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-à-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 Gérard 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

DMA Alumna Wang Lu Appointed Assistant Professor at Brown University

The Department of Music warmly congratulates Wang Lu (DMA 2012) who has been appointed Assistant Professor in Composition and Theory at Brown University.

You can read more about Wang Lu's work and accomplishments on her website.

Alumni Anthony Cheung and Nico Muhly cited in NY Times article on Pierre Boulez

Two Alumni, Anthony Cheung (DMA) and Nico Muhly (Columbia BA), were recently cited in a New York Times article, "Musicians Discuss the Influence of Pierre Boulez" by Zachary Woolfe, written in honor of Boulez's 90th birthday.

On Boulez as a composer, Muhly notes: "His own music has a great amount of surface beauty... That decadence. The Frenchness to it. You can feel the butter swirling in that pan. And when he conducts it, he teases out these luxurious textures."

On Boulez as a "perpetual reviser," Cheung observes: "The quality and care of his work, the craft with which he writes, is something that everyone who cares about composition respects."

Read the full article here.

Current Musicology turns 50: A New Website and Conference! (CDRS Blog)

Cross-posted from the blog of the The Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS)



Current Musicology turns 50: A New Website and Conference

The Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS) is pleased to have partnered with Current Musicology, a leading journal for scholarly research on music, to launch their new website at

Current Musicology, a graduate-run publication founded in 1965 which publishes articles and book reviews in the fields of historical musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory and analysis, and philosophy of music, now benefits from an easily navigable site and a clean new design, and runs onWordPress as well as Open Journal Systems to enable manuscript tracking and peer review management. The journal makes use of the new WordPress journals template developed by CDRS' production team, and is the first project that is integrated via WordPress with Columbia's institutional repository, Academic Commons. The collaborative effort of CDRS' Project Coordinator Kerri O'Connell, Senior Project Manager Eva Cunningham, Junior Web Developer Megan O'Neill, Production Assistant Semhar Woldeyesus, and Digital Repository Coordinator Brian Luna Lucero means that journal content on the site is pulled directly from Academic Commons, enabling the number of times content is downloaded on the journal site to be captured and reported on within the repository.

This weekend (March 28-29), CDRS is co-sponsoring Current Musicology's conference to celebrate their 50th Anniversary, which is free and open to the public and to be held in Columbia University's Butler Library in rooms 522 and 523. CDRS Video Producer, Kristian Portella, will be filming theconference keynote on Saturday by the University of Oxford's Georgina Born, the video for which will be later made available on Youtube. The social media hashtag for the conference - already being well-utilized on Twitter - is #CMTurns50. If you'd like to attend the conference, the Current Musicology team recommend you RSVP.

CMSC Conference Poster



click for full-sized poster

Spring 2015 Colloquia in the Department of Music (all events public!)

Spring 2015 Colloquia - Columbia University Department of Music

Click here for full-sized poster (.jpg)

February 13: Joel Sachs (the Juilliard School)

"Weighing the Evidence: Problems for the Cowell Biographer." 

622 Dodge, 2 pm


February 13: "Tomorrow is the Question: Afrofuturism, Sound, and Spirit": panel discussion:

Union Theological Seminary, James Memorial Chapel, 7-9 pm

Sponsored by the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life Life; and co-sponsored by Columbia's Department of Music; Columbia University's Edwin H. Case Chair in American Music;  the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race; and the Department of Africana Studies at Barnard.

February 20: Stefano Lorenzetti (Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America)

"Scritte nella mente"? Giovanni Gabrieli's Keyboard Music and the Art of 'Improvised Composition'

622 Dodge Hall, 2 pm


February 27: Digital Projects in Music Research

523 Butler Library, 2-5 pm

Presented by the Department of Music and the Columbia University Libraries


March 6: Richard Hermann (University of New Mexico)

Verdi Challenges, the Ave Maria from the Quattro Pezzi Sacri-An Italian Approach?

622 Dodge, 2 pm


April 10: Roger Grant (Wesleyan University)

The Passions in Print: Musical Taxonomies and the First Death of Affect Theory

622 Dodge, 2 pm


April 17: Melissa Bilal (Columbia University)

"Finding Hay yerk [Armenian song]: Early Armenian Musicology between two Empires"

622 Dodge, 2 pm

colloquia_s15_copy.jpg225.28 KB

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.