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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Anthropology

ANTH48815: Advanced Studies in the Cultural Evolution of Music

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2021/22


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce key ideas and debates in the field of cultural evolution using music as a case study
  • To explore broader controversies in anthropology surrounding the application of evolutionary models to culture
  • To provide students the opportunity to develop greater confidence in evaluating quantitative research findings


  • The module will examine the ways in which cultural evolutionary methodologies, such as transmission chain experiments and cultural phylogenetics, may be able to shed light on the origins and diversity of music
  • We will apply concepts from cultural evolution to explore how new musical ‘ideas’ originate, how music is transmitted from one generation to the next and how music diversifies over longer timescales
  • We will discuss a diverse range of musical case studies including folk, classical and contemporary examples, from both Western and non-Western traditions

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Demonstrate advanced levels of current knowledge and intensive understanding in cultural evolution
  • Deploy analytical skills specific to cultural evolution as applied to music
  • Be competent in accessing and assimilating specialised research literature of an advanced nature
  • In depth knowledge of the cultural evolution of music with emphasis on interpretation and comprehensive understanding of quantitative research findings
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Evaluate and interpret quantitative research pertaining to the evolution of music
Key Skills:
  • Understanding and effective communication of quantitative research methods, findings, interpretation and arguments in written form
  • Critical analysis of literature and data Self-reflection on knowledge and skills acquired and developed
  • Accessing library resources
  • Undertaking independent study and research
  • Preparation and effective communication of interpretations and arguments in written form

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures will provide students with an outline of key knowledge and debates in the topic area, discuss the literature that students should explore, and provide relevant examples and case studies.
  • Seminars will develop topics introduced in lectures and required reading to analyse aspects or case studies in greater depth and to prepare students for their summative assignment.
  • Student preparation and reading time will allow engagement with specific references in advance of tutorials and general and particular reading related to the assessment, which will be a written assignment.
  • Summative assessment will include a 2,500-word written assignment in which students will critically evaluate the application of key cultural evolutionary concepts and methodologies to the study of music.
  • The summative critical reading log is an annotated bibliography in which the evidence and arguments presented in readings selected by the student and relevant to the development of their summative assessment are evaluated and critiqued. This along with the other summative component should show evidence of a higher level of engagement expected at postgraduate level.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Seminars 5 Fortnightly 1 hour 5
Advanced discussion class 1 1 hour 1
Preparation and Reading 134
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment 2500 words 80%
Critical reading log 1000 words 20%

Formative Assessment:

500 word review. Reading log sample.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University