Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module MUSI40930: Core Research Seminars

Department: Music

MUSI40930: Core Research Seminars

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To develop the close reading, critical thinking, and interpretative skills theorised in the Research Methods and Resources module, affording opportunities for their specific application to explorations of major intellectual issues germane to all fields of music research
  • To deepen student’s understanding of the intellectual reach of the wider domain of music research
  • To develop critical awareness of the intra-disciplinary links between the various sub-disciplines of music studies and practice-based sub-disciplines such as composition and performance, and the pertinence of interdisciplinary perspectives to the study of music


  • This core module will explore major intellectual issues pertaining to the study of music on all pathways of the programme, whether musicological or practice-based. It is designed to reinforce the critical thinking and close reading skills dealt with theoretically in Research Methods and Resources, allowing opportunities for their practical application to the study of topics of fundamental significance for the discipline of music studies as a whole. It aims to assist students not only to deepen their understanding of the latter, but also to develop intellectual independence and assurance in tackling unfamiliar challenges. The nine two-hour seminars will be organised thematically into groups of three. Indicative topics may include (but will not be restricted to) broad themes such as ‘Concepts of authenticity’, ‘Tradition and innovation’, ‘Virtuosity’—which will be explored from the different perspectives of the musicologist, ethnomusicologist, composer, and performer through class discussions of set texts and musical works that are generally regarded as being of foundational significance within the field of study. The module will provide a unifying focus for the entire programme and encourage intellectual dialogue between students representing the different sub-disciplines of music studies.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Critical understanding of theories and methodologies pertinent to the scholarly study, composition, and performance of music, drawn from varied disciplinary perspectives;
  • Advanced knowledge of relevant musical repertories from a range of historical periods and geographical locations;
  • Advanced knowledge of creative and performative praxes relevant to the chosen pathway of study
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An advanced ability to engage critically with theories and methodologies pertinent to the academic study of music, composition, and performance
  • An advanced ability to describe and analyse works from a range of musical repertories, informed by an understanding of the socio-cultural matrices from which they emerge(d) and of their specific formal and stylistic features
  • An advanced ability to draw upon appropriate theoretical perspectives and methodologies to study, compose, and perform music while simultaneously deriving independent intellectual and creative insights from these activities
  • Advanced competence in musical literacy
  • Advanced competence in engaging with musical materials of different kinds, whether as physical objects (e.g. scores) and or in electronic formats (e.g. recordings, audio-visual materials)
Key Skills:
  • an advanced ability to acquire information of diverse kinds in an intellectually disciplined and systematic manner
  • an advanced ability to assimilate information and sophisticated arguments
  • an advanced ability to interpret complex information
  • independence of thought and judgement, and the ability to undertake informed criticism of the ideas of others
  • sophisticated skills in critical reasoning
  • professional organisation and time-management skills
  • an ability to communicate ideas cogently
  • an advanced ability to engage in close readings of a wide range of challenging texts (musical, verbal, audio-visual, as appropriate) • independent research skills using appropriate specialist tools and resources;
  • an advanced ability to synthesise complex materials from a wide range of sources and to present them cogently in the form of written documents, oral reports, presentations, and musical performances, as appropriate
  • competence in information technology skills to support MA learning and research (e.g. by means of: word-processing and music-processing software; databases; presentation software; audiovisual editing and analysis software; graph- and image-processing; web-based resources; relevant technologies)

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

  • Typically, directed learning may include assigning student(s) an issue, theme or topic that can be independently or collectively explored within a framework and/or with additional materials provided by the tutor. This may function as preparatory work for presenting their ideas or findings (sometimes electronically) to their peers and tutor in the context of a seminar.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 Weekly in Michaelmas Term 2 hours 18
Directed learning 10 variable 1 hour 10
Preparation and reading 272

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay on musicological topic (broadly defined), relating to one of the seminar themes. Topics to be chosen in consultation with teaching staff. 5,000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Regular small-scale written and oral presentation tasks relating to the topics covered on the module.

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