Boss Wins Top Music Theory Award

November 17, 2015—The book Schoenberg's Twelve-Tone Music: Symmetry and the Musical Idea, a new publication by Jack Boss, UO professor of music theory, has won the 2015 Wallace Berry Award, the top national book award for music theory and analysis.

The annual Wallace Berry Award is presented each year at the Society for Music Theory conference in recognition of a distinguished book by an author of any age or career stage. This year’s conference took place in St. Louis, Mo.

“I am deeply honored—not to mention a little amazed—to receive this year’s Wallace Berry Award,” said Boss. “This is a culmination of many years of hard work, and I thank my colleagues and the school’s dean, Brad Foley, for their support through the process.”

“My hope is that the award will bring attention to and raise the international profile of the UO School of Music and Dance and music theory studies at the UO,” Boss continued. 

At the Society for Music Theory awards presentation, presenter Stephen Peles of the University of Alabama lauded Boss’s work as “a fresh perspective on the musical idea,” and concluded with:

“Schoenberg’s music and thinking have been the focus of scholarly discussion for several decades and Schoenberg’s Twelve-Tone Music does a masterful job of pulling many of these discursive threads together while tremendously enriching our understanding of this music.”


Cambridge University Press published Schoenberg's Twelve-Tone Music in 2014. In the book, Boss adapts the controversial composer's notion of a “musical idea”—broken down into problem, elaboration, solution—as a framework for the book as a whole, and focuses on the large-scale coherence of the Schoenberg's individual pieces.

Boss received both his bachelor’s of music and master’s of music degrees in composition from Ohio State University (1979 and 1981, respectively), and a Ph.D. in music theory from Yale University (1991).

Before coming to the UO, Boss taught at Brigham Young University, Ball State University, and Yale. He has been on the University of Oregon faculty since 1995, and has served as area head of music theory.

Boss has held numerous editorial roles for a number of publications, including Music Theory Online (the Society for Music Theory's electronic journal), the Journal of Music Theory, and the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy.