The study of music not only deepens the student’s appreciation and understanding of art, culture, and history; it hones the analytic, writing, creative, and critical thinking skills as much as or more than any liberal arts subject. Music incorporates theory, much as math does, and composition, much as any study of the arts. But the study of music also includes cultural history, politics, science (sound studies), and philosophy. Many of our students are performers. We believe that understanding the cultural and historical background of the music we perform will result in a better performance.
The Music Department covers a wide range of styles and genres: the whole gamut of Western music history is represented from medieval chant to contemporary composition, as are large areas of musical traditions from other parts of the world, with a specific emphasis on South Asian and African cultures, jazz, and American music. Popular music has been represented in recent years by classes from California in the 60s to Global pop to the study of activism through music and songwriting. The requirements for a music concentration are very flexible.
Our faculty numbers 26 members, and we serve approximately 30-50 undergraduate concentrators (as well as 60-70 PhD students). Students reap the advantages of a smaller concentration: individual attention, friendliness, the opportunity to get to know faculty, fellow students, graduate students in music, and to become familiar with the department’s many resources.
The Graduate Program of the Department of Music offers advanced training in historical musicology, ethnomusicology, theory, and composition, leading to the degree of PhD in Music. There is no admission to an AM program separate from these PhD programs. In unusual cases, students who cannot successfully complete the General Examination may be given the option of completing the requirements for a terminal AM degree.
At any given time, there are 55-70 graduate students in residence, and 6-12 new graduate students enter each year. The Music Building contains a concert hall (the John Knowles Paine Concert Hall), classrooms, faculty and graduate offices, a superb research library (the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library), a microfilm library of primary source materials (the Isham Memorial Library), an archive of world music recordings, listening facilities, a high-quality electronic music studio (HUSEAC: Harvard University Studio for Electroacoustic Composition), an ethnomusicology lab, a collection of early instruments, chamber music rehearsal rooms, and individual piano practice rooms. Other facilities throughout Harvard University include the vast resources of Widener Library, the Houghton Library (which contains rare music prints and manuscripts, and autographs of major composers), Lamont Media, and the libraries and practice rooms of the Dudley House (the center of graduate student activities). In addition, a wealth of musical opportunities is readily available to students at Harvard and at the many neighboring universities (e.g., Boston University, Berklee, Brandeis University, M.I.T, and New England Conservatory) and civic and professional institutions (e.g., Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Public Library, and Museum of Fine Arts with the Mason Collection of Musical Instruments).
Graduate students are awarded six years guaranteed funding (including living expenses) when accepted to a PhD program.