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The University of Southampton

MUSI2139 The Art of Borrowing

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to: • Introduce you to the phenomenon of borrowing in a number of forms it may take in music, such as allusion, quotation, pastiche or parody • Explain this phenomenon using the conceptual toolkit of topic theory • Examine a range of styles, genres and types of music making that constitute the main sources of topics in Western music since the eighteenth century • Develop your awareness of the role played by topics in different aesthetic and social contexts

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The styles, genres and types of music-making covered in this module
  • The ways in which references to these styles and genres were handled by composers in different historical periods
  • The ways in which references to genres and types of music making contribute to musical meaning and expression.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the relationship of musical styles and genres to their social and cultural contexts.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Associate styles, genres and types of music-making with their social and cultural contexts
  • Apprehend and describe a piece of music in terms of references to various styles and genres.
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Differentiate between different styles and genres covered in this module
  • Identify their musical characteristics and extra-musical associations
  • Construct arguments about meaning and expression of musical pieces, departing from their musical characteristics.


It is a remarkable feature of Western art music that it frequently refers to musics characteristic of other social contexts, historical periods or geographical locations. Arguably, this phenomenon of ‘music about music’ was already in evidence in the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque but it consolidated in the eighteenth century with the rise of musical commerce and became the single most important point on the agenda of some composers and their groups or artistic movements. Most recently, borrowings from other genres, styles and types of music-making were explored by topic theory. This module will use topic theory to account for the phenomenon of stylistic borrowings in music from the Classical era to the present day. Lectures will focus on groups of musical topics such as dances, military music, exotic music, or folk music and trace their changing musical characteristics and expressive connotations in different historical, political and cultural contexts or else they will concentrate on one or more composers and explore their topical soundscapes. Examples of issues that may be explored include: • Changing meanings of military music between Mozart and Mahler • Waltz and its different uses by Brahms, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Ravel • Folk music and Romanticism • Worlds of exotic music: Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Indian • Igor Stravinsky’s explorations of the past • Les Six and the sounds of Parisian night life • The sonic soundscapes of Charles Ives • Borrowing in postmodern polystylism

Learning and Teaching

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Naxos Music Library.


D. Mirka (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Topic Theory. 

R. Monelle (2006). The Musical Topic. 

C. McClelland (2012). Ombra: Supernatural Music in the Eighteenth Century. 

Grove Music Online.

RILM Abstracts of Music.



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 60%
Group assignment including presentation  (20 minutes) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Written assignment  (2000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


There are no specific student costs for this module, all materials will be made available via the Library and Blackboard.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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