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BA Music and Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Advanced Study in Musicology B (40)

Unit code MUSC30520
Credit rating 40
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Full year
Offered by School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Students take two of a number of options that develop and refine the historical and critical approaches in musicology covered in previous years of the programme. The topics for 2019-20 are:

Semester 1

Wagner in European Thought and Culture (Dr James Garratt)

The Politics and Performance of Balkan Romani Music (Dr Tom Wagner)


Semester 2

Jazz Historiography and Criticism (Dr Alexander Gagatsis)

Shostakovich’s Fourth and Fifth Symphonies (Prof. David Fanning)



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

Yes, 'Prerequisite in a relevant Level 2 Music course, or by agreement with the Course Director



This course-unit aims to enable students to study a particular topic within a current branch of musicology in depth.


 Wagner in European Thought and Culture – Dr James Garratt

More than any other composer, Wagner has had a defining impact on European thought and culture in modernity. This course addresses key issues in Wagner interpretation, focusing on: (1) the aesthetic, cultural and political resonances of his most influential and controversial works, the Ring, Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal; (2) the impact of Wagner’s ideas on key subsequent commentators and public figures, from Nietzsche and Bernard Shaw to Hitler; (3) how successive generations of opera directors and film makers have responded to Wagner's works, redefining their meanings and significance; (4) the rich body of texts placing Wagner at the centre of artistic and cultural debates, from Thomas Mann and Theodor Adorno in the twentieth century to Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek in the twenty-first.

 The Politics and Performance of Balkan Romani Music – Dr Tom Wagner

This course explores the musical and cultural practices of the Balkan Romani. Through four ‘themed’ units, it contextualises the international popularity of Balkan Romani ‘Gypsy’ music alongside the flows of Balkan and Eastern European Romani westward, contrasting the discrimination faced by the majority of Romani with the international commercial ventures of a small group of successful Romani musicians and their Western managers. Questions of Orientalism and Exoticism, Nationalism and Folklore, Music in Diaspora, and Representation and Transnational flows will be explored through case studies such as the song collecting of Bartók and Kodály, dance and music styles such as ¿o¿ek and Chalga, iconic musicians such as Esma Redžepova and Yuri Yunakov, as well as internationally-known representations such as the film music of Goran Bregovi¿ and the ‘Balkan Beats’ of DJ Shantel.

 Jazz Historiography and Criticism – Dr Alexander Gagatsis

This course explores a wide range of jazz styles in their social and political contexts, viewing the development of jazz as a chronicle of North America's social, political, cultural and intellectual history. We will interrogate jazz’s position at the intersection of avant-garde and popular, modern and traditional, and investigate its complex interactions with the wider world. Along the way, we will explore issues of gender, sexuality, class, geography, race and ethnicity. In exploring successive transformations of the music, its performance, consumption and cultural status, we will engage with the ‘New Jazz Studies’ of the early 1990s, which signalled the flowering of interdisciplinary research on jazz. Until then musicologists had spoken of jazz in terms appropriate for the analysis of European art music. Since then, scholars have emphasised the roles of culture but have focused exclusively on the jazz as a social medium. In recent years, ‘the music itself’ has more often been the premises of scholars working within the field of performance studies. Where does this leave jazz?

 Shostakovich’s Fourth and Fifth Symphonies – Prof. David Fanning

Shostakovich’s Fourth and Fifth Symphonies – his ‘symphonic credo’ and his ‘practical, creative reply to just criticism’, respectively – were composed at a time of great turbulence in his personal and artistic life and in the life of the Soviet population as a whole. The course will examine the place of these works in his output and in the context of social, political and artistic developments in the Soviet Union, as well as going into the purely musical qualities that have ensured their survival in the permanent repertoire.

Teaching and learning methods

Seminars, offering formative feedback on ongoing work.

Additional one-to-one feedback available through consultation hours, or by making an appointment.

Knowledge and understanding

  • demonstrate detailed knowledge and conceptual understanding of the selected topic and related issues;
  • demonstrate a good command of the available secondary literature.

Intellectual skills

  • synthesise and evaluate a wide range of material relating to the topic;
  • interpret primary texts, engage with secondary literature, and formulate their own 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.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • produce high-quality work independently with self-motivation and critical self-awareness;
  • demonstrate well-developed skills in the use of library and resources.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
analysing and understanding ideas at a high level from diverse areas of musicology
Group/team working
collaborate with peers in preparation for and execution of presentations
Oral communication
communicate ideas and information clearly in verbal form (presentation)
carrying out in-depth research independently
Written communication
communicate ideas and information clearly in written form (examination)

Assessment methods


Assessment task


Weighting within unit

Option 1

Class presentation (individual, or in groups, as approved by CUD)

Written Examination


As agreed with CUD


3 hours





Option 2

Class presentation (individual, or in groups, as approved by CUD)



As agreed with CUD


6000 words






Feedback methods

oral feedback on group presentation

formative feedback on essays and/or mock examinations

written feedback on examination

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

Recommended reading

Reading lists for each of the topics are provided by the lecturer concerned.  Titles of general support include:


Beard, David, and Kenneth Gloag, Musicology: the Key Concepts (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005)

Born, Georgina, and David Hesmondhalgh (eds.), Western Music and its Others: Difference, Representation, and Appropriation in Music (Berkeley and London, 2000).

Cook, Nicholas and Mark Everist (eds.), Rethinking Music (Oxford, 1999).

Clayton, Martin, Trevor Herbert and Richard Middleton (eds.), The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction (New York and London, 2003).

Crist, Stephen A. and Roberta Montemorra Marvin (eds.), Historical Musicology: Sources, Methods, Interpretations (Rochester, NY, 2004).

Herbert, Trevor, Music in Words: A Guide to Researching and Writing about Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Korsyn, Kevin, Decentering Music: A Critique of Contemporary Musical Research (Oxford, 2003).

Taylor, Timothy D., Beyond Exoticism: Western Music and the World (Durham, NC, 2007).

Williams, Alastair, Constructing Musicology (London, 2001).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 54
Independent study hours
Independent study 346

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Alexander Gagatsis Unit coordinator
David Fanning Unit coordinator
James Garratt Unit coordinator

Additional notes




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