Graduate Studies in Composition

The Master Of Arts in Composition

Students in these programs take a series of core courses in their discipline, including work in theory, methodology, analysis, and history. The first year often involves one or two semesters of intensive ear-training in MUS 505-506. Historians take MUS 500, Introduction to Musical Research, and several other topics seminars. In addition to regular composition lessons, composers often take MUS 501, an intensive review of counterpoint and tonal harmony; they also take MUS 515-516, the introduction to electronic music.

In the second year of the masters program, historians write a short thesis growing out of seminar work, and composers develop a portfolio to be reviewed by the composition faculty. At the end of the second year, all masters students take comprehensive exams in musical analysis; history/theory students also take a comprehensive exam on basic repertoire and literature in their respective discipline.

The PhD in Composition

In the first year of study, PhD students are assigned a faculty directing committee, with whom they create their own curriculum by drawing up a doctoral contract The contract lists courses to be taken and projected work (compositions or research papers).

Prior to advancing to candidacy (normally after two or three years in the program), history/theory candidates take an oral exam in their field of specialization, and present a prospectus for their thesis. For composers, the thesis is an extended composition.

About the Music Department at Stony Brook

Stony Brook's music programs have grown out of an unusual partnership between the academy and the conservatory. Our degree programs are designed to favor interaction among musical disciplines that have traditionally been kept separate. We believe that a sound education for any musician or musical scholar must involve three things: a solid theoretical grasp of musical structure, an understanding of the historical and cultural forces that shape music, and practical experience with music-making on a professional level. The performance programs at Stony Brook all have an academic component, and the programs in history/theory and composition are enriched by daily contact with students and faculty in the performance programs. Our graduate courses typically have a healthy mix of students from all areas: in a course in computer music you might find a clarinetist exploring computer-interactive performance working next to a musicologist using sound-processing equipment to transcribe an improvised solo.

Interdisciplinary studies are central to the educational philosophy of the department. A number of courses are team-taught by two or more faculty members, examining topics from several disciplinary viewpoints. Many courses examine music in a broader social context. The music of the 20th (and 21st!) century is a particular emphasis of both our performance and academic programs, but other musical eras and traditions are also amply represented. Students can choose seminars from a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from medieval music theory to popular music. We frequently offer courses or productions in collaboration with the departments of Philosophy, Comparative Studies, Theater Arts, and Art, the programs in Cultural Studies and Womens' Studies, or the Stony Brook Humanities Institute. The department encourages the development of professional competence in more than one area of musical study. Opportunity for advanced work in more than one area is innate to the design of the programs at the doctoral level. For students at that level who propose to do serious work both in performance and in some other area, the decision to pursue either the D.M.A. or the Ph.D. degree will depend upon the balance of emphases in the intended program of study.

for more information, please contact:
Monica Gentile, Graduate Program Coordinator

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