MUS 144G Turning-Points in Western Music

MUS 144G | ARTS, BE, EDSW, EMHSS, LC* | Summer School, Semester One & Two 2021 | City Campus | 15 points

*Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Music conjoint students cannot take this General Education course.


This course introduces the history and literatures of Western music from medieval times to the late 20th-century. You will study, discuss, and write about the people and the factors (artistic, intellectual, social, technical) that were and are Western music’s agents of change. No previous knowledge of music is assumed.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • Identify key musical works, genres, and styles drawn from Western music history.
  • Discuss key contexts and socio-cultural factors that are relevant to developments in Western music.
  • Both understand the traditional style periods of Western music (eg, medieval, romantic) and also be able to discuss their limitations and the traditional separation of pop, classical or art music.
  • Carry out basic research on selected composers and works.
  • Write clearly and with critical insight on a variety of topics relating to Western music.

Topics Covered

  • Writing it down, getting it printed: how music notation has influenced composers
  • Musica transalpina – the madrigal – how the domestic situation influenced the music
  • An exotic and irrational entertainment – the rise of Opera
  • Bach and Handel – not so much a turning point as a destination
  • The Piano and Equal Temperament as Turning Points
  • “There will be many princes, but there is only one Beethoven” Beethoven as Turning Point
  • Music and drama – drama and music – Wagner’s place in music history
  • A riot of a Rite – Stravinsky and new developments in 20th century music
  • Elvis Presley: the cultural shock of rock'n'roll; Motown: the new voice of young, black America
  • The Beatles: A musical and cultural phenomenon
  • The Punk Wars 1976–79 and the Reggae Revolution
  • Hip-hop: The sound from the streets of inner-city America, and a new direction in music

Student Feedback

'The lecturer for this course is enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I felt it was a great overview and introduction to Western music. This is because it was kept simple enough to understand while still involving reductions of each music genre in history. There was lots of content to think about and it left the room to find out more for yourself.'

'I enjoyed the paper. Straight forward course outline, easy to follow where we were up to in terms of content each week. I enjoyed having the printable document each week with the key information to go alongside your own notes.'

'I found it incredibly helpful how well–structured this course is. Having a set topic each week made it easy to follow along. It really highlighted that each week was a different turning point in Western music.'

'I think the fact that we got to choose what assignment we could do was very helpful. There was a range of choices and it gave me the opportunity to do some assignments that were more creative and others that had more of a traditional essay style. I also think that the lecturer's analysis of the music played in class was very helpful as it helped me understand the content better when I was confused about the theoretical things.'

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