Music History & Literature Placement Exam

The Graduate Music History and Literature entrance assessment covers content spanning from the Renaissance to the present day. Examples will be drawn from the art-music repertory, jazz, and popular/vernacular idioms. The exam consists of the following parts:

    1. Aural Recognition: (15 minutes) Consists of a series of ninety-second musical examples, each played only once. You must identify each example according to chronological period (Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th/21st Century), genre (from a given list of vocal and instrumental genre terms), and composer/performer (you will suggest a likely composer/performer on your own). You must then justify your answer and describe the style with greater specificity, including technical terminology and sub-genre identification where appropriate.
    2. Score Recognition: (15 minutes) You will identify one- or two-page score excerpts by chronological period, genre, and composer. You must then give an explanation to justify your choices. Distinguishing elements such as instrumentation, orchestration, texture, harmony, rhythm, form, text setting, and style should contribute to your justification.
    3. Terminology:(30 minutes) This short-answer section will assess your literacy with key terms and definitions necessary for the informed discussion of music. In addition to writing definitions or explanations, you must also provide example composers/performers and work titles that illustrate the given terms.
    4. Essay: (30 minutes) You will write one essay from a provided selection of prompts. Prompts will be crafted such that you will be able to draw upon your own base of knowledge and discuss relevant examples of your choice. Essays are graded according to content, organization, strength of argument, and clarity of 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. Cristina Magaldi (Coordinator, History and Literature Division)