Marcelle Pierson

  • Lecturer II, Music Theory


I'm fascinated by the connections between music, ethics, and politics, and these interests see me variously wearing hats as a composer, music theorist, musicologist, and ethnomusicologist. Much of my work emerges out of aesthetic and ethical issues I've struggled with as a composer and lover of new music. My research focuses particularly musical modernism after the Second World War, notions of voice and vocality, texture, timbre, noise, and sound. My current book project, entitled The Problem of Voice in Late Modernist Music, seeks to understand why many composers turned away from melodic writing after World War II. I look at the justifications for these decisions, and show how melody actually thrives in this repertory, if in drastically altered form. I'm also developing a secondary research area in heavy metal music. 

I am in charge of the theory curriculum here at Pitt, and I've sought to develop a flexible program that addresses many different kinds of music, both popular and classical. Other recent classes include Heavy Metal Music, Music Appreciation, a proseminar on music theory, a graduate seminar on the musical voice, and an undergraduate analysis class on rhythm.

I hold masters and doctoral degrees in Music History and Theory from the University of Chicago, with a minor field in composition. I also graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music with a double major in composition and music theory. In recent years, I've taught at the University of North Carolina, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Chicago, and Harold Washington College in Chicago.


Undergraduate Music Theory

Music Theory Pro Seminar

Heavy Metal Music


“Voice, Music, Modernism: The Case of Luigi Nono and Karlheinz Stockhausen.” In The Voice as Something More: Essays toward Materiality, 77–90. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019.

“Voice, Technē, and Jouissance in Music for 18 Musicians.” Twentieth-Century Music 13, no. 1 (March 2016): 25–52.

Education & Training

  • PhD, University of Chicago

Faculty Groupings

Core Faculty

Main Department Affliliation

Lecturer II, Music Theory