemann has been appointed Faculty Fellow in Music at Colby College for the 2014/15 academic year.  

Dr. Heidemann recently defended her dissertation, entitled "Hearing Women's Voices in Popular Song: Analyzing Sound and Identity in Country and Soul," advised by Professor Ellie Hisama. 


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. 

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.