Northwestern’s Program in Music Theory and Cognition is unique in its combination of two related disciplines that share a common goal: to examine how musical structure interacts with creativity (composition, improvisation), performance (reproduction, movement), and reception (listening and interpretation).

The concept of the “listener” is thematic to our research, and inherently rich and diversified in its definition and application: it includes the reconstruction of historical listeners circumscribed by stylistic conventions as much as it accounts for contemporary listeners’ experiences of global soundscapes and electronic media. We understand the interactions of music theory and cognition as fluid and capable of taking different forms and using different methodologies. This includes music theory informed by cultural and historical knowledge of listening environments and current research in cognition, as well as empirical research involving methods such as corpus studies, lab experiments, and fieldwork. 

This breadth of epistemological perspective and diversity of methodological approaches is reflected in the wide spectrum of repertoires studied by our internationally acclaimed faculty, reaching from the eighteenth century to electronic dance music. We seek PhD students who wish to become professional music theorists in academic settings, and we welcome applicants whose research interests intersect with our particular strengths in schema theory, topic theory, rhythm and meter, musical meaning, embodiment, popular music, and videogame music.

The graduate student support provided to PhD students includes year-round tuition and stipend and fully subsidized health insurance.

Music Theory and Cognition Faculty

Richard Ashley

Associate Professor, Music Theory and Cognition

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Mark J. Butler

Professor, Music Theory and Cognition

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Vasili Byros

Associate Professor, Music Theory and Cognition

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Danuta Mirka

Professor, Music Theory and Cognition

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Susan Piagentini

Senior Lecturer, Music Theory and Cognition

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Robert Reinhart

Lecturer, Music Theory and Cognition

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About the Music Theory and Cognition Program

At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, students receive first-class training and experience in the ever expanding and diversifying discipline of music theory.

Our faculty are leaders in evolving sub-disciplines such as systematic music theory, popular music studies, historical music theory, and situated cognition. Northwestern students have the further advantage of studying with renowned scholars in the interdisciplinary field of cognitive science, both within and outside the Bienen School of Music.

Undergraduate students develop facility in traditional areas such as counterpoint, harmony, ear-training, melody, rhythm, and form, while also studying music history and culture. The undergraduate programs of study address questions involving musical construction, listener response, the features of musical style, and the basis for common metaphors used in describing music. They offer excellent preparation for continued graduate study in music research—be it in theory, musicology, or cognition—or for careers in other sectors where a solid foundation in music will be useful.

Graduate students are encouraged to pursue research in areas among the faculty's expertise. These include topics such as the following:

  • Schema theory, categorization, and style

  • Music and memory

  • Tonality

  • Rhythm and meter

  • Eighteenth-century music

  • Popular music

  • Musical design in relation to gender and sexuality

  • Technologically mediated performance; expressive performance

  • Music and communication

  • Historically informed theory and cognition

Beyond these specializations, the faculty may supervise a broad range of topics, from traditional areas of music theory such as Formenlehre and the history of music theory to specialized topics in the cognitive sciences, including music and neuroscience.

Graduates of Our Program

Stephen Hudson (PhD19)

Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Richmond

Bruno Alcalde (PhD18)

Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina

Olga Sanchez-Kisielewska (MM11, PhD18)

Lecturer of Music Theory, University of Chicago

Rosa Abrahams (MM11, PhD17)

Assistant Professor, Ursinus College

Kristina Knowles (PhD16)

Assistant Professor, Arizona State University

Karen Chan Barrett (PhD15)

Postdoctoral fellow, Department of Otolaryngology, University of California San Francisco Medical Center

Janet Bourne (PhD15)

Assistant Professor, University of California-Santa Barbara

Cora Palfy (MM13, PhD15)

Assistant Professor, Elon University

JiChul Kim (PhD13)

Postdoctoral researcher, University of Connecticut

Benjamin Anderson (PhD12)

