The University of Southampton

MUSI3120 Music and Rhetoric

Module Overview

Starting with basic concepts of grammar and rhetoric, this module traces how these concepts were applied in 18th-century composition handbooks and how they were employed by composers in shaping musical utterances. The module will guide you step-by-step from the smallest building blocks of 18th-century music up to entire compositions. It will develop your analytical skills through study of instrumental works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven and contribute to the interpretative strategies you employ as a performer. Lectures supplemented by individual readings from primary and secondary sources will enhance your understanding of concepts derived from grammar and rhetoric and their counterparts in 18th-century music, and application of these concepts to analyses of musical details in the scores will develop your ability to relate theory to practice. Both of these elements will be assessed in the assignments.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

develop your understanding of the relationship between music and language in the late 18th century ? familiarise you with the influence of grammar and rhetoric on concepts of late 18th-century theory of composition concerning phrase structure and form ? develop your knowledge of a substantial repertory of late 18th-century instrumental music, especially of Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven ? provide you with tools of analysis and critical appreciation of this repertory

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • terminology used in the 18th century in reference to phrase structure and form
  • the application of these concepts in musical analysis
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse complex written texts
  • engage effectively in critical discussion
  • clearly present your analytical insights in written form
  • prepare and present annotated musical examples
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • transfer what you have learned from analytical study of the music to the decisions you make as a musical performer
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse late 18th-century music in rhetorical terms according to the theory of its own time
  • describe and explain a range of means by which late 18th-century composers organised and elaborated their musical utterances


The module will lead students step-by-step through the most important concepts of eighteenth-century music theory inspired by the linguistic analogy. These include: ? types of caesuras (incises, phrase endings, cadences) as musical analogues of punctuation marks ? types of phrases (basic, expanded, compound) as musical analogues of sentences ? manipulation of phrase structure by means of music-rhetorical figures ? permissible and impermissible successions of phrases inspired by rhetoric ? construction of small compositions as musical analogues of speeches

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include ? classroom explanations (lectures) ? discussions of take-home analyses (seminars) ? tutorial consultations Learning activities include ? reading of excerpts from primary and secondary sources ? take-home analyses ? assignment preparation

Follow-up work42
Preparation for scheduled sessions24
Completion of assessment task60
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Leonard Ratner Eighteenth-Century Theories of Musical Period Structure. Musical Quarterly. ,42 , pp. 439-454.

Mark Evan Bonds (1991). Wordless Rhetoric: Musical Form and the Metaphor of the Oration, 53-131. 

Leonard Ratner Harmonic Aspects of Classic Form’,. Journal of the American Musicological Society. ,2 , pp. 159-168.

Leonard Ratner (1980). Classic Music: Expression, Form, and Style. 

Christoph Heinrich Koch (1983). Introductory Essay on Composition. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Analysis  (1500 words) 60%
Quiz 40%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: MUSI1007 Fundamentals Of Analysis, Counterpoint And Harmony 2016-17

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