College of Fine Arts and Communication

Music Performance/Composition (M.M.)

Music History and Literature Placement Exam

The Graduate History and Literature Examination consists of the following parts:

  1. Aural Recognition: (10 minutes) Consists of a series of musical examples each played only once, of one minute or less duration. You will identify each example according to style period (Baroque, Classical, etc.), genre (opera, symphony, concerto, mass, etc.), and composer (you must suggest a likely composer on your own).

  2. Score Recognition: (10 minutes) Identify one- or two-page score excerpts by style period, genre, and composer giving an explanation to justify your choices. Distinguishing elements such as instrumentation, orchestration, texture, harmony, rhythm, form, genre, text setting, and style should contribute to your justification.

  3. Musical Terms and Concepts: (15 minutes) In this section you will be given definitions for which you must supply the appropriate term and a potential composer and/or example composition associated with it. This section is organized by style period.

  4. Musical Forms: (10 minutes) Provide diagrams for the several traditional forms as requested. Indicate such features as statement and/or expansion of thematic materials, standard patterns of modulation, repetition of materials, etc.

  5. Name the Composer: Titles of standard compositions from all historical eras, including jazz and American music are given. You must supply the composer's name for as many titles as you can. Examples might include Messe de Nostre Dame, "Jupiter" Symphony, Kreisleriana, Pierrot lunaire, Tehillim, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Time Out, etc.

  6. General Fill-In-The-Blank and Short-Answer: (10 minutes) Additional terminology questions and short answer responses requiring explanations of significant places/locations in the history of music.

  7. Essay:(25 minutes) You will write one essay of your choice from the provided selection of prompts. Classical Performance students must choose from the Classical Topics. Jazz Performance students must choose from the Jazz Topics. Music Education students may choose either a Classical or a Jazz Topic. Essay prompts will require students to consider an issue from a variety of approaches. Cite specific composers/performers and pieces to illustrate your answers. Example prompts could relate to such issues as: (Classical concentration) the use of pre-existent music in compositions from 1950-2000; the impact of Haydn and Mozart on classical forms found in the works of Beethoven; Beethoven's compositions as a gateway for 19th-century Romantic composers. (Jazz concentration) a significant figures influence and contribution to the field of jazz composition and performance; the impact of a particular instrument on the history and development of jazz. Essays are graded according to content, organization, and written expression in English.

Please see this sample exam, with specific questions removed, for an example of the formatting and design to expect when you come to take the test.

Suggestions for Exam Preparation

Undergraduate students at Towson University study Peter Burkholder’s A History of Western Music, 8th edition (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010) and the ancillary anthologies and recordings that accompany it. This is a particularly excellent series of books to review for your placement examination. We also recommend texts by Mark Evans Bond (A History of Music in Western Culture, 2009) and Richard Taruskin (Oxford History of Western Music, 2009).

A graduate review course at Towson uses a more affordable 1991 book entitled Harper Collins College Outline History of Western Music by Hugh Miller.

Since many students applying to the Graduate MM program at Towson University have not had a comprehensive history of music survey in several years, it is highly recommended that you review a significant textbook and the music literature that accompanies it.

Students who have specific questions about exam preparation are invited to contact
Dr. Cristina Magaldi (Coordinator, History and Literature Division)

Schedule your exam by filling out the form.





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