Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit

Unit rationale, description and aim

Pre-professional musicians need an in depth understanding of the ways music operates in the service of other media. This unit examines the history of and practice surrounding musical theatre, music for film and television and other media. 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 develop an understanding of the cultural, economic and technological influences that inform changing musical practice.

The aim of this unit is to equip students with the analytical tools necessary to critically engage with the practices of musical theatre, film music and other mixed media including computer games.

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 - Explain ways music can function to serve drama, narrative, image and plot (GA1, GA2, GA4, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Discuss the styles, genres, practices and conventions that surround the musical theatre, film music and mixed media in the twentieth and twenty-first century (GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Critically analyse music scores, visual texts featuring music, recordings, primary source material and scholarly readings (GA4, GA5, GA8)

LO4 - Construct evidence-based arguments and narratives using discipline-specific terminology around issues surrounding music theatre, film music and mixed media repertoires (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9)

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


Topics will include:

  • An overview of the development of contemporary musical 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 live music that accompanied silent cinema in the first decades of the twentieth century, 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 scoring for film, television and video games.
  • Cultural, ethical and social issues that arise from film, theatre and mixed media music repertoires such as the invocation of Indigenous Peoples’ culture (including Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples) through musical appropriation, and the sanitisation of violent imagery through the strategic addition of music in war and horror films.
  • Observable patterns of influence between practitioners in music for film, theatre and mixed media.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Students encounter repertoire and scholarly ideas via chronological and thematic considerations of unit content in face-to-face settings. These ideas are explored further through directed listening and viewing, scholarly readings and discussion and evaluation of music and ideas in tutorial settings. Students develop skills in multiple modes of music analysis and develop an understanding of the limitations of different types of analysis by critically applying analytical methods to diverse repertoire. The unit culminates in students employing a theoretical framework, appropriately chosen analytical methods and simple research to construct an evidence-based argument connected to a theme in the unit.

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

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. The first assessment task supports students in developing a breadth of knowledge related to the different modes of music making represented in the unit. The second develops analytical and oral communication skills via a report on a composer's practice and repertoire. The final assessment task ties together the skills and knowledge developed in the unit and provides students an with opportunity to engage with undergraduate-level musicological research.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Repertoire report

A critical assessment of music excerpts presented as an annotated playlist. This assessment is designed to provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of the styles, practices and conventions operating in diverse repertoire. (1000 words (total) in relation to three or four contrasting excerpts).


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Seminar presentation

Students will prepare an oral report detailing the practice and repertoire of one relevant composer/practitioner to demonstrate a depth of knowledge and to develop skills in analysis. (20 minute presentation, including music excerpts)


LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Research essay

Students utilise the knowledge and skills developed through the unit to construct an evidence-based argument in relation to the themes of the unit. (2000 words)


LO1, LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

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

Cooke, Mervyn, and Fiona Ford. The Cambridge Companion to Film Music. Cambridge Companions to Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Hickman, Roger. Reel Music: Exploring 100 Years of Film Music. Second ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.

Kalinak, Kathryn Marie. Sound: Dialogue, Music and Effects. Behind the Silver Screen: a Modern History of Filmmaking. London: I.B. Tauris, 2015.

LaFave, Kenneth. Experiencing Film Music: A Listener's Companion. Listener's Companion. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

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

Shingler, Martin. When Warners Brought Broadway to Hollywood, 1923-1939. 1st Ed. 2018. ed. Palgrave Studies in Screen Industries and Performance. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Taylor, Millie, and Dominic Symonds. Studying Musical Theatre: Theory and Practice. London; New York: Palgrave, 2014.

Taylor, Millie. Theatre Music and Sound at the RSC Macbeth to Matilda. 1st Ed. 2018. ed. Palgrave Studies in British Musical Theatre. Cham: Springer International Publishing Imprint: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

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

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