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Unit information: Parisian Musical Life in the 19th Century in 2016/17

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Unit name Parisian Musical Life in the 19th Century
Unit code MUSI30115
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Ellis
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The course provides a history of music in 19th-century Paris from an institutional, social and aesthetic viewpoint. As such it deals with the structures that shaped musical life, reaching beyond the nebulous question of ‘public taste’ to problems of censorship, analysis of the aristocratic and bourgeois musical public for different kinds of musical entertainment, music education, the press, the relationships between musical consumption and industry, and the experience of music among the working and artisan classes. Seminars will also address more abstract issues such as exoticism, nationalism, heritage, and the impact of Wagner.

This unit’s aims are:

  • to introduce students to the social and cultural history of one of the nineteenth century’s most important musical cities;
  • to develop students’ capacity to think about music history from the point of view of musical performers and consumers as well as composers and works;
  • to allow students to engage with critical texts about music, pedagogy, and cultural and social history;
  • to develop students’ skills in critical listening and historically sensitive analysis;
  • to develop students’ skills in the oral and written presentation of their ideas.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students should:

  1. be familiar with the broad outlines of musical life in nineteenth-century Paris, including its main institutions;
  2. understand the aesthetic and social movements that acted as drivers for cultural change;
  3. be able to discuss the musical repertory, showing understanding of its stylistic features and the traditions embedded within them;
  4. be able to explain, defend and contest arguments in seminar discussion;
  5. be able to write critically and perceptively about 19th-century Parisian musical culture, in light of recent scholarly writing;
  6. be able to write creative and relevant responses to specific questions about the unit content under examination conditions;
  7. display evidence of independent research in terms of musical repertory and relevant bibliography;
  8. engage critically with the diversity of musicological writing on the period.

Teaching details

10 two-hour seminar sessions + revision class

Assessment Details

1 x 3000-word essay (50%), ILOs 1-3, 5, 7, 8

1 x 2-hour exam (50%), ILOs 1-3, 5, 6

Both assessments will benefit indirectly from the skills practised and observed as part of ILO 4.

Reading and References

  1. Jann Pasler: Composing the Citizen: Music as Public utility in Third-Republic France (University of California Press, 2009)
  2. Hervé Lacombe: The Keys to French Opera, trans. Edouard Schneider (U. California Press, 2001)
  3. James H. Johnson: Listening in Paris (U. California Press, 1995)
  4. Annegret Fauser &Mark Everist (eds): Music, Theater, and Cultural Transfer: Paris, 1830-1914 (U. Chicago Press, 2009)
  5. Roger Parker & Mary Ann Smart (eds): Reading Critics Reading (OUP, 2001)