Sounds and Cultures

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
School of Arts & Department of Music

Module overview

The aim of the module is to introduce some of the major musical cultures of selected regions in Africa and Asia. 

The module focuses on:

Musical Instruments

In the context of oral, unwritten musical cultures, such as those of Asia and Africa, the study of musical instruments can tell us much about the historical contact between peoples, the ascribing of symbolic power to certain musical traditions, the continuity with the ancient world, and the creativity and transformations of instruments by musicians in contemporary societies whether rural, urban and/or global.


Rhythm, a recurring sequence of strong and weak beats, is a fundamental regulator of many aspects of life, beyond just music. Many musical cultures around the world, from the most traditional to the most popular, are identified and defined by their rhythmic patterns. Rhythm is intrinsically connected to language and dance. Where relevant, we will present some important rhythmic concepts such as the clave or ‘timeline’ - an asymmetrical tapped rhythm originating in Africa and finding its way across the Atlantic into Cuba, Brazil and American popular music.

Within these topics, the lecture(s) and readings may discuss, as appropriate

  • characteristic concepts of what music is and what purposes it serves;
  • the circumstances and purposes surrounding musical performance;
  • who can be a musician,
  • what musical roles are assigned to whom, and what his/her place in society is;
  • the teaching and transmission of oral and written traditions;
  • aesthetic considerations - of both the sounds of instruments and their craftsmanship


  • 2 hours per week

Method of assessment

  • 2,500-word essay (worth 50% of marks)
  • Exam (worth 50%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules