Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Musicians need to be able to critically evaluate and employ a range of different modes of writing about music.  These modes include simple historical musicology, music criticism, concert programs, music journalism, blogging and new media, as well as didactic modes of writing, such as education resource kits. This unit examines the ways in which music histories are constructed and the cultural functions they serve in preserving music knowledge, informing contemporary understandings, and influencing future practice. It  exposes students to the terminologies associated with different repertoires of music and the different cultural understandings that surround music.  

The aim of the unit is to equip students with the capacity to analyse, contextualize and interpret different musics via the written word.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Classify and describe different modes of writing about music (GA4, GA5, GA8)

LO2 - Employ a range of strategies to write meaningfully about different aspects of music repertoire and practice (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Demonstrate an understanding of the technical, cultural and ethical issues that surround written accounts of music practice (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8)

LO4 - Demonstrate academic skills related to basic research, critical reading, and scholarly writing (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • Different modes of writing about music including: historical musicology, music criticism and music journalism
  • Terminology used to describe music concepts and the adaptive nature of this terminology to different audiences
  • Basic concepts in musicology including: historicity, notions of canon, the composer as ‘genius’, and theorising style change
  • Issues of class, gender, and culture in constructing understandings of different types of music
  • The construction of knowledge around diverse repertoires of musics such as Western classical music, contemporary popular musics, the diverse musics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, contemporary concert music, traditional musics, transplanted music practice and the emerging digital repertoires.

The construction of knowledge around diverse repertoires of musics such as Western classical music, contemporary popular musics, the diverse musics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, contemporary concert music, traditional musics, transplanted music practice and the emerging digital repertoires.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

MUSC162 is an introductory level unit and will make use of a lecture/workshop delivery model. It is known that students value instruction that has immediate applications and is seen to develop skills that employers value. Therefore, the learning and teaching strategy encourages critical and reflective thinking that assists student to develop the knowledge and skills required for effective written communication in the discipline of music. The unit offers students scaffolded experiences in writing about music and allows for both independent and collaborative activities that reflect real-world practice.

Assessment strategy and rationale

 Assessment in this unit uses an authentic assessment regime where assessment design mimics industry forms and practices, and each task guides the student to engage in different forms of writing about music. Writing tasks require students to engage with varied styles and genres of music as the framework for conducting research around historical and social contexts, and analysing musical elements. Each assignment task contributes to the development of skills in effective communication through writing. Assignment one introduces students to research and aural analysis skills by listening to a range of music examples. Assignment two gives students the opportunity to share research findings with their peers in an appropriate format, and assignment three consists of a series of formative writing tasks developed over the semester.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Annotated playlist


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Seminar presentation


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA3, GA4, GA8, GA9

Music writing tasks


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Burkholder, J. Peter. A History of Western Music. Edited by Donald Jay Grout and Claude V. Palisca. Tenth international student ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2019.

Bloechl, Olivia, Melanie Lowe, and Jeffrey Kallberg, eds. Rethinking Difference in Music Scholarship. Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Crawford, Tim, and Lorna Gibson. Modern Methods for Musicology. Farnham: Ashgate, 2009.

Herbert, Trevor. Music in Words: A Guide to Researching and Writing About Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Hooper, Giles. The Discourse of Musicology. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006.

Karnes, Kevin. Music, Criticism and the Challenge of History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Nettl, Bruno. The Study of Ethnomusicology: Thirty-one Issues and Concepts. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2005.

Radice, Mark. Concert Music of the Twentieth Century. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2003.

Scott, Derek. The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Musicology. Farnham: Ashgate, 2009.

Stefanija, Leon, and Nico SchuÌler. Approaches to Music Research. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2011.

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