Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Professional musicians are routinely called on to translate musical experience into the written word. Whether as music journalists, musicians creating program notes, creative professionals applying for funding or as educators communicating with stakeholders, translating musical experience is a vital professional skill required of all musicians. Students in ACU's music sequence encounter an introduction to the conventions of music literacy that form the foundations of its practice in MUSC161 and in MUSC162 they engage with the study of music through critical and musicological perspectives.

The unit exposes students to terminologies associated with different repertoires of music and different cultural understandings that surround music, and it equips them with the capacity to analyse, contextualise and interpret different musics via the written word. Students explore the construction of music histories and the cultural functions they serve in preserving music knowledge, informing contemporary understandings, and influencing future practice. Students critically evaluate and employ a range of different modes of writing about music including simple historical musicology, music criticism, concert programs, music journalism, and new media as well as didactic modes of writing, such as education resource kits.

The aim of this unit is to facilitate students' development of skills that support writing about music in diverse contexts.

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 - Write effectively about different aspects of music repertoire and practice using a range of strategies (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

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

LO4 - Apply academic skills related to basic research, critical reading, and scholarly argument (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
  • Discipline-specific terminology that is used to articulate observation and description of music concepts in practice
  • Basic concepts in musicology including: historicity, and notions of canon, genre, and style
  • Consideration of the social and cultural constructions that influence the development of different music genres
  • The construction of knowledge around diverse repertoires of music with a central focus on contemporary understandings of both Western art and popular musics.

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 students 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 and using the knowledge they have developed through the unit to articulate understandings of what they hear. 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 short writing tasks tailored to the different genres of writing developed over the semester.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Annotated playlist

Requires students to locate and analyse information related to a theme or topic evident in varied examples of recorded music. A developing understanding of a student's personal perspective, based on thorough research and analysis, is expected.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Seminar presentation

Requires students to compare and contrast two works, by different artists, that express the same theme. Students prepare a scripted presentation that encourages discussion around historical and social musicology and aural, textual and structural analysis.


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA3, GA4, GA8, GA9

Pre-professional writing portfolio

Requires students to model the different modes of writing considered through the semester via a 2000-word portfolio made up short written pieces.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Bloechl, Olivia Ashley, Melanie Diane Lowe, and Jeffrey Kallberg. Rethinking Difference in Music Scholarship. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

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.

Carroll, Rachel, and Adam Hansen. Litpop: Writing and Popular Music. Surrey, England: Ashgate, 2014.

Donahue, Thomas. A Style and Usage Guide to Writing About Music. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2010.

Herbert, Trevor. Music in Words: A Guide to Researching and Writing About Music. Edited by Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. Second ed. London: Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, 2012.

Hooper, Giles. The Discourse of Musicology. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.

Moore, Allan F. Song Means: Analysing and Interpreting Recorded Popular Song. London: Routledge, 2016.

Scott, Derek B. The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Musicology. London: Routledge, 2016.

Shuker, Roy. Understanding Popular Music Culture. Fourth ed. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2013.

Wingell, Richard. Writing About Music: An Introductory Guide. Fourth ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009.

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