BA Music and Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Music and Its Contexts

Unit code MUSC10512
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Music
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course explores three different musical cultures/repertories and their contexts, focusing on such themes as ‘Making History: Progress and Tradition’, or ‘Music and Society’. Each block of lectures examines a discrete aspect of music history within specific historical and geographical boundaries. The precise content of the blocks changes from year to year, but previous topics have included the New German School (Liszt and Wagner), Schubert’s late symphonies, Bob Dylan and protest song in the 1960s, and Shostakovich’s programme music.


Available as 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 field of musicology and ethnomusicology.


Each of the three blocks publishes the syllabus on Blackboard prior to the commencement of the course.  The blocks run consecutively throughout the term, and are supported by tutorials and workshops.

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:

  • Engage intellectually with a wide range of music and its stylistic, aesthetic, cultural, social and political contexts;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of a range of different ways of approaching musicological study, and of the inherent problems in constructing a historical narrative;
  • Identify the significance of key conflicts between progress and tradition in music history.

Intellectual skills

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

  • Research and write about a range of music and cultures and relevant critical issues;
  • Analyse and evaluate historical methods as used in musicological discourse;
  • Reflect critically on music’s interaction with aesthetic, cultural and political contexts.

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
tutorial and workshop discussions; developing group presentations
Oral communication
Problem solving
Creative problem-solving (fulfilling a set task with the resources available)
Written communication
Time management skills (submitting material to fixed deadlines) and digital skills (information searches in databases, catalogues and other online environments)

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).

Garratt, James, Music and Politics: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge, 2018)

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 4
Tutorials 7
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Fanning Unit coordinator

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