Music Systems & Theory

Music Systems student at work

About the program

The Music Systems & Theory Area serves the School of Music and Dance in two ways: as the foundation curriculum for all music majors, and as a secondary curriculum for music majors in the Composition and Electro-Acoustic concentrations.

Lower division music systems courses for all music majors include both broad-based and in-depth study of the components and structure of music from many historical and geographical contexts. This includes both written and aural skills, including analysis, dictation, and sight-singing. Upper division music systems electives offer each student the opportunity to study specific aspects of music that are particularly relevant to their major concentration and/or post-graduate work. Upper-division courses include Form & Analysis, Orchestration, and Counterpoint.

The Master of Arts degree in Music with an emphasis in Music Systems & Theory is offered through the Graduate Studies program. Once accepted, graduate students study Applied Music Systems in preparation for their thesis project. A partial list of special topics includes American Musical Icons, Harmonic Space and Ratio Theories, Recursive Proportional Theories, Algorithmic Composition Theory, History of Theory and Systems, Analytical Systems, Schenkerian Analysis, and Sonic Design, which are designed to provide students with much greater depth in this specialized area.

Applying for music systems and theory

To apply for the graduate Music Systems and Theory program, contact the SJSU graduate program and provide at least two theoretical and/or analytical papers from your undergraduate music studies along with two letters of recommendation.


  • Master of Arts (MA) in Music


  • Dr. Brian Belet, coordinator
  • Dr. Pablo Furman (composition)
  • Dr. Michael Adduci
  • Dr. Victoria Lington