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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Music

Undergraduate Course: The Musicology of War (MUSI10104)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course offers students a comprehensive introduction to the musicological study of war. Combining historical, sociological and anthropological approaches, it explores the myriad roles music has played in organising, legitimising and communicating war, and in dealing with war's impacts. Drawing together evidence and examples from prehistory to the present day, the course combines theoretical approaches to the musicology of war with discussion of recent research case studies. Students will learn to critically evaluate this material, and will gain an understanding of the ethical issues involved in researching this field.
Course description Since the earliest records we have, musical communication and musical practices have played sometimes key roles in how war is organised, legitimised, and communicated. Ancient written accounts of real and mythical wars often derive from what would originally have been poetico-musical accounts of wars and their heroes, and these accounts themselves point to the use of musical instruments and musical practices in connection with acts of war. Until very recently in terms of big history, musical communication had a place on the battlefield; it still plays a significant role in training for war, and in both formal and informal strategies for coping with war's impact. War has also had a significant impact on musical economies and on many areas of musical practice, including through the influence of military musical cultures on civilian music-making. Music also plays an important role in how we communicate and think about war. In short, music is a central component of the cultural construction and practice of war.

This course introduces students to recent research in musicology and neighbouring disciplines which focus on the relationship between music and war. It offers students a framework for approaching this subject which will enable them to make connections between the case studies discussed, and will encourage them to think about the sociological and anthropological implications of this research. Students will learn to critically evaluate research in this area, and will gain an understanding of the methodological and ethical issues which arise in the conduct of this research.

Topics covered will include:
- Anthropological and sociological approaches to war and violence
- The organology and musical cosmology of war
- The use of music during battle and other violent encounters in war
- The use of music in preparing for war, and dealing with its immediate psychological fallout
- How war impacts musical cultures
- The roles of music in communicating and representing war.

Case studies and examples discussed cover an extensive period from prehistory to the present day. The course is delivered through a weekly mixture of lectures and discussions of set reading.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesStudents should ideally already have some experience of written coursework (essays) in the humanities or social sciences to at least level 8 or equivalent.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Evidence detailed, critical knowledge and understanding of current approaches to the musicological study of war and armed conflict.
  2. Critically evaluate secondary literature and some primary sources in this field.
  3. Communicate the results of their learning coherently and in line with professional standards for good academic practice.
  4. Understand the complex ethical considerations and methodological difficulties that can emerge when working in this field.
Reading List
- Grant, M. J., "On Music and War", Transposition 2/2020, special edition.
- Sound, Music and Violence. Online. DOI :
- Holmes, Richard, Acts of War: The Behaviour of Men in Battle (London: Cassell Military Paperbacks, 2004).
- Jardin, Étienne (ed.), Music and War from French Revolution to WWI (Turnout: Brepols, 2016).
- Pettan, Svanibor, "Music, Politics, and the War in Croatia in the 1990s: An Introduction", in Svanibor Pettan (ed.), Music, Politics and War: The View from Croatia (Zagreb: Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, 1998), pp. 9-26.
- Schmidt, Bettina E., and Ingo Schröder, "Introduction: Violent Imaginaries and Violent Practices", in Bettina E. Schmidt & Ingo Schröder (eds.), Anthropology of Violence and Conflict (London: Routledge, 2001).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Critically identify, define, conceptualise and analyse complex problems and issues.
- Critically review and consolidate knowledge and thinking with regard to the musicology of war.
- Make judgements where data/information is limited or comes from a range of sources.
- Communicate information about specialised topics to informed audiences.
- Manage complex ethical and professional issues in accordance with current professional and/or ethical codes or practices.
Keywordswar; musicology; sociology of music; anthropology of music; music and violence
Course organiserDr Morag Grant
Course secretaryMr Hugh Black
Tel: (0131 6)51 5926
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