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 musicology with experiential learning: 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. You will be 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 by 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 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, giving individual oral presentations to other students and leading group presentations. Weekly practical 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 is no expectation that you will be a keyboard player

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, the edition AND the performance will all 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:
1. 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.
2. You will demonstrate an understanding of primary manuscript sources of the music
Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. 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.
4. You explore aspects of performance practice through playing the music.
Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
5. 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 (20%). MLOs: 2, 3, 5

3. Performance 20%). MLOs: 2, 4, 5

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

Feedback on the performance is given on a report form, and you have the opportunity to discuss this with the module 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 experiential learning: 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 2023 or September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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