Senior Data Scientist, Sysco

Ben Duane (PhD12)

Assistant Professor, Washington University of St. Louis

Kyung Myun Lee (PhD12)

Assistant Professor, Korean Advanced Technical Institute of Science and Technology

Ives Chor (PhD10)

Lead Product Manager, Groupon

Caroline Davis (PhD10)

New York-based jazz musician and educator

Stacey Davis (PhD02)

Associate Chair of the Department of Music and Associate Professor, University of Texas-San Antonio

Cynthia McGregor (PhD00)

Dean, School of the Arts, Communications and Social Sciences, Southwestern College

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Music Theory and Cognition PhD Students

PhD Candidate

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Anjni Amin

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PhD Candidate

anjniamin2014@u.northwestern.edu

Anjni Amin's research engages a range of topics, including expressive performance, music theory pedagogy, music and emotion, world music pedagogy, and music education. Her dissertation examines the development of expressive interpretation skills through interaction between performer-pedagogue and student in the collegiate performance studio. She has presented her research at the International Conference for Music Cognition and Perception and International Conference on Analytical Approaches to World Music, as well as meetings of the College Music Society and Society for Ethnomusicology. Her work dealing with both music theory and world music pedagogy is published in The Routledge Companion to Music Theory Pedagogy. Prior to her doctoral studies, she earned a bachelor's degree in music education from The College of Saint Rose and a master's degree in music theory from Northwestern. Anjni is affiliated with Northwestern's Searle Center for Advancing Learning & Teaching, serving as a Graduate Teaching Mentor and a Teaching Consultant, and is currently a commissioning editor for the Society for Music Theory's Performance Analysis Interest Group blog.

1st year PhD

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Sara Bowden

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1st year PhD

Sara Bowden grew up at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Maryville, TN. They earned their undergraduate degree in Music Theory from The University of North Texas (B.M. 2018, Thesis: “Kill or Be Killed: Music as a Moral Catalyst in Toby Fox’s Undertale”) and their master’s degree in Music Theory and Cognition from Northwestern University (M.M. 2019, Thesis: “Narrative Transformation and Music in Mediatized Moral Space in Charlie Brooker’s Bandersnatch”). Their research interests include video game music and morality as well as movement and musical entrainment in a variety of different video gaming platforms. They have presented papers at regional and international conferences including Collin College UISRC and IASPM-ANZ. Outside of their academic pursuits, Bowden is an in-demand marching arts educator, choreographer, and guest clinician. Most recently, they served as a visual technician with the 7th Regiment drum and bugle corps based in New London, CT. As an educator in the Chicago area, Bowden currently works as a field instructor for the seven-time Bands of America Grand National Champion Marian Catholic High School Marching Band. An active performer, they are a trombonist for the Clamor & Lace Noise Brigade, Chicago’s first street band comprised solely of women and non-binary performers. 

2nd year PhD

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Lena Console

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2nd year PhD

LenaConsole2023@u.northwestern.edu

A native of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Lena Console holds two bachelor’s degrees from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music: a Bachelor of Music in Trumpet Performance and a Bachelor of Science in Music Theory & Philosophy. After a lifetime in the Midwest, Lena spent four years working and performing in Seattle, Washington. There she worked as a research coordinator for the University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, researching impacts of group music-making on children’s empathy and pro-social behavior; and as a teaching artist for various organizations, including the Seattle Symphony, where she piloted a community composition residency program with adults who are facing homelessness. As a trumpet performer, her experiences range from historical performance to modern jazz and rock covers. Lena’s current research interests focus on the intersections between aesthetic perception and mindfulness, exploring cognitive components such as attention, memory, and expectation. Also passionate about community engagement, Lena hopes to develop her academic research to create accessible programs for those outside of academia. 

