What you will study
Much of the music in this module comes from the western art tradition, commonly referred to as the ‘classical’ repertoire, but you will also be studying a good deal of music from outside that tradition, such as popular music, jazz, film music, and music from cultures other than those of western Europe and North America.
You will investigate:
processes by which music comes into being and is transmitted: composition, improvisation, performance, editing and publication
social factors that shape those processes (such as why orchestras developed as they did)
the nature of the historical evidence concerning those processes (for example, how do we find out how musicians improvised before the advent of modern recording technology?)
how far modern musicians and audiences can and want to interact with the past: what exactly is the modern ‘authentic’ performance movement trying to do?
Each of these themes appears to a greater or lesser extent in most of the blocks that make up the module. At the beginning of each block you will find an introduction explaining how its material relates to the module as a whole, and there are block conclusions to summarise the main issues examined. There are five blocks:.
The Composer in Context This block investigates why composers compose in certain ways, depending on the social and economic contexts in which they are writing. The subject matter includes musicians from Africa, South America and South Asia; composers of the English Reformation; Monteverdi; some composers for the early piano; Schumann, Chopin, Berlioz, Mahler, Debussy, Schoenberg and others.
What is Composition? A wide variety of compositional techniques is examined, looking at the working methods of Gluck, Beethoven and Elgar, as well as musicians outside the western art tradition: film composers; blues, rock and jazz musicians; and Indian and Indonesian musicians. Historical and modern improvisation techniques are also investigated.
Notation and editing This block begins with the development of notation and music printing. Historical editing techniques are described, and then the work of the modern editor is examined at length, in preparation for an assignment in which you edit music yourself.
Performance The history of instruments and their performance is traced by means of studies of keyboard, stringed, wind and brass instruments. The development of solo singing, choirs and orchestras is also discussed, as are certain elements of jazz and popular music performance, and there is a study of historical recordings.
Reception The history of a musical work does not end with its first performance. The audience’s response will affect the way in which the work is subsequently regarded and may lead to changes in a single work or in a whole tradition. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; so-called World Music; and early twentieth-century European avant-garde music all feature here.