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Unit information: Music, Technology and Cultural Change, 1900 - present day in 2021/22

Unit name Music, Technology and Cultural Change, 1900 - present day
Unit code MUSI30124
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Kate Guthrie
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

DESCRIPTION: How has technology affected the way we think about, create and consume musical culture? This unit explores this question by examining how sound reproduction technologies have impacted on musical culture from the early twentieth century to the present day. Focusing on Britain and the USA, it considers how technologies such as the gramophone, radio, Walkman, iPod and digital download have evolved within specific social, political and intellectual contexts. In addition, it uses sound reproduction technologies to introduce key cultural debates of the twentieth century, including the relationship between art and popular, and between music, democracy, and national identity.

AIMS: Students will have the opportunity to: 1) expand their knowledge of how sound reproduction technologies emerged and evolved within specific political, social, cultural and intellectual contexts; 2) think critically about processes of cultural change; 3) engage in critical discussion about key issues in twentieth-century music studies; 4) develop their ability to assess the relative value of primary and secondary source materials; 5) improve their skills in writing about musical style and reception.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Having completed the course, students should be able to:

  1. Explain how a variety of sound reproduction technologies developed and evolved in Britain and the USA from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century.
  2. Assess how recorded sound shaped and was shaped by wider musical practices.
  3. Critically analyse key issues and discourses in the intellectual history of sound reproduction technologies.
  4. Write clearly about how technological advances impacted the creation, dissemination and reception of specific pieces of music, making appropriate use of both primary and secondary sources.

In addition, Level H/6 students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a high level of critical skill in analysing, synthesising and critiquing primary and secondary sources.
  2. Show strong evidence of relevant further reading.

Teaching Information

The unit will be delivered through 11 2-hour seminars.

Assessment Information

Students will be assessed through two summative assignments:

  1. A portfolio of 3 x 750 word critical responses to 3 seminar texts of their choosing (40%). This exercise assesses ILO 3 and H/6 ILO 1.
  2. A 3,500 word research-based historical essay assignment (60%). This exercise assesses ILOs 1, 2 and 4 and H/6 ILOs 1 and 2.


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. MUSI30124).

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.