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Composing, Listening, Performing 2009-2010

Course Tutor: Tim White Code: TH325 Duration: 3 Terms


10% Participation

25% Essay - 3000 words

25% Essay – 3000 words

20% Practical Exam 1

20% Practical Exam 2

Course Times: Tuesday 1400-1600

Location: G52


The module seeks to promote an understanding of a form that has functioned as a constituent element of theatre, shares with it a number of characteristics and in the last century, arguably, has brought into play what we now regard as 'performance'. The module's concern with composers,, listeners and musicians provides students with a counterpoint to the more familiar notions of playwright, audience and actor and it is the distinctions and points of contact between these two sets of activities and their attendant forms that will precipitate practical projects at the beginning of the Spring and Summer terms. It asks students to consider the historical, geographical and political sites for avant-garde and experimental forms of music

This optional level 3 module reflects and extends the emphasis on the interdependence of theory and practice in the Theatre Studies undergraduate programme. The work of John Cage continues to reverberate through Performance Studies; his centrality is recognised in the course structure that positions his interventions at the fulcrum of the module (listening). The tripartite division of the course acknowledges in turn the activities that constitute music as a time-based art, commencing with avant-garde composition in the first half of the twentieth-century, continuing with experimental music and its concerns with the reception of the work and concluding with what 'performing' music might entail. A brief coda to the module considers the silencing of composer, listener and performer by the commodification of the work.
The ability to play a musical instrument should not impede successful completion of the module.


By the end of the module the student should be able to identify and debate central developments in experimental music since 1945 and the extent to which these respond to or reflect contemporaneous theatre practice. The student should be able to identify the points of contact and departure between music and theatre both in theory and practice. They should have an understanding of the roles of composer, listener and performer and the circumstances in which such distinctions become blurred. The theatricality of much experimental music will be the primary focus of the student's enquiry though by the end of the module they should also have an appreciation of the visual, philosophical, sociological, mathematical and technological dimensions of the subject.

The student should be able to demonstrate their understanding of key concepts explored during the module (such as chance procedures, musique concrete and modes of listening) in practical presentations of a nature determined in consultation with the tutor. The practical work will permit the student to experience and reflect upon the inter-relationships of performers, composers and listeners as they contribute in one or more of these roles to the practice of others in the group. Furthermore, students should learn (or fortify their existing skills of) how to work productively with others, to grasp complex problems and produce imaginative solutions, as well as to develop the discipline, presentation, and organizational skills.

It is expected that the level of skills and competences achieved in the following will be appropriate to the level of study: deployment of research using printed and electronic sources; critical analysis and coherent argument; undertaking self-directed, independent work; oral communication and argument in different contexts and for different purposes (presentation and discussion); identifying and addressing problems in the analysis of theatre. The willingness to consider different points of view and the time management required for seminar and essay tasks are additional skills.

The module plays a significant role in the continuing development of the following cognitive skills and competences which are central to the course: the ability to critically review a coherent body of knowledge; identifying problems and factors which might influence potential solutions; developing creative thinking approaches to problem solving; evaluate advantages and disadvantages of potential solutions; constructing a rational, informed but independent proposal in response to a problem.

Students should be able to analyse and synthesise widely different types of performance texts and musical scores within their historical and cultural contexts. Through this contextualisation students should also be able to appreciate the text as a cultural product or even as a historical event.

A note on the practical element of the course

This involves two public showings. However, the final forms of these showings are open and should be determined in discussion with the supervisor. Practical assessment will be in accordance with the guidelines laid out in the School’s handbook. Students should be aware that they are likely to be asked to produce video documentation of their performances for the purposes of external examination, and that it is their responsibility to arrange for this to occur.

Generic Assessment Criteria for Practice within the School of Theatre Studies:

Practice is assessed in an evaluation of processes and projects. The underlying principle, as with all assessment of theatre practice within the School, is that you are assessed on the demonstration of your understanding through practice. Key criteria of assessment are:
Good practice. Your response to the basic disciplines and demands of project-based, group work: attendance, punctuality, a commitment and willingness to share responsibility with other members of the group.
The initiation, negotiation and realisation of ideas in a collaborative group process. In this context there may also be an assessment of the execution of specific responsibilities allocated by the tutor or agreed between the tutor and the group.
Your demonstration, through your practice, of an understanding of the specific concepts, issues and/or practices towards which the module directs and focuses your attention