Skip to main content


MUS2004 : Themes in Musical Modernism

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Bennett Hogg
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


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

- To put art/classical music of the period into its philosophical, political, and cultural contexts, 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 as elements in a broader cultural perspective.

Outline Of Syllabus

The first semester of the module will investigate a number of different "themes" that characterise modernist music, drawing on the work of Mahler, Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and others. During this part of the module we will investigate the different ways that composers were thought of, or thought of themselves as, "modern". As well as undertaking a cultural study of the period, we shall also look in detail at representative works of "modernist" art music. Lectures and seminar discussions introduce the themes of the module and create opportunities to work through ideas from lectures, readings and listening assignments. Summative assessment of this semester will be by a set essay (2000 words) at the end of the semester, the title for which will be given before the Christmas vacation.

Following this the second semester will look at selected case studies from later in the twentieth century, the American "radicals" such as Charles Ives and Harry Partch, for example, or the post-WWII experiments in Europe. These case studies will present a range of different ways in which students may approach and devise the research essay which forms the assessment for semester 2, modelling good research methods, and exploring how to engage materials concerned with musical practices or traditions with which the student may be unfamiliar. Students will have the opportunity to choose from a list of research topics, or to devise their own essay titles, which should be submitted to the module leader for approval before the Easter vacation. These research essays will be supported by class discussions led by the module leader, and through the offer of small group or one-to-one tutorials on student work-in-progress after the Easter vacation.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion192:0092:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00lecture materials will also be available as an online resource - PIP
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading182:0036:00further reading and listening suggestions most weeks of the module
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:3013:30seminar discussions synthesising lecture materials with readings/listening assignments PIP
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities94:0036:00readings and listenings for seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery10:300:30surgery hours for discussion of research essays post-Easter vacation - 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

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A502000 words
Essay2A502000 word
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

•       Throughout the module the students will have explored a variety of people and musics from this era.

•       The summative essay at the end of semester 1 assesses the degree to which students have assimilated the central issues of the period, along with an ability to draw on and deploy the learned materials in answering specific questions (set essay title).

•       The summative essay in semester 2 will be an opportunity for a more research-oriented piece of work in which students identify and research - with staff support - specific case studies in musical modernism.

Reading Lists