Curriculum Guideline

History of Western Music I: Introduction

Effective Date:
Course Code
MUSC 1120
History of Western Music I: Introduction
Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
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 live performances by professional organizations such as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Opera, Early Music Vancouver, or Vancouver New Music, which might serve as curriculum enrichment. One or more appropriate field trips may be planned. 


Course Description
This course provides a foundation for further studies in the history of music. The nature of music and its role in culture and society are explored in a variety of contexts. The focus on western art music is extended to include jazz, popular, and world music. The course develops a vocabulary for writing about music as well as basic music listening and research skills. The ability to read musical notation is essential.
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
  • Introduction to the Stylistic Development of Western Music
    • The foundation of western musical thought in ancient Greece
    • Transmission of Greek ideas to the medieval world
    • The development of polyphony and its flowering in the renaissance
    • The age of the baroque; the emergence of opera and instrumental genres
    • The masters of Viennese classicism: Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven
    • New means of power and expression in romantic music
    • The modernist break with the past and the development of new musical languages, techniques, and resources
    • The emergence of electronic technology and its global impact
    Learning Outcomes

    At the end of the course, the successful student will be able to articulate ways of thinking about music, to demonstrate knowledge of stylistic developments in western art music through selected examples, and to show practical skill in the basics of music research and writing.

    The student will also be able to discuss general social, cultural, and political aspects of the periods studied. 

    Finally, the student will 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%
    Total 100%
    Textbook Materials

    Materials for the course will be drawn from a range of sources including any or all of the following: introductory texts to the study of western music and to music writing and research; a course pack of readings appropriate to the course; reserve library books, scores, and recordings; online resources related to course content.


    Entrance into the Music Diploma program or permission of the instructor.