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Critical Thinking & Listening - MUS00198I

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  • Department: Music
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Matthew Williams
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2024-25

Module summary

In this module, we build on the Stage I ‘Listen to This!’ module through rigorous contemplation of live and recorded music informed by current critical musicology theory.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

This module includes two elements: a weekly seminar series called ‘Critical Musicology’, and the music department’s weekly concert series. Critical Musicology investigates the ways in which music interacts with society and politics. It encourages us to question our assumptions about music and the way in which we study it. In this module, we will investigate some key concepts of critical musicology, for example the development of musical canons, how music history is conceived and written, whether music means anything, ideology, music-related difference and otherness (including questions surrounding gender, sexuality, race and disability) and ethics in music. In this way, you will be encouraged to

  • consider music from new angles;

  • think about the wider social contexts of music;

  • examine how ideas about music are related to values and identities.

The module also incorporates the music department’s weekly concert series, which you are expected to attend in order to apply ideas from critical musicology to issues connected with live music-making.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module you should be able to:

  • demonstrate familiarity with a number of critical musicology topics;

  • be in a position to evaluate complex ideas, reflect on your own ideas about music and engage critically with processes of musical perception;

  • be able to listen and respond to live music from a variety of periods and genres in a critically informed way;

  • have gained knowledge about performing issues, by listening to and watching experienced performers, and by connecting performance with critical musicology theory.

In this module you will also demonstrate the following learning outcomes for independent work:

  • Demonstrate techniques of detailed critical listening such as transcription and/or ‘close readings’ of aural sources – LO B12


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

An essay of 3000 words that applies selected theory from the ‘Critical Musicology’ seminar to repertoire encountered in the concert series.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive written feedback in line with standard University turnaround times.

Indicative reading

Beard, David and Kenneth Gloag. (2016) Musicology: The Key Concepts. Second edition. New York, NY; Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Clayton, Martin, Trevor Herbert, and Richard Middleton, ed. (2003). The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction. New York; London: Routledge.

Cook, Nicholas and Mark Everist, ed. (1999) Rethinking Music. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Cook, Nicholas. (1998) Music: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Harper-Scott, J.P.E. and Jim Samson, ed. (2009) An Introduction to Music Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Scott, D. (2000) Music, Culture, and Society: a Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Small, Christopher. (1998) Musicking: the Meanings of Performing and Listening. Hanover: University Press of New England.

Williams, Alastair. (2001) Constructing Musicology. Aldershot: Ashgate.

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.