Music and Society in Medieval Europe (HISM025)

StaffProfessor Yolanda Plumley - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level7
Pre-requisitesThose of entry to the MA programme or equivalent
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module aims to introduce students to the multifaceted roles that music played in different contexts and situations: how music was perceived and experienced in the church, city and court; the social origins of different orders of musicians and how they were trained, and what career paths were open to them; the different musical genres composed for different social occasions or rituals. We will examine specific cases of musicians and music and events corresponding to or crossing social and historical categories.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Ability to interpret different kinds of evidence relating to music of the Middle Ages and the context in which this material was produced; appreciation of key concepts and debates in the field of medieval studies
  • 2. Demonstrate an awareness of historiographical and theoretical debates in the various subject areas studied
  • 3. Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of a wide selection of primary source materials and be able to evaluate their historical value critically
  • 4. Demonstrate an ability to evaluate different disciplinary perspectives on the Middle Ages
  • 5. Propose and begin work on two essays on some aspect of this subject, in discussion with tutors.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. Analyse and synthesise widely different types of historical material and evidence
  • 7. Identify and understand the nature of original sources
  • 8. Critically understand key concepts and debates
  • 9. Research independently and present interpretations of different historical issues.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 10. Demonstrate capacity for independent critical study and thought
  • 11. Apply key bibliographical skills (including the use of online searching aids)
  • 12. Construct and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally, using primary and secondary materials.
  • 13. Work as an individual and with a tutor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive way (e.g. lead a group discussion or tasks, as agreed).
  • 14. Analyse, summarise, and organise material to produce a coherent and cogent argument, within specific deadlines.

Syllabus plan

Sessions to include the following topics:

Introduction: Music in Medieval Society and Culture

Different Orders of Musicians and their Training

Music in the Church.

Music in the City.

Music at Court.

Case Studies.


Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22seminars
Guided independent study278independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course1-4, 6-10, 12, 13Verbal from tutor and other students of seminar group.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
essay 504000 word 1-14Individual feedback through personal tutorials
essay504000 word 1-14Individual feedback through personal tutorials

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

N.C. Carpenter, Music in the Medieval and Renaissance Universities (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1958)

L.M. Earp, Guillaume de Machaut: A Guide to Research (New York-London: Garland, 1995)

D. Fallows, Guillaume Dufay, Revised edition (London: Dent, 1987)

F.A. Gallo, Music in the Castle: Troubadours, Books, and Orators in Italian Courts of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Centuries. transl. by A. Herklotz (Chicago: University Press, 1995)

F.A. Gallo, Music of the Middle Ages II, transl. by K. Eales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985)

R. H. Hoppin, Medieval Music (New York: Norton, 1978)
T. Knighton & D. Fallows, eds., Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music (New York: Schirmer, 1992)
J. McKinnon, Man and Music. Antiquity and the Middle Ages: From Ancient Greece to the 15th century. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990)
C. Page, Discarding Images: Reflections on Music and Culture in Medieval France (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993)
C. Page, TheOwl and the Nightingale: Musical Life and Ideas in France, 1100-1300 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989)

C. Page ed., Introduction to The Summa musice: A Thirteenth-century Manual for Singers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)

N. Pirrotta, Music and Culture in Italy from the Middle Ages to the Baroque (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1984)

K. Polk, German Instrumental Music of the Late Middle Ages: Players, Patrons and Performance Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992)
R. Sherr, Papal Music and Musicians in Medieval and Renaissance Rome (Oxford, Clarendon, 1998)

R. Strohm, The Rise of European Music, 1380-1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993)

O. Strunk, Source Readings in Music History (New York: Norton, 1998)

P. Weiss & R. Taruskin eds., Music in the Western World: A History in Documents (New York: Schirmer, 1984)

N. Wilkins, Music in the Age of Chaucer (Rowman and Littlefield, 1979)

B. Wilson, Music and Merchants: The Laudesi Companies of Republican Florence (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992)
J. Yudkin, Music in Medieval Europe (New York: Prentice Hall, 1989)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Any other primary source material as provided

Available as distance learning?