Musicology Curriculum

Program Requirements

  • Loading
  • Loading
  • Loading
Still loading? There may be a problem with the dynamically generated link. Please visit the course catalog site for program requirements.


The Division of Musicology course offerings are organized in a tripartite scheme that ranges from introductory to advanced levels, in both Western and world musics. A range of courses for musicology credit are listed under music history and ethnomusicology.

Students should take music theory and aural skills courses each semester until all requirements are met for their program of study. Part or all of these requirements may be waived by placement examinations. Students must also successfully complete a writing assessment by the end of the second year of study.

Conservatory students are expected to develop as writers as they progress through the first years of the conservatory curriculum, in particular their musicology and music theory coursework. Oberlin offers many resources to help students successfully complete the writing requirement.

Sample courses

View Musicology Curriculum in Catalog

100-level courses

  • MHST 101 Introduction to the History and Literature of Music

This is a required course of all baccalaureate students in the conservatory, and is generally taken early in their course of study. It is a survey course aimed at providing a fundamental understanding of western music from the Middle Ages to the modern day, chiefly in classical traditions, but with excursions into jazz, popular, and world musics.

In addition to this focus, the course also provides, in a sense, a valuable introduction to the conservatory itself, with a substantial slate of guest lecturers drawn from the faculty. Building study and library skills is also part of the instructional scheme.

  • ETHN 100 Introduction to Musics of the World

This course introduces students with a musical background to diverse musical traditions around the world from both sociological and musicological perspectives.

  • CMUS 103 Music as Social Life (formerly Introduction to the Anthropology of Music: Case Studies from Around the World) is the equivalent of ETHN 100 for students with limited musical backgrounds.

200-level courses

A five-course tier here allows the student to move from the introductory survey level of 101 immediately to in-depth discussion of music under chronologically determined headings:

Music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
Music in the Baroque Era
Music in the Classic Era
Music in the Romantic Era
Music since 1914

Ethnomusicological offerings at the 200-level provide a similar in-depth discourse, though replace the chronological scheme with area courses and classes devoted to conceptually oriented themes. These include:

Music of the Balkans and the Middle East
Music of India
Music of Indonesia
Music and Media since the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Music and the Politics of Identity

300-level courses

This tier offers a range of topics at our most advanced level. The topics themselves are often sophisticated and cutting edge, such as a course in music and narratology or various courses in forms of gender criticism.

Additionally genre courses (the concerto, the oratorio, studies in opera, the history of film music, American popular music), composer courses (Beethoven, Mozart, Bach), and methodology courses for both musicology and ethnomusicology provide a wide range of discourse. Classes at this level also build on writing skills nurtured in 200-level courses and are writing intensive.


Independent study with a professor takes two forms. Private readings are offered from one to three hours of credit, and allow students to pursue directed research topics in areas not generally covered in the class curriculum.

Private readings generally culminate in a written project. Students majoring in music history or taking the BA in music may elect to pursue the Honors Program. This is a yearlong program of intensive study with an individual professor, generally structured around a semester of original, often primary source research and a semester of thesis writing and defense.

Additional Academic Opportunities

Other curricular offerings include the First-Year Seminar Program, the interdisciplinary XART Program, and direct ensembles through the Applied Studies Program, namely Javanese Gamelan and Collegium Musicum.