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 the University of Toronto—Ellie Hisama, Ryan McClelland, Don McLean, Mark Sallmen, Daphne Tan, Steven Vande Moortele, and Anton Vishio—features scholars and pedagogues with a variety of backgrounds and specializations, with a focus on music from the early nineteenth century until today.

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.


  • We welcome Ellie Hisama (Professor of Music and Dean, Faculty of Music) and Anton Vishio (Associate Professor, Teaching Stream) to our community. This year, Anton will be teaching undergraduate courses in Musical Skills III, Music & Text, and Introduction to Serial & Atonal Music (cross-listed at the graduate level as Theory and Analysis of Atonal Music), as well as the graduate course Introduction to Music Analysis.
  • In September, Elizabeth Fox (PhD 2021) successfully defended her dissertation, “Deciphering the Arabesque: Genre Mixture and Formal Digression in the Early Romantic Piano Concerto.”
  • Ben Duinker’s article “Segmenting, Phrasing, and Meter in Hip-Hop Music” recently appeared in Music Theory Spectrum
  • Daphne Tan, with research collaborators Jenine Brown and David Baker, published “The Perceptual Attraction of Pre-Dominant Chords” in the most recent issue of Music Perception. This past July 2021, Tan and Brown shared related work, conducted with current and former UofT students, at the 16th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition: with Rebecca Moranis and Stephanie Orlando, “The Pre-Dominant Function at Cadences in Bach and Beethoven” (poster), and with Michelle Lin, “A Context-Sensitive Analysis of Pre-Dominant Chords in Mozart” (presentation).
  • Steven Vande Moortele presented a keynote lecture at the International Conference on Musical Form (June 23–25, 2021), organized by the Formal Theory Study Group of the Society for Music Analysis. An article “Apparent Type 2 Sonatas and Reversed Recapitulations in the Nineteenth Century” based on this lecture is forthcoming in the autumn 2021 issue of Music Analysis. He also contributed a chapter “Romantic Forms” to the Cambridge Companion to Music and Romanticism (ed. Benedict Taylor).
  • Ben Duinker, together with Aiyun Huang, organized the symposium Dialogues: Analysis and Performance at UofT from October 7–9, 2021. Ryan McClelland and Russell Hartenberger (“Performance and Analytical Perspectives on Steve Reich’s Sextet”) gave a keynote presentation and Hannah Davis-Abraham presented the paper “Pacing, Performance, and Perception in Alice Ping Yee Ho’s Angst!!” In a workshop conducted by Daphne Leong, Anton Vishio presented a composition by DMA candidate Paulo Brito together with Brito and baroque flautist Jin Cho (MM, 2021).
  • Alexis Millares Thomson presented a paper “Form-Functional Roles of the Symphonic Motto” at the 2021 Music Theory Midwest conference, and will be presenting an updated version at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Society for Music Theory.
  • Rebecca Moranis presented research titled “Rhythm Contour Drives Musical Memory” with Mark Schmuckler at the Future Directions of MusicCognition Conference in March 2021.  
  • Matthew Poon presented a paper “‘Schumann’s Fragment’ Revisited: Non-Tonic Initiating Functions in the Nineteenth Century” at the annual conferences of the Canadian University Music Society (MusCan) and the Music Theory Society of the Mid-Atlantic, and will be presenting the same paper at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Society for Music Theory. He also presented a paper “Formal Fusion in Schumann’s Symphonic Sonata Forms” at the International Conference on Musical Form.