Music Theory


T658 Schema Theory and the Cultural Musical Mind

Prof. Vasili Byros

2:30-5:15p.m. TR
M263 (Music Library Seminar Room)

Schema-theoretic research investigates the cultural foundations of musical structures, perception, and practices. It has a highly interdisciplinary focus, standing at the intersection of music theory, historical musicology, ethnomusicology, philosophy, and cognitive science. We will study representative texts from the music-theoretic discipline by Leonard Meyer, Robert Gjerdingen, and myself, in addition to seminal works on the schema concept from cognitive and social psychology. Two of the main themes of the seminar will be rigorous style analysis and historical/culture- specific modes of listening.

Students will acquire practical tools involving schema-based analyses of individual musical works, and empirical approaches to objectifying structures from a musical corpus. These practical activities will be complemented by critical engagement with the epistemological presuppositions of schema theory via readings and short response papers, which will serve as the basis for seminar discussions.

Students will be strongly encouraged to adapt schema theory’s practical and epistemological concerns to their own specific research and musical interests. The seminar will consequently place considerable emphasis on professional development: students will assemble a conference-paper “dossier,” including a proposal (such as is appropriate for SMT, AMS, or comparable venues), an abstract, and final paper. Proposals will be workshopped in the seminar, and a short-form version of the final paper will be presented in a mock conference setting at the end of the semester.

Prerequisites: MUS-T508 and T551 or equivalent, or consent of instructor.