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
Rhythm and meter
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.