SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Music and Culture

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 1

A lecture-based course, illustrated with audiovisual examples from both the Western and non-Western music worlds. It will be organized around four themes central to ethno-musicology:

  • Performance and orality (the concept of performance; the relationship of music to other types of performance such as dance and drama; orality as a means of trans-mission; improvisation);
  • Music structures (aspects of musical organization, such as melody, rhythm, pitch and interval, scale, mode, ensemble structures such as hocket polyphony);
  • Music and history (including such issues as organology, oral literature, music and identity, music and migration);
  • Perspectives on the field (including a review of the history of the main body of ethnomusicological literature, the “emic/etic” distinction, and a critical look at the issue of “whose voice”).

Students will write one essay and a concert report.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This course will introduce major themes, issues and techniques in ethnomusicology, via case studies and class discussion, covering a variety of musical genres and styles from different cultures.

On this course students will:
  • develop their awareness of the relationship of musical practices to other elements of culture, with reference to a range of musical traditions from around the world;
  • learn about theoretical concepts and approaches used by ethnomusicologists to consider music as a cultural practice;
  • develop academic skills including observational ethnography, the use of library sources, and essay writing techniques.


One hour lecture; one hour tutorial

Method of assessment

One 1,500 words Performance Report (worth 50%), one 3,000 words essay (worth 50%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules