Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit examines the history of and practice surrounding music theatre and music for cinema. Through an examination of the repertoires of music that arise from twentieth- and twenty-first century theatre and film, students gain an appreciation of key developments in these genres and the practices that surround music when it is put in the service of other media.

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 - Demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the ways music can function to serve drama, narrative, image and plot (GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Demonstrate a critical awareness of the styles, genres, practices and conventions that surround the music theatre and film music of past century. (GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Apply skills in critical analysis of music scores, visual texts featuring music, recordings, primary source material and scholarly readings (GA4, GA5, GA8)

LO4 - Construct evidence-based arguments and narratives around the issues that surround music theatre and film music repertoires (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9)

LO5 - Demonstrate skills in written and oral communication incorporating appropriate use of discipline-specific terminology (GA8, GA9, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

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 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

  • An overview of the development of music theatre from the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, through to the present.
  • A consideration of significant centres of musical theatre activity including London’s West End and New York’s Broadway.
  • Different structural and functional approaches to musical theatre such as book musicals, concept musicals and jukebox musicals
  • An overview of film score repertoire from the scores that accompany German cinema in the 1920s, to the diverse practices of film makers around the world through the twentieth-century, and to the present.
  • The hierarchies, practices and conventions that operate around film scoring
  • Cultural, ethical and social issues that arise from film and theatre music repertoires such as the invocation of Indigenous Peoples’ culture (including Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples) through musical appropriation, and the sanitization of violent imagery through the strategic addition of music in war and horror films
  •  Observable patterns of influence between practitioners in both music for film and theatre.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Mode: Lectures, tutorials and seminars on campus or intensive mode offshore.

This unit has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester or intensive mode off-shore. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support learning such as lectures, tutorials, reading, reflection, discussion, film screenings, skills workshops, and assignments etc.

Offshore intensive mode:

Pre-departure seminars are normally held to introduce students to key contextual information, concepts and readings. Due to the intensive mode of teaching, attendance at pre-departure and off-shore classes, is expected.

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. Such procedures may include, but are not limited to: essays, reports, examinations, student presentations or case studies.

The following table gives examples of the types of assessment that may apply to this unit. The same assessments will be provided for both on-campus or offshore modes of study.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Repertoire report: a critical assessment of selected pieces of film and theatre music repertoire via an annotated playlist (approx. 1000 words contextualizing 4 to 6 works)


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Seminar presentation: oral report detailing the practice and repertoire of one relevant composer/practitioner. (20 minute presentation, including music excerpts)


LO1, LO2, LO4, LO5

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Research essay (2000 words) exploring the themes of the unit 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Bribitzer-Stull, Matthew. Understanding The Leitmotif: From Wagner To Hollywood Film Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Buhler, James, David Neumeyer, and Rob Deemer. Hearing the Movies: Music and Sound in Film History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Cook, Nicholas. Beyond The Score: Music as Performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Cooke, Mervyn. A History of Film Music. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Dickinson, Kay. Off Key: When Film And Music Won't Work Together. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Kalinak, Kathryn. Film Music: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Rona, Jeffrey. The Reel World: Scoring For Pictures-Updated And Revised Edition. New York: Hal Leonard, 2009.

Ross, Daniel. Video Game Music. London: Elliot and Thompson Ltd, 2015.

Taylor, Millie. Musical Theatre, Realism and Entertainment. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012.

Wolf, Stacy. Changed For Good: A Feminist History Of The Broadway Musical. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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