MUS2004 : Themes in Musical Modernism

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 up to the middle of 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 popular music, the idea of modernity in music.

- To understand how the different strands of art/classical music relate to one another (Neo-Classicism, Nationalism, Serialism, The Avant-Garde, Neo-Romanticism, etc.) and to vernacular music (Kurt Weill and Jazz, Vaughan Williams and Folk, for example) across the twentieth century.

Outline Of Syllabus

The first semester of the module will take a general over-view of some of the main composers whose work forms what is often seen as the European "mainstream" of modernism - Mahler, Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Bartok. 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 selected works of "modern". Lectures alternate weekly with small group seminar discussions on set works and texts in which students will present and discuss their work. Assessment of this semester will be by a written exam at the end of the semester.

Following this the second semester will look at selected case studies from the range of other "modernist" composers whose work looks outside of the so-called mainstream - Kurt Weill and George Gershwin's engagement with jazz, for example, the experiments of the Italian Futurists or the Dada movement of Zurich, Soviet Composers such as Shostakovich, American "radicals" such as Charles Ives and Harry Partch, early experiments with electronic music, and so forth. 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. 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
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:006 in Semester 1 and 5 in Semester 2
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching102:0020:00Seminars - 5 in Semester 1 and 5 in Semester 2
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery101:0010:00Tutorials after Easter on individual essays
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1148:00148:00N/A
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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1201A50Written unseen exam
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2A502,500 - 3,000 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation2MIn-class presentation
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

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

The examination 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 (unseen).

The 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