Anna Yu Wang


I am a music theorist and ethnographer interested in what it means—and what it takes—to listen across lines of cultural difference. Through a combination of field research, music analysis, and examination of historical sources, I study how habits of musical perception are shaped by culturally situated epistemological and ideological frameworks. My current research focuses on two Sinitic opera traditions, 黄梅戏 huangmei opera and 歌仔戲 kua-a opera, bringing into focus how Daoist-inflected ways of living anchor intuitions for meter, form, and tonality in these communities. This work has been recognized with the 2022 Society for Music Theory Dissertation Fellowship and the 2021 Patricia Carpenter Award.

While my research deepens our understanding of how musical sensibilities relate to pervasive philosophical discourses in Chinese-speaking and broader East Asian contexts, it also performs important reflexive work. My work explodes canonic paradigms of musicality and music theorizing which are largely taken for granted in Canadian and US music institutions. Such paradigms include symmetry, categorical precision, and ocular-centrism.

Beyond research, I advocate for the ethical inclusion of Othered and colonized musical paradigms through my service as co-chair of the SMT Analysis of World Music Interest Group and Associate Editor of the music pedagogy journal Engaging Students. Recent and current projects include “Beyond Western Musicalities,” a special issue of Engaging Students featuring theoretical reflections and lesson plans on diverse musical traditions; Music Theory in the Plural, an in-progress anthology of music theoretical source materials from languages and communities that have historically been underrepresented in Western academia; and “Music Theory and Ethnomusicology: Towards Methodological Synergy,” a panel co-organized with the SMT Committee on Race and Ethnicity and the SEM Special Interest Group for Music Analysis which explores how sharing methodologies across disciplines can facilitate culturally sensitive research.

I am on faculty at the Longy School of Music, where I was appointed to create a six-semester undergraduate music theory curriculum that promotes inclusivity and multicultural literacy. I also founded Discourse Across Divides, a public outreach project striving to foster meaningful listening across ideological differences by contextualizing diverse political positions within personal narratives.

Before coming to Harvard, I completed a B.Mus in Piano Performance and Music Theory and Analysis at McGill University.