Timothy A. Johnson

Timothy A. Johnson

Professor and Chair, Music Theory, History, and Composition
Faculty, School of Music

Specialty:Music Theory
Phone:(607) 274-1932
Office:2214 James J Whalen Ctr for Music
Ithaca, NY 14850

Professor of Music Theory

Timothy A. Johnson is Professor of Music Theory at Ithaca College and Chair of the Department of Music Theory, History, and Composition. He also serves as President of the Music Theory Society of New York State. In addition to teaching the core theory and aural skills curriculum, he developed and teaches the Senior Seminar in Music, Outside Fields, and the Liberal Arts, which is the capstone for the Bachelor of Music in Combination with an Outside Field and Bachelor of Arts in Music degrees. His use of Lin-Manual Miranda's musical, Hamilton, in this course has received considerable attention in the college media, including articles in the Ithacan and IC Chronicle. And he published an article about "The Music of Hamilton and its Historical, Cultural, Social, and Political Contexts" in Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedagogy (v. 5). 

John Adams and Minimalist Music
Johnson's most recent book, John Adams's Nixon in China: Musical Analysis, Historical and Political Perspectives (Ashgate Publishing, 2011), ties together analytical observations about the opera with cultural, political, and historical aspects of the scenes, characters, and issues raised in the opera. Johnson received a Society for Music Theory publication subvention grant in 2010 for this book. In 2006-2007 he was on sabbatical, during which he began research on this project. In a video interview, Timothy A. Johnson and Rebecca Jemian discuss this book. 

This book was reviewed by William Guerin in Music Theory Spectrum 36/2 (Fall 2014); Kyle Fyr in Music Theory Online 18/2 (July 2012); Arnold Whittall in Music & Letters: 93/4 (November 2012); Robert Lintott in Notes: 69/3 (March 2013), the Journal of the Music Library Association; Alice Miller Cotter in Twentieth-Century Music 10/2 (September 2013); and Pwyll ap Sion in Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland 8 (2012-13); and William Guerin in Music Theory Spectrum (36/2 (Fall 2014). The Ithacan published an article about the book, as well as his hometown newspaper, the Londonderry Times (p. 9).

Recent presentations include "Tracing the Musical Lineage of John Adams's My Father Knew Charles Ives" at Fostering New Music and Its Audiences: The Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in Louisville, KY, March 6-7, 2015; and “Dido on a Spaceship, Wearing Khādī, but Still in North Africa: Continuous Variations in Philip Glass’s Portrait Opera Trilogy” at the Fourth Conference on Music and Minimalism in Long Beach, CA, October 3-6, 2013. He has presented at each of the first four international conferences on music and minimalism (Long Beach, CA, 2013; Leuven, Belgium, 2011; Kansas City, MO, 2009; and Bangor, Wales, 2007). 

Music and Baseball
Baseball and the Music of Charles Ives: A Proving Ground (Scarecrow Press, 2004) discusses the importance of baseball in Ives's life, including his participation during his youth as a pitcher and shortstop, his baseball-related compositions that feature musical depictions of ballplayers and baseball situations, and his use of baseball analogies in his writings. Baseball was a place where Ives felt he could prove himself as a man, and baseball provided a framework within which he could build new musical ideas. Johnson was awarded the 2004 Sporting News-SABR Baseball Research Award for this book.

He published a chapter, "'The Band is Playing Somewhere': Unpacking the Music of 'Casey at the Bat,'  in The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, 2013-2014, edited by William M. Simons (McFarland 2015). 

Johnson has presented seven times at the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Most recently his presented at at the Twenty-Sixth and Twenty-Eighth , 2014 and 2016. His most recent presentations include "The Pittsburgh Pirates of the Caribbean: Branding Ball Clubs Through Music" (2016) which discussed how teams use music to help establish their identity with fans; and "Walk-Up and Entrance Music in Baseball: Identity, Motivation, and Intimidation'" (2014), which discussed the music that major-league players choose to be played as they walk up to the plate to hit or enter a game to pitch. He also has presented on music and baseball at the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), Society for American Music, Society for Music Theory, and regional music theory societies.  

