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Unit information: Sacred Music in the 16th Century in 2015/16

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Unit name Sacred Music in the 16th Century
Unit code MUSI30118
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Stephen Rice
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

The unit will examine music produced for religious purposes throughout the sixteenth century, investigating the liturgical situations for which it was composed, and the compositional aims behind it. Consideration of theoretical developments, notably in the fields of modality and rhetoric, will contribute to understanding of the aesthetic of church music – why the repertory took the form that it did. The music will be contextualized by consideration of the effects of ecclesiastical reform and Humanist thought.

This unit’s aims are:

1) to introduce students to a repertory of 16th -century music and its liturgical and confessional context;

2) to develop students’ skills in analysing the repertory through an understanding of its theoretical and notational underpinnings;

3) to allow students to engage with critical texts about music, religion, and politics;

4) to develop students’ skills in critical listening;

5) to develop students’ skills in the oral and written presentation of their ideas

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of the unit, a successful student will:

  1. Have an extensive knowledge of the history of sacred music during the sixteenth century and of music theory of the period;
  2. Be familiar with the various forms, places, and functions of music in pre- and post-Reformation liturgies;
  3. Write critically and perceptively about cultural as well as musical legacies of the Reformation;
  4. Have a solid knowledge of the archival resources available and scholarly discourses, methodologies, and terminologies of Renaissance music studies;
  5. display evidence of sophisticated independent research in terms of musical repertory and relevant bibliography;
  6. engage critically with the diversity of musicological writing on the period.

Teaching Information

Weekly 2 hour seminars for the whole cohort.

Assessment Information

All the assessment is summative.

1x3,000-word essay (50%); 1x 2-hour exam (50%).

Both the essay and the exam will demonstrate the intended learning outcomes (1) and (2), with the essay in particular providing an opportunity for the students to demonstrate (3)-(6) Each student will be required also to present (unassessed) once during the teaching block.

Reading and References

  1. James Haar (ed.), European Music, 1520-1640 (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2006)
  2. Allan Atlas, Renaissance Music (New York: Norton, 1998)
  3. The New Oxford History of Music, vol. III (ed. A. Hughes & G. Abraham, 1960), chs. 8 & 9; vol. III.i (ed. B. Blackburn & R. Strohm, 2001), chs 7 & 8; vol. IV (ed. G. Abraham, 1968), chs. 5-9.
  4. Howard Mayer Brown & Louise K. Stein, Music in the Renaissance, 2nd edn (Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall, 1998)
  5. Thomas Christensen (ed.), The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), chs. 2, 6, 7, 12, 16, 20
  6. Craig Monson, ‘The Council of Trent Revisited’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 55 (2002), 1-37