The Division awards master’s and doctoral degrees in historical musicology and ethnomusicology.

It is assumed that applicants to the Ph.D. programs will have completed a master’s degree in musicology/ethnomusicology or equivalent graduate work. Applicants without the master’s degree or equivalent graduate work will automatically be considered for admission to the M.M. programs.

Language Requirements

Foreign language requirements for graduate students in Musicology and Ethnomusicology

For the musicologist and the ethnomusicologist, a reading knowledge of foreign languages is an essential tool that must be acquired as early as possible in one’s professional training. The ability to conduct independent, original research with primary sources as well as the need to be familiar with relevant secondary literature in a variety of languages demands the ability to read and, especially in ethnomusicology, speak foreign languages easily, quickly and accurately. Even graduate course work can often be expected to require the use of foreign languages for assigned secondary readings and projects involving primary sources.

The following requirements for proficiency in foreign languages therefore aim at promoting the acquisition of language skills at the earliest possible moment in a student’s career, at a time when such facility will benefit the student’s course work, preparation for the general examination, and selection and execution of major research projects, such as the Masters Report and the Ph.D. dissertation.

  1. Masters Level Requirements

    1. Students at the Masters level in Ethnomusicology are required to demonstrate professional language proficiency in two languages, one of which must be English, and the other a major world language (e.g. Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, etc.) relevant to the field of ethnomusicology and/or to the culture area of specialization of the M.M. Report, and approved by petition to the Division. Students at the Masters level in Historical Musicology are required to demonstrate professional language proficiency in two languages, one of which must be English, and the other normally German, French, Spanish, or Italian; permission to substitute another major world language may be granted by petition to the Division.
    2. Depending upon the choice and approval of certain report topics, MM students may be advised to develop proficiency in a language other than the required languages. Proficiency in this additional language may not be substituted for the required proficiency outlined in point 1. above.
    3. Students must pass the language proficiency requirement before being allowed to register for the MM report.
  2. Doctoral Level Requirements

    1. Students in the Ph.D. program must demonstrate professional language proficiency in three languages, one of which must be English, and the other two (one of which must be a major world language) related to the area of research, both approved by petition to the Division. Additional language study may be necessary, depending on the focus of the student’s research.
    2. Students must request the Division’s approval of their proposed second foreign language as early as possible in their graduate curriculum but no later than the end of the second semester of study within the degree program.
    3. Students who enter the doctoral program without sufficient knowledge of one of the required languages are required to improve their proficiency, and must take and pass an examination in one of the languages administered by the Division no later than their third long-term semester in residence.
    4. Students must take and pass the proficiency examination in the second foreign language before being allowed to take the comprehensive examination; proficiency in the required second language should be demonstrated by examination no later than the student’s fifth long-term semester in residence.
    5. Depending upon the choice and approval of certain dissertation topics, students may be required to demonstrate proficiency in additional languages specified by the Division. Proficiency in these additional languages must be demonstrated before the Ph. D. dissertation will be accepted by the supervising committee.
    6. Timely progress through the language requirements is considered essential for the professional development of the student. Decisions concerning a student’s financial aid and/or continuation in the Ph. D. program will depend in part on the student’s completion of the language requirements in a timely manner.
  3. Language Proficiency Examinations

    1. The foreign language proficiency examinations are the responsibility of the Musicology/Ethnomusicology Division and will be administered by designated members of the division.
    2. The examinations will be administered once each long-term semester, usually in the full week before Thanksgiving and in the week after Spring break. The dates of the examination will be set by the Division and communicated to the Office of Graduate Studies and to graduate students in the Musicology/Ethnomusicology programs.
    3. The exams will consist of 3 to 4 excerpts from scholarly publications (one of which will normally be a lexicographic sample), each approximately one typewritten (double-spaced) page in length, representing different kinds of problems encountered in the given language. The examination will last a maximum of three hours.
    4. The excerpts for each exam will be selected by two assigned members of the Division. They will also be responsible for grading the exam, and to communicate the result to the Division Head who will relay it to the Office of the Director of Graduate Studies and the student. The results of the exams will normally be available by the end of the current long-term semester.
    5. The grades for the language examination will be: “Pass”; “Pass with Reservations”; and “Fail.”Under special circumstances, the Head of the Division, after consultation with its members, may ask faculty from a foreign language department at the university to help administer a language examination.
    6. The examination materials and the result of the exam will be placed in the student file, and become part of the permanent record.


Comprehensive Examinations

A comprehensive examination is required of all Master’s degree candidates, usually in the final semester of coursework. Doctoral students are required to pass a comprehensive examination before being advanced to candidacy.

MM exam in Historical Musicology

MM exam in Ethnomusicology

PhD Exam in Historical Musicology

PhD Exam in Ethnomusicology

Comprehensive exam for the Master’s of Music in Historical Musicology

  1. DMA score exam

    Master’s students in musicology must pass the DMA score exam by answering at least 7 of the 8 examples with a 7 or better (out of 10 possible points) on each score excerpt. Students are advised to sit for the exam as early as possible in their first year.

  2. Historical essays
    1. General essays — 3 questions — 4 hours
      • 1 student question: each student will submit a total of 3 questions, from which at least one will be chosen as part of the exam. These questions may be modified at the discretion of the faculty.
    2. Current topics — 4 questions — 4 hours
      • Ten topics related to the last 10 years of journal articles; answers must reflect an awareness of the major issues, methodologies, and questions in the field of musicology.
      • Each student will answer 4 questions:
        • 2 faculty questions: the remaining 2 questions must be chosen from 7 total submitted by the faculty.
        • 1 long answer (ca. 2 hours)
        • 2 short answers (ca. 1 hour each)
        • 1 take home (over the weekend)
          This answer must be a specific and in-depth summary of the state of research in a particular area. Because it is to be done in the library, the answer should contain specific citations and summaries of articles, a sense of the timeline of that particular field, and an awareness of earlier research as it relates to the present day.
  3. Oral exam — one week later

    This exam will cover the take-home portion of the exam in detail and address any inadequacies or problems in the other written portions. The oral should be scheduled for 2 hours and be convened by the grading subcommittee.

Assembly of exam

A subcommittee of the musicology faculty will assemble a single exam from the questions provided by students and faculty. To create exams that are comprehensive, equal, and yet relate to students’ interests, each full-time member of the history faculty will submit a question or topic for the historical essays.

Grading of exams

A second, separate subcommittee will be responsible for grading all of the exams. The chair of the subcommittee will make available all exams to all faculty, and any faculty member desiring to submit a one-page summary of a student’s ability will be invited to do so. Thus each faculty member will have an opportunity both to participate in each student’s exam at both the assembly and the grading stages.

Scheduling of exams

  • The written exam will be customarily scheduled for week 6 of the spring semester; oral exams will take place one week later.
  • Submitted questions (from faculty and students) are due by week 4 of the spring semester.
  • The DMA score exam must be taken during its normally scheduled time in either the fall or spring semester.


Comprehensive exam for the Master’s of Music in Ethnomusicology

A committee of two faculty members, the chair of which will normally be the faculty member supervising the student’s Master’s Report, administers the Master’s Comprehensive Exam in ethnomusicology. The second member of the committee will normally be the second reader of the Report. Ideally, both faculty members on the committee should be ones with whom the student has had coursework or whose research expertise relates to the student’s proposed topic of the Master’s Report. It is the student’s responsibility to petition the Musicology/Ethnomusicology Division for approval of the proposed committee. This should be completed by the end of the third semester of the student’s Master’s program. After receiving approval to establish a committee, the student should fill out the necessary forms in the Graduate Office. Any changes to the original committee require Divisional approval.

The M.M. examination lasts approximately twelve hours and consists of a number of questions allotted either one-, one-and-a-half, or two hours to be answered over a period of two days. Normally, the chair of the committee will request multiple questions from the second member of the committee, but will be responsible for constructing the bulk of the examination. The examination typically includes questions related to topics such as the history of ideas in ethnomusicology, prominent researchers in the field and their interests, and/or current theoretical trends; at least one question derived from the Analytical Methods course on issues related to ethnography, transcription, or representation; questions related to music of the particular geographic area of concentration of the student; and one question on a musical culture of a second geographical area. The M.M. comprehensive exam foregrounds issues related to the field of ethnomusicology as a whole and to musical specifics and literatures associated with particular geographic regions. This foundational focus serves as a complement to the Ph.D. comprehensive exam, which concentrates more specifically on theoretical literatures related to the student’s doctoral coursework and/or to the dissertation topic.

