Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module MUSI41530: Advanced Musical Analysis

Department: Music

MUSI41530: Advanced Musical Analysis

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2020/21 Module Cap None.
Tied to MA in Music


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To give students an advanced knowledge of current trends in music theory and analysis.
  • To build competence in formal theory (Formenlehre), harmonic theory (including neo-Riemannian approaches) and theories of musical expression (especially topic theory) as representative developing research areas.
  • To develop a deep understanding of the issues arising in the application of these theories in case-study works drawn from the nineteenth-century repertoire.


  • The module will appraise critical debates about the nature and value of musical analysis, from the new-musicological critique of the 1990s to the present state of the discipline. It will examine contending views of the relationship between music analysis and formalism, and of music theory’s claims to scientific legitimacy.
  • Students will acquire a thorough grounding in the discipline’s emergent research areas, with a particular focus on the development of formal theory (including sonata theory and the theory of formal functions), harmonic theory (especially neo-Riemannian theory), and theories of musical rhetoric and expression (with a concentration on topic theory).
  • The seminars will focus on close readings of case-study works, through which the module’s theoretical content will be applied and critically evaluated. Indicative works may include (but will not necessarily be limited to): the first movement of Schubert’s Quartet in G, D. 887; Chopin’s Prelude in A minor, Op. 28, No. 2; Wagner’s Tristan Prelude; and the Andante of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 83.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • a comprehensive overview of the critical debates surrounding theory and analysis over the past three decades.
  • a detailed knowledge of formal theory, current harmonic theory, and topic theory as representative sub-disciplines.
  • an ability to apply theory analytically as critically aware practitioners.
  • 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 relevant creative and performative praxes.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • students will learn to apply theories as analytical tools, and to contextualise theories historically.
  • 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 emerged and of their specific formal and stylistic features
  • advanced competence in musical literacy
Key Skills:
  • Upon completion of this module, students will be able:
  • to appraise and evaluate key philosophical and cultural-theoretical ideas attaching to the recent critical history of music theory and analysis.
  • to demonstrate a deep understanding of representative areas of current music theory.
  • to develop critical competence in the analytical application of theories to case-study works.
  • to engage in close readings of a wide range of challenging texts (musical, verbal, audio-visual, as appropriate)
  • to deploy independent research skills using appropriate specialist tools and resources;
  • 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
  • to demonstrate 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)
  • to deploy advanced knowledge of professional conduct in meeting academic standards, including appropriate use of relevant ethical codes of practice and correct referencing of sources
  • to deploy problem-solving skills
  • to deploy organisational skills, including time management..

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

  • Seminars will introduce and develop both critical debates in the field and detailed consideration of the module’s core theories. Students will present research reports in the seminars on the case-study works. 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 fortnightly 2 hours 18
Directed learning 10 variable 1 hour 10
Preparation and reading 272

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Analytical Project (project should be devised in consultation with the module leader and the topic formally approved by him/her) 5,000 words 100% yes

Formative Assessment:

Periodic small-scale analytical 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