Elisabeth Le Guin

“What is your line of work?”

We get used to seeing those politely puzzled expressions when we answer, "I'm a musicologist." The next thing we say usually goes something like: "Musicology is the scholarly study of music and music-making."

But then, if they seem intrigued, comes the opportunity to strut our stuff a little bit:

"I work in the Department of Musicology in the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, where we make profound intellectual and critical interventions in the fundamental human activity of music-making. We are dedicated to the expansion of horizons for listening to, performing, and knowing music, whether through scholarship, teaching, or community engagement."


The small size of our faculty is belied by the breadth of its interests. Our professors have recently published major scholarship—and won some major awards—in such diverse areas as: Stravinsky in Mexico, disco, vibrational theories of human vocality, performance in the late Middle Ages, American musicals, the politics of "art" music in contemporary urban spaces, comic music in 18th-century Madrid, Motown, the liturgical music of Syrian Jews in Brooklyn, and African diasporic protest music.

Our faculty also regularly take leadership positions in academia and outside of it. Currently we count among our professors a board member of the American Musicological Society, a recent President of the International Society for Popular Music, a principal investigator for a UC-wide trans-disciplinary research project, a member of the Santa Monica Symphony, an Academic Chair of the Jewish Music Forum, a board member of El Centro Cultural de México, and a Cultural Programs Advisor to the Marshallese Educational Initiative, Inc. 


Our undergraduate major, long called Music History and soon to be renamed Musicology, provides students with a strong musical - humanistic training through a comprehensive grounding in argumentative and expository writing; core courses in Western music history, theory, and musicianship; and a remarkable array of GE courses and elective seminars, including courses on EDM (electronic dance music), American musicals, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, History of Opera, History of Rock and Roll, Gay and Lesbian popular song, Motown, Punk, Music and Film, Blues, the Beatles, and "Getting Medieval," which explores the appropriations of medieval sounds and images by contemporary popular culture. There are also numerous opportunities to take classes in our sister departments of Music and Ethnomusicology.

We also offer an undergraduate minor in Music Industry that has rapidly become one of the most popular programs in the School of Music. The Music Industry program builds on our presence in one of the world centers of music promotion and development, bringing in industry professionals to teach and interact directly with students, and offering its students exciting opportunities to intern in some of the world’s best-known music production companies.


We are a training-ground for the next generation of adventurous, inventive music scholars. Our graduate students come from all over the USA and from abroad to participate in a PhD program that develops their creative and critical voices in a wide variety of chosen subfields; provides them with rich opportunities for establishing intellectual and professional networks; and gives them pedagogical training and experience second to none. Our graduates regularly get tenure-track jobs in the midst of a very difficult economic climate. They are also on the leading edge of reinventing academia and the very idea of academic employment, in response to current economic and social imperatives.

Our graduate seminars explore topics and theories from musical Nationalism to the history of improvisation, musical camp to Dufay, opéra-comique to hands-on explorations of "public musicology." Current graduate research interests include (but are by no means limited to!) David Bowie, Soviet music theory pedagogy, early modern anglophone devotional poetry and song, proto-punk musical experimentalism, music as cultural diplomacy during the Pan American era, 17th- and 18th-century operatic adaptations of Shakespeare’s works, music in marginal cinemas (horror, slasher etc)…


  • The yearly Ciro Zoppo concert funds a graduate student to bring the work of neglected and unknown composers to light and into performance.
  • A fund established by the late UCLA Professor and scholar of Latin American musics, Robert Stevenson, makes possible an annual Lecture and seminar
  • Graduate students run a thriving Distinguished Lecturer series
  • Faculty and graduate students organize conferences on an eclectic variety of topics
  • The Early Music Ensemble offers 3-4 public concerts a year, and welcomes members from all over campus as well as from the wider LA community [https://es-la.facebook.com/uclaeme/ ]
  • A new Center for Musical Humanities, focusing on music in culture since 1800 and dedicated to interdepartmental and interdisciplinary initiatives (concerts, conferences, study groups), is explicitly intended to foment collaborations among the School of Music’s departments and programs. [https://www.schoolofmusic.ucla.edu/center-for-musical-humanities ]
  • The Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music will enable the school to build on the work of the Milken Archive of Jewish Music, a collection of recordings, scores and historical materials that document the Jewish experience in America over the past 350 years

The Department of Musicology is proud and excited to be part of the still-new UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. This major administrative and curricular effort has produced the very first autonomous School of Music in the 10-campus UC system. And we believe that this School can be a game-changer outside of the University too. Instead of those politely puzzled expressions, a little gasp of enthusiasm and awe..."Really? You're a musicologist??"

Elisabeth Le Guin
Professor and Chair
UCLA Department of Musicology