Centers for Research

The Department of Music has four distinct Centers for Research, the Computer Music Center, the Center for Ethnomusicology, the Center for Jazz Studies and the Reiner Center.

The Computer Music Center at Columbia University is an innovative and exciting music and arts technology facility with a long history of creative excellence. Students, researchers and creative artists working at the Center come from many different divisions within Columbia University. The primary mission of the CMC is to operate at the intersection of musical expression and technological development, and as a result the Center has become involved in a broad range of interesting projects. The CMC has also produced events aimed at reaching out to a wider community, both locally in New York and globally in a number of different international venues.

The Center for Ethnomusicology is a unique institution in the discipline and at Columbia University. Founded in 1967 by Professor Willard Rhodes and Professor Nicholas England, the Center was an institutional home to the prominent mid-century music collector Laura Boulton during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Boulton's huge collection of field recordings from around the world forms the core of the Center's archival holdings.

The Center also houses a significant collection of musical instruments, including the Leonard C. Holvik Collection of traditional Japanese instruments. The Center is also much more than an archive of tapes and instruments. It is the hub of the graduate program in ethnomusicology at Columbia, and a fountain of musical activity on the Columbia campus.

At the Center for Jazz Studies, jazz becomes a music without borders that provides new models for innovative teaching and scholarly inquiry in the arts, humanities, and sciences. The Center views the interdisciplinary expansion of the intellectual conversation surrounding jazz, and especially its lifeblood practice, improvisation, as tracing a path toward the development of new knowledge that illuminates the human condition.

The Fritz Reiner Center for Contemporary Music was established in October 1984 with a bequest from the estate of the widow of the legendary conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Center’s first Director was the composer Chou Wen-chung, also the first Fritz Reiner Professor of Music at Columbia. Chou’s was succeed as the Fritz Reiner Professor by Fred Lerdahl and Marcos Balter (2022 - present).

The purpose of this Center is to support and encourage ensembles, organizations, and individuals devoted to making contemporary music. Activities supported by the Center include the creation of music and music-related creative forms, concert presentation, scholarship, performer and composer residencies, recordings, conferences, archival and curatorial work, education, and other forms as shall be determined by the Center’s governing body, including support for performances of works composed by undergraduate and graduate students who are actively enrolled in Music Composition programs in the Department of Music at Columbia University.

The notion of contemporary music shall be understood by the Center to include diversities of approach, style, methodology, gender, ethnicity, and cultural provenance. Support for the activities of both Columbia-based and non-Columbia individuals and organizations involved in activities related to contemporary music are central to the operation of the Center, including support for the activities of undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in courses in composition at Columbia.