Music Theory Pedagogy and Mathematics
His textbook, Foundations of Diatonic Theory: A Mathematically Based Approach to Music Fundamentals (Scarecrow Press, 2008; originally Key College Publishing, 2003), is the first introductory, undergraduate-level book published on diatonic set theory. This textbook introduces a strong link between introductory pedagogy and recent scholarship in music theory by relating concepts in diatonic set theory directly to the study of music fundamentals through pedagogical exercises and instructions. This book is part of the Mathematics Across the Curriculum project at Dartmouth College, funded by the National Science Foundation. This innovative project was developed to achieve the goal of allowing students to concentrate on their disciplines while using and improving their mathematical skills. This book was reviewed by Matthew Santa in GAMUT.

Johnson published “The Film Philadelphia and Umberto Giordano’s Ppera Andrea Chénier: A Contextual Approach to Analytical Writing” in an eBook, Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedadogy. Engaging Students is a free, open-access, web-based resource for those teaching college-level classes in music. This essay describes and provides an interdisciplinary paper assignment that combines advanced music analysis with film study and a close reading of the libretto in an opera scene that appears prominently in the film, Philadelphia (starting Tom Hanks). He has used this assignment in Form and Analysis classes at Ithaca College, and now the assignment itself, in addition to the essay, is available to the entire profession via this publication. 

He also has authored a chapter, "Some Pedagogical Implications of Diatonic and Neo-Riemannian Theory," in Music Theory and Mathematics: Chords, Collections, and Transformations. Edited by Jack Douthett, Martha M. Hyde, and Charles J. Smith (University of Rochester Press, 2008).

Johnson's most recent presentation on math-music pedagogy was "Challenges and Rewards of Teaching Math-Music to Different Populations," a panel presentation on teaching music and mathematics at the the Society for Music Theory in Charlotte, NC, October 31-November 3, 2013. He presented previously on music and mathematics at the Joint Mathematics Meetings of the American Mathematical Society and Mathematics Association of America and several national and regional music theory societies. 

One-Year Visiting Endowed Chair

In 2005-2006 he was on leave from Ithaca College to teach at the University at Buffalo as the Visiting Frederick and Alice Slee Professor of Music Theory, the oldest endowed chair in the field.


Articles and Book Chapters

  •  "The Music of Hamilton and its Historical, Cultural, Social, and Political Contexts," Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedagogy 5 (2017), flipcamp.org/engagingstudents5/essays/johnson.html.
  • “‘The Band is Playing Somewhere’: Unpacking the Music of ‘Casey at the Bat.’” In The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, 2013–2014, ed. William M. Simons (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015), 20–28
  • “The film Philadelphia and Umberto Giordano’s opera Andrea Chénier: A Contextual Approach to Analytical Writing,” In Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedagogy 1 (2013) flipcamp.org/engagingstudents/johnson.html
  • "I Never Get Back: How 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' Succeeds in Celebrating Failure," The National Pastime: A Review of Baseball History 28 (2008): 138-143. 
  • "Some Pedagogical Implications of Diatonic and Neo-Riemannian Theory." In Music Theory and Mathematics: Chords, Collections, and Transformations. Edited by Jack Douthett, Martha M. Hyde, and Charles J. Smith (Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2008), 161-173.
  • "Chromatic Quotations of Diatonic Tunes in Songs of Charles Ives," Music Theory Spectrum 18.2 (Fall 1996): 236-261.
  • "The Computer Presentation of Musical Research: A Case Study," Music Theory Online 1.3 (May 1995).
  • Typical Chord Successions in the Music of John Adams: An Interactive Computer Presentation (May 1995) [a computer program originally published by Music Theory Online via ftp; no longer available].
  • "Minimalism: Aesthetic, Style, or Technique?" Musical Quarterly 78, no. 4 (Winter 1994): 742-773.
  • "Harmonic Vocabulary in the Music of John Adams: A Hierarchical Approach," Journal of Music Theory 37 (Spring 1993): 117-156.
  • "Solmization in English Treatises Around the Turn of the Seventeenth Century: A Break From Modal Theory," Theoria 5 (1990-91): 42-60.


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