Study Abroad and Exchanges



MUS3006 : Musics, Sounds and the Environments in Which They Happen (Inactive)

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


To introduce students to a range of issues in which the environment, variously conceptualised, is critically understood in relation to music and sonic art. One strand of the module addresses “environmental” issues in the broader sense, while the other examines, through theory and practice, ways in which music and sound art engage with “the environment”. Readings are introduced and discussed which outline some key issues, including the relationship (or otherwise) of humans to their environment, the Nature-Culture divide in its historical and philosophical context, specific historical ways in which musicians (and contemporary) sound artists have engaged with environment, and a critical evaluation of such interventions in the light of contemporary environmental knowledge. By the end of the module, students should have begun to develop their own environmental sound practice, which may take the form of live performance (note, the module is suitable for students whose primary interest is not necessarily “contemporary” music or sound art, and that projects which engage with “early” or “folk” musics would also be considered), installation, fixed-media work, or sonic sculpture. This will take the form of a portfolio in which at least one “major” project will be included, along with chosen “subsidiary” projects. Students will be in part evaluated on their ability to find appropriate and fitting forms of art work for the environmental spaces in which they work. Regardless of the preferred musical style or historical period for their main project, students should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the cultural and political grounds relevant to the understanding of the role of place, space, and environment in musical culture. Students will develop a knowledge and appreciation of some key artists working in this area, across a range of musical and artistic styles. There is scope for students to evaluate their own work and the work of others in the light of the ethical imperatives pertaining to the current environmental “crisis”, and to devise artistic projects that intelligently and ethically connect with and communicate these issues. Students should be able to demonstrate, by the end of the module, a good working knowledge of ways that sound, music, and space/place interact, and have an understanding of how this reflects certain ethical issues pertinent to music as a social practice, and the related ways that sound participates in our construction of and understanding of the environment in which we live.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module begins with a questioning of what the term environment can mean for a musician, and how these different meanings affect the kinds of musical and sonic art that specific environments afford. There will be a critical look at the various historically emergent forms of music and sound production, both in public and in “private”. The history of “concert listening”, and practices such as headphone and loudspeaker listening that are related to it, will be looked into, as well as historical and contemporary alternatives. Practical workshops on sound and space will reinforce student learning, and lead on to students devising their own environment or place-specific musical and sound art works. Though there is an emphasis in many of the teaching sessions on “contemporary” artistic practice, students should note that this is not intended as a limit on the musical styles that can be included, and that their projects could include performances of “early” or “folk” musics that engage with the place and spatial/cultural aspects of the music (Gabrieli’s multiple ensemble works for St Mark’s, for example, or domestic music making of the 17th Century, or the spatial soundscape of a pub session, etc.). The political aspects of sonic spaces will also be examined; this will give greater insight into the social conditions in which music has been produced, but also serve as starting points for student practical projects. Inevitably, given the current “crisis” in the environment, students will also look at ways that musicians and sound artists have drawn attention to the environmental problems that beset the modern world – pollution, climate change, destruction of natural environments, etc. - and students will be encouraged, where appropriate, to devise projects that help to either alert their audience to environmental issues, or to offer alternative, ethical ways of engaging with the environment through sound and music. Students will submit a portfolio of practical work worth 60% of the module mark, and an essay worth 40%, in which they contextualise their own practice in relation to ideas encountered in the module.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture83:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading123:0036:00Reading/listening set each week – average time expected to be spent on this c. 3 hours
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops43:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study136:0036:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study192:0092:00To include development of personal creative work, research, and reflection,
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce topics, including historical, ethical, political, and artistic perspectives on the subject (IKO 1,2,4; ISO 2,3)
Workshops provide guided practical engagement, with immediate feedback on student ideas and experiences (IKO 3; ISO 1,3)
Directed Research and Reading asks students to read, listen, and critically reflect on materials that extend the reach of what is possible in lecture or workshop situations, deepening their knowledge and appreciation (IKO 1,2,4; ISO 1,2,3)
Student-led group activity encourages greater independence of thinking, ability to negotiate with others, and the consolidation of thought and practice, as well as further extending skills introduced in workshops (IKO 1,3; ISO 1,2)
Independent study requires students to carry out their own research into developing their own artistic projects, to carry out artistic experiments (which may be in the form of collaborations as well as “solo” work) in the furtherance of their creativity and understanding, and to produce materials suitable for inclusion in their portfolios (IKO 1,2,3,4; ISO 1,2,3).

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio1A60A collection of projects and documentation one should be the “major” component and is worth 30% of the total module mark.
Essay1A30Title is set to ask student to show an understanding of materials set in the module - 2500 words
Report1A10report on the final major project
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The portfolio brings together projects and exercises which students have engaged in, but also should include a single “major” project, which carries half of the portfolio mark. This is an opportunity for students, having experimented with smaller projects, to focus on realising something more ambitious in which their own creativity and insight is demonstrated (lectures, workshops, student-led-projects, independent study). This evidences and evaluates IKO 1,3,4; ISO 1,2

The essay focusses more on the reading and listening assignments, though students will be encouraged to draw on their practical experiences during the module too (lectures, directed-study, independent study) This evidences and evaluates IKO 1,2,4; ISO 2,3

Reading Lists