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History of Western Music IV: Early Music

Course Code: MUSC 2420
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Department: Music
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: Winter
course overview

This course explores western art music as cultural expression in Europe from 500 to 1750. Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque styles are studied in relation to selected works in representative genres. Critical thinking about music and active listening to music are emphasized. Competent research and writing skills are required.

Course Content

  1. Music in the Early Christian Church, including eastern influences on the west, monastic life and ritual, Latin chant, pitch notation, the church modes, trope, sequence, and liturgical drama.
  2. Secular Monophonic Music in the Middle Ages, including the rise of court culture, the crusades and the code of chivalry, French and German vernacular song, instruments and dance music.
  3. The Rise of Polyphonic Music in the Middle Ages, including organum, motet and mass, rhythmic notation, secular French and Italian vocal genres.
  4. Renaissance Culture and Music, including Italian humanism, Burgundian court chapels and musical patronage, English influence on Franco-Flemish composers, imitative counterpoint and the international style, text painting in the Italian and English madrigal, the effect of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation on music, music printing, instruments and instrumental music.
  5. The Development of Baroque Style in the Seventeenth Century, including affect and expression, basso continuo and figured bass, the Florentine Camerata and the first operas in Italy, cantata and oratorio, dramatic music in France and England, Baroque instruments and tunings, major and minor tonalities, trio sonata and concerto, lute and harpsichord music, dance styles and forms, Lutheran organ music and the chorale, toccata and fugue, music in the colonies of the New World.
  6. Baroque Style in the Eighteenth Century, including conventions of opera seria in Italy, the rise of the castrato singer, the development of concerto types in Italy, Vivaldi and Venice, Rameau’s theory of harmony, the life and music of Bach and Handel.

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.  

Means of Assessment

Regular short in-class quizzes (5-8) 10%
Completion of library tasks, online viewing, and/or event attendance   5%
Short assignments (3-5) 5%
Research and writing project(s) (maximum of two) 20%
Test on medieval music (written and listening components) 20%
Test on renaissance music (written and listening components) 20%
Final examination on baroque music (written and listening 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 during the medieval, renaissance, and baroque periods, 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 early music.  The student will also be able to discuss general social, cultural, and political aspects of European life from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Age of Absolutism.  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 periods 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.