2023-2024 / MUSI0045-1

Questions relating to the history of music theory


30h SEM

Number of credits

 Master in history of art and archaeology : musicology (120 ECTS)5 crédits 
 Master in history of art and archaeology : musicology (60 ECTS)5 crédits 


Philippe Vendrix

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the first semester, review in January


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

Description of the teaching unit

The status of music as both science and art has undergone many changes, from the texts of Greek antiquity to the most recent work in the digital humanities and cognitive sciences. Theoretical texts are the key to understanding this rich and complex history. The aim is to provide the fundamental elements, with a more detailed look at a specific aspect (notation, modality, tonality, contrpoint, forms, etc.). This approach will be based essentially on theoretical texts, and will be complemented by a confrontation with the musical works themselves.

Table of contents

1. Mapping the history of music theory: issues and modes of expression.

2. Changing conditions for theory: conception, dissemination, teaching.

3. Theory, science and musicology.

4. Cantor and musicus / Musician and theorist.

5. Theoretical concepts, aesthetic principles, musical achievements.

6. Reading a theoretical text (before 1600).

7. Reading a theoretical text (before 1800).

8. Read a theoretical text (before 1900).

9. Read a theoretical text (before 2000).

10. Student presentations.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

At the end of this course, students will be able to understand the fundamental issues of Western music theory. They will also acquire the ability to tackle a specific problem in music theory between the 6th and 21st centuries (questions of writing, notation, form, etc.), through specific cases defined each year according to individual profiles or current research.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

Foundations of the current theory of music. Ability to "read" music. Knowledge of the main lines of human history.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

Each course includes a lecture and a tutorial section, with case studies based on documents (treatise extracts). Each student will be invited to give a presentation on a topic identified at the beginning of the course.

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Face-to-face course

Recommended or required readings

Claude ABROMONT, Guide de la theorie musicale, Paris, Fayard-Lemoine, 2001, 608 p.
The necessary educational documents will be made available to students.

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

written exam ( multiple-choice questionnaire, open-ended questions )

Continuous assessment

Other : Student presentation during a course

Additional information:

Three scoring methods are used:

1. Continuous assessment based on active participation in class discussions

2. A presentation made during the course

3. A written exam combining factual knowledge and case analysis

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

Classes with reading assignement



Association of one or more MOOCs