Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit focuses on the main forms, styles and social contexts associated with Western classical music together with a critical study of works by representative composers. The unit includes a survey of music history from plainchant and the beginning of the Western notated tradition to the concert music practices of the present. The main aim of the unit is to help students to develop skills in scholarly writing, music analysis, and basic musicological research. 

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 works by representative composers (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Demonstrate critical awareness of the cultural forces that have shaped Western classical music over time (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Apply skills in critical analysis of music scores, primary source material (such as manifestos, letters, program notes) and scholarly readings (GA4, GA5, GA8)

LO4 - Construct evidence-based arguments and narratives around Western classical music (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

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:

A survey of Western music from the Middle Ages to the present, focusing on topics such as

  • Plainchant and secular song in the Middle Ages and the beginnings of polyphony
  • Examples of European music practices during Renaissance period
  • The rise of instrumental music in the sixteenth century
  • The rise of opera in the early seventeenth century
  • Sacred and secular music of the Baroque period
  • The Enlightenment and the emergence of the Classical symphony
  • The development of musical expression in the music of Beethoven and the rise of Romanticism
  • Instrumental and vocal music in the nineteenth century
  • Music and drama in the nineteenth century
  • The ‘isms’ of the early twentieth century including impressionism, neo-classicism and serialism
  • Developments in Western concert music since World War II
  • A critical study of selected works by representative composers of the classical canon
  • A consideration of the essential traits of representative vocal and instrumental genres such as chant, organum, motet, madrigal, opera, oratorio, cantata, mass, canzona, ricercar, fantasia, sonata, concerto, symphony, mass, opera, oratorio and lied.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is designed to develop skills and knowledge related to various forms, styles and social contexts in Western classical music. As a 200-level unit, it presumes prior knowledge of music language and of aural perception, and the ability to apply research findings. Learning in the unit is centred around ‘active listening’ with students exposed to diverse repertoire and aided in developing the ability to identify key features of convention and style. Knowledge and skill tied to the analysis of repertoire are developed incrementally across the unit.

Assessment strategy and rationale

Listening to and analysing music underpins the wider work of musicologists in seeking to make sense of change and development in western music history. The assessment in this unit is designed to develop the knowledge and skills required of musicologists and music teachers to effectively engage with western classical music. The assessment works to scaffold the acquisition of knowledge and the development of skills by providing a context for active listening and a scaffolded development of skills in musical analysis and allow students to apply these in the context of a higher-order research task. 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.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Seminar presentation


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO5

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Research essay


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10

Examination/Test including short answer, essays and listening component.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Auner, Joseph, and Walter Frisch. Anthology for Music in The Twentieth And Twenty-First Centuries (Western Music In Context: A Norton History). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.

Auner, Joseph. Music in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013.

Bonds, Mark. A Brief History of Music in Western Culture. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004.

Burkholder, J. Peter, and Claude V Palisca. Norton Anthology of Western Music Vol. 3. 7th ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014.

Burkholder, J. Peter, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V Palisca. A History of Western Music. 9th ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2015.

Frisch, Walter. Musici: The Nineteenth Century (Western Music in Context: A Norton History). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012.

Heller, Wendy, and Walter Frisch. Music in the Baroque (Western Music in Context: A Norton History). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.

Merkley, Paul. Music and Patronage. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012.

Rice, John A., and Walter Fisch. Music in the Eighteenth Century (Western Music In Context: A Norton History). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012.

Roig-FrancoliÌ, Miguel A. Understanding Post-Tonal Music. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2008.

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