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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

MUSS3129 Music as Performance: People, Bodies and Instruments

20 creditsClass Size: 23

Module manager: Dr Emily Payne

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module explores one of the most significant (yet deceptively simple) movements in musicology over the past thirty years: a shift from noun to verb. Increasingly, music has come to be understood not as an object that is reified in the score by a genius composer to be realised by an obedient performer, but as performance: an embodied, social, and inherently creative activity. Drawing on research from disciplines including sociology, philosophy, psychology, disability studies, and (ethno-)musicology, the module critically examines the implications of this move and the issues that it raises for the meaning and significance of music-making. How do musicians and groups create music through processes of collaboration and negotiation, and what does this mean for the traditional power dynamics of music-making? What knowledge is creatively embodied in performance, and how can a rethinking of the score inform understandings of musical (dis-)abilities? What role can the materials of performance (i.e., scores, sketches, instruments, technologies) play in our understanding of musical creativity? How does the opposition between improvisation and performance exemplify tacit understandings of orality and literacy, and how have these mapped onto ideas about race? How do these debates play out in ‘real-world’ institutional settings such as university curricula and pedagogies? Finally, what are the limits of an understanding of music as performance? These issues will be examined using a wide variety of examples of different performance practices and traditions, including popular, classical, improvised, and contemporary avant-garde music. The module is designed for both performers and non-performers.


The module engages students with a topic within the field of musicological research – the idea of music as performance. Students are encouraged and supported to challenge critically existing musicological positions and perspectives on the subject, drawing on interdisciplinary approaches as appropriate, to increase understanding of the specific research topic and, through this, to develop independent research skills for application within and beyond the module.

Learning outcomes
1. Demonstrate in-depth musical knowledge through musicological study of performance.
2. Apply advanced historical, analytical, critical and comparative methodologies to the articulation and development of arguments.
3. Demonstrate evidence of growing independence in research, a deepening understanding of methodology, and a high level of written and oral presentational skills.
4. Develop an awareness of contextual approaches applicable to the repertoire covered.


Taught sessions will usually focus on specific topics from within the broad musicological area of music as performance, offering a wide ranging yet nuanced investigation of the subject. Lectures draw on research from disciplines such as sociology, philosophy, psychology, disability studies and (ethno-)musicology to examine critically the implications of the shift from music as noun to music as verb, and the issues that this raises for the meaning and significance of music-making.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours181.75
Total Contact hours18.25
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

4 hours evaluation of notes per lecture or seminar: 36 hours;
8 hours reading and listening per lecture or seminar, including any pre-class work: 72 hours;
Completing assessments: 58.75 hours;
Tutorial preparation: 15 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be monitored through in-class discussions and the tutorial, as well as via the shorter piece of work submitted for the module assessment.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
AssignmentEssay of 3600-4400 words OR extended verbal presentation of c.20 minutes75.00
AssignmentVerbal presentation of c.10 minutes OR written assignment of 1500-2000 words.25.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Options for assessment on this module are offered in order that students may choose the type that best suits their learning style. Students must choose either a short verbal presentation (25%) and longer essay (75%), or a shorter piece of written work (25%) and longer verbal presentation (75%); the chosen options must include both verbal and written assessment, and total 100%. The short written assignment may indicatively include submissions such as: a conference proposal/extended abstract and annotated bibliography; a position paper; a literature review; annotated discography; or self-reflective report. The submission must be agreed with an appropriate member of staff and may either link to or stand apart from the extended conference style presentation. The short verbal presentation may likewise link to or stand apart from the extended written submission. The deadline for the 25% submission may vary on a topic by topic basis, and depending on the number of students opting for each sort of assessment, but is usually around wk 7-9. It should always take place in suitable time for feedback for be provided to students in time for them to draw on it in their 75% submission.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 01/09/2022


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