4th Year PhD

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Sean Curtice

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4th Year PhD

seancurtice2016@u.northwestern.edu

Sean Curtice is from San Diego, California. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in music and English at Wesleyan University, completing an honors thesis that included the composition of a piano concerto in the style of Mozart. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Composition and Music Theory from the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland, where he studied under Felix Diergarten and Johannes Menke. His master's thesis was a complete edition of the partimenti of Luigi Cherubini and a study of the Neapolitan-inspired teaching methods developed at teh Paris Conservatory under Cherubini's directorship. He served as an editor of a new German-English edition of Hans Peter Weber's Generalbass-Compendium and has been featured in journals including Eighteenth-Century Music and Notes. Curtice's interests include period composition and historical music theory, particularly thoroughbass practice of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Anjni Amin

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PhD Candidate

anjniamin2014@u.northwestern.edu

Anjni Amin's research engages a range of topics, including expressive performance, music theory pedagogy, music and emotion, world music pedagogy, and music education. Her dissertation examines the development of expressive interpretation skills through interaction between performer-pedagogue and student in the collegiate performance studio. She has presented her research at the International Conference for Music Cognition and Perception and International Conference on Analytical Approaches to World Music, as well as meetings of the College Music Society and Society for Ethnomusicology. Her work dealing with both music theory and world music pedagogy is published in The Routledge Companion to Music Theory Pedagogy. Prior to her doctoral studies, she earned a bachelor's degree in music education from The College of Saint Rose and a master's degree in music theory from Northwestern. Anjni is affiliated with Northwestern's Searle Center for Advancing Learning & Teaching, serving as a Graduate Teaching Mentor and a Teaching Consultant, and is currently a commissioning editor for the Society for Music Theory's Performance Analysis Interest Group blog.

Sara Bowden

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1st year PhD

Sara Bowden grew up at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Maryville, TN. They earned their undergraduate degree in Music Theory from The University of North Texas (B.M. 2018, Thesis: “Kill or Be Killed: Music as a Moral Catalyst in Toby Fox’s Undertale”) and their master’s degree in Music Theory and Cognition from Northwestern University (M.M. 2019, Thesis: “Narrative Transformation and Music in Mediatized Moral Space in Charlie Brooker’s Bandersnatch”). Their research interests include video game music and morality as well as movement and musical entrainment in a variety of different video gaming platforms. They have presented papers at regional and international conferences including Collin College UISRC and IASPM-ANZ. Outside of their academic pursuits, Bowden is an in-demand marching arts educator, choreographer, and guest clinician. Most recently, they served as a visual technician with the 7th Regiment drum and bugle corps based in New London, CT. As an educator in the Chicago area, Bowden currently works as a field instructor for the seven-time Bands of America Grand National Champion Marian Catholic High School Marching Band. An active performer, they are a trombonist for the Clamor & Lace Noise Brigade, Chicago’s first street band comprised solely of women and non-binary performers. 

Lena Console

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2nd year PhD

LenaConsole2023@u.northwestern.edu

A native of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Lena Console holds two bachelor’s degrees from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music: a Bachelor of Music in Trumpet Performance and a Bachelor of Science in Music Theory & Philosophy. After a lifetime in the Midwest, Lena spent four years working and performing in Seattle, Washington. There she worked as a research coordinator for the University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, researching impacts of group music-making on children’s empathy and pro-social behavior; and as a teaching artist for various organizations, including the Seattle Symphony, where she piloted a community composition residency program with adults who are facing homelessness. As a trumpet performer, her experiences range from historical performance to modern jazz and rock covers. Lena’s current research interests focus on the intersections between aesthetic perception and mindfulness, exploring cognitive components such as attention, memory, and expectation. Also passionate about community engagement, Lena hopes to develop her academic research to create accessible programs for those outside of academia. 

