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Department of Music, School of Arts

Sounds and Cultures 1: Africa, the Jewish World, West and Central Asia

Course Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Term 1

This course covers selected music cultures of Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Jewish world. For each selected culture, the lectures and readings will introduce, as appropriate:

  • representative musical genres with their characteristic sonorities,
  • musical forms, styles, melodic and rhythmic structures, 
  • theoretical concepts, 
  • instruments, 
  • ensembles, 
  • techniques of composition and improvisation;
  • the cultural, social, historical, physical, religious and/or political contexts from which they originate and within which they have developed or are developing; 

and issues such as: 

  • characteristic concepts of what music is and what purposes it serves; 
  • who can be a musician, how s/he is trained and what his/her place in society is; 
  • the circumstances and purposes surrounding musical performance;
  • the teaching and transmission of oral and written traditions;
  • aesthetic considerations; 
  • gender issues; 
  • instruments as cultural objects; 
  • the symbolism of vocal and instrumental performance practice etc.

Some of the above aspects may be chosen as cross-cultural themes to run throughout the course in a given year, and will feature in the coursework and examination.
Designed to parallel Sounds and Cultures 2, but may be taken separately.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

General objectives of the two Sounds and Cultures courses are identical and include: 

  • exploring musical repertoires and their cultural contexts; •ď€ understanding the relevance of music and music-making to societies past and present [QAA Benchmark Statement /Music, 2.2]; •ď€ linking the study of musical structures with that of the social context [QAA 3.2.2].
    Specific objectives of this half-unit include:
  • to provide a basic introduction to selected music cultures of Africa, the Jewish world, West and Central Asia; 
  • to encourage cross-cultural comparison between them; 
  • to prepare for more in-depth study of individual music cultures of these regions in 2nd/3rd-year Music courses focussing on one of these three regions. 

Learning outcomes include contribution to the development of a number of skills: 

  • the ability to assimilate relevant scholarly literature and relate its insights to the experience of music; 
  • the ability to apply insights and discoveries in one area of study to another; 
  • the ability to relate music to its historical, social, cultural, political, philosophical, economic, spiritual and religious contexts; 
  • the ability to confront, explore and assimilate unfamiliar musical sounds, concepts, repertoires and practices. [QAA 4.1.4].

Specifically, students will learn to recognize the characteristic features of musical sound and musical culture, and the links between them, in each of the selected regions of Africa, the Jewish world, West and Central Asia.


2 hours per week (Term 1 only in 2007-08 academic year)

Method of assessment

One 2,500 words essay ( worth 50%);one exam (worth 50%)