Students should expect to receive feedback on their exam within two weeks. They are encouraged to make an appointment with their adviser to discuss evaluations of it by faculty. If the committee is not satisfied with the student’s performance, additional written work may be required on particular topics. The M.M. exam, along with the Master’s Report, must be successfully completed before students can be formally considered for the Ph.D. program. Their performance in seminars, along with the exam and report, represent the primary factors considered by the faculty in evaluating their eligibility for doctoral study.

While students should be prepared to take the M.M. exam during their fourth semester in the Master’s program, an additional semester or summer session of preparation might be necessary, depending on individual circumstances. It is the student’s responsibility to reserve a two-day period to take the exam in the Graduate Student Office. This should be done at the beginning of the semester in which the exam is to occur. The exam should be completed at least two weeks prior to the end of the semester.


Ph.D. Comprehensive examination for students in Musicology

The comprehensive examination is to be taken no sooner than the final semester of course work or upon completion of all course work (except the dissertation course, for which one may not register without having been officially admitted to candidacy). Musicology/Ethnomusicology students must have their course work evaluated by the Musicology Division before taking comprehensive exams. In addition, doctoral students must have already satisfied the foreign language requirement(s) before taking the comprehensive examination in their major area. Doctoral comprehensive examinations, including orals, must be completed between the first and last class days of the semester. Comprehensives will not be administered during registration, holidays (including Spring Break), final examinations, or between semesters. Students must be registered during the semester they plan to take comprehensives. Retakes do not require the student to be registered. Suggestions regarding the material on which students may be examined are given below.

A student in musicology or ethnomusicology taking the comprehensive examinations should demonstrate a competent knowledge of the general history of music as well as a more extensive knowledge of two specific fields or subjects (usually defined as musical eras or topics of a systematic nature). One of these, which includes within it the student’s dissertation topic, will be considered the principal area; the other will be considered the secondary area, and both fields must be approved by the faculty of the Musicology Division at least four months prior to the scheduled examinations. For each of the chosen areas, the student will be expected to show a firm grasp of its music history and literature, bibliography, historiography, methods and problems, and cultural context.


Selection of a comprehensive examination committee

A comprehensive examination committee normally consists of five faculty members. At least two committee members are from the student’s major area and the rest of the committee is made up from other areas in which the student has taken course work. For example, a musicology student might have three musicology faculty members, a theory faculty member, and an ethnomusicology faculty member; an ethnomusicology student might have three ethnomusicology faculty members, a musicology faculty member, and an anthropology faculty member. A faculty member of the student’s academic division serves as chair. The student should verbally ask each member if they would be willing to serve on the committee. The student should then prepare a typed list of proposed committee members and present this (along with the proposed principal and secondary areas of specialization) to the Musicology Division Head for approval by the Division faculty.

After the course outline and the makeup of the committee have been approved, the student should then verbally inform each committee member about a proposed exam date, and find out how much time he/she will need for each exam question. A preliminary meeting of the committee with the student may be held in order for the student to obtain an idea of what will be expected in the examination. It is up to the student to meet with committee members on an individual basis to discuss topic areas. When the student feels ready to schedule the exam, he should inquire with the Graduate Coordinator regarding availability of times/dates for the graduate conference room. The student should then provide the Graduate Coordinator with this confirmation of the exam date and time requested. If the graduate conference room is unavailable, the student may check with the scheduling office to find another room, but the Graduate Coordinator must be informed when and where the exam will be taking place.


Scheduling the exam

Students should contact the Graduate Coordinator at least four weeks prior to the proposed date of their examination to reserve specific examination dates and to make sure a room will be available at that time. In the Musicology Division, the comprehensive examination is normally a sixteen-hour examination spread over two to three days; however, a take-home question to be completed over a weekend may be added. Doctoral comprehensive examinations, including orals, must be completed between the first and last class days of the semester. Comprehensives will not be administered during registration, holidays (including Spring Break), final examinations, or between semesters. Any deviation from the normal examination schedule or time limits must be approved by the student’s committee and/or the Graduate Adviser.

The examination questions are normally requested from the committee by the committee chair, assembled, and given to the Graduate Coordinator up to two weeks prior to the examination. Students should confirm that the Graduate Coordinator has received all exam questions a day or two before the exam has been scheduled. If an exam question is missing on the date the exam is to be taken, the exam may be canceled or that question may be eliminated, at the discretion of the Graduate Adviser.

