Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)

Module MUSI3731: Words and Music

Department: Music

MUSI3731: Words and Music

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • A-Level Music


Excluded Combination of Modules


  • To enhance understanding of the relationship between music and words.
  • To enhance the ability of students to reflect conceptually on musical material, forms, and performances, especially in the treatment of text and in different types of vocal production.
  • To develop the ability of students to compare musical techniques and principles between different traditions and genres.
  • To develop the ability of students to pursue their own independent research projects within the framework of existing theories in the area.


  • This course explores the role of the human voice in a wide variety of musical traditions and genres, and of the role of words in musical expression. Topics covered, with the help of a published Reader on the topic which will serve as a key resource, will include the origins and relationship between speech and song and between instrumental music and oral mnemonics, identity and subjectivity, words and meaning in song, social and ritual functions of song, word setting, and narrative. Musical examples and case studies may include (but are not limited to) a variety of Western art and popular music (e.g. opera, Lied, country, rap), Indian and Middle Eastern art song, and a variety of ritual and context-specific forms (e.g. laments, wedding songs, healing songs, worship songs). Students will work on an original investigation of a piece or performance of music applying some of the perspectives taught in the course. Nb. This is not a practical course in singing.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will become familiar with a range of theories and analytical techniques, deriving from different academic traditions (especially musicology, ethnomusicology and philosophy), appropriate to a wide range of musical styles.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will achieve a basic competence in applying these skills practically through a series of formative exercises.
Key Skills:
  • The module will establish and embed theoretical understanding of music and vocality, while developing practical skills in analysing and commenting critically on a wide variety of music.

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

  • Core teaching will be delivered in fortnightly 2-hour sessions, which will be structured flexibly to include elements of lecturing as well as group seminar discussion. Small group tutorials will be arranged around discussion of formative work, for example reading of key works and analytical exercises, and also allow time for mini presentations. A ‘mini conference’ session will be dedicated to student presentations.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Fortnightly 2 hours 20
Tutorials 3 1 hour 3
Mini conference 1 4 hours (depending on student numbers) 4
Reading and Preparation 173

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 4,000 words 100% No
Component: Oral Presentation Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Oral Presentation of 15 minutes 15 minutes 100% No

Formative Assessment:

Students will be asked to prepare short oral presentations on particular works, recordings or topics and written exercises such as literature reviews. Feedback will be given at tutorials.

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