Musical Analysis

Aims and content

Beginning with an intuitive response to a given piece of music, this project sets out to identify the compositional grounds for the nature of that response –  the techniques that the composer has used to create particular  effects. The process is one of rationalisation, moving from an immediate, emotional response towards being able to account for the grounds for that response and developing a more detailed awareness of what it involves;  analysis, of any kind, is a quest for understanding.

The project will be structured around a series of selected works taken from a wide historical period – the emphasis will be on given compositions rather than analytical methods as a starting-point for discussion. Thus the approach will be a practical (rather than theoretical) consideration of analytical techniques.  The range of music under discussion will be extended and supplemented by individual student choices through seminar presentation and discussion.

Set works

  • Bach: Partita for solo violin, No.3 in E major, BWV1006, ‘Preludio’.
  • Haydn: String Quartet in D Minor, Op. 76, No. 2, ‘The Fifths’        
  • Beethoven:  Piano Sonata in C Major, Op. 53, ‘Waldstein’
  • Schubert: ‘Gute Nacht’, from Winterreise
  • Chopin: Piano Etude in C minor, Op.10, No.12.
  • Strauss: ‘September’, from Four Last Songs
  • Webern:  Concerto Op.24
  • Stravinsky: ‘Postlude’ from Requiem Canticles
  • Reich: Four Organs
  • Boulez: Messagesquisse


There will be three short pieces of coursework which will be completed during the teaching period of the project (10% each).  Towards the end of the project, each student will present a seminar of around 20 minutes, based on a piece of their own choosing (not covered in class) agreed in tutorial (10%).  The written submission will consist of a written-up and expanded version of this seminar (around 2,500 words, to be handed in on the submission deadline), along with analytical diagrams and examples as appropriate (60%)

Reading and Listening

In advance of the project sessions, students need to have listened to the set works.  They should also have consulted the scores of these works, all of which will be available through Library Key Texts.

Selected reading:

  • Bent, Ian. Analysis, New Grove Handbooks in Music, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1987.
  • Cadwallader, Allan & Gagne, David. Analysis of Tonal Music: A Schenkerian Approach, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.
  • Cook, Nicholas. A Guide to Musical Analysis, London: Dent, 1987.
  • Dunsby, Jonathan & Whittall, Arnold. Music Analysis in Theory & Practice, London: Faber, 1987.
  • Dunsby, Jonathan, ed. Early Twentieth-Century Music: Models of Analysis, Oxford: Blackwell, 1993..
  • Kerman, Joseph. Musicology (see Chapter 3), London: Fontana, 1985.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the taught part of the module students should:

  • be able to study, in detail, the compositional process revealed within a range of selected works;
  • acquire analytical skills and techniques, develop powers of critical observation and broaden in-depth knowledge of repertoire;
  • retain a sense of curiosity about how music works and feel better informed and equipped as to how address this;
  • be able to communicate their analytical understanding clearly and effectively.

On completion of the module, in their independent work, students should demonstrate Learning Outcomes A1-7 & A9