Peer Learning Program (PLP)

PLP Workshops

Peer Learning Program workshops are three-hour seminars led by prominent scholars. They provide the opportunity to learn—from the workshop leader as well as from peers—new perspectives on fundamental issues in music theory, and to apply that learning to research and teaching. The program is intended to encourage “thinking together,” in the spirit of the Mannes Institute founded by Wayne Alpern and organized by him during the years 2001–11. The topics range widely across music-theoretical research and teaching interests. Some reading and mental preparation are required, but not extensive written assignments, in consideration of the professional responsibilities of the participants. To encourage interaction, each workshop is limited to approximately 10–12 participants. Since its inception, a total of 44 participants have taken part in the PLP.

The 2017 workshops were offered on Thursday morning, November 2, prior to the start of the SMT annual meeting in Arlington.


To apply, please send your name, email, and the name of the school from which you received your doctoral degree to Vasili Byros at Please be sure to indicate which workshop(s) you are applying for—you may apply for one or both. Applications are due by June 15, 2018; selected participants will be notified shortly thereafter. Be aware that these workshops require many hours of preparation in advance, including both reading and writing assignments. You are not expected to be an expert in the subject matter of the workshop(s) for which you apply, but you should have a serious interest in and commitment to it. Please note that PLP workshops will take place the morning of Thursday November 1; by applying you are committing to arrive at the conference in time to participate in the workshop.


The workshops are open to all members of the Society who have completed a doctoral degree. Participants are selected by a random draw from the pool of eligible applicants. Prior PLP participants are permitted to apply, but preference will be given to first-time applicants.


There is no fee to participate in the program. Participants are responsible, however, for the cost of SMT membership and conference registration (but not at the time of application), as well as for other expenses of attendance, including transportation, housing, and meals.

2018 Workshops

Mark Butler (Northwestern University): Whose Body/Whose Beat? The Beat as Embodied Phenomenon in Music Theory and Popular Music

The beat, used in a variety of senses and figures of speech (“feeling the beat,” “making beats,” etc.), is a central concept within both music-theoretical and popular discourse. “The beat” has been understood as both technical and qualitative; it is variously configured as a durationless cognitive phenomenon and as a compelling vibrational force that impacts and inhabits the body. This seminar will explore the productive tensions that arise from these competing understandings of the beat, with particular attention to the beat in relation to bodily practices such as dance. Readings will be drawn from scholarship on rhythm and meter, electronic dance music, and gender and sexuality studies, while listening and other media-based assignments will complement the discussion.

Brian Kane (Yale University): Techniques of the Listener

Within the discipline of sound studies, the term “audile technique” is common currency. Coined by Jonathan Sterne in his Audible Past, “audile technique” designates a particularly modern “orientation” toward listening where sounds are subjected to a series of analytic operations (parsing, separation, resignification, etc.). According to Sterne, audile technique initially arose in the context of “mediate auscultation” or medical-stethoscopic listening, before crystallizing into a central set of “modern” listening practices exploited by audio technology. While Sterne’s work has been widely influential in both music and sound studies, scholars have begun to question his specific theory and history of audile technique, even as they continue to use the term. As the use of the term expands into new contexts, its meaning becomes less and less clear even as its suggestiveness grows.

In this workshop I will explore a number of questions concerning “audile technique,” such as: What is an audile technique? How is it distinguished from a mode of listening? What is specifically technical about it and how does it relate to the history of techniques? What kind of audile technique does the music theorist employ? How are such techniques transmitted? How is their effectiveness evaluated? How do they relate to and affect specific socio-historical contexts? What objects are concomitantly generated alongside audile techniques?

For the workshop I will provide participants with a reading list that includes relevant excerpts from sound studies, anthropology, philosophy, and music theory. We will also consider specific listening practices as “case studies” for examining the central problem of audile technique. My aim is not to solve the questions posed above but to demonstrate their potential productivity for the music scholar.

Previous PLP Workshops

  • 2017
    • Music Analysis: what can it do? – Judy Lochhead (Stony Brook University)
    • Pitch Structure in Indian Classical Music – Robert Morris (Eastman School of Music)
  • 2016
    • Empirical Approaches to Musical Narrative – Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis (University of Arkansas)
    • The Musical Language of Il trovatore – William Rothstein (The Graduate Center and Queens College, City University of New York)
  • 2015
    • Analytical Tools and Approaches to Contemporary Tonal Music – Daniel Harrison (Yale University)
    • Problematics of World Music Analysis – Michael Tenzer (University of British Columbia)
  • 2014
    • Writing about Hearing and Making Aggregate-Based Music – Andrew Mead (Indiana University)
    • Shostakovich's Twelfth String Quartet – Patrick McCreless (Yale University)
  • 2013
    • Tonal Theory, Tonal Experience – Steven Rings (University of Chicago)


For additional information, please contact Vasili Byros, Chair of the Committee on Workshop Programs, at The 2018 Committee on Workshop Programs also includes Richard Cohn (Yale University), Orit Hilewicz (Eastman School of Music), and Roman Ivanovitch (Indiana University).

Workshop opportunities are also available for students.