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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Lamont School of Music

Newman Center for the Performing Arts


Kristin Taavola, PhD

Kristin Taavola

Associate Professor, Theory
Chair, Theory

Newman Center for the Performing Arts, Room 301
[email protected]

Kristin Taavola holds a PhD in music theory from the Eastman School of Music. Her scholarly work engages Asian models of musical time and modal processes, including articles on Zen and twentieth-century flute music, Balinese gamelan music and the five-note compositions of Béla Bartók. More recently, she has written on modal and tonal harmonies in the work of Erik Satie. A current project called, "What Makes French Music Sound 'French'?" explores pedagogical influences that helped shape the twentieth-century French sound.

As a music theorist, she also has a strong interest in traditional theoretic topics, including set theory. She co-authored a Journal of Music Theory article on segmentation in music as well as another article on "shape" in abstract sets.

Prof. Taavola began her musical studies as a flutist. At the University of Iowa, she studied with Betty Bang Mather and Roger Mather in a program that combined study of "the physics of the flute" with traditional and 20th-Century repertoire. As an undergraduate research assistant, Prof. Taavola edited articles including topics such as French Baroque Dance music, embouchure and breath technique and holistic techniques for learning music. Later, she published an article on integrated techniques for performance.

This interest in how musicians think and perform has been a common thread in her teaching ever since. Prof. Taavola has worked with diverse groups of students at the Eastman School of Music, the University of Colorado at Boulder, Sarah Lawrence College, Cornell University and now the Lamont School of Music. Teaching duties have ranged from directing the Balinese gamelan Chandra Buana at SLC to teaching graduate composers at Cornell. She considers undergraduate harmony to be the backbone of any music program and her teaching approach emphasizes mastery of basic skills through measurable achievements.

This year at DU, Dr. Taavola is teaching Theory and Aural Skills I, a Freshman Seminar, an Advanced Writing Seminar entitled "Music and Consciousness" and two advanced analysis courses: "Form and Analysis" (sonata form from the Eighteenth Century to the present) and "Twentieth-Century Musical Analysis" (rhythmic and modal processes in Twentieth Century music).