MA Music part 2

This module is the second part of the MA in Music (F32). You will explore three main study areas of current interest to musicology (music and politics, notations and performances, and musical relationships) prior to examining a number of case-study research projects. Topics covered include the role of music in Nazi Germany, reception history; the protest song; the role of music in communities; early keyboard music; contemporary composition, notation, and performance; composer autographs; opera and gender; and music and social media. The module concludes with writing a dissertation, which you can present digitally.

Vocational relevance

Emphasis is placed on the relevance of the module to practical and professional aspects of music. Increasingly, practitioners in music (performers, teachers, journalists and those involved in the various branches of music media) are concerned with a diverse range of music and have a need to exercise research, critical and interpretative skills. The module will provide training in these skills.

Postgraduate qualifications increase employability because they develop both specific and more generic transferable skills. In particular, you will learn and practise: the detailed analysis and critique of data; awareness of music-specific methodology and literature; structuring complex arguments; critically evaluating evidence, and integrating different forms of evidence into coherent and comprehensive reports; writing to deadlines and word limits; clear and effective written expression; accurate referencing; and the constructive and imaginative use of digital media. You will also have to plan, organise and manage your own learning, and interact with fellow students and tutors in an online environment.


A874 is a compulsory module in our:


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

This module develops the methods and materials for music research introduced in MA Music part 1 (A873), particularly in the context of the digital humanities, but allows for more in-depth discussion of particular topics. By the end of the module you will have undertaken a sustained piece of individual research in the form of a dissertation.

You will:

  • continue to develop your knowledge of research methodologies applicable to music research 
  • learn how to accumulate information about music, and synthesise and present your findings in a variety of different writing formats
  • encounter a variety of musical topics, themes and repertories from different periods and styles
  • undertake a sustained piece of independent music research

The module has four main sections or ‘blocks’, each of which is broadly structured into a six-week study period. Some flexibility is built in so you can extend your reading in areas that particularly interest you. In addition, you will be guided through a number of readings by members of the module team in dedicated forum activity weeks.

Block 1 examines the many and fascinating interactions between music and politics. You'll study a variety of topics, including the role of music in Nazi Germany and in the Cold War; the reception history of Mahler and Shostakovich; and the protest songs of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and others.

Block 2 explores notations and performances throughout music history. The main topics of study include: performing early keyboard music from Byrd to Bach; studying historic recordings; folk songs and klezmer; fiddle tune books and jazz scores; Mozart’s manuscripts; and the range of contemporary notations used by woodwind players.

Block 3 looks at a number of topics under the theme of ‘music and relationships’. You'll examine the interactions between performing musicians, the roles music can play in closely knit communities, and the kinds of connections that the mass-mediated circulation of music enables between strangers. Topics will include the emergence of brass banding in Britain in the nineteenth century, sacred and devotional musics, and the mbira music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe.

Block 4 consists of a series of case studies exploring a number of different topics and methodologies. You'll study how electronic musicians use social media to cultivate relationships with fellow composers; the role played by music in cross-cultural encounters around the rim of the Atlantic Ocean; opera and gender; the figure of Pan in music composed in England and France; and the Handel Documents project.

The module concludes with a dissertation, in which you will undertake a sustained piece of individual research and present it.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor to help you with the coursework and mark and comment on your written work. Both modules in the MA in Music programme are provided via online tuition, and you are encouraged to take part in the online tutorials with your tutor and tutor group. These tutorials will be held throughout the year and can be accessed from your own computer. More details about them will be available at the start of the module.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Course work includes

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

MA Music part 2 (A874) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024, when we expect it to start for the last time.


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

Entry requirements

To register for this module, you are required to have successfully completed either the MA Music part 1 (A873) or the Postgraduate foundation module in music (A870) which are now discontinued. 


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Oct 2025 £4960.00

Registration closes 12/09/24 (places subject to availability)

October 2024 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

Future availability

MA Music part 2 (A874) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024, when we expect it to start for the last time.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

All the necessary teaching is included in the module material, which is delivered online. The module teaches you how to use online resources for music research (but it does not provide basic training in computer operation or word-processing skills), and you will also have unlimited access to an extensive module website that includes:

  • a wide range of some of the most valuable published online databases, usually including Grove Music Online, Naxos, History Online, The Oxford English Dictionary, The International Index of Music Periodicals, The Music Index, Early English Books Online and JSTOR
  • embedded links to a wide range of music databases and other research sites
  • unique sound and vision assets
  • other module-related activities, such as tutor-student forums and an MA blog
  • e-lectures
  • direct access to other Open University online services.

You will need

You will need to buy the module set book, which you may have already bought for MA Music part 1 (A873). See the 'Materials to buy' section below for details.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Herbert, T. Music in Words: A Guide to Researching and Writing about Music (2nd edn) Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music £18.50 - ISBN 9781848491007

Note: This book is also a set book on A873 MA Music part 1.

If you have a disability

This module has no printed materials and is delivered online. The materials are provided as a series of web pages via the module website. Some online material may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader, and some archival materials, particularly where musical notation is involved or where you are required to study original documents, may be particularly difficult to read in this way. You should also be aware that this module demands a high level of independent study, including reading journal articles with music examples. Where certain activities are not accessible, we will provide suitable alternatives, but some activities, for example, studying digitalised music manuscripts, may not be available in different formats. You will be expected to listen to music and study a variety of musical scores and documents. This module also makes extensive use of research databases. The module may therefore be particularly challenging if you have a severe visual or hearing impairment.

If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet and have concerns about accessing this type of material, you are advised to contact us about support that can be given to meet your needs.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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