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Department of Music

Music in Development

Course Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year

The programme will attract applicants with a demonstrably strong background in music and evidence of a serious, sustained interest in development and creative communication. An undergraduate training in ethnomusicology, music psychology or music sociology would be an advantage, although significant fieldwork experience may off-set the absence of formal academic qualifications in this area. We particularly welcome those who have worked for some time in the field of music and/or development.

The programme will be of use to students who are interested in a career in international agencies, humanitarian organisations, and (local and international) NGOs, UNESCO, audio and audio-visual archiving, media for development (radio, film, new digital technologies) and social therapies/community music. It would also provide a useful background for those wishing to proceed to MPhil/PhD in disciplines such as Ethnomusicology, Development Studies, Anthropology of Development and Theatre/Media for Development.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  1. a critical understanding of Applied/Advocacy Ethnomusicology and its interactions with allied disciplines, such as Development Studies, Theatre/Media and Development, and the Anthropology of Development;
  2. a critical understanding of music as a culturally embedded practice and its potential as a tool for communication and transformation in a range of development contexts;
  3. an advanced knowledge of the musical performance practices and their meanings in select regions of the world;
  4. a critical understanding of ethnographic research methods and applications; and
  5. the development of a range of applied/practical skills aimed at linking musical production and meaning to social action and advocacy.


One two-hour lecture per week

Scope and syllabus

While the International Development sector may acknowledge the value of culture as intellectual property in world trade and as fundamental to sustainable development and universal human rights, the overwhelming concern of development policy and practice is the promotion of economic growth and structural change, which is measured by way of tangible, quantifiable outputs.

Building on the premise that music and associated performance activities represent rich discursive sites where local knowledge, social structures and cultural meanings are negotiated and affirmed, this course will provide an advanced practical and theoretical forum for students to debate how musical processes can support developmental aspirations in specific contexts in Africa and Asia and their diasporas. Drawing on the more established discourses in Theatre and Media for Development, as well as on theories from a range of cognate disciplines, (e.g. Anthropology of Development, Forced Migration and Gender Studies), the course will examine the roles that music can play in improving the quality and clarity of development communications, as well as in enabling communities to represent themselves and their needs to the wider world. 

In particular, it will explore:

  • the role of music as a framework for communication (i.e. alternative ‘voice’);
  • music as a source of oral history and local knowledge;
  • music in public education and community mobilization, and
  • music as a catalyst for personal and societal change.

Over the course of the year, students will review the following themes:

  • Critical Thoughts, Theories and Trajectories in Music and Development
  • Music, Human Rights and Social Movements
  • Music, Violence and Conflict Resolution
  • Forced Migration, Displacement and Musical Action
  • Music, Local Knowledge and Sustainable Livelihoods
  • Music, Health and Rehabilitation
  • Sound Archives, Musical Memory and the Politics of Repatriation

Practical training in applied research methods, and workshop modelling and analysis will run parallel to the theoretical aspects of the course.

Method of assessment

1 review essay (worth 15%)
1 review essay (worth 10%)
2 research essays (worth 25% and 35% respectively)
1 class presentation (worth 15%)