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History of Western Music III: 1900 to Today

Course Code: MUSC 2320
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Department: Music
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: Fall
course overview

This course explores music as cultural expression in Europe and the Americas, including Canada, from 1900 to the present. Modernism and its multiple manifestations are studied in relation to selected works in representative genres and styles. Critical thinking about music and active listening to music are emphasized. Competent research and writing skills are required.

Course Content

  1. Paths to modernism in Europe and America up to World War I, including impressionism in Paris, expressionism and atonality in Vienna, primitivism in Russia, and experimentalism in New England.
  2. Musical developments between the Wars, including neo-classicism, twelve-tone technique, individual paths, folk-based sources, socialist realism, American jazz and popular music, and the liberation of sound.
  3. Crosscurrents in music in Europe and America after World War II, including total serialism, chance and indeterminacy, complexity and virtuosity, new sound sources, electronic music, non-western influences, quotation and collage; the rise of rock.
  4. Increased diversity in the later twentieth century, including mixed media, performance art, minimalism, neo-tonality, neo-romanticism; the emergence of polystylism and post-modernism, extended vocal and instrumental techniques, digital synthesis and computer music, electro-acoustic music, and women in music.
  5. Aspects of music in Canada including colonialism, internationalism, nationalism, musical institutions, environmental music, multiculturalism, and east-west synthesis.
  6. Towards a global musical culture in the twenty-first century.

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 of course-related music by professional organizations such as Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver New Music, or the Canadian Music Centre, for the purpose of curriculum enrichment.  One or more appropriate field trips may be planned.

Means of Assessment

Regular short in-class quizzes (5-8) 10%
Completion of library tasks, online viewing, and/or event attendance  5%
Research and writing project on a major twentieth-century work 15%
Research and writing project on a major Canadian composer 10%
Major listening tests (2) 20%
Major written tests (2) 20%
Final examination (listening and written components) 20%
Total  100%

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course, the successful student will be able to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of stylistic developments in music in Europe and the Americas from 1900 to the present 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 period and its music.  The student will also be able to discuss general social, cultural, and political aspects of life in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  Finally, the student will be able to demonstrate competent research and critical thinking skills in the completion of writing projects on topics appropriate to the period being studied.

course prerequisites

MUSC 1120 and one of ENGL 1102, ENGL 1106, ENGL 1109, ENGL 1114, ENGL 1115, ENGL 1130



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.