Graduate | Undergraduate


Ph.D. in Computer Music and Multimedia Composition

Link to the MEME Graduate Program Handbook


In addition to offering an undergraduate concentration in computer music and multimedia, meme@brown offers the Ph.D. degree in Computer Music and Multimedia. Applicants with an undergraduate degree or an existing Master's degree are encouraged to apply. (Note: the M.A. degree is conferred along the way to earning the Ph.D.; we do not, however, offer the M.A. as a separate degree.)

The meme@brown graduate program in Computer Music and Multimedia Composition focuses on the analysis and production of original works exploring the use of digital music and sound in combination with text and images. The program consists of advanced work examining the theoretical, technical, cultural and aesthetic issues surrounding music and multimedia production.

The program offers a great deal of freedom--candidates, in consultation with the Director of the Program, devise a plan of study to fit their background, interest, and skills. Courses are selected from the wide offerings at Brown University as well as RISD, including individual lessons, graduate seminars, and group research. Intensive work in computer music composition may be integrated with computer programming, interactive design, video production, creative writing, and visual art. Cooperating departments at Brown include the departments of Visual Arts, Computer Science, Modern Culture and Media, Theatre, Speech and Dance, and Creative Writing.


Doctoral students will take a total of thirteen courses, over three years of study. With the consultation of the student’s advisor, courses will be chosen in order to suit an individualized plan of study. (A total of 24 tuition units must be paid, in accordance with the requirements of the Brown Graduate School.)


After completion of all coursework in the third year, the candidate will take a three-hour oral preliminary examination. Passing the preliminary examination authorizes the student to proceed to the doctoral dissertation, which is completed during the fourth and fifth years.


Along with the successful completion of eight courses by the second year, students must complete a master’s thesis in accordance with the established guidelines of the Computer Music and Multimedia Program and the Graduate School. The thesis may take the form of an audio CD, an electronic performance, a work for DVD, an internet production, or an art/sound installation. After these requirements are met, the student will undergo a qualifying review administered by the Director of the Computer Music and Multimedia Program and a committee formed of Music Department Faculty for the purpose of this evaluation.

NOTE: Students entering the program with a master’s degree in a related field, from Brown or another institution, may petition to waive the master’s thesis requirement if they previously completed a similar thesis. These students will undergo the qualifying review after the completion of six courses (the end of their second semester) and complete courses at the same rate as those entering with a bachelor’s degree. Such students may apply to accelerate their coursework, and if they receive approval may take the preliminary examination in their fourth semester, where usually this would take place in the sixth semester.


For the qualifying review, the committee will evaluate the student’s progress by reviewing grades and reports from instructors, samples of work completed at Brown, and the master’s thesis if applicable. The committee will then meet with the student for 90 minutes, which will give the student the opportunity to communicate with the committee. The goal of the meeting is to be retrospective as well as to discuss future directions including suggestions and possibilities for preliminary exam areas.

The committee will then make one of the following decisions: (a) determine that the student may proceed towards advanced candidacy and award an M.A.; (b) determine that the student may not proceed in his or her studies and award a terminal M.A.; or (c) determine that the student may not proceed and award no degree if the student has failed to meet the basic M.A. requirements.


Provided normal progress is made towards the degree, students will take the preliminary exam at the end of the sixth semester (the second semester of the third year).

By the end of the second year, students in consultation with an advisor will define three areas for the preliminary exam. The student must form an advisory committee of at least three faculty members; two of which must be Music Department faculty or approved by the Director of the Computer Music and Multimedia program. This advisory committee will see the student through to the completion of the dissertation.

The selected exam areas should delimit fields pertaining to the student’s projected dissertation research. One of these areas must address the history and critical theory of computer music and multimedia fields (in general and specifically as it relates to the work of the student). Another area must highlight technical aspects, including programming, software design, or other technological concerns (such as acoustics, electronics, digital signal processing, etc.). The third area is elective and should reflect the specific research goals of the student.
Before the preliminary exam, the student will create a core bibliography in consultation with his or her advisors. This bibliography should be divided into the areas designated for the preliminary exam, and may be composed of scholarly texts, musical scores, and audio-visual material. The student will be required to write annotations and commentary and provide these to his or her advisory committee prior to the preliminary exam.

The Format of the Preliminary Exam

The exam will consist of a 3-hour oral exam. The bibliography and the student’s annotations will be used as a basis to center discussion. The student must demonstrate understanding of their areas and the advances and debates within them. The advisory committee will review the student’s competence and knowledge in the areas where research is planned.

Upon completion of the exam, the committee will come to one of the following determinations: (a) the student has passed; or (b) the student must retake the exam. Students may retake the exam once.


Upon passing the preliminary exam, the candidate may proceed to the dissertation. In consultation with the student’s advisory committee, the candidate will write a dissertation proposal. A dissertation proposal meeting will be held with the candidate, at which time the committee will either approve the proposal or recommend revisions.

A file copy of the approved proposal will be signed by all members of the advisory committee and will be provided to the Director of the Computer Music and Multimedia program.

The dissertation should integrate the three key components of the program--technical knowledge, music theory and scholarship, and artistic performance--into an original creative work. Please see the Graduate School's Dissertation Guidelines for details regarding format and submission details.