Princeton offers a very open curriculum in which students are free to pursue their own individual compositional interests. At the core of the program is the student's own creative work, carried out in regular consultation with members of the composition faculty. Although the number of students enrolled in the program is small (three to five are enrolled each year), the diversity of their backgrounds and interests can be remarkable. The lively exchange of ideas among composers of markedly different approaches is an essential feature of the program. Because of this, students are required to live in Princeton during their first two years of study.
Scores and recordings can be accepted in the following formats:
* Preferred Method - Create a simple website for your Princeton portfolio and enter the URL in the space provided within the application. If you choose to link to your public website, please give us directions about which pieces we should listen to and in what order, keeping in mind that our time is limited. Aim for about three pieces.
* Upload Method - Upload your scores and recordings in the space(s) provided within the application. Please refer to the File Upload Requirements for more information. A maximum of six files will be accepted with each file 10MB or less.
Samples of written work (analyses, term papers, etc.) are also encouraged.
There are no specific core curriculum requirements, but all students are expected to take a variety of seminars during the first two years. These courses have three principal aims: (1) to develop and sharpen the skills each student needs to realize his or her compositional intentions; (2) to expand each student's conception of what is musically possible; and (3) to develop a sense of the context in which the student's own work exists by studying and writing about other music.
Students are not required to attend weekly composition lessons with a specific teacher; instead they are encouraged to meet with a range of faculty members as they feel appropriate. In addition to these consultations, there are a variety of ungraded seminars, two or three of which are given each term, chosen by students and faculty on the basis of current interests and needs. By the end of the first year of study, the student is expected to complete at least one composition and a short paper that engage musical concerns central to the student's development. In response, the faculty discusses goals and strategies for the second year and establishes specific areas of emphasis for the general examination. In both years, compositions are normally written with currently available instrumental and electronic resources in view. Students are expected to help prepare performances of at least some of their work.
Each student is asked to demonstrate, before taking the general examination, a working knowledge of some ancillary discipline relevant to his or her concerns as a composer: a relevant foreign language, or a relevant computer language or some other discipline that the case may suggest. The language requirement is normally satisfied by examinations administered by appropriate campus departments as part of intensive reading courses. The language requirement must be passed before a student can be admitted to the general examination. Students are urged to satisfy the language requirement during the first year of graduate study. Students are responsible to confer with the DGS about the status of their language exams.
Students are required to live in Princeton for the first two years of the program.
The general examination, normally taken at the end of the second year, is designed to establish the candidate’s readiness to undertake the Ph.D. dissertation. As part of the process, second-year students jointly produce a concert in which they respond to the music of an established composer, arranging a performance of their "response pieces" as well as they music they are responding to. The examination itself has four parts, two of which are analytical. These typically focus on one old and one new repertoire (e.g., Beethoven symphonies or Brahms piano music for the old repertoire; and the music of Miles Davis or Saariaho for the new). In the third part of the exam, students are asked to design a syllabus for a graduate seminar, perhaps on a particular topic (e.g., "Music and Politics"). The last quarter of the exam concerns the student's academic and compositional work.
The Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy for students in Music Composition and is earned after a student successfully completes the general examination. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that the following requirements have been met: all courses taken in the first two years have been successfully completed (with no incompletes), the first-year paper and compositions have been successfully completed, the language requirement has been met, and at least half of the general examination has been passed.
Students normally teach during some but not all of their first eight semesters, and never in the first year; fifth-year students can only receive funding if they are also teaching in that year.
After the successful completion of the general examination, the student begins the process of consultation with faculty members that leads to the candidate’s formulation of a Ph.D. dissertation proposal, and selection of an appropriate faculty adviser.
The Ph.D. dissertation comprises an original composition and a scholarly essay, both developed in consultation with two advisers. There are many combinations that could satisfy the requirements and lead to a successful dissertation. On one end of the spectrum is a large symphonic work, electro-acoustic work, two-act chamber opera, or large portfolio containing a variety of works, coupled with a smaller 30-50 page scholarly article dealing with any issue of interest to the author including but not limited to the broader artistic context and technical antecedents and exegesis of the candidate's own work. On other end of the spectrum would be a composition of relatively short duration and small forces coupled with a large (for the sake of example) 200-page monograph similarly, but more deeply and/or broadly, exploring a topic of interest. These extremes are merely meant to be flexible guidelines delineating a large continuum within which the student, in consultation with the faculty, can find the balance that best represents their contributions to the field. Work will commence with a primary adviser, joined later by a second adviser (commonly referred to as a second reader). These advisers are charged with guiding the student to a successful balance of composition and scholarship, based on the student's own interests and goals.
In the third, fourth, and fifth years, students are expected to make steady progress on both their composition and the scholarly portion of their dissertation. Since the written portion of the dissertation varies widely in length and scope (again, from 30-50 pages on the lower end to more than 200 pages at the upper end when balanced with less ambitious musical composition) and since students write scholarly prose and compose with different degrees of facility, targets for progress can be modified at the discretion of the DGS (up to and including the dissertation proposal) or the student's adviser (once chapter-writing has begun).
Prior to the Final Public Oral (also referred to as FPO and dissertation defense), the two primary advisers make the determination as to whether the sum of composition and scholarship warrants a Ph.D., and that determination is then verified by the other members of the faculty dissertation committee at the FPO.
Director of Graduate Studies
Donnacha M. Dennehy
Elizabeth H. Margulis
Simon A. Morrison
Daniel L. Trueman
Barbara A. White
Rob C. Wegman
Gabriel Crouch, University Glee Club, Chamber Choir
Rudresh Mahanthappa, University Jazz Ensembles
Michael J. Pratt, University Orchestra, University Opera Theatre, and Composers' Ensemble
Jeffrey O. Snyder
Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.