Sean Curtice

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4th Year PhD

seancurtice2016@u.northwestern.edu

Sean Curtice is from San Diego, California. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in music and English at Wesleyan University, completing an honors thesis that included the composition of a piano concerto in the style of Mozart. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Composition and Music Theory from the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland, where he studied under Felix Diergarten and Johannes Menke. His master's thesis was a complete edition of the partimenti of Luigi Cherubini and a study of the Neapolitan-inspired teaching methods developed at teh Paris Conservatory under Cherubini's directorship. He served as an editor of a new German-English edition of Hans Peter Weber's Generalbass-Compendium and has been featured in journals including Eighteenth-Century Music and Notes. Curtice's interests include period composition and historical music theory, particularly thoroughbass practice of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

5th year PhD

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Sarah Gates

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5th year PhD

sarahgates2015@u.northwestern.edu

Sarah Gates's research, which is supported by a doctoral fellowship awarded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, interrogates the iterative loop between thinking and listening within the discipline of music theory. This interdisciplinary endeavor combines cognitive science (musical imagery, mental representation, expertise acquisition, ecological perception), music theory (theory and analysis, schemata, pedagogy), and philosophy (phenomenology, introspection) to explicate the acquisition of theoretical concepts and their affordances within listening, thinking, and analysis. She has presented her work at several national and international conferences in both music theory and cognition, including the International Conference on Music and Emotion (2015), the International Conference for Music Cognition and Perception (2016, 2018), and the Society for Music Theory annual meeting (2017, 2018). Sarah Gates is originally from Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Music in saxophone performance and contemporary composition from Wilfrid Laurier University (Gold Medal Recipient), as well as a Master of Music degree in saxophone performance from the University of Toronto. Most recently, she completed a Master of Arts degree in Music Theory at McGill University, where she studied under Stephen McAdams and Robert Hasegawa. Her thesis project, which was awarded the Joseph Armand Bombardier Award (CGS-M) by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, investigated perceptual interactions of pitch and timbre by exploring the effect of timbre change on musicians' ability to verbally identify melodic intervals.

3rd year PhD

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Stefan Greenfield-Casas

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3rd year PhD

StefanGreenfield-Casas2022@u.northwestern.edu

Though technically born across the pond, Stefan Greenfield-Casas was raised in the Phlegethonian summers of Texas. His commitment to multi- and interdisciplinary research positions his work such that it lies at the intersection(s) of theoretical, analytical, historical, sociocultural, and (ap)perceptual musicologies; critical and media theories; ludology and theories of play; and film and sound studies. He has presented papers at national and international conferences, including meetings of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, the Royal Musical Association's Music and Philosophy Study Group, Music and the Moving Image, and the North American Conference on Video Game Music. His publications include two short essays published on the American Musicological Society's blog, as well as a forthcoming chapter in an anthology on Nobuo Uematsu's contributions to the Final Fantasy series. Stefan is affiliated with Northwestern's Interdisciplinary Program in Critical Theory (having recently completed its Interdisciplinary Certificate in Critical Theory), Sound Studies Listening Group (SSLG, read: "SLUG"), and graduate Creative Writing Club. He is also a founding member of Interlude, a trans-institutional network of Chicago-area (video) game and play researchers. Stefan holds additional degrees in music performance and theory from The University of Texas at San Antonio and The University of Texas at Austin, respectively.

4th year PhD

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Fred Hosken

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4th year PhD

fredhosken@u.northwestern.edu

Fred Hosken’s research investigates musical time, specifically what makes music groove and what gives particular performers their specific "feel." His focus on the perception of groove is coupled with theories of rhythm, meter, and the beat, as well as computational methods of performance analysis, to advance a theory of beats as "pockets" of time. He has presented at conferences held by the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, and the Rhythm Perception and Production Workshop. Recently, a digital humanities research grant facilitated his participation in a workshop in Oslo hosted by The Nordic Sound and Music Computing Network. He has published work on the subjective, human experience of groove in Psychology of Music (2018), work that evolved out of his master's thesis. Prior to his studies at Northwestern, Hosken earned a bachelor's degree from King's College London and master's degree from Oxford University. Currently, he serves as a Graduate Writing Fellow at Northwestern and an editorial assistant for Music Theory Online.

