Module and Programme Catalogue

Search site

Find information on

This module is inactive in the selected year. The information shown below is for the academic year that the module was last running in, prior to the year selected.

2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

MUSS3540 Contemporary Aesthetics

40 creditsClass Size: 40

Module manager: Dr Matthew Pritchard

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2019/20


MUSS2520Aesthetics and Criticism

Module replaces

MUSI3525 Contemporary Aesthetics in Theory and Practice (Minor)MUSI3545 Contemporary Aesthetics in Theory and Practice

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The module aims to give students a grounding in contemporary aesthetics through various current music-related theoretical topics and broader schools of 20th-21st century philosophical thought. ‘Contemporary’ here is taken in a broad sense to include texts and thinkers perhaps more than half a century old in some instances, but whose ideas remain crucial to theorizing the present moment in music aesthetics. Students will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to bring these modes of thought to bear on a variety of contemporary practices. These artistic practices will be drawn from a variety of musics, and may even lie partially outside music (in cases such as multimedia or sound art); in their own writing and seminar contributions students should feel free to consider any aspect of present-day musical practice that seems appropriate. Sessions in the first semester, as in MUSS2520, will rely on the prior reading and assimilation of set texts, and will alternate between staff-led sessions and topics introduced through student presentations. In the second semester guidance on individual projects will be provided through a series of one-to-one tutorials.


The module aims to give students a grounding in recent thinking in aesthetics through a representative selection of thinkers and to equip them with the skills and knowledge to bring these modes of thought to bear on a variety of contemporary musical practices. Students will be encouraged to explore areas of artistic practice which are new to them and/or to use the modes of aesthetic thought studied in the course as a springboard to examine thinkers only covered tangentially.
More generically, the module seeks to give students the tools to assimilate large quantities of complex information and to be capable of re-presenting this information in an abbreviated form. Moreover, it encourages students to develop skills in the application of ideas drawn from one field into another, learning ways in which apparently diverse areas can impact upon one another. Students will develop their abilities to carry out a long-term independent project, for which they take greater responsibility than is likely typically to have been the case in their academic work to date. The module, in short, aims to ensure that students have the tools to move from being guided to independent learners.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1) demonstrate an understanding of various schools of contemporary aesthetic thought;
2) find clear and cogent applications of philosophical/cultural theory to current musical practices;
3) summarize and carefully evaluate complex, wide-ranging debates on a number of topics central to contemporary music and musicology;
4) use their own research skills, powers of critique and theoretical synthesis to execute an independent, longer-term project


The core syllabus content will be delivered through 11 2-hour seminars in semester 1, adopting a broadly discussion-based format, with some lecture, student presentation and workshop elements, and utilising set readings. The first of these sessions, in addition to providing an introduction to course content, will also furnish advice and practice tasks covering essential reading and writing skills – those of the level required to comprehend and critique more advanced theoretical texts covered in the module. Otherwise, semester 1 sessions will alternate between those focussed on a particular figure or movement within contemporary philosophical aesthetics or cultural theory, which will be closely guided by the module leader, and those dealing with topics of more direct relevance to music or musicology, in which the discussion will be led by a group of students. The first semester’s work will be most directly assessed through an essay showing how one of the areas of theory studied could be fruitfully applied to music.
An indicative set of semester 1 sessions would be:
1. Introduction
2. The work concept
3. Phenomenology and perception
4. Music and/or/as sound
5. Hermeneutics
6. Gender and sexuality in music
7. Postmodernism
8. The aesthetics of popular music
9. Deleuzian aesthetics
10. Media theory
11. Postcolonial aesthetics

The second semester will involve the development of individual independent projects in aesthetics. Over 3 half-hour tutorials, students will be encouraged to develop the structural practices of the previous term (the use of a particular mode of aesthetic thought to critique or explicate a particular discourse of creative practice) in independent ways. This might involve the exploration of a thinker not previously considered within aesthetics modules at either Level 2 or Level 3 or the exploration of a music (or musics) previously under-examined, using one of the models discussed. Second-semester projects can also broaden the range of theory engaged with in a comparative or synthetic fashion, rather than focussing exclusively on the application of a single thinker or text. A student who is also taking composition might find it useful to use this project as a way of reflecting upon his or her own artistic practice, in the light of current aesthetic theory.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours376.50
Total Contact hours23.50
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)400.00

Private study

Preparation for class seminars – 66 hours
Research and essay writing – 295.5 hours
Preparation for tutorials - 15 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress during semester 1 will be monitored through student-tutor interaction and group discussions during seminars, with staff and peer feedback on students’ ideas for the first assessment being provided in a workshop hour within one of the later sessions in term. Students’ overall progress achieved by the end of the semester will be measured by performance in the 3,500-4,000 word essay. Further progress monitoring and feedback on the development of work on the project will then be provided through one-to-one tutorials in semester 2.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3,500 - 4,000 words40.00
Project5,000-6,000 word self-guided project60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 16/09/2019


Browse Other Catalogues

Errors, omissions, failed links etc should be notified to the Catalogue Team.PROD

© Copyright Leeds 2019