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Unit information: African-American Music in the 20th Century in 2021/22

Unit name African-American Music in the 20th Century
Unit code MUSI20066
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Williams
Open unit status Not open

Some knowledge of musical literacy will be useful for discussing and interpreting repertoire and for coursework.



School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This course surveys a history of African-American music in the long twentieth century. Styles will include rural blues, Dixieland jazz, electric blues, swing, bebop, free jazz, funk, hip-hop and developments in rock (e.g. Hendrix) and classical music (e.g. William Grant Still). In addition to an investigation of the social and political contexts of these styles, the course will look at a number of theoretical applications to the study of ‘black music’ (Gates, Floyd, Stuckey, Maultsby) and critiques of such an approach (Tagg).

This unit aims:

1. to give students an opportunity to expand the breadth of their historical knowledge through the study of optional subjects;

2. to expand their knowledge of the associated musical repertoire and to be able to comment accurately and perceptively on matters of style, structure and context;

3. to develop their ability to assemble and assimilate information from a wide variety of sources;

4. to engage in critical evaluation of texts about music;

5. to develop effective and detailed arguments, both orally and in writing;

6. to display competence in the practices, processes, techniques and methodologies that underpin musicological practice

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students are expected to:

(1) demonstrate good contextual knowledge of the social and political history of the United States (1877-);

(2) demonstrate familiarity with the various forms of African-American musics in the long twentieth century;

(3) describe with confidence the primary features attributed to African-based musics;

(4) write critically and perceptively about questions of race, style and appropriation in African-American music;

(5) write critically and perceptively about theories and debates surrounding ‘black music’, using appropriate language and terminology.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including lectures and self-directed exercises.

Assessment Information

Blogposts/Workfile (40%) ILOs 1-5

500-word blog entries for each of any five weeks of the unit, summarising the key points of the material encountered in pre-class reading and responding to it critically. Students must submit all five posts in order to gain credit for the unit. Towards the end of the unit, students choose three entries to submit without revision as their workfile for a summative mark.

2500 word essay (60%) ILOs 1-5


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. MUSI20066).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.