BA Music and Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Music Cultures of the World

Unit code MUSC20722
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


How does music figure in the lives of people around the globe? This course-unit offers a global perspective on music-making, introducing students to a range of musical cultures from around the world, with an emphasis on understanding music in its cultural, social and political context. The module also serves as an introduction to contemporary ethnomusicology, giving students the chance to engage with current debates in the discipline. Each lecture typically addresses a particular theoretical issue, coupled with a regional case study in which that issue is exemplified. Topics will include music tourism, music and protest, music and technology, gender and sexuality, migration and diaspora, and consumption and sustainability. Regional case studies will include popular music in India, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Bulgarian Chalga and Tunisian Stambeli. Students are also encouraged to read and listen beyond the case studies addressed in class, following their own musical curiosities and interests. By taking this course, students will acquire a global overview of music, as well as new theoretical tools for understanding what is happening when people make and listen to music.  


Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)?

Yes, but note prerequisite of A Level Music or Grade VIII Theory or equivalent.



·         To familiarise students with a range of musical cultures from around the globe.

·         For students to engage with key themes and debates in contemporary ethnomusicology.

·         For students to develop skills in critical thinking by applying theories of music-making to a range of musical styles and traditions, including music of their own choosing.


The combination of topics and case studies varies from year to year. Topics for 2019/2020 will include:

  • Listening and embodiment
  • Music Tourism
  • Technology and Circulation
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Politics and protest
  • Migration and diaspora
  • Music and Conflict
  • Consumption and Sustainability

Teaching and learning methods

  • Two-hour weekly lecture
  • One-hour weekly seminar
  • Directed reading, listening and viewing
  • Range of materials on Blackboard, including lecture handouts, electronic copies of key reading and links to audio-visual materials

Knowledge and understanding

  • Describe and discuss the characteristics of a range of musical styles and systems from different parts of the world.
  • Demonstrate a sound understanding of a range of trends and issues in ethnomusicology and be able to illustrate the way in which these relate to individual music cultures.
  • Discuss and evaluate issues relating to the rise of world music.

Intellectual skills

  • Apply an ethnomusicological approach to the study of music in and as culture.
  • Analyse the manner in which various aspects of any given music relate to its cultural context.
  • Express ideas clearly and concisely.
  • Demonstrate progress in developing a critical argument supported by appropriate evidence and examples.

Practical skills

  • Locate scholarly writings and resources in a range of media, including electronic resources.
  • Present work professionally, using appropriate software.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Take notes and organise materials effectively.
  • Present work in accordance with appropriate conventions.
  • Work independently with developing critical self-awareness and within an increasingly self-directed environment.
  • Contribute to discussion and debate.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
analysing texts, recordings, film and other materials
Group/team working
Interacting with critical peers (contributing to class discussion and justifying ideas)
Project management
Creative problem-solving (locating resources needed to fulfil a set task)
Oral communication
contributing to seminar debates
Time management skills (planning and submitting work according to fixed deadlines) Digital skills (information searches in databases, catalogues and other online environments) Preparation skills (preparing for weekly seminar discussions and examination)

Assessment methods

Coursework 50% 3000 word essay
Exam 50% 2 hours

Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on essay
  • Written feedback on exam
  • Oral feedback on seminar contributions
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

Harris, Rachel, and Rowan Pease (eds.), Pieces of the Musical World: Sounds and Cultures (New York, NY and Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2015). [Make sure you listen to the music examples on the accompanying website.]


Nettl, Bruno, The Study of Ethnomusicology: Thirty-Three Discussions (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015).


Post, Jennifer (ed.), Ethnomusicology: A Contemporary Reader (New York, NY: Routledge, 2006).


----- Ethnomusicology: A Contemporary Reader, Volume II (New York, NY: Routledge, 2017).


Rice, Timothy, Ethnomusicology: A Very Short Introduction. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).


Titon, Jeff Todd (ed.), Worlds of Music: An Introduction to the Music of the World’s Peoples, Fifth Edition (New York: Schirmer Books, 2009).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

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