Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)

Module MUSI1261: Historical Studies 1

Department: Music

MUSI1261: Historical Studies 1

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.


  • This course introduces students to historical study of the Western art music tradition, covering music from the baroque to late classical periods. A number of representative musical works from the period are explored: students deepen their knowledge of those works and the contexts of their composition and reception, while also acquiring skills foundational to the practice of historical musicology. Students will learn to be reflexive about music history writing, and begin to explore the reasons for inclusion and exclusion of works and figures in a musical or musicological canon. Students gain experience in the critical study both of music and of academic writing about music; the course will develop an understanding of conventions of academic writing and presentation and those research skills generic to musicological research, in particular, compiling a bibliography, reviewing literature, referencing, and making an oral presentation, thus building on the skills introduced through the induction process, and complementing those studied as part of Module MUSI1251 Introduction to Ethnomusicology.


  • This course will introduce students to important musical and cultural developments through representative musical works, figures and practices of the period studied. Important subsidiary themes will include the emergence and development of different musical genres (such as opera or the symphony), as well as dominant stylistic trends, approaches to listening and performance, and the infrastructure of musical life (publishing; patronage, etc.).
  • Lectures introduce musical work, figures and developments, historical narratives, and historiographical issues, building on independent reading: seminars provide the opportunity to discuss both the music and associated writings critically. A repertory of key works from the period is studied, chosen specifically to develop an informed perspective on the key issues arising in this context: students are expected to become familiar with the music through repeated listening with score work in lectures, seminars and independent study complementing the approach taken in MUSI1211 Musical Techniques.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will be expected to acquire knowledge of mainstream repertoire and musical practices, and be aware of key narratives of music history in this period.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • This module aims to develop training in basic research and writing skills which will be foundational for study at a more advanced level. Students will also learn to engage with historical and musical issues from a variety of intellectual standpoints, including the philosophical, political, cultural and analytical.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to identify and conceptualize issues; the ability to situate ideas in a context and to engage in critically informed argument; the ability to use appropriate analytical skills.

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

  • Lectures. The weekly lectures introduce central themes, repertoire and some of the key debates within musicological scholarship on the topic. Lectures work in conjunction with directed reading, which may be discussed in the lectures. The lectures build on knowledge from the directed reading to evaluate/explain broader connections or historiographical issues. In the lectures, students experience how an expert deals critically with the material to build convincing arguments and historical narratives.
  • Seminars. The seminars may be text-based, developing critical readings skills; score-based, practising the close reading of musical materials in relation to historical practices; or debate-based, requiring the students to construct and defend an argument. These and other formats assist students in taking active part in the learning process, offering opportunities for discussion and the development of critical thinking.
  • Independent study of further materials. Students are expected to further their preparation with materials such as primary sources not examined in class and further secondary literature (further reading) indicated in the handbook and at the end/during each lecture. Scores and recordings/links to relevant recordings will be regularly uploaded on DUO as required.
  • Formative assessments. These exercises and tasks will be set in preparation for the written examination, and may include the writing of short texts to develop the students' capacity to synthesise and discuss concisely complex historiographical issues and terminology; and essay writing.
  • Summative assessments. These will take two forms: 1) one 1,500 word-essay on a set topic relating to the module, and 2), one end-of-year written examination that assesses the students' engagement with the module content and the various perspectives explored in discussing music from this period. Questions may provide a source/artefact and ask students to write a commentary discussing distinguishing musical features and aspects of the historical context; alternatively students are asked to reflect about some broader themes explored across different lectures and in the directed readings.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 weekly 1 hour 20
Essay Skills Lectures 3 3 in term 1 1 hour 3
Seminars 6 3 in term 1 and 2 in term 2, 1 exam revision seminar in term 3 1 hour 6
Essay Skills Seminar 1 1 in term 1 1
Preparation and Reading 170

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative essay 1,500 words 100% Yes
Component: Exam Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written exam 2 hours 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Students will be asked to prepare short oral and written presentations on set works and/or relevant historical topics and will receive feedback at tutorials. Formative exercises will embed key competencies and develop students' skills in communicating their ideas in oral and written presentations.

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