William Caplin completed undergraduate studies in composition at the University of Southern California and graduate studies 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 stud...
William Caplin completed undergraduate studies in composition at the University of Southern California and graduate studies 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; he was appointed James McGill Professor of Music Theory in January 2005. In 2011, he was awarded a Killam Research Fellowship from the Canada Council for the Arts for his new project “Cadence: A Study of Closure in Tonal Music.”
Caplin specializes in the theory of musical form. His extensive investigations into formal procedures of late-eighteenth-century music culminated in the 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, is in production and is due to be published in the fall of 2012.
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.