Music and Society A

Module code: W3057
Level 4
15 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

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.

Module learning outcomes

  • Undertake an in depth analysis of a musical event, based on the model employed by Christopher Small in Musicking, relating to a particular musical event and musical genre to wider historical and social contexts.
  • Identify and describe a particular musical genre, and explain its social meanings and values.
  • Engage with theoretical ideas concerning the relationship between music and society.
  • Undertake independent research based upon primary and secondary sources, evaluate the reliability of research sources, in particular web-based sources, and deploy research materials in support of an argument.