Society for Music Theory

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The Society for Music Theory (SMT) is an American organisation devoted to the promotion of music theory as a scholarly and pedagogical discipline. It currently has a membership of over 1200,[1] primarily in the United States.[2]

In the 1970s, few schools had dedicated music theory programs, many music theorists had been trained as composers or historians, and there was a belief among theorists that the teaching of music theory was inadequate and that the subject was not properly recognised as a scholarly discipline in its own right.[2] A growing number of scholars began promoting the idea that music theory should be taught by theorists, rather than composers, performers or music historians.[2] In the words of Richard Browne, a founding member of the Society and its first secretary, "Our goal was to create a profession."[3] After a number of more informal discussions, there were two National Conferences on Music Theory, the first in Boston and the second on 19 October 1977 at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. While organizers were wary about collecting enough momentum, three hundred scholars turned up for the Evanston meeting, and the society was founded with an initial membership including almost 500 theorists.[3]

The first President of the Society was famous music theorist Allen Forte, whose work developing set theory for the analysis of atonal music made him a leading voice in music scholarship at the time. The first official annual meeting of the society was in 1978 in Minneapolis. A year later, in 1979, the Society published the first issue of Music Theory Spectrum, the official journal of the Society and now a leading publication in the field of music theory. In 1993, the Society began experimenting with online publishing, and in 1995 the first volume of Music Theory Online was published.[4] Unlike Music Theory Spectrum, Music Theory Online is not distributed by subscription, and is available free of charge on the Society's website. Both journals are peer-reviewed, and regularly feature the work of prominent scholars in the field.

Since its foundation, the society has had a significant impact in many other countries, leading to the establishment of similar societies in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and South Korea.[2]


  1. ^ "Society for Music Theory". Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d McCreless, Patrick. "Society for Music Theory". Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press. 
  3. ^ a b Browne, David (March 2003). "The Deep Background of Our Society". Music Theory Online 9 (1). Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "About MTO". Society for Music Theory. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 

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