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 of one minute or less duration each played once. You will identify each example according to style period (Baroque, Classic, etc.), genre (Mass, Cantata, Oratorio, etc.), and composer (you must suggest a likely composer on your own).

  2. Score Recognition: (10 minutes) Identify written excerpts (one or two pages each) by style period, genre, and composer giving an explanation to justify your choices. Elements such as instrumentation, orchestration, texture, harmony, rhythm, form, genre, text setting, and style may form part of 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 associated with it. This section is organized by style period.

  4. Musical Forms: (10 minutes) You will be presented with a list of traditional forms from which you will provide diagrams for several as requested. Examples could include scherzo-trio, concerto, etc.

  5. Name the Composer: (10 minutes) Standard compositions are grouped by fours and you will indicate the composer for three in each group. Examples might include The Creation, “Jupiter” Symphony, An die ferne Geliebte, Pierrot lunaire, Night in the Tropics, Nixon in China, etc. Examples come predominantly from 1600 to the present.

  6. Write two 15-minute essays: (30 minutes) Subjects are different for Classical and Jazz concentrations and should be answered according to the program to which you have been accepted.  Essays require students to consider an issue from a variety of approaches.  Examples could include (classical concentration): the use of pre-existent music in compositions from 1950-2000, or the impact of Haydn and Mozart on classical forms found in the works of Beethoven, or Beethoven’s compositions as a gateway for 19th-century romantic composers; (jazz concentration) a significant figure in the field of jazz composition and performance, or the impact of the electric guitar on the history of jazz.

  7. Essays are graded according to content, organization, and written expression in English.

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. Carl B. Schmidt (Coordinator, History and Literature Division)

Schedule your exam by filling out the form.





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