Music second year modules

Module details

For those students taking 80 credits of Music:

  • Critical Musicology 
  • Analysis

Two modules from:

  • Paper Composition
  • Studio Composition
  • Orchestration 
  • Puccini 
  • Music in California 
  • Conducting 
  • Arts Management in Practice 
  • An Introduction to Sound Recording Techniques 
  • Interactive Music and Creative Computing

For those students taking 60 credits of Music:

One module from:

  • Critical Musicology
  • Analysis

Two modules from: 

  • Performance 
  • Paper Composition 
  • Studio Composition 
  • Orchestration 
  • Puccini 
  • Music in California 
  • Conducting 
  • Arts Management in Practice 
  • An Introduction to Sound Recording Techniques 
  • Interactive Music and Creative Computing 

For those students taking 40 credits of Music:

One module from: 

  • Critical Musicology
  • Analysis

One module from: 

  • Performance 
  • Paper Composition 
  • Studio Composition 
  • Orchestration 
  • Puccini 
  • Music in California 
  • Conducting 
  • Arts Management in Practice 
  • An Introduction to Sound Recording Techniques 
  • Interactive Music and Creative Computing

Module descriptions

Critical Musicology

This module introduces basic critical methodologies, concepts and vocabularies employed in current academic work in the fields of historical musicology, ethnomusicology and popular music studies. Topics may include the history of musicology, music and culture, contrasting approaches to the anthropology of music, the sociology of music, music and postcolonial theory, music and critical theory, sound studies, the ontology of music, musical modernism and postmodernism, music and politics, music and class, music and ideology, music and violence, the ethics of sound recording, critical organology, music and race, music and feminism, music and gender, music and queer theory, theories of performance, and theories of reception.

Analysis

This module introduces basic analytical concepts and skills for the understanding of Western art music from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century. Topics may include mode, word-painting, fugue, the schemata of the gallant style, cadence and themes in the Classical style and thereafter, sonata form, the Romantic fragment, Wagner’s form and harmony, narrative patterns, pitch-class collections and sets, non-Germanic musical syntax, twelve-note technique, analysis of rhythm, texture and gesture.

Paper Composition

  • Prerequisite: Successful completion of year one Composition module.
  • Successful completion of this module is a prerequisite for admission to Special Subject - Paper Composition and Independent Study - Paper Composition.
  • NB: Year 2 students will be given priority when allocating places on this module.

Personal aesthetic convictions are respected, but a willingness to expand one’s awareness and a desire for creative investigation are expected. Presented topics, upon which fortnightly assignments are based, will develop a number of technical aspects of contemporary music. Workshop-style sessions provide the opportunity to review compositional decisions and to monitor progress. Final projects are played through during the Summer Term revision period. Additional seminars, workshops and concert attendance are an integral and quality part of the module. Attendance is required (10% of the final mark), and one mark will be subtracted for each unjustified absence. Bona fide membership of NME so as to develop an understanding of twentieth-century performance practice is also recommended.

Studio Composition

  • Prerequisite: Successful completion of year one Composition module.
  • Successful completion of this module is a prerequisite for admission to Special Subject Studio - Composition and Independent Study - Studio Composition. 
  • NB Year 2 students will be given priority when allocating places on this module.

This course builds on techniques learned in Studio Composition. Starting from a group recording session to gather source sound material, classes (nominally fortnightly) focus on techniques of digital sound editing, processing and mixing, together with discussion of compositional and aesthetic issues. The learning process is significantly informed by guided reading and listening – attendance at the weekly MiniBEAST listening sessions (11.30-12.30 on Wednesdays throughout Semesters 1 & 2) and at BEAST events in Birmingham are compulsory components of the course, for which students are required to keep a diary containing critical notes on the works presented; they should therefore avoid scheduling instrumental lessons or committing to any other activities at these times. In Semester 2, attention shifts to the composition of individual pieces by each student; scheduled class times provide an opportunity for the tutor to monitor and give feedback on the progress of each student’s piece as it develops.

Orchestration

  • Prerequisite: Normally, successful completion of year one Techniques of Musical Perception module.

