The comprehensive exams in the Musicology area has three main components: Part I, taken either in August in PhD 2 or in May in PhD 3; Part II, taken in May in PhD 3; and an Oral exam, which typically takes place one week after Part II is completed.
- Middle of your first year: Develop an exam schedule with your supervisor, including a strategy for selecting pieces for part I, and topics for part II.
- Seven months before the exam period: Candidates must announce their intent to take the exams to their supervisor(s) and Graduatestudies.music [at] mcgill.ca. At the same time, let the Music Graduate Studies Office know if you will be doing Part I, Section A on a MAC or PC and any request for a French keyboard.
- Six months before the exam for Part 1, the candidate chooses twenty pieces from a master list of repertory created by the Area (see ) and send to your supervisor(s). The candidate’s choices will be vetted by the comprehensive exam committee.
- Six months before the exam for Part II, the candidate, in collaboration with the Area, chooses eight fairly broad topics pertaining to the history of music. In consultation with your committee, compile a comprehensive bibliography of 15-25 items
- Five months before the exam for Part II, the candidate submits the bibliography for final approval to the exam committee.
If Part I is deferred to May of PhD 3 after a commitment to take the exam in August of PhD 2 has been made, a new list of 20 pieces must be declared.
Part I consists of two sections:
Section A: Graduatestudies Music will send an exam to the student over e-mail, identifying the pieces to by discussed. The candidate writes a short essay at home about each of two pieces chosen by the exam committee from the group of twenty that the candidate has selected. Students can use their own scores and notes. In the case of longer works a section of the piece will be identified. Three hours will be allotted for completion of this section (see List of Repertory ). Students will e-mail their essays to Graduate studies at the end of the three hours, along with pdfs of the scores of the pieces.
Each essay will situate the piece or excerpt within its generic context. It should discuss significant style features and support its arguments by reference to analytic detail. Parameters to be covered (where applicable) include texture, harmony, melodic character, form, rhythm and instrumentation. The answer should indicate the ways in which the piece is or is not representative of its composer, genre, and period (where applicable) and should be guided by a level of content appropriate for presentation of the piece to an upper-level undergraduate music history class. Candidates will receive oral feedback about their answers within two weeks.
Section B: the candidate writes a more extended essay at home about a piece selected by the Music Theory Area representative on the examination committee, in consultation with the other committee members. As with section A, for longer works only a part of the piece will be presented. The piece that is chosen from the group should be from the candidate’s area of interest broadly defined (medieval-renaissance-seventeenth century; eighteenth-nineteenth centuries; post-1900; jazz and popular music repertories). Prior to the exam, the candidate should consult with the Music Theory Area committee member about approaches to analysis for music of the period, and possible repertoire for selection. A weekend will be given to complete the work (the piece will be sent on Friday morning at 10 am; the student must send the completed essay on Monday morning at 10 am). The theorist will evaluate the essay, in consultation with the committee.
The essay will discuss the significant structural features (pitch relations, motivic/thematic content, texture, overall formal and phrase-structural organization). It should demonstrate original insight and focus primarily on the piece's unique style features. It may enter into dialogue with published analyses, though this is by no means compulsory.
Once the essay is completed, candidates will schedule a meeting with the music theory member of their committee to receive feedback about their essay.
Eight fairly broad topics pertaining to the history of music are chosen by the student in collaboration with the Area at least six months before the exam. The committee for this exam will consist of 3-4 faculty members. Topics will aim for broad chronological coverage from the Middle Ages to the present day. One topic will be a broader critical or theoretical issue, not necessarily specific to a single period. The exam will consist of two sessions, each consisting of four questions (one per topic). The candidate answers 3 out of 4 questions in each session. Questions will be emailed to the candidate and answers should be sent back in three hours for each session. An oral exam on the questions for which a written answer has been supplied will follow after seven days.
Questions are based on student bibliographies. Candidates should demonstrate thorough knowledge and critical evaluation of the selected literature, familiarity with the relevant repertoire, and awareness of the discipline's scholarly traditions, current debates and research trends.
The goal is to synthesize ideas about, and approaches to, the repertoire, making connections or highlighting disagreements within the scholarly literature, and displaying appreciation for how the music works. Essays must go beyond merely reviewing what others have said. Candidates should take a stand or make an authoritative statement, drawing on knowledge acquired.
Candidates should insure that answers respond directly to the question asked and go beyond plugging in information on the topic deemed important in advance of the exam.
The oral exam will provide candidates the opportunity to elaborate and enhance their written answers, as well as to address the field’s larger, problematic issues. Candidates will not have notes at the oral exam, but a clean copy of the exam answers will be provided.
Part I may be taken either at the end of August in Ph.D. 2 or in May Ph.D. 3. Students must announce their intent to take the exams at least seven months before. If Part I is deferred to May Ph.D.3 after a commitment to take the exam in August Ph.D. 2 has been made, a new list of 20 pieces must be declared.
Part II must be taken in May Ph.D. 3.
(Language exams, if necessary to the candidate’s research, may follow completion of the Comprehensive Exam.)
- When: The oral exam must take place no earlier than seven calendar days after the last component.
- Duration: Two to three hours.
- The oral exam will provide candidates the opportunity to elaborate and enhance their written answers, as well as to address the field’s larger, problematic issues. Candidates will not have notes at the oral exam, but a clean copy of the exam answers will be provided.
Meet on a regular basis with your supervisor(s) and other members of the area to understand the process and fully explore bibliographic readings.
Preparation should include:
- Writing sample questions and answers
- Preparing a mock presentation
- Defending a mock question provided by the supervisor
- Collaborating with other Area students who have completed, or are preparing for, their comprehensives.
- Three full-time staff members from the candidate's area of specialization
- One member from a different area within the Department (normally a music theorist for Part I)
- Department (normally a music theorist for Part I)
- The Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in Music, or an appointed representative, serves as Chair for the oral examination for part II.