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Courses / Modules / HUMA2028 Sounding the Museum

Sounding the Museum

When you'll study it
Semester 1
CATS points
ECTS points
Level 5
Module lead
Laura Brooks
Academic year

Module overview

An early flute sits silently behind glass in a museum, grouped with others of its type to show changes in instrument manufacture through the ages. Fans flock to the childhood house of a former Beatle, hoping to achieve a new form of intimacy with a legendary pop icon. In an exhibit about World War I, the soundtrack includes rousing patriotic songs amid the noise of bombs exploding. Music features in all these museum contexts, but how and why? When is music used to interpret objects and spaces in cultural heritage, and how does the heritage industry shape the ways we understand music? How are concepts of cultural value created or maintained through musical museums and museum music?

This module explores the place of music in heritage theory and practice, investigating how heritage creates cultural value and what role music may play in the process. We will consider museums and collections specifically devoted to music: these will include musical instrument museums and collections (such as the Cité de la Musique in Paris), popular music museums and exhibitions (such as the Pink Floyd exhibition at the V&A), and composer and musician houses (such as Handel& Hendrix in London). We will also investigate the use of music to interpret objects and create narratives on topics other than music itself, including in history museums (for example, on the Holocaust), art museums, and/or science and technology museums. We will ask how sound and music figure in new understandings of the sensory museum and how music can support or enhance storytelling in museum contexts. This module is suitable for both Music students and other students from all areas of the humanities; a prior study of music is helpful but not essential for successful completion.

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