The module aims to provide students with facility in orchestrating Classical and Romantic music; to sharpen the ear and improve command of harmony and counterpoint, musical notation, calligraphy, and the presentation of scores and parts. The module begins with basic techniques of scoring for strings, woodwind and brass, and moves to the scoring of Classical and Romantic music for symphony orchestra—up to, and including, Debussy. It is hoped that the students in the group will be sufficiently numerous and diverse to allow their written work to be played, heard and discussed. Examples of instrumental scoring by a range of composers will be examined in class of prescribed for private study.

Puccini

Despite - and, surely, because - of their central place in the performing canon, Puccini’s operas have proven remarkably resistant to academic discourse. This seminar aims to rectify that situation, and also to interrogate it. Drawing on a variety of critical perspectives , as well as our own close listening to representative works, we’ll try to develop new interpretations of some of Puccini's major operas, while also paying close attention to their afterlives on stage and screen.

Music in California

This module is concerned with understanding the “audible history” of California through its many musical forms. Three themes central to the module are multiculturalism (and the different forms multiculturalism takes), music in social life (how music serves as the nexus for community building and cultural identity), and cultural geography (how different musical forms articulate specific localities, whether those be neighbourhoods, towns, cities, or regions). Topics and examples may include indigenous communities and their musical forms (and the politics of indigenous territorial claims); pre- and post-statehood Spanish-language musics in relation to the changing demographics of work; the role of experimental popular musics (e.g. punk, heavy metal, surf rock) in local underground scenes; multiculturalism and the pedagogy of “world music” in California; Hollywood film music; the recording industry of Los Angeles; jazz music and community organizing in Los Angeles and San Francisco; and California’s avant-garde art musics as a distinctive hybrid between classical, popular, and world musical forms.

Conducting

The course will comprise a combination of theory and practice. The basics of stick technique will be studied as one of the means of communicating with performers. The importance of analysis and the issues involved in learning a score and making decisions about it will also be investigated. Students will conduct ensembles formed by the rest of the group.

Arts Management in Practice

A practical module in Arts Management focusing on the Classical Music industry delivered as a combination of seminars and practical classes. Subjects covered may include marketing, project management, fundraising and finance, programming and contracts. Guest lecturers will be invited from the University Cultural Partnerships and from Alumni working in the field. Assessment will be report and presentation based.

An Introduction to Sound Recording Techniques

An introduction to the skills required in contemporary recording. The course covers aspects of microphone use and placement; mixing and balancing; monitoring; production and engineering techniques; track compilation and post-production and CD-R Mastering. The course is primarily practice based, and takes a musical, as opposed to a technical, approach to recording.

Eighteenth-Century Counterpoint

This course will familiarize students with 18th-century counterpoint techniques through the study of major repertoire and the writing of a variety of small forms such as canons, preludes, and inventions. The course will also include the introduction to the fugue, in form of exercises and writing of an exposition. An emphasis will be placed on practical skills. This course is suitable for anyone interested in deepening their understanding of counterpoint as well as developing their practical writing skills, and is particularly suitable for composers.

Interactive Music and Creative Computing

  • Successful completion of this module is a prerequisite for admission to Independent Study - Interactive Music and Creative Computing and Special Subject - Interactive Music and Creative Computing

This course will explore the use of computers for the realtime creation of music and/or sound installations, within a lecture/workshop environment. It will explore the possibilities of software such as Max/MSP and SuperCollider. Topics will include sound synthesis, realtime processing, interaction, and the development of graphical interfaces. Knowledge of computer programming and advanced maths is NOT a prerequisite.

Solo Performance

Students receive practical musical tuition during the teaching weeks of the year. This total of 20 or 22 hours’ tuition may be divided between two studies (instrumental or vocal; 1st study 12 hours, 2nd study 10 hours) or may all be taken on one study (20 hours). The aim is to make as much technical and musical progress as possible and to provide a basis for further specialisation in performance at Level 3. Lessons are given by tutors at the Birmingham Conservatoire, and by tutors employed by the Department of Music, some via CEMPR.

 

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.