Music Theory

The Music Theory program at the University at Buffalo is one of the most successful in the U.S., with recent graduates moving on to full-time jobs at Yale, Temple, Swarthmore, Bowling Green, Ithaca College, American University, Arizona State, and many other fine universities and colleges around the world.

The UB Theory faculty offers a unique mix of traditional musical disciplines and individual creativity. Students are given a thorough grounding in the standard disciplines, such as history of theory, Schenkerian analysis, and set theory, while being expected to master promising new areas of research, such as Neo-Riemannian transformations, diatonic set theory, and intertextuality. Recent doctoral seminars have addressed such topics, as well as the music of Stravinsky, the music of Ives, and 19th- & 20th-century tonal chromaticism. Among recent completed dissertations are studies of microtonal music by Haba, form in Takemitsu's music, harmony in Schoenberg"s Gurrelieder, and gravitational space as a metaphor for analysis. A list of all completed UB dissertations in Music Theory, and the current teaching positions of the recipients can be found here.

The lynchpin of the Buffalo program is the Slee Chair, the oldest fully endowed professorship of Music Theory in the country. The program is also home to the Slee Institute of Tonal Harmony, which seeks to integrate the highest-level of systematic speculative research in music theory with the everyday business of teaching harmony to undergraduate students. Another central resource is the music library, conveniently located on site in the music building, which has unusually strong collections in the areas of jazz, rare editions, and contemporary music. The strong contemporary music presence and distinguished musicology faculty at UB also ensure a lively, interdisciplinary community of composers, performers, and scholars.


Degree Programs

The Department offers two graduate degrees in Music Theory: the Ph.D. in Music Theory and Historical Musicology (students may specialize in either area), and a Master of Arts in Theory. There are several options for fellowships, teaching assistantships and graduate awards available to the prospective graduate student.

M.A. in Music Theory
Ph.D. in Historical Musicology and Music Theory

Undergraduate students interested in Music Theory can pursue an Bachelor of Arts in Music, and adopt Music Theory as their advisement track. More info can be found here.



Charles J. Smith, Coordinator of Theory
Ph.D. University of Michigan
Associate Professor & Slee Chair in Music Theory

Brian Moseley, Coordinator of Theory
Ph.D. City University of New York
Assistant Professor

Richard Plotkin
Ph.D. University of Chicago
Assistant Professor