Jack Boss

Profile picture of Jack Boss
Professor of Music Theory and Composition
Department Head, Department of Academic Music
German & Scandinavian, Music
Phone: 541-346-5654
Office: 208 Frohnmayer Music Bldg
Research Interests: Music Theory, Music Composition, Music Scholarly Areas

Jack Boss is professor of music theory and composition at the University of Oregon. He received B.Mus. and M.Mus. degrees in composition from Ohio State University in 1979 and 1981, and the Ph.D. in music theory from Yale University in 1991. At Yale, his teachers included Allen Forte, David Lewin, and Claude Palisca. His doctoral dissertation, advised by Allen Forte, was titled "An Analogue to Developing Variation in a Late Atonal Song of Arnold Schoenberg."

Boss’s 437-page monograph, Schoenberg’s Twelve-Tone Music: Symmetry and the Musical Idea, was published by Cambridge University Press as part of their “Music Since 1900” series in November 2014. In November 2015, Schoenberg’s Twelve-Tone Music received the Wallace Berry Award “for a distinguished book by an author of any age or career stage” from the Society for Music Theory. In August 2019, he published his second book, Schoenberg’s Atonal Music: Musical Idea, Basic Image, and Specters of Tonal Function. This 384-page “prequel” is also part of the Cambridge Press “Music Since 1900” series. He is presently working on Schoenberg’s Tonal Music: Depictive Text-Painting and the Birth of the Musical Idea, which is under contract with Cambridge University Press.  Boss's articles, book chapters and reviews may be found in the Journal of Music Theory, Music Theory Spectrum, Perspectives of New Music, Music Analysis, Music Theory Online, Intégral, Gamut, Konturen, Notes, The Cambridge Companion to Serialism, Schoenberg in Context, The Oxford Handbook of Variation Forms and Techniques, Musical Currents from the Left Coast, Analyzing the Music of Living Composers (and Others), and Form and Process in Music, 1300-2014. 

Boss has co-edited four collections of analytical essays originating as West Coast Conference of Music Theory and Analysis papers: Musical Currents from the Left Coast (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008), with Bruce Quaglia, Analyzing the Music of Living Composers (and Others) (Cambridge Scholars, 2013), with Brad Osborn, Tim Pack and Stephen Rodgers; Form and Process in Music, 1300-2014: An Analytic Sampler (Cambridge Scholars, 2016), with Heather Holmquest, Russell Knight, Inés Thiebaut, and Brent Yorgason; and Making Waves: West Coast Perspectives of Pitch, Narrative and Form (Cambridge Scholars, 2020), with Andrew Aziz.

Like his dissertation, many of Boss’s publications deal with motivic structure and large-scale coherence in Schoenberg's music. Other articles consider motivic processes in Beethoven's piano sonatas, large-scale coherence in Mahler’s symphonies, ways to project musical form in George Walker’s atonal and serial piano music, and parallels between text and musical structure in the music of Bernard Rands and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Boss has also given a large number of scholarly presentations throughout the U.S., England, Ireland, Belgium, Brazil, and South Korea on different aspects of Schoenberg's music and theory.  In April of 2020, he was honored to give the first-ever virtual lecture at the Oxford University Seminar in Music Theory and Analysis, and in October 2021 he gave an invited lecture to the Brazilian Music and Mathematics Society (MusMat).

Before coming to the University of Oregon, Boss taught at Brigham Young University for three years (1992-95), Ball State University for one year (1991-92), and Yale University for one year (1990-91). He served as undergraduate theory coordinator at BYU and also coordinated the freshman theory and aural skills program at Yale. His courses at the University of Oregon have included undergraduate form and analysis, 20th-century counterpoint, Schenkerian analysis, post-tonal analysis, motivic analysis, advanced aural skills, music theory pedagogy, the history of music theory, and graduate seminars on topics including Schoenberg's vocal music, Schoenberg’s atonal music, Schoenberg’s twelve-tone music, neo-Riemannian analysis, film and video game music, and current trends in music theory.

Boss is involved in professional service at the national and regional levels. He served as Chair of the Society for Music Theory Publications Committee from 2019-22, and was reviews editor for Music Theory Online, the SMT's electronic journal, from 2001-2006. He was reviews editor, associate editor, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Music Theory from 1989 to 1991, and served on the editorial board for the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy from 2005-2010. He frequently serves as a peer reviewer for book publishers as well as journals. He was president of the West Coast Conference of Music Theory and Analysis from 2003-2018, and helped determine their programs for numerous meetings. He was also a founding member of the Rocky Mountain Society for Music Theory.

  • PhD 1991, Music Theory, Yale University
  • MMus 1981, Composition, Ohio State University
  • BMus 1979, Composition, Ohio State University



  • “What Is Developing Variation?  Contextualizing Three Different Accounts of the Motivic Variation Process Within the Larger Field of Thematic Analysis,” in The Oxford Handbook of Variation Forms and Techniques, ed. Jeffrey Swinkin (Oxford University Press, forthcoming)
  • “The Twelve-Tone Method,” in Schoenberg in Context, ed. Alexander Carpenter (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).
  • “Arnold Schoenberg and the ‘Musical Idea’,” in The Cambridge Companion to Serialism, ed. Martin Iddon (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).
  • “Symmetry and the Musical Idea in Schoenberg’s Opus 33a,” MusMat Series, Vol. I, forthcoming.
  • “George Walker’s Piano Music: Traditional Forms in Tonal, Serial and Atonal Styles,” Music Theory Online 28/3 (September 2022).
  • “Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4: Depictive Text-Painting and the Birth of the “Musical Idea,” Naxos Musicology International, released June 2021.
  • “Schoenberg’s Opus 33b and the Problem of its Contrasting ‘Continuation’ and Second Theme,” Music Analysis 37/2 (July 2018): 203-242.
  • “Little High, Little Low: Hidden Repetition, Long-Range Contour and Classical Form in Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody,” in Form and Process in Music, 1300-2014: An Analytic Sampler (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016).
  • Away With Motivic Working?’ Not So Fast: Motivic Processes in Schoenberg’s Op. 11, No. 3,” Music Theory Online 21/3 (September 2015).
  • Interval Symmetries as Divine Perfection in Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron,” Konturen 5 (2014): 31-58.
  • “Presentation of ‘Musical Idea’ through Tetrachord Exchanges and Rhythmic/Metric Correspondences in the Intermezzo and Gavotte of Schoenberg’s Suite for Piano, Op. 25,” Intégral 27 (2013): 1-52.
  • “Mahler’s Musical Idea: A Schenkerian-Schoenbergian Analysis of the Adagio from Symphony No. 10,” in Analyzing the Music of Living Composers (and Others), ed. Jack Boss, Brad Osborn, Timothy Pack and Stephen Rodgers (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013), pp. 115-31.
  • "The ‘Musical Idea' and the Basic Image in an Atonal Song and Recitation of Arnold Schoenberg," Gamut 2/1: 223-66.
  • “The ‘Musical Idea’ and Motivic Structure in Schoenberg’s Op. 11, No. 1,” in Musical Currents from the Left Coast, ed. Jack Boss and Bruce Quaglia (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008), pp. 256-81.
  • "The 'Musical Idea' and Global Coherence in Schoenberg's Atonal Music," Intégral 14/15: 209-64.
  • "Schenkerian-Schoenbergian Analysis" and Hidden Repetition in the Opening Movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata Op. 10, No. 1," Music Theory Online 5/1.
  • "The 'Continuous Line' and Structural and Semantic Text-painting in Bernard Rands's Canti d'Amor," Perspectives of New Music 36/2: 143-85.
  • "Schoenberg on Ornamentation and Structural Levels," Journal of Music Theory 38/2: 187-216.
  • "Schoenberg's Op. 22 Radio Talk and Developing Variation in Atonal Music," Music Theory Spectrum 14/2: 125-49.
  • Book Reviews of Schoenberg’s Musical Imagination by Michael Cherlin in Music Theory Online, Schenker Studies 2, ed. by Carl Schachter and Hedi Siegel, in Notes, and Analytic Approaches to Twentieth-Century Music by Joel Lester in Journal of Music Theory.