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Unit outline_

MUSC3631: Music in Public: Performance and Power

Semester 2, 2022 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

The act of performing music creates a multitude of social relationships between listeners, audiences, musicians, performers, and the industries and institutions that surround them. This subject will ask students to study acts of performance historically, theoretically, and observationally. They will examine a wide range of situations and circumstances and try to work out how the expression of music is also an expression, affirmation, and contestation of social power. This subject will appeal to those who wish to study subjects such as music, performance studies, sociology, anthropology, and gender and cultural studies. It cuts across all of these areas of inquiry in the attention that is paid to the complexity and subtlety of how music is perceived and experienced across multiple social scenes and communities. This subject is not about performance practice or assessment. Instead, it seeks to allow students to gain some insight into the experience of performance as multifaceted and perspectival.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Charles Fairchild,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Critical essay
30% Formal exam period 2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1
Assignment Music mapping reports
15% Multiple weeks 1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1
Participation Seminar contribution
15% Ongoing n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1
Assignment Dissecting a performance genre
Written assessment
20% Week 05
Due date: 04 Sep 2022 at 23:59
1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1
Assignment Performance report
Written assessment
20% Week 11
Due date: 23 Oct 2022 at 23:59
1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1

Assessment summary

  • Music mapping reports: Students will write four short music mapping reports that will describe and explain an experience of music in public that students have had. Each will have a slightly different focus as the semester progresses.
  • Dissecting a performance genre: Students will choose, or be assigned, a type or genre of performance and will use a range of academic sources, and more popular sources, to provide a summary of its core characteristics and most salient details.
  • Performance report: Students will complete a field report on a type of performance or performance structure that will be used in preparation for the critical essay. 
  • Critical essay: Students will develop a thesis, argument or research question about a set of aesthetic ideals and claims about what music is supposed to do and what it was meant to express in performance, and critically analyse chosen materials in specific relation to the readings, lectures and tutorial discussions. 
  • Seminar contribution: Participation during seminars. 

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 An introduction to power and musical performance Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 02 Musical communities of the sensible Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 03 Finding ‘power’ in a musical performance Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 04 Performance, genre, analysis Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 05 Experiencing performance at a historical distance Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 06 Spectating, protocols, and genre Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 07 Musical performance, in practice, in situ Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 08 Feelin’ it Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 09 Seeing it Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 11 Understanding it Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 12 Analysing it Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 13 Writing about it Seminar (2 hr)  

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

Class Schedule and Readings

Cluster 1: Understanding Communities of Sense

Week 1–August 4: An Introduction to Power and Musical Performance

Week 2–August 11: Musical Communities of the Sensible


1.) Papastergiadis, Nikos. (2014) ‘A Breathing Space for Aesthetics and Politics: An Introduction to Jacques Ranciere.’ Theory, Culture & Society, 31(7/8): 5–26.

2.) Ranciére, Jacques. (2008) Excerpts from The Emancipated Spectator. London: Verso.

Week 3–August 18: Finding ‘Power’ in a Musical Performance


3.) Clune, Michael. (2019) 'Judgment and Equality,' Critical Inquiry, 45: 910-34. 

4.) Morris, Martin. (2013) ‘Communicative Power and Ideology in Popular Music.’ Journal of Communication Inquiry, 37(2): 113–127.


Cluster 2: Reading Performance

Week 4-August 25: Performance, Genre, Analysis


5.) McAuley, Gay. (1998) ‘Performance Analysis: Theory and Practice.’ About Performance, 4: 1-12.

6.) Briggs, C., and R. Bauman. (1992) ‘Genre, Intertextuality, and Social Power.’ Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 2(2): 131-72. 

Week 5–September 1: Experiencing Performance at a Historical Distance


7.) Bank, Rosemarie. (2002) ‘Representing History: Performing the Columbian Exposition.’ Theatre Journal, 54(4): 589-606.

8.) Dolan, Jill. (2005) Excerpt from Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theater. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Week 6– September 8: Spectating, Protocols, and Genre


9.) Albrecht, Michael Mario. (2008) ‘Acting Naturally Unnaturally: The Performative Nature of Authenticity in Contemporary Popular Music.’ Text and Performance Quarterly, 28(4): 379-95.




Cluster 3: Out There: The Phenomenon of a Performance

Week 7- September 15: Musical Performance, In Practice, In Situ


10.) Byrne, David. (2012) ‘How to Make a Scene.’ From How Music Works. New York: McSweeney’s.

Week 8– September 22: Feelin’ It


12.) Mann, Larisa Kingston. (2015) ‘Embodied Meaning in Jamaican Popular Music.’ Journal of Popular Music Studies, 27(4): 478–87.


[No class between Weeks 8 and 9. ‘Semester Break.’]


Week 9–October 6: Seeing It


13.) Meyers, John Paul. (2015) ‘Still Like That Old Time Rock and Roll: Tribute Bands and Historical Consciousness in Popular Music.’ Ethnomusicology, 59(1): 61-81.


[No class meeting in Week 10. ‘Reading Week/Special Projects Week.’]


Cluster 4: Performance as Discourse

Week 11–October 20: Understanding It

14.) Bird, Susan (2016) ‘Dancing in the Streets: Political Action and Resistance in Melbourne.’ Journal of Musicological Research, 35(2): 128-141.

Week 12–October 27: Analysing It

15.) Laurin, Helene. (2009) ‘The Girl Is a Boy Is a Girl: Gender Representations in the Gizzy Guitar 2005 Air Guitar Competition.’ Journal of Popular Music Studies, 21(3): 284–303

16.) Hutchison, Sydney. (2014) ‘Putting Some Air on Their Chests: Masculinity and Movement in Competitive Air Guitar.’ The World of Music, 3(2): 79-103. 

Week 13–November 3: Writing About It

17.) Richardson, Laurel. (2000) ‘Writing: A Method of Inquiry.’ In Handbook of Qualitative Research,  N. Denzin, Y. Lincoln, (eds.). Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Sage Publications, 923-948. A two-hour workshop on writing about music in public.

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. use a range of skills to analyse and interpret a wide range of performance genres.

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.

Dates have changed. Everything is great.


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