Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)

Module MUSI2661: World Music Traditions

Department: Music

MUSI2661: World Music Traditions

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap Location Durham


  • MUSI1251 Introduction to Ethnomusicology


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This course builds upon the first year’s introductory module, providing students with more detailed knowledge of particularly well-documented musical traditions from around the world – the ways in which these traditions are perpetuated and the musical patterns, concepts and contexts that define them. Knowledge of these traditions will serve as a strong foundation for engaging with the broad range of topics covered by ethnomusicologists. At the same time, through examination of influential case-studies, the module encourages students to critically assess leading ethnomusicologists’ diverse methods of research and representation.


  • Reflecting the diversity of approaches to music making that exist in the world and highlighting the various roles that music serves in human life, the module explores traditions from a wide variety of cultures, systematically examining selected examples from different geographical locations, including the Far East, South East Asia, the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East. In all cases, students are encouraged to listen and read widely, in order to comprehend the logic within musical structures and identify the complex motivations underlying performance practice, transmission, and modern adaptations. The following are amongst the many forms addressed: Chinese guqin, Japanese shakuhachi music, Brazilian samba, Javanese and Balinese gamelan, Australian didgeridoo, Zimbabwean mbira, and Central African pygmy music. While exploring the diverse traditions, the course introduces the students to some of the most influential case studies in the ethnomusicological ‘canon’. The module also interrogates the idea of ‘tradition’ itself, investigating the ways in which musical traditions are conceptualised across the world, and considering the aims and methods of the ethnomusicologists who have investigated them.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • The module provides the students with knowledge about numerous musical traditions around the world – musical structures, performance contexts, historical and recent adaptations, and modes of transmission and reception. At the same time, students acquire knowledge of the research methods and key findings of influential ethnomusicologists, identifying who has studied what in which particular regions of the world, and how.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Notably, students will learn to evaluate music in its broader context, both as social fact and cultural artefact.
Key Skills:
  • To develop informed critical perspectives, to formulate coherent lines of academic enquiry, and to enhance key research skills including bibliographic search and critical evaluation of sources.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Each lecture explores several traditions from a particular part of the world, providing audio-visual examples and exploring cultural history. Students are encouraged to prepare for forthcoming lectures by listening to recordings and reading around the subject. In successive weeks, recurrent themes emerge and are explored through discussion. In their assignments, the students then pursue chosen themes of particular personal interest. A number of practical workshops are also incorporated to help the students gain a working knowledge of structures and techniques. One of these is a lecture/workshop about Javanese gamelan music, which is conducted in the Durham Observatory.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 19 Weekly during terms 1 and 2 1 hour 19
Individual Tutorials 4 Twice during terms 1 and 2 15 minutes 1
Group Tutorials/Workshops 4 Twice during terms 1 and 2 1.5 hours 6
Preparation and Reading 174

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
3,000 word essay 3,000 words 100% Yes
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
3,000 word essay 3,000 words 100% yes

Formative Assessment:

2 preparatory mini essays, 2 x transcription assignments.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University