We give you the scuttlebutt on academic journals—aiding you in selecting the right journal for publication—in reviews that are sometimes snarky, sometimes lengthy, always helpful. Written by Princeton University graduate students and Wendy Laura Belcher.
For those interested in publishing articles about or relating to music theory and analysis, including aesthetics, critical theory and hermeneutics, history of theory, post-tonal theory, Schenkerian analysis, musical form, rhythm, music cognition, and the analysis of popular musics.
A leading journal in the field, Music Theory Spectrum is published biannually (twice a year) by Oxford University Press as an official publication of the Society for Music Theory (SMT). Although this publication’s articles must somehow relate to music, the journal also encourages interdisciplinary submissions that incorporate adjacent fields such as musicology and ethnomusicology as well as other intersecting disciplines like mathematics, philosophy, psychology, and performance practice.
Access to the journal is limited to only those that have institutional or membership access, but SMT also publishes an open-access electronic journal called Music Theory Online (MTO). Despite the fact that the field of music theory has been making recent efforts to become more diverse, it is not unusual to find an issue of Music Theory Spectrum to have only one (or fewer!) contributors who identify as female. The journal practices blind review, so one might assume (and many in the field believe) that Music Theory Spectrum experiences a lack of submissions from scholars that identify as other than male, rather than discrimination in the review process itself. This however remains to be analyzed in further detail.
Conversely, the actual content published represents a diverse array of material from popular music, rock music, ‘non-Western’ music, music from and adjacent to the common practice ‘canon,’ atonal music, and so on. On the other hand, many of the articles rely heavily on dense musical analysis with the inclusion of complex musical scores, tables, and graphs. This factor is not inherently negative, as this is by most definitions what the field of music theory is, but it may account for the abundance of submissions by male-identified scholars. Of course, people from other gender identities are as capable as their counterparts, but they have traditionally had less access to such specific analytical tools at a high levels due to previous discrimination and exclusion. However, many articles are beginning to incorporate other theoretical and analytical methods that do not rely as much on traditional methods of musical analysis.
Similar to Ethnomusicology, the average article length in Music Theory Spectrum is twenty pages. Additionally, each issue contains six original research articles, although the most recent issues published in 2018 have seven and eight respectively. It remains to be seen whether this volume of articles will continue in future years. Some more unique aspects about Music Theory Online include the high volume of errata issued online (due to the high probability of error in work that contains many scores and tables) as well as letters-to-the-editors (also called “Communications” in some issues) in which scholars respond specifically to previously published articles in the journal. It is worth mentioning that the most recent issues have not included any of these. Also, abstracts are quite short at 25-100 words in length.
Useful for Submission
Word Count : 5,000-10,000 words
Issues per year : 2
Current volume number : 40
Articles per year : about 12 articles and 3-7 reviews
Citation style : 16th edition of Chicago Manual Style (author-date system)
Abstract length (if required): 25-100 words
Relevant Editors : Marianne Wheeldon, Kyle Adams, Guy Capuzzo, Áine Heneghan, Bree Guerra, Lauren Hartburg, Lucy Liu, Chris Douthitt
Open Access : No
Online : Yes, on OUP.com (up to date) Jstor.org (starting with 2015, but membership or institutional access is required for both websites)