1st year master's student

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Amy King

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1st year master's student

amyking2020@northwestern.edu

Amy King is from Oak Ridge, North Carolina. She graduated summa cum laude with All University Honors from High Point University in 2016 with a BA in Piano Performance and English Literature. Her research interests lie in the aesthetics of music, how that intersects with morality, and the use of music in written literature. In past projects, she has employed classical music forms as tools to analyze authors such as Don DeLillo, James Joyce, and Langston Hughes, and her work on the role of counterpoint as a guiding force in John Milton’s Il Penseroso was published in Innovation: Journal of Creative and Scholarly Works, which she also presented at High-PURCS. The overarching aim for her research is to better understand the tendency of music to create community and to use that knowledge to make the world a little bit brighter.

Sarah Gates

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5th year PhD

sarahgates2015@u.northwestern.edu

Sarah Gates's research, which is supported by a doctoral fellowship awarded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, interrogates the iterative loop between thinking and listening within the discipline of music theory. This interdisciplinary endeavor combines cognitive science (musical imagery, mental representation, expertise acquisition, ecological perception), music theory (theory and analysis, schemata, pedagogy), and philosophy (phenomenology, introspection) to explicate the acquisition of theoretical concepts and their affordances within listening, thinking, and analysis. She has presented her work at several national and international conferences in both music theory and cognition, including the International Conference on Music and Emotion (2015), the International Conference for Music Cognition and Perception (2016, 2018), and the Society for Music Theory annual meeting (2017, 2018). Sarah Gates is originally from Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Music in saxophone performance and contemporary composition from Wilfrid Laurier University (Gold Medal Recipient), as well as a Master of Music degree in saxophone performance from the University of Toronto. Most recently, she completed a Master of Arts degree in Music Theory at McGill University, where she studied under Stephen McAdams and Robert Hasegawa. Her thesis project, which was awarded the Joseph Armand Bombardier Award (CGS-M) by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, investigated perceptual interactions of pitch and timbre by exploring the effect of timbre change on musicians' ability to verbally identify melodic intervals.

Stefan Greenfield-Casas

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3rd year PhD

StefanGreenfield-Casas2022@u.northwestern.edu

Though technically born across the pond, Stefan Greenfield-Casas was raised in the Phlegethonian summers of Texas. His commitment to multi- and interdisciplinary research positions his work such that it lies at the intersection(s) of theoretical, analytical, historical, sociocultural, and (ap)perceptual musicologies; critical and media theories; ludology and theories of play; and film and sound studies. He has presented papers at national and international conferences, including meetings of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, the Royal Musical Association's Music and Philosophy Study Group, Music and the Moving Image, and the North American Conference on Video Game Music. His publications include two short essays published on the American Musicological Society's blog, as well as a forthcoming chapter in an anthology on Nobuo Uematsu's contributions to the Final Fantasy series. Stefan is affiliated with Northwestern's Interdisciplinary Program in Critical Theory (having recently completed its Interdisciplinary Certificate in Critical Theory), Sound Studies Listening Group (SSLG, read: "SLUG"), and graduate Creative Writing Club. He is also a founding member of Interlude, a trans-institutional network of Chicago-area (video) game and play researchers. Stefan holds additional degrees in music performance and theory from The University of Texas at San Antonio and The University of Texas at Austin, respectively.

