PhD/DMA MUHL Qualifying Examinations

Revised and approved, Musicology Faculty: 9.22.06


[NB: This examination format supersedes previous DMA formats. If you are taking the PhD or DMA MUHL Qualifying Examination for the first time during or after Fall 2006 semester, your examination will employ the following format.

Strategies for Success

Doctoral exams are typically based upon a complete set of 16 essay-style questions, for which each candidate is required to complete 12 answers. Questions may include text, scores, audio examples, or other material. Every doctoral candidate is encouraged to develop familiarity with a range of scores of which s/he might reasonably be expected to display a working knowledge.

The following provides a general sense of the form, scope, and range of music history questions asked in reference to these questions. Typically, Doctoral candidates who excel provide answers which do the following:

  • Answer precisely all aspects of the question
  • Display effective organization and a grasp of the most relevant data
  • Provide specific examples (dates, titles, individuals)
  • Refer specifically to the score (to the measure)
  • Relate musical style to historical context

Observation: In our observation, by far the most efficient and directly-relevant method of preparing for exams of this sort is based upon preparation and regular practice.
  • Many questions appearing on this exam will use score excerpts as examples. At the barest minimum, you should be able to provide the following information, based on your examination of the excerpt. Please note: simple identification of the score is not sufficient.
  1. (Highest priority): As precisely as possible, the date or time period of the piece excerpted;
  2. As precisely as possible, the genre or formal structure of the piece excerpted;
  3. As precisely as possible, the national, regional, or stylistic school to which the piece belongs (e.g., "German," "French," "Burgundian," "nationalist," "impressionist," etc); and
  4. (Lowest priority): Possible composers, fitting the above characteristics, who might have authored the piece.

You can prepare for this by developing an understanding of the history of musical style, genre-by-genre, for each of the periods of European musical history. In other words, you need to (a) identify the most significant, widely-practiced or highly-valued musical forms in each period; (b) identify each form’s beginnings, high point, and decline; and (c) know and be able to cite specific examples by relevant composers for the beginning, middle, and end of that form’s history. A detailed, practical working knowledge of pieces contained in the Norton or Prentice-Hall Anthologies, and an understanding of how each piece does or does not exemplify a particular stage for a particular form, is a good place to start.

The best way to assimilate and organize this information and develop abilities to convey the information coherently, once having identified key genres, is to work on one genre at a time. Identify watershed dates, compositions, and composers; develop an understanding of stylistic, social, and other cultural factors that shaped the idiom; understand reception. Familiarize yourself with scores and relate their style characteristics to the balance of your data. Working on one genre at a time (perhaps with outlines, index cards, timelines, etc) facilitates clarity in this process.

SAMPLE EXAM

Please note: a total of twelve (12) essays are to be written. Question #1 is mandatory; for the balance of the exam the candidate is asked to select a specific number of questions from each of 3 categories (see below).

Instructions:

  • Please provide responses for the indicated number of topics in each of the following categories, including (1) precise time period; (2) specific genre; (3) national, regional, or stylistic school; and (4) possible composer, for a total of 12 essays.
  • Please address at least seven of the nine score excerpt questions.
  • Suggestion: think in terms of a cogent thesis statement, which your essay then elucidates.
  • Please be as succinct as possible, citing specific works and primary sources, and plan for a logical essay on the most important factors to be completed within the available time period. At the same time, please make sure you answer all parts of the question.

Mandatory question (All candidates must complete)

Discuss at least 3 major works of music reference, including issues of coverage, currency, types of topics addressed, particular strengths and weaknesses of each source, and ways in which 2 or more sources can be combined to create more complete coverage of music history topics.

