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Unit outline_

MCGY2613: Music in Modern Times

Semester 1, 2022 [Normal day] - Sydney

Traces the essential developments in Western art music from the very end of the 19th century to the start of the 21st, and relates them to broad socio-historical and artistic changes. The overview given in the lectures is reinforced by the analysis of key works in tutorials. Areas covered include Late Romanticism, Impressionism, Expressionism, Free Atonality, Rhythmic Innovation, Neo-classicism, Serial Music, Political Music, American Experimentalism, Electro-Acoustic Music, Chance composition, Textural Composition, Minimalism, influences from Popular Music, Collage and Polystylism, East-West Encounters, Neo-Romanticism, Post Modernism and Spectralism. Works analysed include compositions by Andriessen, Bartok, Cage, Debussy, Ligeti, Messiaen, Part, Schoenberg, Strauss, Stravinsky, Stockhausen and Webern.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge

Ability to read musical notation

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Rachel Campbell,
Lecturer(s) Rachel Campbell,
Tutor(s) James Maher,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Take-home short release) Type D final exam Final exam
An open book exam consisting of several questions requiring lengthy answers
35% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Small test In-class tests
At end of lectures W3,6,11,13. Listening test plus long response questions.
20% Multiple weeks 4 x 15 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Small continuous assessment Tutorial preparation and participation
10% Ongoing
Closing date: 03 Jun 2021
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Essay
Written assessment
35% Week 12
Due date: 17 May 2021 at 23:59
1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Type D final exam = Type D final exam ?

Assessment summary

  • In class tests: 4 x listening tests + long response questions.
  • Tutorial preparation and participation: Peer graded.
  • Essay: See Canvas site for essay questions and guidance.
  • Final Exam: Longer response questions.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The following assessment criteria are used for written work in this unit of study:

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Demonstrates high level of initiative in research and reading; sophisticated critical analysis of evidence; high level engagement with theoretical issues, innovative use of reading/research material and impressive command of underlying debates and assumptions; properly documented and written with style, originality and precision.


75 - 84

Demonstrates initiative in research and wide, appropriate reading; complex understanding of question and ability to critically review material in relation to underlying assumptions and values; analyses material in relation to empirical and theoretical contexts; properly documented; clear, well-developed structure and argument with some signs of literary style.


65 - 74

Evidence of broader understanding than pass level; offers synthesis with some critical evaluation of material; coherent argument using a range of relevant evidence; some evidence of independent thought, good referencing. A high credit (70-74) shows some evidence of ability to problematise and think conceptually.


50 - 64

Written work meets basic requirements in terms of reading/research; relevant material; tendency to descriptive summary rather than critical argument; makes a reasonable attempt to avoid paraphrasing; reasonably coherent structure; often has weaknesses in particular areas, especially in terms of narrow or underdeveloped treatment of question; acceptable documentation.


0 - 49

Work may fail for any or all of the following reasons: Unacceptable paraphrasing; irrelevance of content; poor spelling; poor presentation; grammar or structure so sloppy it cannot be understood; failure to demonstrate understanding of content; insufficient or overlong word length.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 1. Introduction; 2. Modernism; 3. Late romanticism Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 02 1. Impressionism; 2. Expressionism and free atonality Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 03 1. Music in Eastern Europe; 2. Primitivism and folk music; 3. Futurism Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 04 1. Antiromanticism; 2. Neoclassicism Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 05 1. Serialism; 2. America to World War Two Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 06 1. Soviet Russia; 2. New Mainstreams Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 07 1. Post-war avant-garde 2. Indeterminacy Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 08 1. Electro-acoustic music 2. Texturalism 3. Extended techniques Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 09 Xenakis Pithoprakta Tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 11 1. Collage; 2. Minimalism; 3. Postmodernism Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 12 1. Influences from popular music; 2. East-West synthesis; 3. Computer music Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 13 1. The nature of sound; 2. Into the 21st Century Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: Students are expected to attend a minimum of 90% of timetabled activities for a unit of study, unless granted exemption by the Dean, Head of School or professor most concerned. The Dean, Head of School or professor most concerned may determine that a student fails a unit of study because of inadequate attendance. Alternatively, at their discretion, they may set additional assessment items where attendance is lower than 90%.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

Auner, Joseph. Music in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, Western Music in Context: A Norton History, New York: Norton, 2013.

Taruskin, Richard. The Oxford History of Western Music. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.


Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. demonstrate a broad understanding of the main compositional and aesthetic tendencies in Western art music from c. 1890 to the present day
  • LO2. understand the nature and rationale of the most influential compositional styles during this period, as well as the particular socio-historical circumstances that gave rise to them
  • LO3. understand this in relation to both heard and seen music (performances and scores), with a very diverse selection of ‘set works’ as a primary orientation
  • LO4. extend your personal understanding of the period in question throughout your professional lifetime
  • LO5. place any previously unfamiliar ‘modern’ work within an overall context
  • LO6. understand principles that may underlie tendencies in years to come.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No information provided


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