Welcome to the Department of Musicology!

Musicology is the study of music as an academic discipline, and musicologists explore the relationship of music to the wider liberal arts. Faculty in the Department of Musicology offer a broad array of courses on topics in ethnomusicology, historical musicology, musical aesthetics, performance studies, popular music studies, and film music studies. Studying music produced within various cultural and historical contexts draws our attention to the activities and values of listeners, patrons, performers, teachers, composers, critics and scholars. Students are encouraged to enroll in a variety of musicology courses so as to encounter a wide range of musical styles, functions, aesthetics and meanings.

Musicology Faculty

Recent Course Offerings

Musicology courses at Lawrence promote independent and active learning about musical practices and practitioners. Students in musicology courses engage in the variety of activities that constitute the academic study of music: listening critically to recordings, reading and discussing primary source documents and scholarly literature, studying scores, and undertaking library research and ethnographic fieldwork. In addition to emphasizing the development of critical listening and reading skills, musicology courses incorporate various kinds of writing, from listening journals to original research papers. Several musicology courses include a musical performance component.

Aesthetics of Music • Authenticity in Popular Music • Borrowed Music in the Movies • The Blues • Claude Debussy • Divine Love in the 17th Century • Early Music Revivals • The German Lied • History of Recorded Sound • History of the String Quartet • History of the Symphony • History of the Wind Band • Jazz History • Music and the Environment • Music and Fairy Tales • Music and Gender • Music and Memory • Music and Power Under the Sun King • Music in the Age of Exploration • Music in the Middle East • Music in the U.S. • Opera and Betrayal • Performing Arts of Bali • The Second Viennese School • Stravinsky


Ethnomusicology is often defined as the study of people making music, or the anthropology of music.  Ethnomusicological study can involve participant observation, interview-based ethnography, and becoming proficient in multiple kinds of music. Courses such as Introduction to World Music and Culture, Performing Arts of Bali, Music of the Middle East, and Music and the Environment seek to dramatically expand students’ awareness of global diversity and complexity, their familiarity with different culturally based aesthetic systems, their understanding of the power of music in group formation and identity construction, and an awareness of music as a process and activity that is often crucial for human life.  Students can also practice multi-musicality by joining the Balinese gamelan, the West African drumming and dance ensemble, the Afro-Cuban ensemble, the Afro-Brazilian music ensemble, and studying didjeridu.

Early Music

Our faculty sees musical performance and musicology as integrated pursuits. In all classes students learn to think critically about musical performances and performance practices, including the performance of early music. This repertoire and its performances are the focus of the course A History of Early Music Revivals, in which performances are the primary objects of study and students complete final projects in which they research and perform works of their choosing. Students also have the opportunities to explore early instruments and repertoire outside of the classroom with the support of musicology faculty. Harmonia, a non-credit early music vocal group, meets weekly to sing medieval and renaissance polyphony and the faculty also oversee informal chamber groups interested in performing on the recorders, crumhorns, and other period instruments from The James Smith Rudolph Collection of Early Winds.

Popular Music

Several musicology courses provide students in the Conservatory and the College with opportunities to study popular music in an academic context. Popular music courses regularly offered for non-majors include American Popular Music, a survey course, as well as Popular Music 1954-1979: The Rise of Rock and Roll and The Beatles. The course Introduction to Music History: Big Works, Big Questions, designed specifically for non-majors, includes a unit on popular music (concept albums). Upper-level popular music seminars for music majors include Popular Music: History, Analysis, Interpretation; Authenticity in Popular Music; and The Blues. Many other musicology courses emphasize popular music examples and case studies within courses that focus on broader topics: The History of Recorded SoundMusic and Memory; Music and GenderMusic of the Middle EastIntroduction to World Music and CultureBorrowed Music in the Movies; and Music and the Fairy Tale. Individual students also have arranged tutorials, directed studies, and independent studies focusing on popular music topics. 

Course Requirements for Majors

A two-term sequence, Western Music in History (MUCO 201 and 202), introduces students to music of the Middle Ages to the present. Focusing on the historical moments in which major works were created, notated, performed, and documented, in these courses we examine musical and societal values as they changed over time, eventually shaping a diversity of musical styles and practices into what is now commonly called the Western classical tradition. Upper-level musicology seminars introduce a range of analytical approaches and methodologies, including issues of performance practice. All Conservatory students choose at least two upper-level electives (some majors require an additional upper-level musicology or music theory course). Upper-level seminars focus on the music of a specific time and/or place, a specific composer, a specific genre or a specific issue.

Classroom Activities and Assignments

Please visit our  Musicology Con Brio page for four samples of musical media that students encounter in musicology courses. For each example, we provide a sense of how it might be used in the context of a musicological activity or assignment.

1. A score published in the early 18th century of the fourth movement of Arcangelo Corelli's Sonata in D Major, Op. 5, no. 1 (ca. 1700), presented with an introduction to the conventions of ornamenting Baroque violin music, and accompanied by audio recordings of two different modern performances of the sonata. 

2. A video of a tahkt ensemble performing Arab music, accompanied by a discussion of texture, tuning, improvisation, and audience interaction in the context of Arab music.

3. A video of an orchestra performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, paired with an excerpt from an influential 19th-century essay on the music of Beethoven by the German critic E.T.A. Hoffmann. Following these examples, we provide examples of the types of questions we might raise about these examples in both introductory and upper-level musicology courses.

4. A video featuring the singing of Baka women of southeastern Cameroon, accompanied by a introduction to the yodeling and improvisational techniques characteristic of Baka music, and a discussion of the production of the video itself.

Independent Studies in Musicology

Students with special interest in musicology who have completed the core sequence and required number of upper-level courses may undertake faculty-supervised independent studies in which they investigate specific musicological topics in depth in the process of writing substantial original research papers.

Recent Alumni

Please visit our Alumni News page for profiles of several recent graduates who are pursuing further studies and careers in historical musicology and ethnomusicology.

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