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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Music

Undergraduate Course: Music and its Instruments (MUSI10095)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryMusical instruments are central to all kinds of music. They are positioned at the intersection between the physical world (materials, physics, technology), the musical world (style, timbre, ensemble) and the human world (ergonomics, culture, economics). This course focuses on the musical context of instruments and the interactions between composers, performers and musical instrument makers. We can use musical instruments as indicators of musical thought processes, technological changes, and the structure of the music business in its many forms. Students will be introduced to concepts relating to how instruments are designed and made; how we can look at and think about them; how different musical cultures are mutually influential (constructively or destructively); the gendering of music and its instruments; and how external influences can impact on the adoption of certain instruments and their repertoire. This course requires no prior knowledge of music theory or notation and no previous knowledge of musical instruments.
Course description Musical instruments are central to all musical activities in that they shape and are shaped by negotiations between makers, performers and composers. This course encourages students to consider what musical instruments are and how they fit into, and move between, musical contexts. It is designed as a new approach to teaching using the University's Musical Instrument Collection.

The Course addresses general themes by means of case studies of each concept. An indicative list of concepts explored in the course, with each addressed by means of case studies involving instruments from the University's Musical Instrument Collection, might include:

1. Introduction: what are musical instruments and how can we think about them, look at them, study them, use them and find out about them? Including terminology, cataloguing, collections and issues of conservation/preservation/playing
2. The interaction between performers, composers and musical instrument makers, including new ideas (patents), alterations and the concept of 'evolution'
3. How the construction of instrument impacts on what musicians and composers do, including ergonomics and basic acoustics
4. Tradition vs Innovation and their impact on music and instruments - exploring how some makers and musicians are willing to explore new ideas while others prefer to stick to the familiar; negotiating the market place; the entrenchment of the orchestra
5. Musical instruments and technology: key systems; valves vs slides; barrel organs; tools
6. Composers and Instruments - the importance of personal connections, marketing and external factors such as the railway network: JS Bach, Wagner, Berlioz, Heckel, Sax
7. Cultural crossovers, and regional traditions - the violin; the accordion; the sitar; the ud; bagpipes; Catalan oboes; Ugandan xylophones
8. Gender and musical instruments - organs and organists in 18th-century London, the Koto, the flute; the harp
9. The early recording and electronic age: Moog, Theremin, Stroh
10. Creating new instruments - what composers, musicians and instrument makers are doing today using modern technologies. What might happen next?
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  25
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 11, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 11, Formative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 80 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Presentation in the form of a debate: 20% submitted c. Week 6.
Final essay of 3,000 words: 80% submitted in examination period.
Feedback Written feedback for presentation will be given within 2 weeks to feed forwards into essay writing. Written feedback on the essay will be provided within 15 days.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an awareness of the central role played by musical instruments in music.
  2. Apply theoretical concepts and approaches, such as instruments as technologies, ergonomics and cultural positioning introduced in the course to their own analyses.
  3. Understand the interactions between individuals and cultures as well as the influence of gender assumptions on musical choices.
  4. Demonstrate observational skills developed through object-based learning using the University's Musical Instrument Collection.
Reading List
David Boyden et al, The Violin Family, The New Grove Musical Instrument Series (London: Macmillan, 1989)

Nick Collins & Julio d'Escrivan, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Electronic Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017)

Kevin Dawe, 'The Cultural Study of Musical Instruments', pp.274-83 in Martin Clayton, Trevor Herbert & Richard Middleton, eds (2003), The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction (London & New York: Routledge, 2003)

Russell Hartenberger, ed, The Cambridge Companion to Percussion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016)

Laurence Libin, ed, The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, second edition, (London: Macmillan, 2014)

Edwin M Ripin et al, Early Keyboard Instruments, The New Grove Musical Instrument Series (London: Macmillan, 1989)

Trevor Herbert & John Wallace, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Brass Instruments (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)

David Rowland, ed, The Cambridge Companion to the Piano (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)


University of Edinburgh Musical Instrument Collection and
New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians,
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills 1. Students will critically review theories concerning a range of musical instruments, their repertoire and cultural contexts.
2. Students will demonstrate the ability to analyse, interpret and combine different source types for musicological research.
3. Students will critically review practices and thinking, conceptualising and analysing contrasting views on the development of musical instruments.
4. Students will present and convey information concerning musical instruments to their peers and to informed audiences.
5. Students will undertake critical synthesis of ideas and information in the history of musical instrument research.
Keywordsinstruments,organology,music history,musical instruments,music trade,music business
Course organiserDr Jenny Nex
Tel: (0131 6)50 2414
Course secretaryDr Ellen Jeffrey
Tel: (0131 6)50 2430
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