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History of Western Music I: Introduction

Course Code: MUSC 1120
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Department: Music
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: Fall
course overview

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
  2. 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
  3. 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

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. 

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%

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.

course prerequisites

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



curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.