James McGill Professor, McGill University
William Caplin is James McGill Professor of Music Theory at McGill University. Caplin specializes in the theory of musical form. His extensive investigations into formal procedures of late-eighteenth-century music culminated in the widely celebrated, influential 1998 book Classical Form: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven (Oxford University Press), which won the 1999 Wallace Berry Book Award from the Society for Music Theory. A textbook version of this work, Analyzing Classical Form, has recently appeared.
Caplin, along with James Hepokoski, and James Webster, has co-authored the 2009 book Musical Form, Forms & Formenlehre: Three Methodological Reflections (ed. Pieter Bergé), which includes the essays originally presented at the plenary session on Formenlehre at the 2007 European Music Analysis Conference in Freiburg, Germany, as well as newly written commentaries and responses. Caplin’s article “The Classical Cadence: Conceptions and Misconceptions,” appeared in the Spring 2004 issue of The Journal of the American Musicological Society and was awarded the 2006 Prix Opus for Article of the Year from the Conseil québécois de la musique. Other studies on musical form have been published in Eighteenth-Century Music, Beethoven Forum, Musiktheorie, The Journal of Musicological Research, Tijdschrift voor Muziektheorie, and Beethoven’s Compositional Process (ed. William Kinderman).
Caplin has also undertaken research in the history of music theory. His most notable study in this area, “Theories of Musical Rhythm in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,” appears in The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory, ed. Thomas Christensen. He has published other essays on the history of theory in Music Theory Spectrum, Journal of Music Theory, Theoria, and Zeitschrift fuer Musiktheorie. New investigations in the domain of melodic theory appears in the chapter “Schoenberg’s ‘Second Melody,’ Or, ‘Meyer-ed’ in the Bass,” in Communicative Strategies in Late 18th-Century Instrumental Music, eds. Danuta Mirka and Kofi Agawu.
Caplin served as President of the Society for Music Theory from November 2005 to November 2007. In March, 2008, he was invited as Visiting Professor at the University of Rome-Tor Vergata. He co-chaired the 2004 Mannes Institute of Advanced Theoretical Studies, where he led a workshop on “Exposition Structure in Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas: A Form-Functional Approach.” Caplin serves on the editorial boards of Eighteenth-Century Music, Indiana Theory Review, Rivista di Analisi e Teoria Musicale, and Eastman Studies in Music. Caplin’s research has been supported by major research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts. Caplin earned his Ph.D. in the history and theory of music at the University of Chicago (working with Leonard B. Meyer, Edward E. Lowinsky, Philip Gossett, among others). He pursued additional studies in musicology at the Berlin Technical University with Carl Dahlhaus; He has been teaching at McGill University since 1978.