Interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the increasing appearance of the PhD in fine art practice.

In the music world, the PhD is usually reserved for what are considered the academic subdisciplines within the field (music theory, musicology, music education), while the DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) or DM (Doctor of Music) is the professional subdisciplinary terminal degree (DMA in composition, performance, conducting). Some institutions also offer a DME (Doctor of Music Education); like the DMA/DM, this is a professional practice doctorate. There are PhD programs in composition (Princeton, NYU and Penn come to mind), but most composition doctorates are DMAs. The visual arts, until recently, held the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree as the terminal degree. PhDs, as in music, were reserved for the subdiscipline of Art History.

The article spends most of its ink on the PhD in studio art; I would propose that – if the visual arts world wants a professional practice doctorate, and that world is by no means unified on that topic – the music model is the operational model. Keep the PhD for art history and those studio art programs which are the most research-oriented, and create the DFA as the professional practice program (Yale already does this in theatre). This will take a bit of educating, as the DFA already exists as primarily an honorary degree.

Of course, this may be answering a question no one really asked. Our terminal degree programs are already overstuffed (owing to R1/doctoral-granting institutions loving that supply of cheap teaching labor for undergraduate classes), and I’m not sure I see the need for Yet Another Doctorate.


I miss it.

I used to play, sing, conduct, compose just about every day.

I miss it.

I used to be really good at some of those things. At one point, I was a good enough player to be principal euphonium in the Kentucky All-Collegiate Band and back up acts like the Temptations, Melissa Manchester and Aaron Neville. In the past year I wrote about 50 minutes of new music, 35 of which got performed. I’ve conducted bands, choirs, orchestras and pit orchestras. I even got to conduct William Warfield once, though that was more along the lines of “You do what ever you want, Dr. Warfield, I’ll make sure we follow.” I tell you all this not to toot my own horn, but rather to give you some sense about what has been missing.

I miss it.

I’m going to say something bold here: It may have been a mistake on my part to pursue the PhD in theory. This is not to say that I shouldn’t have done it, but I shouldn’t have done it in the way that I did. I got away from music-making while working on it, and consequently, my analyses, while thorough and solid, were often amusical. The music that I studied deserves better. I stopped being a good musician during the process, and my work suffered because of it.

So…what does this mean?

There are some changes coming up in my life, and I hope for the better. I am going to take advantage of these changes (and I’m letting you all know this in the hopes that the hive mind will help me keep to them) and get good again. Get the horn on the face. Dig out the Hanon exercises and a metronome. Write something as often as I can. Learn the literature and take those lessons with a big-shot conductor. Write analytical and theoretical papers that resonate with actual music-making.

It won’t be easy, but it needs to be done. I need to get good again. I need to let music – this wonderful, wonderful discipline – work its magic on me again. Those musicians who got me to this point deserve no less. I deserve no less. MUSIC deserves no less.

Who’s with me?


I don’t know if this will take off in the way that Theory Thursday (or even Tuba-Euphonium Tuesday) has done so,* but it’s worth a shot.

I’ve been writing an analytical paper on Carlisle Floyd’s opera Susannah and drawing upon post-structuralist theory as postulated by Jean Baudrillard. To my knowledge, this is the first time Baudrillard’s writings have been used as philosophical underpinning for a paper on a musical idea. Since literary theory tends to skew closer to musicology than to music theory/analysis, I guess you could say this paper is half-and-half from each discipline.

Personally, I think the disciplinary dividing lines are becoming a bit hazier. No musicologist does work without rigorous analysis of the music, and no theorist/analyst does work without a thorough understanding of the history, reception and stylistic trends present in the piece under investigation. Both disciplines require an extensive knowledge not just of the how of analysis, but the why and wherefore. I further believe this is starting to be reflected in the job market, as I’ve seen (and applied for!) multiple jobs that require teaching of music theory/analysis *and* musicology/history. While I’m not up to code on my white note/mensural notation or ways to investigate reception, I do believe my analytical techniques are strongly influenced by musicological modes of inquiry.

What do you say? Are the lines more or less sharply defined than in the past?

*for very small values of “done so”


I don’t know if this is going to take or not, but recent events have inspired me to pick up my horn again. I’m currently working up the following pieces:

Telemann, Sonata (F minor, originally for bassoon and piano)
Raybuck, Amazing Grace (based on the hymn tune NEW BRITAIN)
Clinard, Sonata (for unaccompanied euphonium)

I’ve played the Raybuck and Clinard before, but not the Telemann. I’m enjoying the challenges of revisiting old favorites and learning a new piece. This is about 20 minutes of music, and I might add a few more works (maybe one of the few euphonium concerti out there and some more occasional pieces) to see if I can’t get a full 50 – 75 minute recital out of the bargain. Any suggestions/requests?

(Tuba-Euphonium Tuesday will allegedly feature pieces on which I am currently working, thoughts on the literature – solo, chamber, ensemble and standard rep – for those instruments, links to recordings of great players and conversations with great players.)


Since it has been a while, let me get you up to speed.

(1) I finally finished the dissertation. I submitted it on May 19 and it was approved on May 20. Assuming nothing else goes horribly wrong, I will officially get the PhD on June 10. You’ll forgive me if I’ve gone ahead and started calling myself “Dr. Flinn.” 12 years stem-to-stern on this…if any of you are thinking of getting a PhD, think very long and hard about that.

(2) I’ve been composing again! On April 14 I premiered Requiem for soprano, tenor, two pianos, organ and percussion at Spivey Hall on Clayton State’s campus. I’m currently working on a full orchestral/choral version of the work (just today, finished putting all the notes in for the first movement).

(3) I still love me some politics, but I don’t think the blog is gonna focus as strongly on politics this time around. I really would like to do more musical things with it, as well as hold lively discussions about academia. And yes, the Cleti may very well return.

What’s new with you out there in cyberspace?