Academic Composers

Fall 2007


Continental Europe does not offer doctorates in composition.  They argue that such degrees are absurd since composition is not an academic subject.  I think this non-academic approach sets the creation and reception of European new music apart from its American counterpart.


During the 60s and 70s the music department at the University of Pennsylvania refused to establish a Ph.D. program with the same argument.  They argued that Ph.D.s were absurd since composition is not academic even though they had one of the most conservatively oriented curriculums in the country.   (The faculty at the time was George Rochberg, George Crumb, and Richard Wernick.)  George Crumb told me he thought composers who stayed away from academia would likely be very different than those within it.  It was an interesting experiment because Penn is one of the largest, richest, and most prestigious of the Ivy League schools.   


Sometime in the 80s (I forget the exact year) Penn established a Ph.D. program, since it became clear that many of their students were not be able to get college jobs without them.  It might be interesting to do a musicological study of those Penn grads who did not get Ph.D.s and see if they did indeed end up with careers and aesthetics that are different.


William Osborne