BA Music and Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:

Unit code MUSC30501
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Music
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course introduced issues, concepts and controversies in aesthetics, focusing in particular on the meaning, social function and value of music. It draws on historical and theoretical approaches, engaging with a range of key thinkers from Plato to Adorno and beyond. Structured thematically, and centred on the discussion of the most important texts from the Western tradition, the course also encourages students to explore the relationship between contemporary debates and practices.  



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

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



·           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


  • Introduction to aesthetics
  • Aesthetic autonomy
  • Art and truth
  • Values and judgements
  • Music, mimesis and morality
  • Music, emotion and affect
  • Kantian aesthetics and the emancipation of instrumental music
  • Absolute music and formalism
  • Wagner and Nietzsche
  • Marxism and the politics of aesthetics
  • Adorno and the aesthetics of modernism
  • The aesthetics of popular music
  • Art beyond aesthetics beyond…

Teaching and learning methods



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

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

Analytical skills
problem solving, analysis and argumentation; responding positively to feedback
Group/team working
students will have enhanced their skills in working independently and collaboratively
Project management
managing their time effectively
Oral communication
presenting their findings orally and in writing in a professional manner; engaging in critical discussion of their work
locating, processing and evaluating complex information
Written communication
presenting their findings orally and in writing in a professional manner

Assessment methods

Assessment task


Weighting within unit

Coursework Assignment 1

Coursework Assignment 2

Seminar Participation


 1,800 words

1,800 words


2 hours






Feedback methods

written feedback on essays 1 and 2

oral feedback on prepared work for seminars

additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment)

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
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
James Garratt Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Course documentation and bibliographies online, together with a wide range of other resources on Blackboard (including discussion board).


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