Core Music History Skills for Graduate Students


As a graduate student, over the course of your studies you will be expected to develop and display professional expertise in the following music history areas (not in order of priority):

Data: A solid familiarity with key genres, composers, formal structures, and geographical centers of musical activity, in each major period or repertoire;

Style: An informed and critical perspective on the evolution of musical style (melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic traits; formal structures; orchestration & instrumentation, etc) and its relevance to changing historical contexts;

Contexts: Command of other information relating changes in musical content to changes in historical context

Repertoire: A particular familiarity with repertoire relevant to your individual instrument or concentration (studio instrument or voice performance, music theory, music education, music history, composition, and so forth);

Synthesis: Demonstrable ability to synthesize information from multiple sources (books, scores, primary sources, etc); and

Critical analysis: Competent critical reading of music history prose.


As formulated at Texas Tech, essential time periods and topics in the history of Euro-American concert music include


20th Century
American Music
Music Research and Bibliography
Individual concentration (see above)


You will be expected to display a command of composers, genres, dates, significant historical and contextual factors, and sample compositions in each of the above time periods.

For example, in the "Medieval" period, you would be expected to be able to cite at least 3 examples of composers, works, and their dates—and to discuss changes in musical style between these 3 examples—for each of the following genres:

Medieval Period
(approx 400 CE—1350 CE

Mass and its evolving organizing principles
Motet, both sacred and secular
Secular monody in N and S France, Italy, Spain, Germany, England
Secular polyphony, particularly in the late Medieval period
Dance music in various geographical locations.
[possible additional genres as well]

Within the given period, you would be expected to supply answers, for each genre, to each of the following:
  • What are the key musical characteristics of this particular genre?
  • What are its approximate dates of origin, highest development, and abandonment as a focus of composers?
  • Which three composers might be the best examples of the genre at its beginning, highest development, and decay?
  • Which single piece (title, date, etc) by which specific composer is the best example for beginning, development, and decay?

Answers to the above are the minimal information you need to be able to cite about each key genre in each of the following time periods or topics:
Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century, American Music


If you cannot answer each of the above questions for significant genres in a majority (at least FOUR) of these time periods, you need to fill in the gaps in your knowledge, and should plan to do so either prior to arriving at Texas Tech or during your course of study here.

The department of Musicology can supply references, bibliographies, and other guidelines for such preparatory study.

NB: in the case of non-chronologic topics like "American music" and "Music Research" (see above) you would obviously need to develop slightly different material:

For "American music," you might focus on specific types of music in various time periods, or across time periods (e.g., "Protestant church music in the colonial era"; "Hymnody in the 19th century"; "Popular song in the pre-Civil War period"; "Early 20th century dance music", etc).

For "Music Research", you would certainly need to know the key bibliographic sources on all major genres, at least 5 music encyclopedias and their strengths/weaknesses, and possess a good working knowledge of computer sources.