Study Abroad and Exchanges



MUS1023 : Contemporary Musical Materials (Inactive)

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module aims to introduce the student to contemporary and cross-cultural understandings of the nature of musical materials. Students will be considering specific case studies throughout the course and challenging preconceived notions about what musical materials are and how they are performed.

Outline Of Syllabus

Students will be introduced to a variety of different musical practices, from other cultures and from different contemporary and popular practices, and will study these examples with reference to their musical material. Some approaches will be analytical but others will deal with musical forms that are seemingly resistant to conventional analysis. The module begins by considering what can be meant by Contemporary Musical Materials whilst the second session embarks upon a field trip around the City of Newcastle to consider its various historical and contemporary sites of music material. A case study on a piece on contemporary musical material is then presented before students are set to explore musical material of their own choice from a critical perspective using tools that have been shown in prior weeks.
In the second project of the module we introduce the question of how we might go about analysing popular music. This will encourage students to draw on skills that will be encountered in parallel theoretical modules within the programme as we focus on how features such as harmony, melody, rhythm and vocality are deployed by composers of popular music songs / tracks. We will also consider other aspects of the musical materials, and questions around why the analysis of popular music might actually matter. The project will involve both guided and independent learning, and is likely to involve students working both individually and in small group teaching.
In the second semester, students will consider Electronic Dance Music (EDM) with a view to challenge their preconceived notions of this genre. The historical context and development of the genre will be explored along with the technology in which it was built on. The students will gain an understanding of basic production techniques and will implement them in a track of their own composition.
In the following group of sessions students consider basic wave theory and ‘music’ in terms of its acoustic properties. Students will then be introduced to additive synthesis and how it can be used to create approximations of the sonic properties of acoustic instruments. The culmination of these sessions will be with the students making their own instruments using the tools within Logic’s ES2 synthesiser.
The module’s final project explores the idea of the ‘musical gesture’ by considering parameters in sound that sit beyond the confines of fixed pitch and metrically-ordered rhythm. This exploration is anchored by an engagement with ‘spectromorphology’ – a mode of listening that involves a critical apprehension of the intrinsic properties and behaviours of sounds and how they change through time. Using these ideas, we will reveal and interpret the musical devices present in examples of popular and electronic music styles.
Each semester closes with a plenary session that gives students the chance to dialogically reflect upon their learning throughout the sessions in the active presence of the team of the team that has delivered its content. This is an open forum and will be chaired by a member of the student cohort on the module. The open forum at the close of the first semester will enable students to contribute to the shaping of their learning experience in the second semester.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture162:0032:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching62:0012:00seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1561:00156:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures introduce topics and concepts for the students to engage with as a group and then consider both collectively and individually. It brings the historical, cultural and analytic approaches into dialogue with the students using specific musical materials as selected by the lecturer. The small group teaching enables the students to discuss these topics and concepts and introduce their own musical materials for peer and staff led discussion.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio1A50Portfolio of case studies and essays set by contributing lecturers
Portfolio2A50Portfolio of case studies and essays set by contributing lecturers
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The topics set for the portfolio tasks are student led from themes set by the lecturer. The musical materials they consider are drawn from their own experience and interests yet grounded in the learning and teaching that has been introduced throughout the module. As such there is an interplay between the aims and objectives set in the module and clarity of future purpose given the student involvement in assessment materials.

Reading Lists