Personal computers may be used during the comprehensive examination within strict guidelines. Because of the rapid changes in electronic equipment, policies regarding the use of personal computers or memory typewriters are subject to frequent change. Interested students should contact the Graduate Coordinator to inquire about the policies in effect at the time of a scheduled examination.


After the examination is completed, copies are sent to the student’s committee. The student and the committee should then arrange for the oral examination. The oral examination should be scheduled at least two weeks after the date of the written examination. One and a half to two hours should be scheduled for the oral examination. Prior to the oral examination, the student may review the written examination in the Graduate Office.


Evaluation of student performance

Evaluation forms will have been given to the committee chair at the time the copies of the written exam are sent. After the oral has taken place, each committee member makes an evaluation of the written and oral portions of the examination on the forms. The Graduate Office will then send the student an official letter regarding the results of the comprehensive examination. In some instances, a student may be required to submit additional work or re-take the examination. No student will be admitted to candidacy until all portions of the comprehensive examinations have been successfully completed.

Ph.D. Comprehensive examination for students in Ethnomusicology (Revised)

The examinations committee

The comprehensive examinations committee normally consists of a chair and four members. The chair is the student’s primary mentor and also serves as supervisor of the doctoral dissertation. The chair must be chosen from the tenured or tenure-track musicology/ ethnomusicology faculty. Other members of the committee typically include at least two other professors from musicology/ ethnomusicology and one or two from outside the division, preferably with one member from outside of the Butler School of Music. In some cases, there might be a sixth member of the committee from another institution if the university lacks a scholar with expertise in an area of specialization to be covered on the examination. A list of proposed committee members must be submitted for approval to the musicology/ethnomusicology division at least three weeks before the beginning of the examinations for approval, along with a list of the student’s supporting coursework and a description of the major and supporting areas to be examined.

Major and supporting areas

The student, in consultation with the chair of the committee, will formulate statements defining the major and supporting areas. The major area, in most cases, will center on the ethnomusicology of a geographical area. The supporting area may be defined as a secondary geographical area, or as a body of scholarship or set of theories that are particularly salient in the music culture of the major area and which will figure prominently as an analytical framework in the student’s dissertation.

The examination process

The comprehensive examinations for doctoral students in ethnomusicology consist of three parts: a take-home exam; an on-campus exam; and an oral review of the written exam and dissertation prospectus. All components of the exam are to be completed within a time frame not exceeding two weeks. Scheduling of exam dates should be done in consultation with the committee chair. The dates on which each component of the exam will take place should be determined before approaching the Musicology/Ethnomusicology Division for approval of the exam areas. It is the student’s responsibility to reserve space for the written examination through the Graduate Office.

  • Take-home questions. Usually taken over a weekend, the take-home portion of the exam is designed to test the student’s ability to write an original, in-depth text on two questions related to the major area, but not specifically related to the dissertation topic. Take-home assignments may include: construction of a course syllabus, with accompanying rationale, lecture notes, etc.; the writing of liner notes for a recording proposal; a critical review of one or more scholarly or creative works; a discussion of theoretical issues or tendencies; or similar exercises.
  • On-campus exam This portion is meant to demonstrate the student’s ability to write shorter and concise texts on particular topics under time constraints and with limited access to library materials. The exam is to be taken during the course of one day, not to exceed seven hours. Topics will be selected from the following areas (with relevance to the major and minor areas as defined for the exam): theory (theory of ethnomusicology, cultural theory); the music of geographic regions not covered in the dissertation; and the history of ideas in ethnomusicology and neighboring disciplines.
  • Oral examination This portion of the Comprehensive Examination usually takes place one or two weeks after the written exam. The committee will discuss the written portions with the candidate and address any inadequacies or concerns they may have about the content of the responses. Discussion of dissertation prospectus, which is to be circulated to the committee together with the written comprehensive exam, typically follows discussion of the written examination. This portion is not meant to test the candidate’s knowledge, but rather to address potential lacunae in the research design and/or fieldwork plan. The prospectus should be between 35-50 double spaced pages in length and contain the following areas: a 350-word abstract; a statement of the topic and research objectives; presentation of the theoretical framework; review of relevant literature; fieldwork plan and methodology; and a discussion of the project’s potential contribution to ethnomusicology. The oral exam should be scheduled for two hours. The candidate is responsible for scheduling the date and time of this meeting, checking with committee members to make sure they are available, and reserving a room.