Historical Musicology

The Master of Arts in Music with an emphasis in musicology at the UBC School of Music offers advanced training leading to professional careers in teaching and scholarly research.

As a graduate student, you will enjoy a program that balances sound historical methods with critical interpretation and forges interdisciplinary connections to music theory, ethnomusicology, and the humanities in general.

Our musicology faculty’s areas of expertise range from Medieval repertories to music of the 21st century and represent a variety of scholarly approaches and critical methods.

Our graduates in musicology have obtained professional positions at the University of Toronto, University of Victoria, University of Cincinnati, Indiana University, the City University of New York, the City University of London, and elsewhere.

This program is designed to examine the language and notation of music. In our program, you will identify the patterns and structures of techniques used by composers across and within genres, styles and historical periods. Our technical approach to analyzing music theory provides you with a strong grasp of concepts encompassing all the elements of music, such as rhythm, harmony, melody, form and texture.

Entrance requirements

You must possess a Bachelor of Music or Bachelor of Arts degree, which entails completion of the following UBC courses or their equivalents: Music 100/101/105, 200/201/205, 300, and two of 410-415, 120/121, 220/221 and 241. In addition, at least three of the upper-level history courses (350, 352, 353, 354, 355, 356, 357) are essential.

Program duration and time commitment requirements

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies requires master’s students to be in residence on a full-time basis for at least one winter session and 12 months. Most of our students will need two winter sessions of full-time study to complete the program as stipulated.

Only in cases of special preparation, such as graduate credits accumulated elsewhere, should students contemplate programs shorter than the two-year norm. Moreover, students admitted with deficiencies may have to spend more than two winter sessions in residence.


The curriculum is normally to comprise at least 30 credits, including all course requirements from section A, at least 9 credits from section B, and the remaining credits to be drawn from Sections B and C (if a 12-credit thesis is undertaken, the curriculum will normally involve 36 credits).

  • 500 Advanced Musical Analysis - 3 credits
    • This course may be repeated for credit.
  • 512 Directed Individual Studies - 3 credits
    • This course may be repeated for credit.
  • 549 Thesis - 6/12 credits (Note 3)
    • If you intend to write a thesis, you must register in MUSC 549 in your first summer session and remain registered in it until you finish your program.
    • You may ask to replace MUSC 549 with either two additional graduate seminars or one additional graduate seminar plus a directed study (MUSC 512). This requires the approval of the supervisory committee, the Chair of the Graduate Committee, and the Director of the School of Music. Where the scope of the project warrants, and at the discretion of the student's committee, a thesis may be accorded as many as 12 credits.
  • German or French
    • The German or French reading requirement shall be tested by an examination administered by faculty within the division of Musicology. During the examination, you will be provided with a roughly 500-word excerpt in the original language (generally relevant to the student’s field of research) and given 60 minutes to provide a written translation that demonstrates accurate comprehension of the passage (a polished translation is not required). You may use a dictionary for this examination. In cases where a faculty member in the division of Musicology is not available or competent to administer such an examination, arrangements will be made with faculty in another department at UBC.

  • 523 Seminar in Medieval Music - 3/6 credits
  • 524 Seminar in Renaissance Music - 3/6 credits
  • 525 Seminar in Baroque Music - 3/6 credits
  • 526 Seminar in Classical Period Music - 3/6 credits
  • 527 Seminar in Nineteenth-Century Music - 3/6 credits
  • 528 Seminar in Twentieth-Century Music - 3/6 credits

Non-Music electives may be taken as necessary with your advisor’s approval. Elective courses must be at the 300 level or higher; a maximum of 6 credits of courses at the 300 or 400 level may be counted toward graduate credit.

  • 502 The Structure and Function of Music Theories - 3/6 credits
  • 503 Topics in the History of Music Theory - 3/6 credits
  • 504 Theories of Non-Tonal Pitch Relationships - 3/6 credits
  • 521 Seminar in Performance Practices - 3/6 credits
  • 522 Seminar in Notation of Polyphonic Music - 3/6 credits
  • 529 Introduction to Ethnomusicology - 3/6 credits
  • 530 Topics in Ethnomusicology 3/6 credits
  • 531 Seminar in Ethnomusicology - 3/6 credits
  • 532 Advanced Studies in Music History and Musicology - 3/6 credits
  • 533 Advanced Studies in Music Theory 3/6 credits
  • 471 or 571 Music Performance - 2 credits
    • You may take up to 6 credits of Music Performance with the permission of the Director of the School of Music, only 2 credits may be counted towards your MA requirement and up to 4 credits for the PhD. Although ensemble work may be taken throughout a candidate's residency, these credits may not be counted towards the MA or PhD requirement.

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