Musicology major

Music book

The Musicology major gives students the opportunity to develop a deep and sophisticated understanding of the cultural, historical, theoretical, and analytical situation of music across a variety of cultures and historical periods. This diversity requires multidisciplinary training that in turn produces a music graduate with an array of transferable skill that will be invaluable for future professional opportunities. Students complete two first-year courses which introduce the notion of inquiry-based musical scholarship.

Our courses examine moments of critical change in the recorded history of music, turning points that will be examined in terms of their historical, cultural and musical significance, and in terms of the resulting changes in musical language. Two later year compulsory courses provide a broad understanding of styles of music writing (such as music criticism), as well as key theoretical and methodological skills - including an introduction to the study of key types of research documents - which culminate in the writing of a research project, using resources in one of Canberra’s cultural institutions. Thereafter, a wide range of academic music courses are available to students for them to complete the additional required 24 units of musicology, to gain a robust preparation for Honours and postgraduate research in musicology.

Historical Musicology

Historical musicology is the study of past musical forms and cultures, and their performance, transmission and reception throughout recorded history to present day. It interprets the cultural meanings of musical expression through the critical examination of musical scores, texts, instruments and other artefacts. Historical musicology is a broad descriptor that covers both the style history of musical works and the social context in which they were produced. The study of music history requires a critical and inquiring mind that will interrogate the concealed agendas in various historical approaches, and look at why at certain times certain music histories have been exhaustively documented and others overlooked, as well as how a particular body of music has been received at various points over time. Students will be introduced to a wide range of approaches and methods during their study, and can engage with a range of areas including the history of art music, jazz, and popular music. They can become actively involved in current research projects at the School, and have direct access to significant digital collections as well as to collections held at national cultural institutions such as the National Library of Australia and the National Film and Sound Archive.


Ethnomusicology is the study of music in its cultural context with particular attention to ways that musicians and audiences create and understand musical forms and meanings. Its methods are built on detailed ethnographic fieldwork, yet are also often informed by historical inquiry. In Australia, ethnomusicology has become an intrinsically applied discipline through which scholars seek to deliver useful outcomes and resources for musicians and their communities. Ethnomusicology students at the School of Music have the opportunity to perform and research musics from around the world, and collaborate with a broad range of community organisations and arts companies. Research in this area is also supported by our large collection of musical instruments, which includes complete sets of West African Ewe and Ashanti drums, Javanese gamelan orchestras, and South Indian and East Asian percussion.

Find out more about the Musicology major on the ANU Programs and Courses website.

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Updated:  22 October 2022/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications