MusM Music (Ethnomusicology)

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Historical or Contemporary Performance

Course unit fact file
Unit code MUSC40072
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Music
Available as a free choice unit? No


In this course-unit students identify specific challenges in musical performance and seek to formulate solutions holistically, using both practical and intellectual perspectives. They opt to focus on either historical performance or contemporary performance, and prepare a performance programme designed to explore a particular aspect of their chosen repertory. The performance may be given on their chosen instrument, or, for MusM Composition students, may be given by an ensemble that they direct.

The research project explores the focal aspect of their performance programme, and may address issues of performance practice specific to the repertory, specific interpretative challenges posed by one or more of the chosen pieces, such as extended techniques, or a related topic as agreed with the course tutor. For MusM Composition students who direct an ensemble their coursework will comprise an arrangement of music for the ensemble as a study in instrumentation.

Students are expected to be experienced and competent performers / ensemble directors, working at postgraduate level. Evidence of suitable competence will be required prior to admission to this course-unit, and this may involve auditions.


Pre-requisite units

MUSC 30600 or equivalent performance qualification at Level 6 or above.

Students are expected to be experienced and competent performers or (for MusM Composition students opting to direct an ensemble) conductors, working at postgraduate level. Evidence of suitable competence will be required prior to admission to this course-unit, and this may involve auditions.



  • To enable students to experience preparing, rehearsing, and either performing or directing works related to their main study, in a historically and/or professionally informed way
  •  To provide students with the opportunity to investigate a specific aspect of historical or contemporary performance (or, for MusM Composition students taking the ensemble-direction option, an exercise in musical arrangement) through a combination of practical and intellectual engagement with their chosen material
  • To assess the relationships between practice and theory of performance
  • To introduce students to research techniques that can be applied when writing about a defined aspect of historical or contemporary performance, or (for MusM Composition students choosing the ensemble-direction option), to introduce techniques of instrumental arrangement that can be applied in practice to the chosen repertory 

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate advanced understanding of the intellectual contexts in which music is performed, concentrating on a specific aspect of either historical or contemporary repertory
  • Show a well-developed ability to assess and discuss the relationships between practice and theory of performance

Intellectual skills

  • Demonstrate the ability to apply research techniques that enable them to investigate a clearly defined aspect of their performance
  • Show skills in applying theoretical understanding of issues in musical performance to practical interpretation in performance

Practical skills

  • Demonstrate advanced technical skills on one instrument or voice, or (for MusM Composition students) in directing an ensemble
  • Show sensitive and historically appropriate artistry and musicianship in performance
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate with the audience with strong projection and expression appropriate to the chosen repertory

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Produce high-quality performances with a disciplined approach to time management, self-motivation and critical self-awareness
  • Show the ability to work under self-direction on a research project of their choice

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Demonstrate higher level analytical skills in evaluating problems and challenges associated with the chosen performing repertory
Project management
Show strengths in time management via self-directed study in the research project of their choice
Demonstrate research skills, including identifying source materials, gathering information and following a clear and appropriate methodology in preparing the coursework project
Show an ability to communicate with an audience through high-level musical expression Demonstrate skills in problem solving and decision making both through the issues investigated in the written/arrangement project and when applying solutions to interpretative problems in musical performances

Assessment methods

Prepared public performance 70%
Coursework project 30%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Verbal feedback will be provided throughout the semester by vocal/instrumental/conducting tutors


Written feedback for the end-of-year recital will be provided at the end of Semester 2


Verbal feedback is provided by the supervisor on the coursework topic proposal


One-to-one verbal feedback is provided by the supervisor on work in progress on the coursework project


Additional one-to-one feedback may be provided during the consultation hour or by making an appointment


Written feedback is provided on the completed coursework project



Recommended reading

Since the written assignments undertaken by students for MUSC 40072 vary widely in scope and content, it is not possible to produce a single bibliography for the course. However, for those engaged in topics related to historical performance, the following provide a good starting point:

  • Brown, Clive, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, 1750-1900, Oxford, 1999.
  • Butt, John, Playing with History: The Historical Approach to Musical Performance, Musical Performance and Reception, Cambridge, 2002.
  • Davies, Stephen, Musical Works and Performances: a Philosophical Exploration, Oxford, 2001.
  • Haynes, Bruce, The End of Early Music: a Period Performer's History of Music for the Twenty-first Century, Oxford, 2007.
  • Lawson, Colin and Robin Stowell, The Cambridge History of Musical Performance, Cambridge, 2012.
  • Lawson, Colin and Robin Stowell, The Historical Performance of Music: An Introduction, Cambridge Handbooks to the Historical Performance of Music, Cambridge, 1999.
  • Rink, John (ed.), Musical Performance: A Guide to Understanding, ed. John Rink, Cambridge, 2002.
  • Rink, John (ed.), The Practice of Performance: Studies in Musical Interpretation, Cambridge, 2005.

For the Ensemble-direction option, open to MusM Composition students, preliminary recommended reading comprises:

  • Blatter, Alfred, Instrumentation and Orchestration, New York, 1997.
  • Gould, Elaine, Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation, London, 2011.
  • Jacob, Gordon, Orchestral Technique: A Manual for Students, 3rd edn, Oxford, 1981.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 10
Project supervision 3
Independent study hours
Independent study 287

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rebecca Herissone-Kelly Unit coordinator

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