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Performances and repertories

This module, which is part of the MA in Music and the MA in Humanities, builds on the postgraduate foundation module in music. You’ll study musical performances in relation to the environments and institutions in which composers worked, making use of research facilities such as extensive online libraries and archives. You’ll also have plenty of scope to study recordings. Music from the western art tradition is represented alongside music of non-western and popular traditions, and you’ll have ample opportunity to pursue your own enthusiasms within the module themes. At the end, you’ll be expected to initiate, plan and write a 5000 word project.


Start End Fee
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No current presentation - see Future availability

This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2014.

What you will study

The module offers you the opportunity to explore ways in which repertories develop in their performance contexts, and the ways in which performances are shaped by the demands of the market, composers, exponents and audiences. Through the module you will:

  • encounter different kinds of source that are frequently used by music researchers
  • develop a variety of research methods relevant to the study of music
  • engage with a variety of issues relevant to the study of Western and non-Western art and popular music
  • develop the skills required to initiate, plan and write an independent piece of research
  • have considerable opportunity to apply these skills to a topic or topics that especially interest you.

There are four main sections or ‘blocks’ that will each take you between three and six weeks to complete. Each block comprises a section of text, written by members of the Music Department, that will take you a week or so to work through, and which introduces the main themes of the block. After that, you are expected to follow up some of the suggested reading in areas of the block that are of particular interest to you. A tutor-marked assignment at the end of each block will focus on a broad issue relating to the subject area of the block, and will give you the opportunity to write about repertories and performances of your choice.

Block 1 introduces the module and discusses the nature of musical performance and ways in which it can be studied. Block 2 examines ways in which repertories and performances of the past and present have been shaped by market forces. Block 3 explores the relationship between institutions (such as the opera house, recording companies and the church) and the music composed for and performed in them. Block 4 focuses on the interactions of composers and performers with recordings.

As you study blocks 1–4, you will be encouraged to plan the 5000-word project which will form the final assessment component of the module. This provides you with the opportunity to focus on the areas that interest you. You will need to identify the relevant sources and discuss with your tutor the ways in which you are going to study them. About two months have been allocated at the end of the module for the writing of your project.

The materials that will be sent to you include all the necessary texts and recordings to introduce the subject material of each block. There are plenty of references to further study that you will need to follow up in a good research library and/or on the internet. You will have access to an extensive module website that includes a wide range of some of the most valuable published online databases, normally including New Grove Online, History Online, The Oxford English Dictionary, The International Index of Music Periodicals, Early English Books Online. This collection is added to as new databases come on the market. You can also access annotated links to hundreds of music websites and a special online forum for the use of your own tutor and tutorial group.


To take this module, you must declare the MA in Music (F32) (or another qualification towards which this module can count) as your qualification intention. You should also have either completed one of the foundation modules for the MA in Humanities, ideally, but not necessarily, in music or be studying one at the same time as this module (though this is normally not recommended). If you have not taken Postgraduate foundation module in music (A870) (now discontinued), you should satisfy yourself that you are equipped to study A871. If you wish to gain the MA in Music you will need to take A870. In addition to familiarising yourself with A870 you should:

  • have a good general knowledge of music, equivalent to that obtained by students who have studied our module Understanding music: elements, techniques and styles (A214) (now discontinued)
  • be literate in music to the extent that you can follow an orchestral score and know which instrument is playing which part
  • be able to understand musical discourse that uses technical language and introduces musical quotations (the articles in New Grove II, for example).

You do not need be able to play an instrument nor to ‘hear’ music by looking at a score.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

If you have not taken Postgraduate foundation module in music (A870) (now discontinued), you are strongly advised to spend some time with the study materials before starting A871. All of the blocks of A870 are relevant to the study of A871. Our Student Registration & Enquiry Service will be able to tell you where you can see a copy of the A870 materials prior to the A871 module starting date. After this date, you will have access to an electronic version of the A870 study guide via the dedicated website.


A871 is a compulsory module in our:

A871 is an optional module in our:

The Postgraduate Diploma in Humanities is available for those who have successfully completed A871 and a total of 60 credits from specified modules, including at least 30 credits from postgraduate foundation modules.

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

You will be expected to listen to music. This module makes extensive use of research libraries and/or the internet. The study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and musical notation may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

You will need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer and the internet.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.

Study materials

What's included

A study guide, score supplement, assignment booklet, two audio CDs, access to databases and other resources via the dedicated website.

You will need

A CD player.

You will also need adequate facilities to conduct research into music. This can be done using the internet or by using a library or archive that has suitable resources. If you are using a research library, there are likely to be charges for borrowing rights, inter-library loans and photocopying. The Postgraduate Music website houses links to online research resources and sources of information about facilities for studying music in UK libraries.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Herbert, Trevor Music in Words Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music £14.95 - ISBN 9781848491007

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you through the module, mark and comment on your written work and advise you on your project. You are also encouraged, but not obliged, to participate in real time online tutorials and group tuition. Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You can choose whether to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) on paper or online through the eTMA system. You may want to use the eTMA system for some of your assignments but submit on paper for others. This is entirely your choice.

Future availability

The details given here are for the final module start in February 2014.

How to register

We regret that we are currently unable to accept registrations for this course. Where the course is to be presented again in the future, relevant registration information will be displayed on this page as soon as it becomes available.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code A871
Credits 60
OU Level Postgraduate
SCQF level 11
FHEQ level 7
Course work includes:
4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Student Reviews

“I found A871 similar to A870, but harder. I used the same methods of researching as for A870, but answering...”
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“A871 follows on closely from A870, as you'd expect. Whilst further exploring the themes studied in A870, A871 allows you...”
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