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Unit information: Approaches to Music History I in 2020/21

Unit name Approaches to Music History I
Unit code MUSI20142
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Kate Guthrie
Open unit status Not open

Students on this module will usually have taken MUSI10045 or MUSI10046, or be able to demonstrate an equivalent level of skill



School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Recent research in musicology (including work done by staff in this department) has sought to position the repertoires and musical practices of past centuries in relation to broader social, political, technological and cultural trends of their age. This unit seeks to pursue that agenda in relation to key works, composers, performers and genres, which will be interrogated in depth and in different contexts, with the aim of allowing students to learn both about music history and about the ways of thinking about, researching and writing about music history. Classes will be a mixture of formal lectures, student presentations and discussion. Where appropriate, the unit will combine detailed historical study of a specified core area of the Western musical canon with in-depth consideration of contemporary cultural issues and intellectual debates touching on music and the study of music.

In any given year, Approaches to Music History I (and its sister unit Approaches to Music History II) have different specific themes that are used to develop a problem-orientated approach to the study and writing of music history. In the past, such themes have been (but will in the future not restricted to), among others, Music and Politics, Words and Music, Music and the Past, or Music in the 1930s.

Intended learning outcomes

Intended Learning Outcomes Successful completion of this unit will enable students to:

  • discuss in detail essential repertoire from a specific period of music history, accounting for the technical, social and cultural factors that led to its production and development
  • assess, discuss and dispute arguments in secondary literature, in writing, and in class discussion
  • describe with confidence relevant historiographical issues such as canon formation and periodisation
  • research, plan and present an essay according to professional musicological standards
  • Clearly present their understanding of the unit's topics to a non specialist audience

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including lectures and self-directed exercises. Participation in group workshops within the Music Futures programme.

Assessment Details

2000-word assessed essay (50%) demonstrating ILOs 1-4

One 7 minute group podcast (groups of 2 or 3), demonstrating ILOs 1, 3, 4. A new ILO 5 is required: "Clearly present their understanding of the unit's topics to a non specialist audience"

Reading and References

Marcia Citron, Gender and the Musical Canon (Cambridge, 1993) Martin Clayton, Trevor Herbert, Richard Middleton (eds.), The Cultural Study of Music (New York, London: Rutledge, 2003) Carl Dahlhaus, Foundations of Music History, transl. J. Bradford Robinson (Cambridge, 1982) Lydia Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works (New York: Oxford University Press, 22007) Vesa Kurkela, Lauri Vkev (eds.), De-canonizing Music History (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publ., 2009) Richard Taruskin, The Oxford History of Western Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)