MusM Music (Ethnomusicology)

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:

Course unit fact file
Unit code MUSC60502
Credit rating 15
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


This course introduces and evaluates perspectives from aesthetic theory and the history of aesthetics, focusing in particular on the values, meanings and functions of music. Structured thematically around key issues, it explores a wide range of texts from Plato to the present, offering particular rich coverage of concepts and controversies from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It also probes more recent developments, encouraging students to explore the relationship between contemporary debates and practices.



Pre/Co/Antirequisite units


This course is taught in tandem with MUSC 30502 Aesthetics, so cannot be taken by students who took the latter as part of their UG degree.


This course is designed for Music students, although may be taken by other students from the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures.



  • To give students a grounding in aesthetic theory and the history of aesthetics, with particular reference to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
  • To introduce students to key issues in the aesthetics of music, including questions of ontology, beauty, form, content, affect and value.
  • To introduce students to the social, cultural and intellectual contexts in which key concepts and issues have been debated and developed
  • To enable students effectively to compare, contextualise and critique different perspectives and arrive at original and inventive conclusions
  • To equip students with the necessary skills and intellectual tools for studying the various aspects of music aesthetics
  • To consider a range of trends and issues in recent literature and their application

Knowledge and understanding

  • demonstrate an understanding of key issues in aesthetic theory and of developments within the history of aesthetics
  • demonstrate a grasp of issues and ideas central to Western musical thought
  • demonstrate an understanding of current controversies in music aesthetics
  • apply their knowledge to aesthetic debates related to their Masters dissertation or equivalent 

Intellectual skills

  • interpret, compare and make connections between primary texts; engage critically with secondary literature; and formulate their own perspectives
  • show an ability to understand and re-apply complex modes of thought
  • summarize, evaluate and critique arguments

Practical skills

  • articulate, discuss and support findings coherently in both written and verbal form
  • work effectively both independently and in groups towards clearly delineated goals
  • synthesize ideas and standpoints from diverse sources into coherent arguments

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • present digests of sophisticated texts and arguments to their peers
  • pose questions about complex issues
  • solve a range of problems using appropriate methods, and to present their findings in a professional manner

Employability skills

By the end of the course unit, students will have enhanced their skills in working independently and collaboratively; managing their time effectively; locating, processing and evaluating complex information; problem solving, analysis and argumentation; presenting their findings orally and in writing in a professional manner; engaging in critical discussion of their work; and responding positively to feedback.

Assessment methods

Essay 100%
Presentation 0%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative






Recommended reading

Adorno, Theodor W., Essays on Music, ed. Richard Leppert, Berkeley and London, 2002.

Bowie, Andrew, Aesthetics and Subjectivity: from Kant to Nietzsche, 2nd edn., Manchester, 2003.

Bowman, Wayne D., Philosophical Perspectives on Music, New York and Oxford, 1998.

Downes, Stephen (ed.), Aesthetics of Music: Musicological Perspectives, New York, 2014.

Gracyk, Theodore & Andrew Kania (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Music, London, 2011.

Rancière, Jacques, Aesthetics and its Discontents (Cambridge, 2009).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 117

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
James Garratt Unit coordinator

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