MU6004 - Seventeenth-Century Keyboard Music in the British Isles: its Creation, Use and Place in Society

What will I learn on this module?

This course involves a study of keyboard music mainly by William Byrd and his contemporaries, and examines the way keyboard music was used in the home by amateur players. As well as repertoire by named composers, it covers the contexts in which such music was played, the instruments it was played upon and aspects of performance practice. It combines musicological with a practical element: students of all levels of keyboard proficiency from beginner to advanced will have the opportunity to learn from playing.

English seventeenth-century keyboard music will be studied from a number of perspectives. Students are introduced to manuscript sources of the music, the editorial principles underlying approaches to modern editions of the repertoire, and the relation between composer, scribe and performer. The traditional notion of the period in the mid-century being a 'transition' between the so-called virginalist school and that of Purcell and his contemporaries will be challenged by examining whether the repertoire should be regarded as functional or autonomous. Pieces representative composers will be introduced in relation to genre distinctions, and especially instrumental designation. Elements of performance practice, such as the interpretation of ornaments and early fingering, will be covered through practical sessions.

How will I learn on this module?

Each week you will prepare for a one-and-a-half-hour seminar based around set reading and listening which may be accessed through the online reading lists and the eLearning portal. The seminars vary from week to week, and may include discussion in which you engage with the perspectives of others, individual oral presentations and group presentations. Weekly practically focused workshops focus on the approaches to editing keyboard music of this period, introduce you to aspects of performance practice, and include an element of performance for those of all levels of keyboard proficiency, from beginner to advanced.

There will also be an optional field trip to the Russell Collection of early keyboard instruments at the University of Edinburgh.

You will be responsible for your own guided and independent learning, and by the end of the module you will have edited a piece of early British keyboard music, written an essay and performed a piece appropriate to your level of keyboard ability. The essay and EITHER the edition OR the performance will count towards the final mark.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Your academic development will be supported through the module tutor, engagement with your peers and through your programme leader. Your module tutor will offer tutorials, both for the preparation of your assignments and for feedback. In addition, you will also be able to see the module tutor (for instance in the publicised feedback and consultation hours) and to raise questions via email. Your peers will provide you with a collaborative learning environment, and your programme leader will guide you through the requirements and expectations of your course. You will also be supported through individual engagement with the academic literature, lectures, and resources available on the eLearning Portal. Feedback will be ongoing throughout seminar activities and through assessment tasks.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• You will demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of keyboard forms and genres, and an understanding of keyboard music in the British Isles within broader cultural, social and religious contexts.
• You will demonstrate an understanding of primary manuscript sources of the music
Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• You will be able to produce a scholarly edition of keyboard music, and engage with, and evaluate critically, scholarly conventions in the editing of early keyboard music.
• You explore aspects of performance practice through playing the music.
Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• You will show a willingness to monitor and assess your progress in a spirit of critical self-awareness.

How will I be assessed?

1. Essay of 3,000 words (60%). MLOs: 1, (2), 5

2. Scholarly Music Edition OR Performance (40%). MLOs: 2, 3, 4, 5

3. Performance OR Scholarly Edition (Formative) – all students engage with performance and editing, but only one is used in the calculation of the grade.

Feedback on the essay comprises annotations to the script and a short report, plus an opportunity to go over your work with the course tutor in an individual tutorial.

Feedback on the Scholarly Music Edition involves annotations to your work, and a short report, plus the opportunity to go over your work with the course tutor.

Feedback on the performance is given on a report form, and you have the opportunity to discuss this with the course tutor for further feedback.





Module abstract

This course involves a study of keyboard music mainly by William Byrd and his contemporaries, and examines the way keyboard music was used in the home by amateur players. It includes repertoire by named composers, but also anonymous arrangements of popular tunes of the day. You will engage with primary source material (microfilms and digitlisations of music manuscripts) and debate the editorial principles underlying approaches to modern editions of the repertoire. The module combines musicological study with a practical element: whatever skill level you have at the keyboard, you will play some of the music, thereby gaining insights into instruments (virginal, harpsichord), playing techniques and aspects of performance practice.

Course info

UCAS Code W320

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2022 or September 2023

Fee Information

Module Information

All information on this course page is accurate at the time of viewing.

Our Campus based courses starting in 2022 and 2023 will be delivered on-campus with supporting online learning content. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to adjust the delivery of our education accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

On-campus contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with any additional restrictions, which may be imposed by the Government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors. This could potentially mean increased or fully online delivery, should such restrictions on in-person contact time be required.


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