History of Music Theory

Liszt Ferenc Zenemuveszeti Egyetem
The dichotomy of musica theorica and musica practica has existed hand in hand through the entire history of music. The content of the subject is the complete, systematic and historic survey of the theory of European music, from the doctrine of the ’7 liberal arts’ to the present times. Fundamental object of the course is to focus on the central theoretical questions of the different historical periods. Thus, the system of medieval modes is followed by the components of early polyphony (rhythm, consonance/dissonance), Renaissance vocal polyphony (counterpoint), the doctrine of the basso continuo, phenomena of musical expression (musica poetica), then, originated in the epoch-making concept of Rameau. the modern science of Harmonielehre and Formenlehre. The 20th century is represented by the 12-tone technique, serial composition, and Schenker analysis. 1st semester: from the Middle Ages to the Baroque 2nd semester: 18th-19th-20th centuries
The subject is available for music theory major students, after having completed 6 semesters of music theory.
The reading and analysis of a representative selection from the following theoretical sources. Boethius, De institutione musica (5-6th c.) Isidorus, Etymologiae (6-7th c.) Guido d’Arezzo, Epistola de ignoto cantu (c. 1030) Franco von Köln, Ars cantus mensurabilis (c. 1250) Jacques de Liege, Speculum musicae (early 14th c.) Tinctoris, Liber de arte contrapuncti (1477) Gafurius, Practica musicae (1496) Glareanus, Dodecachordon (1547) Zarlino, Istitutioni harmoniche (1558) BASSO CONTINUO (Viadana, Agazzari, Praetorius, Gasparini, J.S.Bach) Mattheson, Der vollkommene Capellmeister (1739) Fux, Gradus ad Parnassum (1725) Rameau, Traité de l’harmonie (1722) Koch, Versuch einer Anweisung zur Composition, I-III (1782-93) Marx, Die Lehre von der musikalischen Composition, I-IV (1837-47) Hugo Riemann Schönberg, Harmonielehre (1911) , Der freie Satz (1935)

Further information

  • assessment
    Semester grade S
  • level
  • Completed Semester
  • How many semesters does the course last?
  • hours per week
  • Link of the course
  • Target group of course
    Music theory students, advanced
  • credits
  • Type of Course
  • Degree Level
  • Course
  • students #
    3-6 student
  • Hours per year
    Examples of the mentioned sources.
  • evaluation grid
  • evaluation grid
    and document


Katalin Komlós

current position

professor emeritus


Liszt Ferenc Zenemuveszeti Egyetem



Be a part of our european project !

This European project (KA 203 Strategic Partnership) created by Salvatore Gioveni promotes cross-border collaboration in the field of Music Theory through sharing knowledge and transferring pedagogical innovation. It thus responds to a lack of centralised source and framework to deepen reflection by means of cross-disciplinary study at European and international level.

There is a significant wealth of educational practices from one country to another in this sector, especially in terms of harmonic musical notation and analysis. However, HMEI's are facing the nonexistence of a European network for pedagogical staff in Music Theory so far. To improve the situation, the project will among other things develop several intellectual outputs such as Online Platform (IO 1), an EU Bibliography (IO 2), a Repository Courses (IO 3), a Multilingual Glossary (IO 4) and an Exchange Online Learning Platform.

Besides the Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles as leader and manager of the project, the following partner institutions are involved: Music Academy S. Moniuszki Gdańsk (Gdańsk, Poland), F. Liszt Academy of Music Budapest (Budapest, Hungary), Estonian Academy for Music and Theatre (Tallinn, Estonia), HfMTh "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" (Leipzig, Germany).

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