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Unit information: Aesthetics and Criticism in 2015/16

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Unit name Aesthetics and Criticism
Unit code MUSI30029
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Fairclough
Open unit status Not open

This unit is normally only available to students registered on a Single or Joint Honours Music programme



School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit introduces certain central concepts within music aesthetics through close reading of selected texts. These concepts will include theories of imitation (mimesis), expression and form, concepts of musical time, classifications of art and the phenomenology of musical works. Both topical and historical perspectives will be invoked. The texts will be drawn mainly from classical thought (Aristotle, Plato), 18th- and 19th-century German philosophy (Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer), and 20th-century critical theory (Adorno, Barthes).


This unit aims to introduce students to the sometimes complex aesthetic contexts within which music was situated during the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It will focus on key problematics such as the concept of an art-work in music, formation of judgements, the nature and status of instrumental music, the emergence of romanticism, usage of music, authorship and readership, and the role of the creative artist in society.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Successful completion of this unit will enable students to:

  • comment in detail on the main issues involved in music aesthetics
  • comment in an informed way on certain key aesthetic texts and their premises
  • discuss a range of aesthetic issues touching on music
  • relate the claims of music to those of other art forms
  • develop and demonstrate insight into philosophical treatments of musical meaning
  • develop and demonstrate a questioning approach to musicology gained through the study of philosophical writings about music
  • develop and demonstrate a sophisticated critical awareness

Teaching Information

Weekly Seminars.

Assessment Information

One 3000-word coursework essay (50%) and one 3000-word individual project on an approved topic (50%).

Reading and References

  • Bujic, B., Music in European Thought, 1851-1912 (Cambridge, 1988)
  • Dahlhaus, C., Esthetics of Music transl. J. Bradford Robinson (Cambridge, 1982)
  • LeHuray, P. & Day, J., Music and Aesthetics in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries (Cambridge, 1981)
  • Katz, E., & Dahlhaus, C.(eds.), Contemplating Music 4 vols. (New York, 1987-93)
  • Price, K. (ed.), On Criticizing Music (Johns Hopkins Univ.Press, 1981)