Module Catalogue 2022/23

MUS2004 : Themes in Musical Modernism

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Bennett Hogg
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



- To investigate the ideas of modernism and modernity mainly in the art music/classical music from the very end of the nineteenth century through the 20th Century.

- To investigate the significant cultural changes happening in music of the period - including but not limited to the shifting relations between popular and vernacular musical cultures, knowledge of and exposure to music from non-western cultures, and the so-called western art music/classical music tradition. The political, philosophical, and other socio-cultural issues, including relations to music of the past, relations with other art forms, and the various ideas associated with modernism as they pertain to music.

- To understand the diversity of modernist musical activity, and how different musical traditions influenced and informed one another as elements in a broader cultural perspective, as well as connections with the visual arts and literature of the period.

Outline Of Syllabus

"Modernism" is a term used to characterise a vast number of different musical, literary, and artistic activities that, in their different ways, were responses to the dramatic socio-political, technological, and cultural changes of the end of the 19th and into the first half of the 20th centuries. The period is characterised by radical changes in the very nature of what music and art could be, and The module investigates a number of different "themes" that characterise modernist music, that is to say music made between about 1900 and 1950. These will include, on the one hand, the gradually dissolving boundaries between popular/vernacular musics and the so-called "classical" music traditions, as exemplified in the work of composers such as Mahler, Erik Satie, Kurt Weill, and Stravinsky. Urban and technological lifestyles informed new ways of thinking and this in turn influenced new ways of listening, and new musical practices, many of them mediated by the emerging technologies of sound recording, cinema, and radio. Other musical artists reacted against industrialisation into quasi-mystical nature worship, while other celebrated the noisy, energetic modern city. As well as examining the work of selected musicians in their musical contexts, we shall also look in detail at literature, painting, and philosophy of the time that can illuminate our better understanding of the music of the period. This is also a period when socio-political issues that are still with us today, issues of gender equality, the unequal power relations of the European empires in relation to colonised peoples, and the emergence of more ostensibly democratic system of government and representation provide important contexts from which to better understand the musical activities which were proliferating. Lectures and seminar discussions introduce the themes of the module and create opportunities to work through ideas from lectures, readings and listening assignments. This part of the module is assessed through a portfolio of work done following the seminars.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

The cultural and historical understanding of musics of the first half of the twentieth century. At the close of the module students will have engaged with a range of materials and ideas around this period and will have explored key events and musics that contribute to this era from a range of different cultural and social perspectives.

Intended Skill Outcomes

By the end of this module the students will have
• evaluated the relationships between musical materials and historical/cultural contexts;
• identified both short-term and long-term social and cultural factors in the formation of these musical repertories;
• applied historical and historiographical techniques learnt during the module in their own independent work;

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture102:0020:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion201:0020:00Completion of three formative exercises set during the first part of the module
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities1041:00104:00independent research and assessment preparation
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities104:0040:00readings and listenings for weekly seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching11:001:00surgery hours for small group discussion of research essays in final week of module
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:3015:00seminar discussions synthesising lecture materials with readings/listening assignments PIP
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

- Lectures introduce knowledge and skill, demonstrate their application, and set the ground for reading and listening assignments set after each lecture

- Small group teaching in seminars offers closer supervision of assignments set after lectures

- Tutorials/surgery hours allow additional time for students to discuss their research projects with specialised members of the teaching staff

- Independent study follows exercises set in lectures

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2A1004000 word essay
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise2M3 short written exercises to support students' evaluation of their understanding of key points.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Throughout the module the students will have explored a variety of different musics from this era.

The summative essay (4000 words) at the end of the module will be an opportunity to complete a more research-oriented piece of work, directed by a choice of essay questions, in which students identify and research - with staff support - a specific case study connected to musical modernism. Three short written assignments set during the first part of the module serve as formative exercises, and will afford students the opportunity to articulate their ideas, and to receive feedback on their understanding of key issues.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.