BA Music and Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Approaches to Musicology

Unit code MUSC10511
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Music
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Approaches to Musicology is intended to give students an introduction to the many different ways in which music and its artistic, cultural and social contexts can be analysed and understood, and to provide a solid foundation for students’ own application of these methods and approaches to their study of music.  The first block of lectures examines musicological and ethnomusicological approaches to the study of music, as well as the various study skills required at University. Two further blocks of lectures run concurrently apply those approaches and study skills to two discrete aspects of music history. The precise content of the latter two blocks changes from year to year, but previous topics have included Italian renaissance polyphony, late twentieth-century new music, Puccini’s La bohème, and Latin-American popular music.


Available as a free choice, but note prerequisite of A Level Music or Grade VIII Theory or equivalent.


  • To promote active and critical engagement with different musics and cultures;
  • To introduce a range of skills relating to researching, thinking and writing about music and its artistic,  cultural and social contexts;
  • To provide a foundation for further study in the fields of musicology and/or ethnomusicology.


Each of the three blocks publishes the syllabus on Blackboard prior to the commencement of the course.  Block A deals with methodological approaches to the study of music, and the study skills needed for University:


Week 1:    Approaches: Introduction to Studying Music at University

                  Skills: Critical Thinking and Learning Techniques

Week 2:   Approaches: Constructing/Deconstructing the History of Western Music

                  Skills: Introduction to the John Rylands University Library

Week 3:   Approaches: Musicology and Methodology

                 Skills: Reading Critically

Week 4:   Approaches: The Study of Music in Culture

                 Skills: Writing Critically

Week 5:   Approaches: Studying Music in Oral Traditions

                 Skills: Listening critically


Blocks B & C blocks run concurrently throughout the term, and are supported by tutorials and workshops.  The content of these blocks changes annually — see the course overview for examples of previous topics.

Teaching and learning methods




Course documentation and bibliographies online, together with a wide range of other resources on Blackboard (scores, librettos, articles, eBooks, links to Box of Broadcasts, YouTube clips and appropriate websites) fundamental to studying music and musicology.

Use of electronic databases such as Naxos and Classical Music Online.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of a range of different ways of approaching musicological study, and of the inherent problems in constructing a historical narrative;
  • Discuss a range of musics and cultures and the critical issues relevant to them.
  • Define and apply the appropriate skills required for University-level study,  including research gathering, note-taking, critical reading and writing.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Show a developing ability to engage critically with methodological problems in musicology;
  • Demonstrate an ability to evaluate historical methods as used in musicological discourse;
  • Analyse and evaluate written arguments in music scholarship.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Show that they can access scholarly writings and resources in a range of media, including electronic resources.
  • Draw together ideas from a range of sources, with developing skills in the organization, interpretation and synthesis of information.
  • Develop and sustain a coherent argument in both written and verbal forms.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Show a burgeoning ability to produce good-quality work independently with developing critical self-awareness;
  • Demonstrate a growing ability to communicate ideas and information clearly in written and verbal form.
  • Demonstrate increasing levels of intellectual curiosity and the potential to approach tasks in a systematic and creative way.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
analysing texts, musical scores and other materials
Group/team working
Working in a team (tutorial and workshop discussions; developing group presentations
Oral communication
Problem solving
Creative problem-solving (fulfilling a set task with the resources available)
Written communication
Digital skills (information searches in databases, catalogues and other online environments) and Time management skills (submitting material to fixed deadlines)

Assessment methods


Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Tutorial tasks






2,500 words




2 hours



Feedback methods

  • Oral or written feedback on in-class tutorial tasks and group presentation, as appropriate
  • Written feedback on essay and examination
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

Each block of the course unit has its own reading and listening lists.  The following titles provide overall support for all three blocks:


Beard, David and Kenneth Gloag, Musicology: The Key Concepts (London: Routledge, 2005).

Citron, Marcia, Gender and the Musical Canon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Harper-Scott, J.P.E. and Jim Samson (eds.), An Introduction to Music Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Herbert, Trevor, Music in Words: A Guide to Researching and Writing about Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Kerman, Joseph, Musicology (London: Fontana, 1985).

Treitler, Leo, ‘The Historiography of Music: Issues of Past and Present’, in Nicolas Cook and Mark Everist (eds.), Rethinking Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 356–377.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Practical classes & workshops 3
Tutorials 8
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Roderick Hawkins Unit coordinator

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