Questions Category I: The Early Period
  1. [Complete at least 4 from this category]
  2. *Provide (1) precise time period; (2) specific genre; (3) national, regional, or stylistic school; (4) possible composer for this excerpt. Describe, citing specific primary-source examples, the role of this music in its culture and time period, and how period aesthetics both shaped and reflected musical ideas in this example. [organum, monophonic song, instrumental dance music]
  3. *Provide (1) precise time period; (2) specific genre; (3) national, regional, or stylistic school; (4) possible composer for this excerpt. Describe the textual development and musical/organizational techniques of this genre b/w [X date] and [Y date], citing at least 1 example of another specific works in addition to the one excerpted. [cantata, oratorio, liturgical drama, or mass movement]
  4. Discuss the political environment which shaped compositional style in [X] century sacred music, commenting on various European religious traditions, and providing examples as reflected in specific compositions’ musical style characteristics.
  5. Summarize the basic changes from [ancient Greek/ medieval/Renaissance] to [medieval/Renaissance/early Baroque] musical aesthetics and procedure represented by the [X genre from the period].
  6. *Provide (1) precise time period; (2) specific genre; (3) national, regional, or stylistic school; (4) possible composer for this excerpt. Relate this piece to other works in the same composer’s canon. Identification of the specific piece is not the priority. [specific to the candidate’s area of concentration]

Questions Category II: The Common-Practice Period
[Complete at least 3 from this category]
  1. Describe ways in which [18th/19th] century concepts of science, religion, and nature shaped [late Baroque/Classical/Romantic] musical style, and present a summary of [18th/19th] century musical characteristics.
  2. Summarize the factors that drove musical change in the [18th/19th] century, including population, industry, new philosophies and aesthetics, and politics, and articulate ways in which new technologies changed how music was produced and consumed in the [18th/19th] century.
  3. *Provide (1) precise time period; (2) specific genre; (3) national, regional, or stylistic school; (4) possible composer for this excerpt. Relate this piece to other works in the same composer’s canon. Identification of the specific piece is not the priority. [specific to the candidate’s area of concentration]
  4. *Provide (1) precise time period; (2) specific genre; (3) national, regional, or stylistic school; (4) possible composer for this excerpt. In addition discuss ways in which [rococo/nationalist/ impressionist/ Wagnerian/Austro-German] musical priorities shaped this piece. Please cite at least three additional works by relevant composers which further illustrate these musical priorities.
  5. *Provide (1) precise time period; (2) specific genre; (3) national, regional, or stylistic school; (4) possible composer for this excerpt. Use this excerpt to describe the development of the [symphonic/operatic/chamber/solo song/ballet] tradition from [X composer] through [Y composer]. Please cite at least three additional works by relevant composers which further illustrate these developmental changes.

Questions Category III: The Modern Period
[Complete at least 3 from this category]
  1. *Provide (1) precise time period; (2) specific genre; (3) national, regional, or stylistic school; (4) possible composer for this excerpt. Use this excerpt to explain approaches to post-Romantic [opera/symphonic/chamber/solo/sacred/ballet] forms. Please cite at least three additional works by relevant composers which further illustrate these developmental changes.
  2. *Provide (1) precise time period; (2) specific genre; (3) national, regional, or stylistic school; (4) possible composer for this excerpt. Relate this piece to other works in the same composer’s canon. Identification of the specific piece is not the priority. [specific to the candidate’s area of concentration]
  3. *Provide (1) precise time period; (2) specific genre; (3) national, regional, or stylistic school; (4) possible composer for this excerpt. Use this excerpt to explain approaches to [concerto/string quartet/ballet/electronics/"new sounds"/orchestra] as a compositional workshop in the 20th century. Please cite at least three additional works by relevant composers which further illustrate these developmental changes.
  4. Discuss at least three new sources from outside the world of music (texts, philosophies, historical events, social/cultural/contextual factors, other) for ideas pursued by composers in the post-Romantic period. Cite relevant composers, works, or other specific examples.
  5. Discuss considerations of form in the [12-tone, impressionist, expressionist, neo-classical, neo-Romantic, electronic, minimalist, etc] music of [specific composers associated with specific idioms]. How did these composers (and others) organize large-scale musical forms in a post-Common Practice language?

*NOTE: Asterisked questions would be accompanied with score excerpts. The material in [brackets] indicates the genres from which, in the past, such questions have drawn.