Class of 1960 Lecture
Prof. William Benjamin


Professor William Benjamin of the University of British Columbia gives a lecture titled “Harmontology: diverse conceptions of the nature of harmony, with implications for its presence or absence in several musical styles” on Tuesday, April 29, at 4:15 p.m. in Room 30 of Bernhard Music Center on the Williams College campus. This lecture is sponsored by the Class of 1960 Scholars Fund and is free and open to the public.

In this talk Prof. Benjamin will look at what kind of things harmonies and progressions of harmonies are, from the standpoints of different harmonic theorists, historical and recent. It will emerge that harmonic theory necessarily involves a tendency to abstraction in the direction of pitch-class, and a loss of pitch specificity.

Professor William Benjamin of the University of British Columbia was born in Montréal, Canada, and was educated in that city, studying piano at the Conservatoire de musique et d’art dramatique du Québec, and obtaining a Mus. Bac. in composition from McGill University in 1965. His  goal at that time was to be a composer, and he pursued it through graduate studies at Princeton University, where he obtained a M.F.A. in 1968 and a Ph.D. in 1976. He began his teaching career in the U.S., at Wellesley College (1970-72) and the University of Michigan (1972-78). With all his teaching assignments being in theory, he found his interests shifting to that burgeoning field, and has made his principal public contribution, over the years, as a theorist. He came to the University of British Columbia in 1978 as an Associate Professor and was promoted to Professor in 1983. From 1984 to 1991 he served as Director of the School of Music, from 1991-96, and as Graduate Advisor in Music. Over the past decade, his research interests have shifted to music aesthetics, regarded from a cognitivist perspective.

The Class of 1960 Scholars Fund, established at their 25th Reunion, brings eminent researchers from other colleges and universities to campus to give colloquia and work with students in the classroom.