Music and Society A (W3057)

15 credits, Level 4

Autumn teaching

Music does not exist in isolation from society. Many cultures in the world have no word for music conceived as an entity distinct from the contexts in which it takes place; contexts such as social or religious ritual, dance or performance. Only in modern western culture has the idea of art music as something autonomous and removed from the everyday world evolved.

But in its production, distribution and reception music is always influenced by social forces: new technologies, economic conditions, the maintenance of social and cultural distinctions and value systems, changes in patterns of employment and leisure, even modes of transport. And as the world around us changes, so music itself responds to those changes.

How can we come to understand the intimate connections between music and society? Why is music meaningful to us, and how can we understand how music has meaning at all? What is the function of art music in cultures dominated by commercial values? How can we grasp the relationships between the multiplicity of musical forms that are available in a modern globalised culture? How can we evaluate the impact of the different media and technologies by which music is disseminated and consumed?

These are some of the questions that this module seeks to address. The module also aims to introduce you to different intellectual approaches to these questions, and to broaden your engagement with the issues through independent research.


50%: Lecture
50%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 128 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to COVID-19, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: