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Unit information: From Notation to Performance in 2015/16

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Unit name From Notation to Performance
Unit code MUSIM0040
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Stephen Rice
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts


How do you get from the notes on the page to a performance? The challenges in early western repertoires are enormous: the earliest notations can only be read if you already know the melody; much early polyphony has no rhythmic notation. The baroque period is a familiar focus for considering ornamentation, improvisation and playing techniques, and the challenges continue beyond Mozart (if he would have improvised on the piano during the orchestral tuttis of his piano concertos, should we?) to our own time. The course will be structured around a series of case studies as we delve into the status of the Work concept and the place of performative creativity in different western contexts, including our own. Our focus will be on establishing what knowledge is needed to successfully translate the expectations of composers and notators into modern editions and performances.

  • to give students an opportunity to expand the breadth of their historical knowledge through the study of the relationship between notation and performance across a broad chronological spectrum
  • to expand their knowledge of the associated musical repertoire and to be able to comment accurately and perceptively on matters of style and structure as they relate notation to performance
  • to develop their ability to assemble and assimilate information from a wide variety of sources
  • to engage in critical evaluation of texts about music
  • to develop effective and detailed arguments, both orally and in writing
  • 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:

  1. Demonstrate awareness of issues surrounding the relationship between notation and performance in western art music culture
  2. Show fluency in discussing some of the repertoires examined in class
  3. Have a good grasp of the relevant historical and cultural trends
  4. Have developed their communication, writing and analytical skills
  5. Make, defend and critique arguments orally
  6. Apply existing analytical strategies to repertoires not discussed in class, with flexibility and creativity
  7. Demonstrate the capacity for independent research.

Teaching details

one 2-hour seminar per week (in some years, this may be taught jointly with MUSI30104 From Notation to Performance) concentrating on core aspects of the module. Also, one one-hour class to support the academic development of our MA students, particularly overseas ones, in an English-speaking university context.

Assessment Details

One essay, independently devised and researched, of 4000 words (75%). This will demonstrate (1), (2), (3), (5), and (7) through (4). PLUS One individual 15-minute presentation on an independently-researched topic, distinct from that of the essay (25%). This will demonstrate learning outcomes (6) and (7) through (5)

Reading and References

Bernard Sherman, Inside early music (New York & Oxford, 1997)

Margaret Bent, ‘Editing Early Music: the dilemma of translation’, Early Music 22 (1994), 373-92

Taruskin, Text and Act (New York: O.U.P., 1995)

James Grier, The Critical Editing of Music (1996)

John Rink (ed.), the Practice of Performance: Studies in Musical Interpretation (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Christopher Small, Musicking: the meanings of performing and listening (Hanover: University Press of New England, c1998)