Module WXM-2154:

Module Facts

Run by School of Music and Media

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Chris Collins

Overall aims and purpose

The purpose of this module is to equip students with knowledge and understanding of Wagner's music-dramas, of the composer's approach to their composition, and of their historical and cultural context.

Course content

Wagner is often viewed as the archetypal nineteenth-century composer: a creative genius whose life was affected by rebellion and new philosophies, and whose works were dangerously revolutionary. His operas changed the course of music history, and introduced to the discipline a whole range of concepts and techniques: Gesamtkunstwerk, music-drama, leitmotif and harmonic innovation. But how new were his methods in reality? This module explores the background to Wagner's mature operatic masterpieces, and focuses on the formal procedures that characterise them. Particular attention will be paid to the four parts of "The Ring of the Nibelung", but reference will also be made to otherr music-dramas, including "The Mastersingers of Nuremburg" and "Tristan and Isolde".

Assessment Criteria


D- Work which displays basic, restricted knowledge of the subject, with simple ability at conceptual thought, and a limited awareness of issues, but has some evidence of a generally intellectual approach, with fair expression.


B- The work should display a sound grasp of the subject, a good level of conceptual thought, awareness of the main issues, with evidence of intellectual acumen and good expression.


A Work which displays a thorough grasp of the subject, with evidence of further study, deeper thought, originality of approach and excellent written skills.

Learning outcomes

  1. gained some understanding of the essential characteristics of Wagner's music-dramas;

  2. gained some understanding of the circumstances in which they were created;

  3. gained some understanding of the structural techniques employed in these works;

  4. developed communication skills.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

Essay, selected from choice of 3 or more questions in module handout.


Individual presentation of 6-8 minutes, on a topic specified by the module tutor, to be given on a date specified by the module tutor.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


11 lectures of 2 hours' duration each.

Private study

78 hours of private study.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • Musicianship skills – recognition, classification, contextualisation, reconstruction, exploration
  • Intellectual skills specific to Music – contextual knowledge, cultural awareness, critical understanding, repertoire knowledge, curiosity, analytical demonstration
  • Intellectual skills shared with other disciplines – research and exploration, reasoning and logic, understanding, critical judgement, assimilation and application
  • Skills of communication and interaction – oral and written communication, public presentation, team-working and collaboration, awareness of professional protocols, sensitivity, ICT skills, etc.
  • Skills of personal management – self-motivation, self-critical awareness, independence, entrepreneurship and employment skills, time management and reliability, organisation, etc.
  • Enhanced powers of imagination and creativity (4.17)


Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: