MusB Music / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Music and Its Contexts

Course unit fact file
Unit code MUSC10512
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
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 fields of musicology and/or ethnomusicology

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
  • 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:

•    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 context


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

Assessment methods

Informal preparatory tasks 0%
Essay 50%
Exam 50%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral feedback on seminar contributions, and general advice given in seminar


Group feedback on seminar tasks


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, 2nd edition (London: Routledge, 2016)
  • Citron, Marcia, Gender and the Musical Canon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).
  • Garratt, James, Music and Politics: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018)
  • 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)
  • Taruskin, Richard, The Oxford History of Western Music, 5 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)
  • 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 20
Seminars 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 174

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sarah Moynihan Unit coordinator

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