Charles J. Smith

Associate Professor; Slee Chair in Music Theory; Music Theory Unit Coordinator; Director, Slee Institute of Tonal Harmony

410 Baird Hall
(716) 645-0639


PhD, University of Michigan


Music Theory


Associate Professor of Music Theory at Buffalo since 1987.

Has served as Coordinator of Music Theory Area almost continuously since arriving at UB, and Chair of the Department since 2006.

On-going research involves nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century chromaticism, Schenkerian analysis, philosophy of music, and history of music theory.

Winner of the 1999 Society for Music Theory Distinguished Publication Award, for a 100-page article, in Music Analysis, on the relationship between Schenkerian analysis and the theory of conventional form—in particular on how conventional forms often provide the most reliable criteria for the choice of backgrounds, and also illuminate some inconsistencies in Schenker’s work.

Specialist in the teaching of undergraduate theory, and author of the 3-volume harmony/counterpoint text Tonal Models of Music used in UB undergrad courses.

Invited Faculty at the Mannes Summer Institute on Chromaticism, at Yale, summer 2006.

Chair of the 2006 Publication Awards Committee of the Society for Music Theory.

Has served on the editorial boards of Music Theory Spectrum and In Theory Only, of which he was one of the founding editors.

Has been a Visiting Professor of Music Theory at both the Eastman School of Music and the University of British Columbia. Taught at The University of Connecticut from 1978 to 1987.

Received his Ph.D. in Music Theory from The University of Michigan in 1980, with a dissertation, “Patterns and Strategies: Four Perspectives on Analytical Characterization”.

Articles on music theory published in Music AnalysisMusic Theory SpectrumIn Theory OnlyPerspectives of New MusicCollege Music Symposium, and the collection Music Theory: Special Topics.

Selected Publications

  • "Rounding Up the Usual Suspects: The Enigmatic Narrative of Chopin's C# minor Prelude [Op. 45]". In Engaging Music: Essays in Musical Analysis. Edited by Deborah Stein. Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • "Musical Form and Fundamental Structure: An Investigation of Schenker's Formenlehre." Music Analysis 15 (1996): 191-297. Winner of SMT 1999 Outstanding Publication Award.
  • "The Functional Extravagance of Chromatic Chords." Music Theory Spectrum 8 (1986): 94-139.
  • "Rejoinder to Professor Beach" [w/ David Beach, "On Analysis, Beethoven, and Extravagance"].  Music Theory Spectrum 9 (1987): 186-194.
  • "Prolongations and Progressions as Musical Syntax." In Music Theory: Special Topics, pp. 139-174. Edited by Richmond Browne. NY: Academic Press, 1981.
  • "Musical A Priori's: An Investigation of Explanatory Strategies." College Music Symposium 19 (1979): 103-113.
  • "Registering Distinctions: Octave Non-equivalence in Chopin's Butterfly Etude." In Theory Only 3/5 (1977): 32-40.
  • "Toward a Phenomenalistic Account of Music's Performances." In Theory Only 2/11-12 (1977): 17-29.
  • "Notes on Voice-Leading in Schoenberg."  In Theory Only 2/10 (1977): 23-28.
  • Analysis Symposium: Brahms, "Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht." In Theory Only 2/6 (1976): 35-43.
  • "(Supra-) Durational Patterns in Chopin's Revolutionary Etude." In Theory Only 2/5 (1976)): 3-12.
  • "The Determinacy of Linear Relations" [comment on Benjamin's "Interlocking Diatonic Collections"].  In Theory Only2/3-4 (1976): 29-42.
  • "The Notations of Analysis: An Approach to a Theory of Musical Relations." In Theory Only 1/9-10 (1975-1976): 9-18.
  • Analysis Symposium: Mozart Symphony #40 [w/ Wallace Berry, Sylvan Kalib, & William Poland]. In Theory Only 1/7 (1975): 19-23, 35-36.
  • "On Hearing the Chopin Preludes as a Coherent Set: A survey of some possible structural models for Op. 28." In Theory Only 1/4 (1975): 5-16.
  • "Transcriptions? or But is it idiomatic?" In Theory Only 1/4 (1975): 28-32.
  • "Towards the Construction of Intersecting Divergent Models for Chopin's 'Three against Two' Etude." In Theory Only1/3 (1975): 19-25.
  • Review of Arthur Komar's Linear-Derived  HarmonyMusic Theory Spectrum 16 (1994): 102-107.
  • Review of Thomas Clifton's Music as  HeardMusic Theory Spectrum 7 (1985): 207-213.
  • "Beethoven via Schenker" [Review  of Dover ed. of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas]. In Theory Only  4 (1978): 37-47.
  • Review of Jim Samson's Music in Transition:  A Study of Tonal Expansion and AtonalityNOTES 34  (1978): 601-603.
  • "Rhythm Restratified" [Review  of Maury Yeston's The Stratification of Musical Rhythm].  Perspectives of New Music16 (1977): 144-176.
  • "Is It Original, or Is It Good: The Paradox of Rachmaninoff's Intra-Tonal Chromatic Harmony"  Rhodes International Rachmaninoff Conference, 2005.
  • "The Trials and Tribulations of Tristan Chords"  University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Thinking about Music Series, 2005.
  • "Functional Fishing with Tonnetz: A Dualistic Syntax of Transformations" Society for Music Theory, National Conference, National Conference, Madison, 2003.
  • Formal Respondent (invited by the author),to Peter Smith's "Brahms's Sonata Form, Schenker's Formenlehre, and the Idea of Dimensional Counterpoint" Society for Music Theory, National Conference, Philadelphia, 2001.
  • "Functional Fishing with Tonnetz: Toward a Grammar of Transformations and Progressions" Symposium on Neo-Riemannian Theory Univ. at Buffalo, 2001.
  • "Head-Tones, Mediants, Reprises: A Formal Narrative of Brahms's Handel Variations" Oxford Music Analysis Conference, St. Peter's College, Oxford, UK, 2000.
  • "Of Roots-and Functions-and Linear Basses: Tales Our Harmony Teachers Told Us." UB Music Lecture Series, 1999.
  • "Head-Tones, Mediants, Reprises: A Formal Narrative of Brahms's Handel Variations". Eastman School of Music, 1995.
  • "Musical Form and Fundamental Structure: A Critical Extension of Schenker's Formenlehre". Society for Music Theory, National Conference, Cincinnati, 1991.
  • "A Critical Investigation of Schenker's Formenlehre". Cornell University, 1990
  • "A Study of Connections: Chopin's Last-Minute Revisions in the Autograph of Op. 10/3". American Musicological Society, National Conference, Vancouver, 1985.
  • "Functional Extravagance: A Theory of Chromatic Chords". Society for Music Theory, National Conference, New Haven, 1983.
  • "Analysis as Metaphor". Notre Dame, 1982.
  • "Analysis as Metaphor". Symposium "Analytic Method: Its Purposes, Premises, Problems, and Polemics". Society for Music Theory, National Conference, Denver, 1980.
  • Invited Participant. Symposium "Methodologies: Assumptions and Presumptions". Society for Music Theory, National Conference, Evanston, 1977.