Matthew Williams – PhD in Music Theory

What would you say to a potential music theory student?

A colleague suggested I explore what Music Theory at UB had to offer, and three years later I’m very happy he did. The theory faculty is fantastic. Every faculty member is a scholar following many trends in music theory, research and analysis. I suggest looking through their profiles on the site for specifics! I love that I get to take courses with every faculty member in the theory department. Every single professor wants to share what they know. Being in a smaller cohort makes seminar participation absolutely mandatory (a good thing), and leads to absorbing conversations.

Can you describe some of the courses you’ve taken?

Our coursework has both breadth and depth, ranging from Schenkerian, transformational and set theories to those based on historical models, scales, mathematics and more. The multi-week focus on Rameau in the History of Music Theory seminar with Professor Moseley sparked an interest historical theory that I didn’t know I had. The second Schenker seminar with Professor Smith was one of the most engaging, difficult and fun classes I’ve ever taken. The discussions still influence my sketches and analyses today. The extended sessions on scale theory and mathematics in Professor Plotkin’s Pitch Structures course were both demanding and engaging. Every single day, our professors encourage us to work very hard, be open-minded and—above all—be guided by music.

How do you see the UB Department of Music impacting your future career prospects?

The opportunity to teach freshman theory and music theory for non-majors solidified my goal to become a professor. It forced me to internalize the material in such a way that I could adapt to any class or situation. When the students began to understand and then became engaged with the material, it was a big rush of adrenaline. Beyond molding graduate students to become better musicians, scholars and writers, the music faculty wants us to be ready for the job market ahead. My professors are my strongest advocates during coursework, the dissertation process and the search for employment. Wherever I go in the field, I will bring the solid, thorough and open-minded research that was instilled in me at UB.

Matthew Williams is currently pursuing a PhD in Music Theory under the guidance of Professor Brian Moseley and Professor Charles J. Smith.