Fred Hosken

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4th year PhD

fredhosken@u.northwestern.edu

Fred Hosken’s research investigates musical time, specifically what makes music groove and what gives particular performers their specific "feel." His focus on the perception of groove is coupled with theories of rhythm, meter, and the beat, as well as computational methods of performance analysis, to advance a theory of beats as "pockets" of time. He has presented at conferences held by the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, and the Rhythm Perception and Production Workshop. Recently, a digital humanities research grant facilitated his participation in a workshop in Oslo hosted by The Nordic Sound and Music Computing Network. He has published work on the subjective, human experience of groove in Psychology of Music (2018), work that evolved out of his master's thesis. Prior to his studies at Northwestern, Hosken earned a bachelor's degree from King's College London and master's degree from Oxford University. Currently, he serves as a Graduate Writing Fellow at Northwestern and an editorial assistant for Music Theory Online.

Amy King

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1st year master's student

amyking2020@northwestern.edu

Amy King is from Oak Ridge, North Carolina. She graduated summa cum laude with All University Honors from High Point University in 2016 with a BA in Piano Performance and English Literature. Her research interests lie in the aesthetics of music, how that intersects with morality, and the use of music in written literature. In past projects, she has employed classical music forms as tools to analyze authors such as Don DeLillo, James Joyce, and Langston Hughes, and her work on the role of counterpoint as a guiding force in John Milton’s Il Penseroso was published in Innovation: Journal of Creative and Scholarly Works, which she also presented at High-PURCS. The overarching aim for her research is to better understand the tendency of music to create community and to use that knowledge to make the world a little bit brighter.

4th year PhD

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Aubrey Leaman

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4th year PhD

aubreyleaman2021@u.northwestern.edu

Aubrey Leaman holds a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance with honors distinction from the University of South Carolina, and is currently the marketing manager for the Chicago-based chamber group Fifth House Ensemble. Her research explores the interactive roles of empathy and agency upon listening to unfamiliar music (especially contemporary classical music), as well as the broad, prosocial effects that may come out of a listener's newly-formed connections to a previously-stereotyped genre. In the past, she has studied musical enjoyment through the lens of narrative research, including the creation of a narrative mapping strategy for in-time listening to classical music, as well as a silent film based on the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood" coupled with a live performance of a Haydn piano sonata at her senior recital.

2nd year PhD

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Morgan Patrick

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2nd year PhD

MorganPatrick2023@u.northwestern.edu

Morgan Patrick is a second-year PhD student from Westport, Connecticut. At Brown University he created an undergraduate degree in music cognition, graduating with an interdisciplinary honors thesis in the Departments of Music and Cognitive, Linguistic, & Psychological Sciences. There, his research focused on parallels between Western tonality and the cognition of visual narrative structure. Patrick's current research investigates how musical form guides attention during real-time listening and during multimedia experiences of narrative. He is also interested in the cognitive mechanisms that underlie theme learning in film and concert music, especially as they relate to the psychology of expectation and immersion.

4th year PhD

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Cella Westray

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4th year PhD

cellawestray2021@u.northwestern.edu

Cella Westray is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She received her bachelor's degree in music and biology from Grinnell College. After graduating she completed a post-baccalaureate research fellowship with the Grinnell Music department, focusing on recreating the compositional process of Ravel in the context of his partimento and thoroughbass training at the Paris Conservatoire. Currently, her research investigates historically-informed compositional tools and ways of thinking in repertoires of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, drawing on partimento pedagogical practice and on schema theory. In addition to period composition, she is also interested in a broad range of themes connected to the historically-situated perception of music, including the relationship between schemata and tonal perception. Outside of her academic life, she also enjoys performing on the viola da gamba with various ensembles in the Chicago area.

Aubrey Leaman

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4th year PhD

aubreyleaman2021@u.northwestern.edu

Aubrey Leaman holds a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance with honors distinction from the University of South Carolina, and is currently the marketing manager for the Chicago-based chamber group Fifth House Ensemble. Her research explores the interactive roles of empathy and agency upon listening to unfamiliar music (especially contemporary classical music), as well as the broad, prosocial effects that may come out of a listener's newly-formed connections to a previously-stereotyped genre. In the past, she has studied musical enjoyment through the lens of narrative research, including the creation of a narrative mapping strategy for in-time listening to classical music, as well as a silent film based on the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood" coupled with a live performance of a Haydn piano sonata at her senior recital.

