Course Requirements

The GSAS Bulletin gives a list and description of many graduate courses that are offered from time to time by the Department of Music.  The Directory of Classes has the most current listings for each semester.  The Department also has available detailed descriptions of graduate offerings at the beginning of each semester, which are also posted on the graduate students' bulletin board on the sixth floor of Dodge Hall (between Rooms 619 and 621).

Two kinds of credit are awarded for participation in a graduate course: E credit (Examination credit) and R credit (Registration credit). Attendance at the course and completion of required coursework is expected of all students. However, a candidate for E credit is obliged to prepare a term paper (or in some cases take a final examination), whereas a candidate for R credit is not. Only E-courses may be used to fulfill degree requirements.

Instructors usually award qualitative letter grades (A,B,C,D,F) for term papers, and possibly for other coursework, a practice that is intended to enhance communication between instructor and student, assist the student's self-assessment, and improve advisement generally. At the instructor's discretion, either the final letter grade or a grade of "Pass" or "Fail" may be transmitted to the Registrar and appear on a student's transcript. (If you entered the program in 2009 or earlier, you are entitled to a grade of Pass or Fail on your transcript,under our previous policy, and without respect to the instructor's current policy. However, letter grades may still be used for internal evaluative purposes.)

The grade on INC (Incomplete) may be given in instances when a student has the instructor's permission to defer until after the end of the term, for reasons beyond a student's control, the completion of a term paper or some other course requirement. INC is normally granted only in cases of illness; it should not be requested lightly.  If the INC is not removed by the submission of a qualitative grade by the instructor within one year, it will be changed to an F.

Please see GSAS Rules and Policies about Grading.

M.A. Thesis, Paper, or Essays


Submission of a thesis (approx. 40 pages in length), which should be a coherent piece of work incorporating new insights. Theses are due no later that the last day of classes of the third semester.

Historical Musicology

Submission of one essay, which should be a revision of a paper done for a graduate class at Columbia. You should consult the professors who have previously read and evaluated the essay before deciding which to submit. The paper is due on September 30 of the third semester. An MA thesis prepared at another institution cannot be submitted for the fulfillment of this requirement.

Music Theory

Submission of one paper, of publishable quality, which may (but does not have to) have originated as a seminar paper. You should select your topic and advisor during your second semester, conduct research during the first Summer, and then write the paper during your third semester. The paper is due on the last day of classes of the third semester. An essay paper or thesis will be returned to the student for revisions no more than once. If, after the second submission, it is still deemed unsatisfactory, the student will be awarded a terminal M.A. degree. Students who are deemed to be having severe academic difficulties may be asked to leave the program with no degree.