Music first year modules

Module details

For those students taking 80 credits of Music:

  • Historical Musicology
    • Baroque and Classical Music
    • Romantic and 20th Century Music
    • Medieval and Renaissance Music
    • Popular and World Musics
  • Tonal Harmony and Counterpoint

One module from:

  • Paper and Studio Composition
  • Performance

For those students taking 60 credits of Music:

  • Historical Musicology
    • Baroque and Classical Music 
    • Romantic and 20th Century Music 
    • Medieval and Renaissance Music 
    • Popular and World Musics 
  • Tonal Harmony and Counterpoint

For those students taking 40 credits of Music:

  • Historical Musicology
    • Baroque and Classical Music 
    • Romantic and 20th Century Music 
  • Tonal Harmony and Counterpoint

Module descriptions

Baroque and Classical Music

The module will consist of two units, dealing with the Baroque and Classical periods respectively, each taught by five two-hour year-group lectures and a number of 90-minute seminars delivered to smaller groups. There will be one ‘set work’ for each unit, which will be taught from a technical angle in the seminars and will provide a focus for historical discussion in the lectures. Music of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century will be placed in its social, economic and cultural contexts, in part by examining the patrons, audience, musicians, and composers through issues of social status and gender. Specific themes will include reception, dissemination, aesthetics, the conception of the early modern body, the relationship between secular and sacred, the changing valuation of vocal and instrumental music, the blurring of the 'traditional' roles of composer and musician, the relationship between the composed 'work' and performances, and the changing role that patrons and the audience played in performance and composition. These themes and issues will be illustrated by two set works, one from the earlier seventeenth century and one from the early eighteenth century, which will also be analysed in terms of style, form, harmony and modality/tonality. Music of the late eighteenth century, especially that of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, will be placed in its social, economic and cultural contexts, with a focus on the emerging music publishing industry, middle-class patronage, the institution of the public concert, the political ideals of the French Revolution and the possibilities for entrepreneurship in musical composition. These themes will be illustrated by the set work, which will also be analysed from technical perspectives in terms of form, harmony and tonality.

Romantic and Twentieth-Century Music

The module will consist of two units, dealing with the nineteenth and twentieth centuries respectively, each taught by five two-hour year-group lectures and a number of 90- minute seminars delivered to smaller groups. There will be one ‘set work’ for each unit, which will be taught from a technical angle in the seminars and will provide a focus for historical discussion in the lectures. Romantic music in its historical, social and cultural context, along with its specific technical features, will be introduced through the set work, elucidating the fundamental aesthetic issues pertaining to Romantic music, including the so-called 'war of the Romantics', concepts of 'absolute' and 'programme' music, concepts of the 'conservative' and 'avant-garde', and evolving treatment of harmony and tonality. Twentieth-century music in its historical, social and cultural context, will be introduced through a series of five lectures on a single broad topic (such as the Avant-Garde, Neoclassicism, Music and the Second World War, Expressionism, Music and the Cold War, Postmodernism etc.). Technical features of twentieth-century music will be explored in classes dealing with a single large-scale set work closely related to the lecture series.

Medieval and Renaissance Music

The module will consist of two units, dealing with music of the Medieval and Renaissance periods respectively, each taught by five two-hour year-group lectures and a number of 90-minute seminars delivered to smaller groups. There will be several ‘set works’ for each unit, which will be taught from a technical angle in the seminars and will provide a focus for historical discussion in the lectures. The module builds out from close analysis of the pieces themselves to a wide-ranging consideration of the reasons they took the forms they did: what-and whose needs they served, and what roles they played in society's larger view of itself.

Popular and World Musics

As Britain's multicultural profile becomes ever-more pronounced, and as the history of popular music of the twentieth century and beyond gains ever-deeper historical perspective, it is increasingly incumbent on music departments to extend their remit beyond the confines of Western art music. Our aim at Birmingham is to give students a broad perspective on the range of musics in today's world, and, while no-one can hope to cover 'everything', this first-year module is designed to give a taster of a range of popular and non-Western musics, in order to encourage a more rounded perspective than has been traditional, to engender a broader perspective on Western art music, and to stimulate a broader range of potential study at postgraduate level.

Tonal Harmony and Counterpoint

In the Autumn semester, weekly lectures will provide the theoretical background for the practical study of tonal harmony, analytical tools and music examples aimed at familiarising students with the style of the ‘age of common practice’. Throughout the year, weekly seminars will explore the principles of harmony and counterpoint mainly by means of pastiche composition and similar exercises, and provide a forum for both discussion of weekly assignments and for the working or re-working of examples; genres to be studied include two-part counterpoint in tonal context, figured bass realisation, Bach chorales, classical String Quartet, and early Romantic Lieder. Aural skills, especially related to understanding of harmonic relationships, will also be trained during the seminars.

Studio Composition

The module will be taught in a variety of ways: in addition to ‘straight’ lectures, there will be demonstrations, workshops, electroacoustic studio sessions (including familiarity with computer-based editing, mixing and signal processing software) tutorials, and guided listening and reading. The aim is to stimulate the growth of composition and to use all available means to achieve it. Attendance at the weekly MiniBEAST listening sessions in the Dome Room is also encouraged.

Paper Composition

The module will be taught in a variety of ways: in addition to ‘straight’ lectures, there will be demonstrations, workshops, tutorials, and guided listening and reading. The aim is to stimulate the growth of composition and to use all available means to achieve it. The final assessment for Paper Composition will be played through either in the first week of the Spring Term or the third week of the Summer term. Attendance at workshops and seminars run in conjunction with the Department’s link with BCMG is also required as they form an integral and quality aspect of the course.

Performance

This module comprises three elements:

  1. One-to-one tuition over the academic year. This tuition (20 hours) is provided either by approved teachers at the Birmingham Conservatoire, or by tutors employed directly by the Department, or, for Early Music, through CEMPR, and is normally divided equally between two studies, either two instruments or one instrument and voice. The aim is to make as much technical and musical progress as possible and to provide a basis for further specialisation in performance in the 2nd and Final Years. Teachers supply reports towards the end of the Spring Term, and students may be auditioned at the end of the 1st Year if these are unsatisfactory.
  2. Independent work with aural training software, in order to maintain and improve listening skills; regular tests will be set and there is a end of year aural test.
  3. Attendance at Barber Evening and/or BEMF concerts throughout the year. Students attend a minimum of four concerts.
 

Disclaimer

Modules and courses are constantly updated and under review. As with most academic programmes, please remember that it is possible that a module may not be offered in any particular year, for instance because a member of staff is on study leave or too few students opt for it. The University of Birmingham reserves the right to vary or withdraw any course or module.