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Musicology

From making to meaning.

At Manchester we offer far more than a historical survey of great works and great composers. With our diverse range of staff specialisms Musicology at Manchester builds on the notion that music exists on a spectrum between making and meaning (and back again). Acknowledging the powerful and often mysterious role which music plays in the lives, cultures and beliefs of people around the world and throughout history, we investigate the practices, processes, bodies and objects which ground musical values and meanings as we explore the more complex stories and arguments that lie behind the music itself.

Eleanor Sherwood, MusM (ethnomusicology)

It was brilliant to develop ideas alongside people who were also passionate about stretching the boundaries of musical understanding!

Eleanor Sherwood / MusM Music (Ethnomusicology), MusB Music

Regardless of musical genre, culture, period or social group, musicological enquiry at Manchester is underpinned by questions such as ‘How does this music work?’, ‘How (and why) was it made?’, ‘How (and where) was it performed?’, ‘How was it heard in its own time and place?’, ‘How is it heard today?, ‘Whom does it benefit, and how?’ Starting with these broad questions, we encourage you to delve into the multiple ways in which music is played, transmitted, stored, recorded, exchanged, heard, manipulated and valued, and, armed with this new understanding, to consider its ramifications for the meaning and function of music in its historical, social, political and cultural contexts.

Course units

Within our first-year core units you will encounter a wide variety of topics – anything from Renaissance polyphony to Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ Symphony, Bob Dylan’s protest songs to divas. Specialist units offered in years 2 and 3 currently include: Early Opera; Music, Culture and Politics: The Long 19th Century; Modern Spanish Music: A Cultural History; Understanding Popular Music in the Digital Age; and Participatory Music in Theory and Practice. A number of themes and issues provide coherence across these different areas of the curriculum: aesthetics and performance practice, music and gender, temporality and movement, creative process, identity and belonging, censorship and protest, tradition and transformation, globalisation and the digital age.

  • A full list of taught units can be found under the 'course details' tab within each of our undergraduate and postgraduate course pages.

Whether you are an undergraduate or postgraduate, our ethos of topical, research-led teaching means that you will be engaging with the most recent work of our world-leading musicologists, who will also introduce you to a range of methodological approaches from areas such as sketch study, music analysis, ethnography, anthropology, aesthetics, cultural history, reception, and performance studies.

Enriching study, enriching music, enriching life

Lizzie Parsons, MusB Music

Studying music gave me many transferrable skills that I use every day, most notably my ability to think critically and creatively.

Lizzie Parsons / MusB Music

Your musicological study will be further enriched through its close interaction with the dynamic culture of performance and composition that distinguishes Music at Manchester. With our emphasis on the contingency of interpretation as well as the materials and processes of making music, we encourage you to apply a similar approach to the decisions you make in your own practice as a performer, composer or researcher, and in your vocational practice and professional life after university. And our location in the city that boasts the highest number of live music performances per capita in the UK also gives you the opportunity to attend professional performances of many of the works or traditions you encounter as part of your studies.

Whether you are interested in our undergraduate or postgraduate courses, our research degrees or possibilities for professional collaboration and scholarly exchange, we invite you to find out more using the links below: