Musicology Department

The MA Exam in Musicology

The MA Exam is given twice annually in August and January. The morning portion involves A) responding to specific questions about three scores, and B) writing an essay on a score or recording that has been distributed forty-eight hours in advance. The afternoon is devoted to three essays intended to test your ability to develop a music historical narrative. These questions are drawn from a pool provided several months in advance. Exam questions are solicited from all members of the musicology faculty.

Here are the instructions that will appear on each section of the examination, with some explanatory commentary that may help you in preparations.

Part I (morning): Scores/Recordings.

“Four scores or recordings are provided for your examination, three in group A and one in group B. For the music in group A, respond to the specific questions attached to each. The music in group B will be provided at least forty-eight hours in advance. The name of the composer will be supplied, and you are to discuss the stylistic features of the score or recording, referring to the specific musical traits by measure number or by clock timing (for recordings).” [Time: ca. 30 minutes each for group A; ca. 90 minutes for group B]

The questions asked in group A might be similar to those asked on a styles examination, i.e., questions about genre, compositional technique, features of rhythm and meter, features of instrumentation, comparisons with other compositions of a similar type, and so on. The excerpt in group B should be treated along similar lines, but you will not have specific questions to direct your answers. You are encouraged to seek out relevant scholarship to help you place it.

Part II (afternoon): Essays

“This part is arranged in three sections concerning material from (1) antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance; (2) the Baroque and Classical eras; and (3) the Romantic era and years since. Each section consists of a question or topic you should address in an essay. Your treatment should provide sufficient detail (such as references to specific compositions, chronology, and so on) to indicate your familiarity both with the music and with the historical issues of the question or topic.” [Time: ca. 80 minutes for each section]

This part is intended to test your ability to develop a music historical narrative. At the end of each spring semester a dozen essay questions covering a range of historical eras will be made available. Three questions drawn from this pool will appear on each of the following August and January exams.

Click here for the next scheduled exam date.