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The University of Southampton

MUSI6022 Critical Practice in Musicology

Module Overview

This module is based on a selection of recent and innovative scholarly writings on music, which challenge the reader to examine their assumptions about the nature of both scholarship and music as cultural practices.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• introduce some current critical approaches to the study of Western music • introduce effective approaches towards understanding recent scholarly writings on music • provide a context for various critical approaches to music

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • some of the current critical practices in musicology
  • the applicability of different critical practices to different repertories
  • the methodological and ideological frameworks of a range of recent scholarly writings on music
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • actively participate in discussions and debate about scholarly practices
  • understand and employ terms derived from cultural theory in discussions of the arts
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • use a critical vocabulary derived from cultural studies as part of a detailed study of a musical work and its existing literature
  • explain the essential features of a specific piece of musical criticism
  • discuss critically the political affiliations and impact of various musicological methods, conventions, and discourses
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • explain the range of critical approaches to Western music employed since the late 18th century
  • describe and evaluate critical practices employed in musicology following the discipline’s intense period of self-critique in the 1980s and 1990s
  • read and understand scholarly literature on music that employs terms derived from cultural theory


This module is based on a selection of recent and innovative scholarly writings on music, which challenge the reader to examine their assumptions about the nature of both scholarship and music as cultural practices.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • formal teaching in seminars • structured discussion seminars, in which course tutor acts as moderator. Learning activities include • reading about the discipline of musicology • following, in a step-by-step fashion, some innovative writings on music • preparing oral summaries and evaluations of critical writings • weekly study diary, published on class blog The seminars are designed to clarify the principles underlying critical approaches, and to show how they may be applied to specific contexts. The background reading will enable you to study in greater depth matters that are introduced in the seminars but not explored in detail. The week-to-week study of critical methods, together with the longer-term application of these methods in formal assessment, will give you the competence to undertake critical acts of your own, and the confidence to share your insights into music with your tutors, your peers, and your own students.

Independent Study276
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Claude Palisca (1963). The Scope of American Musicology. Musicology. , pp. 89-121.

Solie, Ruth (1993). Introduction: On 'Difference'. Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship. , pp. 1—20.

Davies, James (2006). Julia’s Gift: The Social Life of Scores, c.1830. Journal of the Royal Musical Association. , pp. 287–309.

Tucker, Sherrie (2008). When Did Jazz Go Straight? A Queer Question for Jazz Studies. Critical studies in improvisation. ,4 .

Smith, Bruce R. (2004). Listening to the Wild Blue Yonder: The Challenges of Acoustic Ecology. Hearing Cultures: Essays on Sound, Listening, and Modernity. , pp. 21-41.

Cook, Nicholas (1999). Analysing Performance and Performing Analysis. Rethinking Music. , pp. 424-51.

Samuels, David W., et al. (2010). Soundscapes: Toward a Sounded Anthropology. Annual Review of Anthropology. ,39 , pp. 329-45.

Tomlinson, Gary (1984). The Web of Culture: A Context for Musicology. 19th Century Music. ,7 , pp. 350-62.

Small, Christopher (1998). Prelude. The Meanings of Performing and Listening. , pp. 1—18.

Kerman, Joseph (1985). â€œIntroduction” and “Musicology and Positivism: The Postwar Years.”. Musicology. , pp. 11—59.

Jenkins, Keith, and Alun Munslow (2004). Introduction. The Nature of History Reader. , pp. 1—18.

Nettl, Bruno (1999). The Institutionalization of Musicology: Perspectives of a North American Ethnomusicologist. Rethinking Music. , pp. 287-310.

Levy, Beth E (2001). â€™The White Hope of American Music,’ Or, How Roy Harris Became Western. American Music. ,19 , pp. 131-67.

Covach, John (1999). Popular Music, Unpopular Musicology. Rethinking Music. , pp. 452-470.

Taruskin, Richard (2005). Introduction: The History of What?. The Oxford History of Western Music. .

Bowen, José (1999). Finding the Music in Musicology. Rethinking Music. , pp. 424-51.

Dreyfus, Laurence (1993). Musical Analysis and the Historical Imperative. Revista de musicologia. ,16 , pp. 407- 19.

Citron, Marcia (1993). Introduction. Gender and the Musical Canon. , pp. 1—14.

Middleton, Richard (2000). Musical Belongings: Western Music and Its Low-Other. Western Music and its Others: Difference, Representation, and Appropriation in Music. , pp. 59-85.

Duckles, Vincent and Jann Pasler Musicology §I: The nature of musicology. Grove Music Online. .

Samson, Jim Canon (iii). Grove Music Online. .

Everist, Mark (1999). Reception Theories, Canonic Discourses, and Musical Value. Rethinking Music. , pp. 378-402.

Taruskin, Richard (1995). â€œThe Modern Sound of Early Music” and “Tradition and Authority.”. Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance. , pp. 164-97.

Geertz, Clifford (1973). Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture. The Interpretation of Cultures. .

Solie, Ruth (1997). Defining Feminism: Conundrums, Contexts, Communities. Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture. ,1 , pp. 1—11.

Cusick, Suzanne G (1999). Gender, Musicology, and Feminism. Rethinking Music. , pp. 471-98.

Gabbard, Krin (1995). The Jazz Canon and Its Consequences. Jazz Among the Discourses. , pp. 1—28.

Treitler, Leo (1989). Music Analysis in a Historical Context. Music and the Historical Imagination. , pp. 67-78.

Fink, Robert (1998). Elvis Everywhere: Musicology and Popular Music Studies At the Twilight of the Canon. American Music. , pp. 135-79.

Dahlhaus, Carl (1983). The Significance of Art: Historical of Aesthetic?. Foundations of Music History. , pp. 19-33.

Treitler, Leo (1999). The Historiography of Music: Issues of Past and Present. Rethinking Music. , pp. 356-77.

Brett, Philip (1993). Britten's Dream. Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship. , pp. 259-79.

Taruskin, Richard Nationalism. Grove Music Online. .

Agawu, Kofi (1997). Analyzing Music Under the New Musicological Regime. The Journal of Musicology. ,15 , pp. 297-307.

Pinch, Trevor and Karin Bijsterveld (2004). Sound Studies: New Technologies and Music. Social Studies of Science. , pp. 635-648.

Subotnik, Rose Rosengard (1996). Toward a Deconstruction of Structural Listening: A Critique of Schoenberg, Adorno, and Stravinsky. Deconstructive Variations: Music and Reason in Western Society. , pp. 148-252.

Potter, Pamela (2007). The Concept of Race in German Musical Discourse. Western Music and Race. , pp. 49-62.

Guck, Marion A (1994). Analytical Fictions. Music Theory Spectrum. ,16 , pp. 217–30.

Middleton, Richard (2000). Introduction. Reading Pop: Approaches to Textual Analysis in Popular Music. , pp. 1—19.

Burke, Peter (2005). Performing History: The Importance of Occasions. Rethinking History. ,9 , pp. 35-52.

Frith, Simon (2004). What is Bad Music?. Bad Music: The Music We Love to Hate. , pp. 16-36.


Assessment Strategy

 discussion of original work presented in class  open-hour meetings  provisional assessment of preliminary or preparatory work towards formal assignments Assessment Method essay summarizing the major themes and debates surrounding one topic in the musicological literature, drawn from weeks 1–6. 4,000 words. essay summarizing the major themes and debates surrounding one topic in the musicological literature, drawn from weeks 7–12. 4,000 words.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 60%
Essay  (4000 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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