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Unit information: Art and Music in 2020/21

Unit name Art and Music
Unit code HART20008
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Shaw-Miller
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History of Art (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The unit examines the dynamic relationships between the arts of sound and vision in the period c.1800-1960. Although art and music are often thought of as separate and opposite art forms, one visible, one invisible, one silent, one noisy, one temporal and one spatial, they have in fact constantly interacted in rich and productive ways. Such interaction has taken place at the level of individuals: amongst those we shall consider are Wagner (especially the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk), Klee, Kandinsky, Kupka, Schoenberg, Satie, Mondrian, Pollock and Kubrick; at the level of art movements, for example, Symbolism, Orphism, Cubism, Futurism, Dada and Abstract Expressionism; and at the level of ideas the 'absolute', the nature of representation, abstraction, dissonance, purity, hybridity, synaesthesia. We will listen to a great variety of music, from opera to free jazz, and consider issues in painting, sculpture, architecture (the design of concert halls, for example), 'colour music' (the development of light projection) and film.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. analyse and generalise about issues of continuity and change from a comparative perspective;
  2. select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues through coherent argument;
  3. identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint;
  4. demonstrate writing skills appropriate to level I/5.

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Details

One 3000-word summative essay (75%) [ILO 1-4]

One timed assessment (25%) [ILOs 1, 2]

Reading and References

Daniel Albright, Untwisting the Serpent: Modernism in Music, Literature, and Other Arts (Chicago, 2000)

Peter Dayan, Art as Music, Music as Poetry, Poetry as Art, from Whistler to Stravinsky and Beyond (Ashgate, 2011)

Douglas Kahn, Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (MIT, 1999)

Richard Leppert, The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation and the History of the Body (California, 1993)

Simon Shaw-Miller, Visible Deeds of Music: Art and Music from Wagner to Cage (Yale, 2002, pbk 2004)

Peter Vergo, That Divine Order: Music and the Visual Arts from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century (Phaidon, 2005)

Donna Cassidy, Painting the Musical City: Jazz and Cultural Identity in American Art 1910-1940 (Smithsonian Institute Press, 1997)

Simon Shaw-Miller, Eye hEar The Visible in Music (Routledge, 2016)