MusB Music / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Music Cultures of the World

Course unit fact file
Unit code MUSC20721
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


How does music figure in the lives of people around the globe? This course offers a global perspective on music-making, introducing students to musical cultures from around the world. It also serves as an introduction to contemporary ethnomusicology, giving students the chance to engage with current debates in the discipline. A typical lecture will address a key theoretical issue, coupled with a regional case study in which that issue is exemplified. Topics covered in past years have included gender/sexuality, technology, embodiment, the voice, the “world music” industry, soundscapes, listeners, and migration. Case studies have ranged from Indian classical music to Portuguese fado, from cassette audio letters from South Sudan to Muslim women’s ritual music in China.  Students are encouraged to read beyond the regional case studies we address in class, following their own musical curiosities and interests; in both the exam and the coursework essay, they will be given opportunities to write about music of their own choosing. 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


Knowledge and understanding

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

  • 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

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

  • 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

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

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


Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

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

Assessment methods

Essay 50%
Exam 50%


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).
  • Post, Jennifer (ed.), 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).

Relevant journals:

In order to get a sense of current debates in ethnomusicology, browse as many recent issues of ethnomusicology or world music journals as possible. Relevant journals include Ethnomusicology, Ethnomusicology Forum (formerly The British Journal of Ethnomusicology), Yearbook for Traditional Music, World of Music, African Music, Asian Music and Analytical Approaches to World Music.

Listening to music from around the world:

  • There is an enormous collection on the Smithsonian Folkways website ( The library has online access to the collection; enter your university login and then search for albums here (
  • The British Library sound archive ( also has a very large collection of digitised sounds. See especially examples in the “World and Traditional Music” section.
  • Songlines is a world music magazine. We have copies in the library.
  • The “Rough Guide” series (available at is an extensive collection of world music releases, each focussing on a different geographical area.
  • WOMAD ( is a world music festival; many of the acts that perform here also regularly perform live across the UK.



Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Chloe Alaghband-Zadeh Unit coordinator

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