Morgan Patrick

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2nd year PhD

MorganPatrick2023@u.northwestern.edu

Morgan Patrick is a second-year PhD student from Westport, Connecticut. At Brown University he created an undergraduate degree in music cognition, graduating with an interdisciplinary honors thesis in the Departments of Music and Cognitive, Linguistic, & Psychological Sciences. There, his research focused on parallels between Western tonality and the cognition of visual narrative structure. Patrick's current research investigates how musical form guides attention during real-time listening and during multimedia experiences of narrative. He is also interested in the cognitive mechanisms that underlie theme learning in film and concert music, especially as they relate to the psychology of expectation and immersion.

Cella Westray

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4th year PhD

cellawestray2021@u.northwestern.edu

Cella Westray is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She received her bachelor's degree in music and biology from Grinnell College. After graduating she completed a post-baccalaureate research fellowship with the Grinnell Music department, focusing on recreating the compositional process of Ravel in the context of his partimento and thoroughbass training at the Paris Conservatoire. Currently, her research investigates historically-informed compositional tools and ways of thinking in repertoires of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, drawing on partimento pedagogical practice and on schema theory. In addition to period composition, she is also interested in a broad range of themes connected to the historically-situated perception of music, including the relationship between schemata and tonal perception. Outside of her academic life, she also enjoys performing on the viola da gamba with various ensembles in the Chicago area.

FAQs

What would I study and learn in the program?

The PhD program is rooted in the discipline of music theory. Students receive thorough training in the analysis of musical structure, systematic and historical aspects of music theory, and psychological aspects of musical structure. Areas of research in the program deal with style analysis in historically informed ways, the intersection of theory and culture, expressive performance in music, the psychological nature of musical styles and structure, and the psychophysiology of musical experience.

See Full Degree Requirements:

Should I apply for the Master's or the PhD?

Students whose ultimate goal is to pursue a PhD in music theory should apply directly to the PhD program. It is possible to apply directly to the PhD with a bachelor's degree; a master's degree is not required. Our MM degree functions more as a one-year course of study than an entry point in the PhD. The MM program is more appropriate for students who wish to explore or strengthen their knowledge of music theory before embarking on further graduate study.

Why focus on the PhD and not the Master's?

While a Master's degree is a beneficial step towards a career in academia, our streamlined 5-year PhD program allows students to acquire the equivalent of a Master's degree in the process of obtaining their PhD.  It is beneficial to the student because it provides full funding for the entire 5-year course of study. In addition, the end degree has a higher likelihood of job placement for our exiting students. We admit up to two PhD students per year.

What will I do with a PhD when I'm done?

Students with a PhD in Music Theory and Cognition will be qualified for a career as a professor in a college or university music department. Our program is not intended for students seeking positions in psychology or neuroscience departments. Within the field of music theory, more and more job descriptions are listing cognition as a desired area of research emphasis, and our graduates will be strong contenders thereby.

What should I do to prepare?

You should have as strong an undergraduate background in music theory, music history, and music performance as possible. Courses in form, atonal analysis, and advanced harmonic analysis are advisable. A semester of statistics is helpful, as well as an introductory course in experimental methods. Our accepted students usually have a broad background, and many have publications or conference presentations on their record before admission.

It would be helpful to read journals such as the Journal of Music Theory, Music Theory Spectrum, and Music Perception, and to attend conferences such as the annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory. There is also burgeoning literature in music cognition that you can read as you prepare. If your interests are cognitive you should also join the Society for Music Perception and Cognition.

How do I apply?

Application requirements include two transcripts, letters of reference, the general GRE, TOEFL (for international students), and writing samples.

MM applicants apply through the Bienen School of Music. PhD applicants apply online via The Graduate School at Northwestern; start by reading the PhD Application Process.