Marcelle Pierson

  • Teaching Associate Professor, Music Theory
  • Chair, DEI Committee


I'm fascinated by the connections between music, ethics, and politics, and these interests see me variously wearing hats as a composer, music theorist, and musicologist. 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 on musical modernism after World War II, particularly 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 the war. I look at the justifications for these decisions, and show how melody actually thrives in this repertory, if in drastically altered form.

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 musics, particularly western popular and classical. Other recent classes include Heavy Metal Music, a proseminar on music theory, and a senior seminar on noise.

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. Before I joined Pitt faculty in 2017, I taught at the University of North Carolina, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Chicago, and Harold Washington College in Chicago.



"Corralling the Chorale." Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, vol. 35 (2021).

"Using Video Technology in Music Theory Assignments." In The Routledge Companion to Music Theory Pedagogy. New York: Routledge, 2020.

“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

Core Faculty