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Unit of study_

MCGY5601: Music Through Ethnography

As an analytical method, ethnography concentrates on the experience of life as it is lived. Following the development of the fieldwork-based discipline of ethnomusicology, ethnographic approaches to music have come to examine: historical and archival data, objects and artefacts in collections, cyber networks, digital communications, and medical and therapeutic understandings of sound, among other aspects of everyday life. This unit of study engages ethnographic methodologies to examine the myriad ways music informs and enriches people's lives and contributes to defining how humans flourish in their natural, social and cultural environments.


Academic unit Musicology
Unit code MCGY5601
Unit name Music Through Ethnography
Session, year
Semester 1, 2020
Attendance mode Normal day
Location Sydney
Credit points 6

Enrolment rules

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff and contact details

Coordinator Michael Webb,
Lecturer(s) Michael Webb ,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Preparation of readings and participation in discussion
Weekly notes on set readings; lead one session
20% Multiple weeks Weekly
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2
Assignment Ethnographic interview, analysis and report
Interview, transcription and spreadsheet analysis
20% Week 06 5 minute interview, 1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3
Assignment Transcription & analysis/Performance & report
Music transcription & analysis OR Performance tracking & report
20% Week 10 1500 words equivalent
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3
Assignment Research essay
Essay on musical ethnography from selected list
40% Week 14 (STUVAC) 2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO4
  1. Weekly readings summary & discussion leading with activities
  2. Ethnographic interview, analysis & report
  3. Recording transcription and analysis
  4. Essay on an aspect of musical ethnography as a methodology

See unit Canvas site for more detail regarding the Assessment Tasks.

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

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.

Special consideration

If you experience short-term circumstances beyond your control, such as illness, injury or misadventure or if you have essential commitments which impact your preparation or performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

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.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 What is ethnography? Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 02 Understanding musical ethnography Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 03 Music in place Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 04 Ethnography and music (re)presentation Online class (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 05 Ethics, archives and collections Online class (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 06 Music and human capacity INTERVIEW Task due Online class (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 07 Performance participation Online class (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 08 Music traditions and social change Online class (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Music and social difference Online class (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 09 Analytical approaches to music Online class (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 10 SPECIAL PROJECTS WEEK make-up class Online class (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 11 Sound structure as social structure TRANSCRIPTION/PERFORMANCE Task due Online class (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 12 From music to sound Online class (2 hr) LO1 LO2

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

See the MCGY5601 Canvas site for a comprehensive list of readings.

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 critical and practical engagement with key topics, issues and analytical techniques and approaches that musical ethnographers employ
  • LO2. demonstrate familiarity with features and qualities that distinguish ethnographic thinking and modes of documentation
  • LO3. successfully apply ethnographic techniques in the gathering of data through an interview, and through analysis and writing
  • LO4. usefully and appropriately incorporate ethnographic approaches into the research design of your own thesis topic or another musicology topic of your choice.

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
Every year that this unit is taught, thoughtful suggestions for improvement made through the USS and other channels are considered and incorporated for future versions of the unit.


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