Music in Medieval Europe (SML3019)

StaffProfessor Yolanda Plumley - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims


The module aims to introduce students to the multifaceted roles that music played in different contexts and situations in late medieval Europe. We will explore: how music was perceived and experienced in the church, city and court; the social origins of different orders of musicians, how they were trained, and what career paths were open to them; and some of the musical genres composed for particular social occasions or rituals. We will examine specific case studies of musicians and musical works corresponding to, or crossing, the various social or historical categories. Students will engage with a range of research materials, including original medieval manuscripts and manuscript reproductions, modern sound recordings, as well as medieval poetry and other kinds of texts. Students will develop skills in critical listening of the music from this distant period and learn how studying this aspect of medieval culture can shed light on our understanding of the society it represents.


ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Interpret different kinds of evidence relating to music of the Middle Ages and the context in which this material was produced;
  • 2. Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of a range of different kinds of primary source materials and be able to evaluate their historical value critically.
  • 3. Demonstrate some understanding of how to listen to medieval music critically.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. After initial input from the course tutor, apply and evaluate critical approaches to the material under analysis independently.
  • 5. Argue at length and in detail about an aspect of the topic, supporting the argument with evidence from primary materials and with opinions from secondary literature.
  • 6. Construct a detailed argument in the appropriate register of English, marshalling a range of textual or other evidence in its support.
  • 7. Use a range of critical terminology, applying it to independently researched material as well as to material introduced by the course tutor.
  • 8. Access, and use critically, printed and, where appropriate, electronic learning resources identified as useful by the course tutor; find independently and evaluate critically other relevant resources.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Manage own learning time and learning activities with limited guidance from module tutor.
  • 10. Present information and arguments on a designated or negotiated topic to a group of listeners and respond to questions.
  • 11. Select, criticise and organise a large body of material in order to produce, to a deadline, a written or oral argument of some complexity.
  • 12. Using bibliographical material provided, select, plan, and carry out a programme of study leading to an essay on a chosen topic, to a specified length and deadline.

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 Activities16 Hours10 Lectures, 5 seminars, and 1 tutorial
Guided independent study134 HoursPrivate study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Commentary750 words1-12Written

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
Essay100%3000 words1-12Written feedback on standardized feedback form

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-12Refer/Defer period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:


M. Everist, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

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, TheOwl and the Nightingale: Musical Life and Ideas in France, 1100-1300 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989)

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?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date

March 2013

Last revision date

March 2013

Key words search

Medieval music, Medieval France, Medieval Italy