SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Performance Theory

Module Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Term 1
Compulsory for MMus (Performance) and an optional “minor” half-course for MMus (Ethnomusicology). The aim is to develop knowledge of theoretical, conceptual, and structural issues relating to performance, enabling students to apply these in their own performance practice. It is taught as a series of seminars. The course includes three components: theoretical (notation, transcription, analysis, improvisation); conceptual (different ways of writing, recording, and archiving music, and how these can inform or detract from performance itself); and cultural (performance from an anthropological perspective and Hood’s concept of bi-musicality). Examination is by two pieces of coursework: an essay, followed by a second essay or fieldwork report or transcription & analysis project or composition/arrangement. Part-time students normally take this in year 1.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should have acquired an overview of performance theory together with specific knowledge of cultural performance, music and ritual, bimusicality, teaching and learning cross-culturally, and issues relating to improvisation and jazz and the mechanics of rehearsing and performing.


Two hours per week in Term 1

Method of assessment

Two 3 000 words essays (worth 50% each)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules