MUS31360 Manuscript Sources: Imagining Music and Society, 900-1600

Academic Year 2021/2022

In this module students will study some of the most important primary sources of medieval and Renaissance vocal music through engagement with music manuscript sources. Developments in musical notation will be examined using these sources and questions of notation's functions as well as the nexus between notation, performer and performance will be examined. Further topics for discussion include the relationships between written music and oral tradition, as well as the fixity of written notation, improvised polyphony and a culture of writing. The materiality of manuscript books will be discussed, including structure and formats and the reasons why sources do and do not survive. The chosen manuscript sources will be used to illuminate questions of cultural identity and music's role in society in the period 900 - 1600.

Among the manuscript sources to be studied are the earliest sources of Western musical notation contained in manuscripts of Latin liturgical chant. Sources of early European vernacular song will also be studied. Among the manuscript sources of polyphonic music to be examined will be sources of secular and sacred polyphony from the 12th century through to the deluxe choir books of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:
- identify the principal manuscript sources of European vocal music in the Medieval and Renaissance periods
- work confidently with the musical notation of these sources
- name, distinguish and describe genres of monophonic and polyphonic song of the period under consideration
- analyse and discuss compositional techniques used during the period of study
- demonstrate an understanding of the social and historical context of the music
- work confidently with facsimile editions and online digital images of medieval and Renaissance manuscript books

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Seminars with close reading of texts
Immersion in primary source materials and experiential learning
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Preparation, participation and attendance at lectures and seminars Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: End of trimester essay of 3,500 words Week 12 n/a Graded No


Assignment: Manuscript assignment - music palaeography Week 8 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.