Current Projects

Past Projects


The list below includes a sampling of musicology and music theory courses pertaining to music in the long nineteenth-century that have been offered in recent years. 


The Ballets Russes
Prof. Sarah Gutsche-Miller
Long central to European culture, ballet has in the last two decades become a vibrant and expanding area of academic research. This seminar will focus on what is arguably the most influential ballet company of all times, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Between 1909 and 1929, Diaghilev brought together many of the era’s greatest modern artists—among them composers Stravinsky, Poulenc, Debussy, Ravel, Satie, de Falla, Prokofiev, and Strauss; choreographers Fokine, Nijinsky, Nijinska, and Balanchine; and artists and writers Bakst, Picasso, Matisse, Goncharova, and Cocteau—to produce such ground-breaking ballets as Jeux, Daphnis et Chloé, Firebird, and The Rite of Spring. Drawing on the vast multi-disciplinary literature about the Ballets Russes and their world, we will examine seminal works, their reception, and their relationship to French culture and cultural politics. Topics will include music, choreography, and staging, as well as nationalism, exoticism, gender/sexuality, and cultural hierarchies, whether in the works themselves, in Ballets Russes historiography, or in past and present-day performance practices.

Aesthetics of Music
Prof. Sherry Lee
This seminar provides the opportunity to examine philosophical writings from the Continental tradition about music’s status as art and as an expression of human experience, and emphasizes critical reflection on modern suppositions of music’s meaning and value. We will consider the means offered by selected major intellectual figures since the Enlightenment for critical consideration of music’s significance, its relationship to time and sense, its epistemological and ethical dimensions, and its changing function in history, culture and society.  

Romantic Musings on the Middle Age
Prof. John Haines
This seminar explores the many musical interpretations of the Middle Ages during the Romantic period. The best known pieces are large stage works, from A.-E.-M. Grétry’s Aucassin et Nicolette (1779) to R. Wagner’s last opera Parsifal (1882). Other repertoires include a significant corpus of medieval-themed songs. Participants will investigate the various ways in which composers and other Romantic musicians evoke the Middle Ages, and the enduring impact of their efforts. Neo-Romantic ‘medieval’ music includes folk songs edited by M. Barbeau and the music of early films like The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). 

19th-Century Music and Discourses of Nature
Prof. Sherry Lee
This seminar considers how the category of “nature” has been constructed in nineteenth-century music-compositional discourses and in critical rhetoric about music of the nineteenth century, including aesthetic, theoretical, interpretive and analytical writings from the contemporary to the present day. “Nature” is an exceedingly complex term, pertaining not only to the physical world – typically conceptualized as a given entity and a priori defined as “wilderness” – but also to broader concepts of essentiality, including the fundamental character and disposition of individuals. This seminar, then, explores the idea of nature in relation to nineteenth-century music not only in expected programmatic and mimetic-musical senses, but via a broader critical understanding of the ways in which the term “nature” accrues ideological meanings in discourses about music, from the assumed primacy of the overtone series as a foundation for harmonic language through the musico-dramatic representation of “degeneracy”, and beyond. 

Music in Paris: 1871-1914
Prof. Sarah Gutsche-Miller
Between the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 and the outbreak of WWI, Paris witnessed an unprecedented burgeoning of music at all levels of cultural production, from avant-garde circles to mass market entertainment. This seminar explores the multifaceted musical culture of Paris in the first decades of the Third Republic through a series of case studies that focus on a composer, collection of works, institution, or artistic movement. Drawing on recent literature from musicology, cultural studies, dance studies, and art history, the seminar study canonical repertoire written by the era’s mavericks or produced by state-sponsored institutions as well as the vibrant world of popular music. Topics include nationalism, wagnérisme, and exoticism in French symphonic music and opera at the fin-de-siècle; Parisian popular music (cabaret songs, operetta, and music-hall ballet); Fauré and the French mélodie; Debussy and Ravel; and the Ballets Russes. 

Music and Cultures of Listening in Late Modernity
Prof. Sherry Lee
This seminar offers a critical interrogation of changing practices and ideologies of musical listening since the Enlightenment, and the various technologies and discourses that have both shaped and reflected the development of listening habits, attitudes, and values. Incorporating topics and case studies from historical eras before and after sound capture, and drawing upon approaches and perspectives from music scholarship, philosophies of music and of listening, and the burgeoning interdiscipline of sound studies, it considers music’s inextricable entanglements with material culture alongside the ongoing fascination with sound’s ephemerality, music’s seeming ineffability, and the special position of disembodied sound in the Western imagination.  


Symphonic Modernisms, 1900–1925
Prof. Steven Vande Moortele
This seminar centers on one of the crucial and most value-laden genres in Western art music during the first quarter of the twentieth century: the symphony. It focuses on select works both by some of the genre’s major practitioners (e.g., Mahler, Sibelius, Nielsen) and by composers who approached the genre as “outsiders” (e.g., Elgar, Strauss, Rachmaninoff, Schoenberg) that, taken together, provide a representative image of the diverse strands of “symphonic modernism” between 1900 and 1925. Combining score study with readings of relevant recent music-theoretical and musicological literature, the seminar pursues a double goal. On the one hand, it seeks to explore analytical approaches to form, tonal organization, and hermeneutics in these works; on the other, it aims to situate them both in the broader cultural-historical context of early twentieth-century modernism and in relation to the nineteenth-century symphonic tradition. 

Romantic Form
Prof. Steven Vande Moortele
The last several years have seen a surge in analytical and theoretical interest in musical form in the music of the so-called “romantic generation”—the composers who came to maturity during the third and fourth decades of the nineteenth century. Through a study of this repertoire and the literature about it, this seminar investigates what distinguishes form in this music from form in earlier repertoires. Established theories of classical form as well as broader trends in contemporaneous musical culture and reception serve as additional points of reference. While the main focus is on chamber music and music with orchestra (symphonies, overtures, and concerti) by composers such as Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Wagner, the seminar also make forays into other genres and music by other composers working between ca. 1815 and 1850. 

The Early Music of Arnold Schoenberg (1893−1908)
Prof. Steven Vande Moortele
The music Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951) wrote prior to his breakthrough to atonality in 1908 includes some of his most performed and best-loved compositions (e.g., the string sextet Verklärte Nacht, the Gurrelieder, and the First Chamber Symphony). Many of these works, composed at the very edge of common-practice tonality, are exceptionally rich in musical content, but also notoriously resistant to analysis.  This seminar studies these important works as well as the theoretical and analytical discourse that has grown around them, always mindful of the music-historical context in which they were composed. In addition to studying the pieces themselves, we read recent theoretical work on Schoenberg’s early music and investigate what insights into this repertoire can be gained from Schoenberg’s own theoretical writings and those of his pupils.  Topics include pitch organization and text-music relations in the early songs (especially Opp. 2, 3, and 6), tonal planning and musical drama in the Gurrelieder, and form and program in Verklärte Nacht and Pelleas und Melisande. 

Brahms: Symphonies and Chamber Music
Prof. Ryan McClelland
This course studies the four symphonies of Brahms and a large selection of his chamber music (including duo sonatas). Although the course emphasizes analysis of individual works, these analyses cumulatively reveal distinctive aspects of Brahms’s compositional approach. The analytic work provides an understanding of Brahms’s approach to formal organization and the ways it introduces ambiguities/overlaps, his use of metric dissonance and the potential of rhythmic-metric elements to shape the plan of an entire movement, his fascination with continuous development of thematic material, and his complex appropriation of elements from the music of previous composers and styles.  

Music and Drama in Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen
Prof. Steven Vande Moortele
Likely the most widely influential musical composition ever, Richard Wagner’s operatic tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen (1848-74) continues to spark music-theoretical and analytical interest. This seminar offers students the opportunity to acquaint themselves thoroughly with the many dimensions of this important work and to study various aspect of its reception within the field of music theory and analysis. The first part of the course comprises an overview of each of the four music dramas and an introduction to the vast literature about them. Later sessions offer a more detailed investigation of individual scenes in view of specific theoretical and analytical topics (phrase structure and large-scale form, Leitmotiv technique and semiotics, harmony and large-scale tonal organization, orchestration and Klang, etc.). A recurring concern throughout this exploration will be the ways in which the musical analysis can both illuminate and be illuminated by the drama that unfolds on stage. 


  • Guest seminar: Jan Philipp Sprick (Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg): Ambivalence in Music
    University of Toronto, Faculty of Music, 8 April 2019
  • Colloquium: Remi Chiu (University of Toronto) and Dana Gorzelany-Mostak (Georgia College): Millie-Christine McCoy and the Making of the Two-Headed Nightingale
    University of Toronto, Faculty of Music, 28 February 2019
  • Nineteenth—Century Time: A Symposium
    University of Toronto, March 9-10, 2018 
  • Form Forum III: Romantic Form and Beyond
    University of Toronto, Faculty of Music, February 9-11, 2017