Curriculum Guideline

History of Western Music I: Origin to 1600

Effective Date:
Course Code
MUSC 1120
History of Western Music I: Origin to 1600
Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
4 hours per week
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

Instruction will be primarily by lecture, enhanced by audio and visual materials. Flexibility in class presentation will allow for students to engage actively through question, comment, and discussion. Students will be assigned listening and reading for each class. Lectures will provide general contexts for detailed study of representative pieces of music. Supplementary library and online resources will be recommended. Students will be informed of concert performances by professional organizations such as Early Music Vancouver, which might serve as curriculum enrichment. One or more appropriate field trips may be planned. 

Course Description
This course introduces students to music as an artistic and intellectual expression of European culture, from its origins in Greek Antiquity to its development in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The course serves as a foundation for subsequent music history courses (MUSC 1220, 2320, 2420) in the B.Mus. transfer program. Students study music in relation to the other arts and in its social, cultural, and political contexts. Critical thinking about music and active listening to music are emphasized. Understanding of historical musical styles, forms, and genres is developed through analysis of compositional techniques and awareness of performance practices. Emphasis is placed on fundamental skills for researching and writing about music. The ability to read music notation and to understand theoretical concepts is essential for success in this course.
Course Content
  1. Introduction to the Study of Western Music
  • Definitions of music; its role in social, cultural and political contexts
  • The place of western art music in current global culture
  • Musical literacy and cultural literacy; music and the liberal arts
  • Historical spans in relation to musical styles
  • The roles of composer and performer, patron and audience
  • Elements of music: melody, rhythm, timbre, texture, harmony, form, genre
  • Instrumental and vocal resources of western art music
  • Techniques for critical listening and score reading
  • The relevance of historical style awareness to performance
  • Introduction to Research and Writing About Music
    • Approaches to writing about music
    • Types of resources for research in music
    • Efficient use of library resources
    • Creating a bibliography on a research topic
    • Planning a research essay on music
    • Standard documentation practices and formats
  • Music in Antiquity
    • The foundation of western musical thought in ancient Greece
    • Music in Greek mythology, philosophy, and science
    • Surviving examples of Greek musical notation
    • Music in ancient Rome
    • Boethius and the transmission of ancient Greek theory
  • Music in the Early Christian Church
    • The significance of Christianity for European civilization
    • The Jewish heritage; eastern influences on the west
    • Music in monastic life and ritual: the liturgical Offices and Mass
    • Latin chant types, styles, notation and transmission
    • Church modes, the hexachord, solmisation, Guido of Arezzo
    • Trope, sequence, and liturgical drama; Hildegard of Bingen
  • Secular Monophonic Music in the Middle Ages
    • Social, political, and economic aspects of medieval life
    • The rise of court culture; crusades and the code of chivalry
    • French vernacular song:  troubadour, trobairitz, and trouvère
    • English, German, and Spanish song
    • Medieval instruments and dance music
  • The Rise of Polyphonic Music in the Middle Ages
    • Romanesque and Gothic art and architecture
    • Organum, Aquitanian and Notre Dame polyphony
    • Notation of rhythm; rhythmic modes; consonance and dissonance
    • The motet in France in the thirteenth century
    • Distinctive features of English polyphony
  • Music in the Fourteenth Century
    • The Church in crisis, the Black Death, the Hundred Years’ War
    • New realism in art and literature
    • Ars Nova in France; rhythmic innovations; isorhythm; hocket
    • Machaut as composer/poet: motet, Mass, and secular formes fixes
    • Ars Subtilior: new complexity in rhythmic notation
    • Italian Trecento song forms and techniques; Landini
    • Voices and instruments in the performance of late medieval music
  • Renaissance Culture and Music
    • Renewed interest in ideas and art of ancient Greece and Rome
    • The rise of Humanism and a new view of the world
    • Court chapels and musical patronage; music printing
    • Dunstable and English influence on continental composers
    • Franco-Flemish composers; DuFay, Ockeghem, Josquin
    • New compositional approaches in the chanson, motet and Mass
    • Imitative counterpoint; development of an international style
    • Protestant Reformation in Germany, France, and England
    • Catholic Counter-Reformation in Italy and Spain
    • Compositional style of Palestrina; control of dissonance
    • Rise of the Italian madrigal; English madrigal and lute song
    • Instruments and instrumental music in the Renaissance
    • Music in Venice: Gabrieli and the polychoral motet
    Learning Outcomes

    At the end of the course, the successful student should be able to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of stylistic developments in western art music from Greek Antiquity through the Middle Ages and Renaissance by the following means:  aural identification of characteristics of representative pieces of music; visual analysis of representative musical scores; and written discussion of terms and topics appropriate to the style periods and music studied.  The student should also be able to discuss general social, cultural, and political aspects of the periods studied.  Finally, the student should be able to demonstrate working knowledge of available resources for research in music, familiarity with standard documenting procedures, and critical skill in using research materials for writing projects.

    Means of Assessment
    Regular short quizzes (6-8) 10%
    Short library assignments (3-5) 10%
    Research and writing project(s) 20%
    Major listening tests (2) 20%
    Major written tests (2) 20%
    Final examination (listening and written) 20%


    Textbook Materials

    Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students:

    Students will be required to purchase a standard text such as the following, along with its accompanying score anthology, for use in all courses in the music history survey:

    • Burkholder, J. Peter, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca. A History of Western Music, 7th ed.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006.

    Students will also be required to purchase a reputable music dictionary such as:

    • Randel, Don Michael. The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002.

    UT Music Entrance or Special Permission and minimum Writing Assessment description of “Writing Skills Review Courses” or equivalent (see Assessment Information under Faculty of Language, Literature and performing Arts).

    Which Prerequisite