MUS 144G Turning-Points in Western Music

MUS 144G | ARTS, B&E, EDSW, EMHSS, LC | Summer School, Semester One & Semester Two 2020 | City Campus


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

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


Coursework (50%)

  • Assignment 1A: Library (5%)
  • Assignment 1B: Madrigal (10%)
  • Assignment 2: Classical/Romantic Period (10%)
  • Assignment 3: Popular Music (15%)
  • Listening test 1 (5%)
  • Listening test 2 (5%)

Written examination (50%)

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