Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)

Module MUSI1251: Introduction to Ethnomusicology

Department: Music

MUSI1251: Introduction to Ethnomusicology

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap Location Durham


  • A-Level Music or equivalent.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The course aims to instill:
  • A rigorous approach to understanding the variety of musical practices and concepts encountered around the world;
  • An appreciation both of methods for cross-cultural or cross-genre comparison and of the uniqueness of specific musical traditions and their contexts;
  • Awareness of a variety of methods for describing, notating, and recording music;
  • Awareness of a range of musicological approaches to these issues.
  • Another basic aim of the course is the development of basic research skills generic to musicological research building on skills introduced through the induction process (in particular, referencing, writing a research proposal and transcribing music). The skills thus acquired complement those studied as part of Module MUSI1261 Historical Studies I.


  • This module will introduce the students to the definition of ethnomusicology, the study of music within its cultural context, and the understanding of the role of ethnography in musicological research. The module will be divided into three parts.
  • One part will focus on methods for documenting and studying music in its cultural context. Work on essay-writing skills will be an important aspect of this part
  • Another part will be dedicated to methods of representing and describing musical features and the transcription and analysis of varied musical examples. Sessions will focus on the concepts of melody, polyphony, rhythm, transcription into Western standard notation, and computer-assisted representations (e.g. pitch tracking, sonograms).
  • The module will be complemented by small-group seminars focusing on basic digital audio recording (capturing sound, microphones and recording devices, stereo recording techniques) and audio editing.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students acquire the ability to relate a range of methodologies to important issues in musical structure, performance and context.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will relate and apply a range of methodologies (for example, transcription and fieldwork) to their appropriate musical repertory/ies. They will also perform practical tasks, including: transcribing from original sources; recording and editing audio materials; and carrying out a small scale ethnographic project.
Key Skills:
  • Students will critically evaluate the appropriateness and the application of methodologies.

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

  • The module consists of 21 lectures, plus seminars and tutorials. The combination of lectures and tutorials instils and reinforces the awareness of relevant issues and methodologies. Practical exercises bed down 'hands-on' experience of ethnomusicological skills. Seminar activity will complement learning of technical skills (such as audio recording and editing) with small-group meetings in which students will discuss key readings. Students will be required to carry out their own ethnographic work (e.g. interviewing members of local ensembles).
  • This format is designed to ensure active participation of students in the learning process. The assessments address creative, practical, and critical modes of engagement and encourage students to develop original research questions as well as analytical skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 weekly 1 hour 20
Tutorials 3 1 in Michaelmas, 2 in Epiphany 1 hour 3
Seminars 5 1 in Michaelmas, 4 in Epiphany 1 hour 5
Individual study (including fieldwork) 172

Summative Assessment

Component: Project including the following assessments Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Critical analysis of a recording 40% Yes
A 2,500 word essay 2,500 words 60% Yes
Component: Portfolio Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Portfolio of Transcriptions with accompanying short commentaries 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Students will be asked to prepare short essays, sound recordings, and short transcriptions. These will lead to the preparation of the summative assessments. Feedback will be given during 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