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Practical & Ensemble Studies II - MUS00116I

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  • Department: Music
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. John Stringer
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2018-19 to Summer Term 2018-19

Module aims

Practical Ensemble Studies I, II and III develop practical music-making skills and critical reflection upon those practices through engagement with ensemble rehearsal and performance. Over the year, students will be also exposed to a wide variety of live music, across musical genres and from different historical periods, and will develop critical listening skills that move from the ‘enjoyment’ factor to an evaluation of that process and the historical factors that inform it.

Module learning outcomes

Ensemble Participation:

After participating regularly in an ensemble, students should acquire and develop these abilities and attributes in ever-increasing degrees:

  • a broader knowledge of relevant repertoire, including repertoire that might feature in professional auditions;
  • an increased awareness of style and performance practice;
  • punctuality, preparation, focus and attention;
  • an understanding of rehearsal organisation, direction and conducting, and an ability to respect and follow the musical decisions of a director or conductor;
  • technical solutions for performance challenges that differ from those presented by solo work;
  • an enhanced awareness of both intonation and micro-rhythm as problems requiring collective solutions;
  • an awareness of balance, blend, and foreground-background relationships through attentive listening to the total ensemble;
  • an awareness of the social dynamic of performance within a collective;
  • the individual responsibility that is needed for effective team work;
  • the confidence and judgment necessary to evaluate the individual’s role in the collective performance, especially in cases where individual decisions are governed by knowledge of what others are playing – decisions that can only be determined within the ensemble

Critical Listening:

i) Social factors associated with concerts

After attending concerts regularly, students should become aware that

  • live music making creates immediate communities of listeners that operate differently from the communities that are constituted by listeners to recorded music;
  • music is a social activity, of which the music itself is only a part;
  • modes of listening that are electronic and private miss out on the true acoustic sound of some music, the visual aspect (as music is physical gesture as well as sound) and the social dimension (as music is presentation, interaction – between performers and between them and the audience, etc.);
  • the act of performance itself can be the focus of attention, not just the ‘musical work’; this will especially be the case in improvised performances;
  • that hearing new music, or familiar music in a new way, provides the ‘wow' factor of shared human excitement. The listener’s reaction to the live occasion is unpredictable. The listener discovers their own ‘space’ in what is happening. Concerts can be thrilling; every so often an almost life-changing one comes along. Most aren’t! Reflecting on the difference between the two hones your critical skills.

ii) Repertoire and interpretation

After attending concerts regularly, students should

  • become aware of a range of interpretations and the expressive skills of different performers, who will probably take more risks in live performance;
  • widen knowledge of repertoire – both standard classics and rarer items. By hearing unfamiliar repertoire, you extend your horizons, whether you are a 'new music person' going to hear 'early' music or a Rachmaninov fan going to a folk concert;
  • learn about performing issues by listening to and watching experienced performers. Sometimes, what you learn might be negative – ‘this is definitely how I don’t want to do it’;
  • learn nuances of technique and interpretation that can't be gleaned from recordings – e.g. baton technique for conductors, bowing technique for string players;
  • become more aware of how to respond to an acoustic;
  • partake of the long tradition, in Western art music, of the culture of concert-going;
  • learn how to engage critically with the process of musical perception. If we have emotionally affective experiences as listeners, we develop a need to try to understand them; gradually we try to rationalise this, if only to work out what we like and don't like.


Task Length % of module mark
Record of participation & folio
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

There are two parts to the assessment of this module:

  1. Participation in a departmental ensemble or a registered ensemble (see Section A below) and complete the record of ensemble participation (see Section B) and the end-of-year ensemble repertoire report to a satisfactory standard (see Section C).
  2. Attendance to at least ten concerts and submit the Critical Listening Report (see Section D below)

A: Participation in Departmental Ensembles

As part of your course, you are required to contribute to the practice of music within the Department – as a performer, producer, educator, or in other appropriate ways. Most often this contribution will take the form of participation in departmental ensembles. A list of these is given in this Handbook. It is also possible, however, for you to form your own band or contribute in chamber groups, as an accompanist, or as a soloist in (for example) the Music Society’s series of lunchtime concerts. Or you may perform elsewhere within or outside the University in groups affiliated with the Department: a jazz group might perform at one of the Colleges, a folk band at a local festival, a world music ensemble for a group of schoolchildren. You might also contribute as an arts administrator, designing or promoting musical events; or as a technician, supporting an existing ensemble or new band in live sound and recorded productions; with individual composition work; individual scholarly work; musical work in the community; or in other ways you might suggest.

B: Record of Ensemble Participation

Because all such contributions are monitored through a system of credits, they must be made known to the Department. For departmental ensembles and departmentally sponsored concerts, this is done automatically, and you need take no action – all registers will be sent to the Office by ensemble leaders.

Where your name does not appear on an official register, you will be asked by the Board of Studies to provide evidence of your activities. Therefore, for all other events, and for lunchtime concerts having no programme, it is your responsibility to supply the Departmental Office with appropriate documentation. This would normally consist of programmes, flyers, concert reviews, letters of acknowledgment, copies of internet announcements, and the like; it may also take the form of audio or video recordings. Any such documentation must be submitted to Helen Gillie. You do not need to provide this evidence unless requested to do so. No credits can be awarded for non-Departmental events unless the Department is provided with adequate documentation.

C: Repertoire Report

Write a 500-word report on one piece of repertoire that you have performed in either a departmental or registered ensemble. Consider the following examples of what you might write about: what did you find important in terms of learning about the work from the ‘inside’; what technical issues did you overcome while learning the work; were there aspects of performance practice you gained from performing this piece; were there aspects of the work that inspired you to look closer at this type of repertoire?

D: Critical Listening Report

This submission (an essay of 1500 words) must reflect a varied concert experience of at least ten concerts. The outcomes listed below should be used to consider aspects of performance style, repertoire and the act of performance (technique, interaction etc.). You should use the opportunity to reflect on the concerts of your choice in a way that might influence your own choices of performance style, repertoire etc. You will be advised which concerts you can choose from. In addition to the enjoyment factor of going to concerts, these are learning objectives for this particular part of your course (See Module Learning Outcomes).


Task Length % of module mark
Record of participation & folio
N/A 100

Module feedback

Confirmation of Pass / Fail within 4 weeks of submission of final folio

Indicative reading

Trevor Herbert: Music in Words: A Guide to Researching and Writing about Music (Oxford: OUP, 2001).

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves (London: Profile Books, 2003).

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

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