Music Theory @ UofT

Music Theory is the study of musical structure. We learn how music in historic and contemporary styles is constructed; how to deconstruct it through analysis and analytical modeling; and how to understand it through hermeneutic and historically informed interpretation. The music theory faculty at UofT—Sebastiano Bisciglia, Ryan McClelland, Don McLean, Mark Sallmen, Daphne Tan, and Steven Vande Moortele—is known for its strengths in Schenkerian analysis, musical form, theories of rhythm and meter, history of music theory, music perception and cognition, nineteenth-century music, and the music of the Second Viennese School.

All undergraduate students build musical fluency through two years of core courses in music theory, musicianship, and other skills. At the advanced undergraduate level, Music Theory features a variety of specialized courses, offering students the possibility to graduate with a major in Music History, Culture, and Theory within the BMus program.

At the graduate level, the combination of scholarly excellence, the intimate scale of the program, and the close ties to Musicology and Ethnomusicology make for a vibrant, friendly, and intellectually engaging environment that attracts top-level students pursuing the course-intensive MA or the research-oriented PhD in music theory. Graduate students receive ample opportunity to gain professional experience through teaching and research assistantships. They also benefit from the presence of the Institute for Music in Canada (IMC), the Centre for the Study of Nineteenth-Century Music (CSNCM) and the Music and Health Research Collaboratory (MaHRC) as well as from the regular presentations by guest speakers in the colloquium series, the graduate student roundtables, and special events such as the Form Forum.

Music Theory faculty and students at an area gathering


  • After successfully defending her dissertation, Passé Recomposé: Neoclassical Sonata Form in Interwar France, in January, September Russell (PhD 2020) has accepted a position as lecturer at the University of Regina.
  • We welcome Ben Duinker to the Faculty of Music. Supported by a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship, Ben will be working on a project titled “A Performative Analytical Framework for Contemporary Music,” and he will also be teaching a graduate seminar on the Analysis of Popular Music this fall.
  • The members of the University of Toronto’s Music Theory faculty strongly condemn the anti-Black racist sentiments and personal attacks on Prof. Philip Ewell that appear in several contributions to the “Symposium on Philip Ewell’s 2019 Plenary Paper” published by the Journal of Schenkerian Studies in July 2020. Read the Music Theory faculty’s complete statement.
  • Daphne Tan’s article “‘Dynamic Dualism’: Kurth and Riemann on Music Theory and the Mind” has recently appeared in Music Theory Spectrum.
  • Steven Vande Moortele has been awarded the 2020 Westrup Prize by the Music and Letters Trust for his article “The Sorcerer as Apprentice: Trial, Error, and Chord Magic in Wagner’s Overture to Die Feen.”
  • Cambridge University Press has announced the release of The Cambridge Companion to Rhythm, edited by Russell Hartenberger and Ryan McClelland.
  • Alexis Millares Thomson presented a paper “Signals in Three of Ligeti’s Pattern-Meccanico Études” at the 2020 Music Theory Midwest conference.
  • Matthew Poon presented a paper “Formal Fusion in Schumann’s Symphonic Sonata Forms” at the 2020 conference of the Music Theory Society of the Mid-Atlantic.
  • Emma Soldaat is presenting a paper titled “Structural Self-Reflection as Formal Determinant: Pure Memory and Mahler’s Symphony no. 5” at the 2020 conference of the Society for Music Theory.