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Module WXM-2205:
Notation and Editing

Module Facts

Run by School of Music, Drama and Performance

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr John Cunningham

Overall aims and purpose

  • to advance the student's knowledge and understanding historical systems used for the notation of music
  • to provide the students with an understanding of different types of sources and the skill to judge their validity and reliability
  • to understand the pragmatic and conceptual differences between original notation of different periods and functions and a modern performing score, and to enable students to effect a translation from one into the other
  • to provide students with the practical skill of using music notation software to prepare such scores
  • to prepare students for the demands of the Year 3 Edition (WXM3282/3)

Course content

There are no pre-requisites for this module, aside from being able to read music.

Students taking the course will transcribe and edit a variety of music, some vocal and some instrumental from the 17th to the 19th centuries, from reproductions of original sources. Some sources will be in score and others in parts; some will be manuscript and some printed. Certain pieces of work will involve a single source; others will require the collation and appraisal of more than one source, with variant readings tabulated and conclusions drawn about the relationship of the sources.

The module is designed to give students a comprehensive introduction to the fundamental principles of editorial musicology. ‘Editing’ covers techniques and approaches of critical editing and philology, which will enable you to produce a scholarly edition with all the standard ingredients. Case studies for this part of the module are taken mainly from the so-called ‘common practice era’. The ‘notation’ aspect will cover aspects such as tablature and coloration. Additional tutorials in using Sibelius will be provided if required.

In the first part of the module there will be weekly lectures and seminars teaching you the fundamentals of editing music to a basic professional standard. The remaining time will be spent putting these skills into practice while working largely independently (under supervision) on an editorial project (see schedule below). Please note: this module only deals with repertoire from after c.1600. It will cover instrumental and vocal music.

Assessment Criteria

C- to C+

C- to C+ Work which displays fair knowledge of the subject, with some ability at conceptual thought (albeit inconsistent or otherwise flawed), and a general awareness of issues, with evidence of a generally intellectual approach, with good expression


B- to 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 very good expression.


Please also see the Explicit Marking Criteria for Musicology:

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


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

Learning outcomes

  1. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to demonstrate through description an understanding of the main different types of musical sources created between the 17th and mid-19th centuries

  2. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to understand different editorial methodologies and their conventions and apply them to specific situations

  3. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to transcribe (and transliterate) accurately complete compositions or sections of compositions and to lay out the music in an appropriate modern score format

  4. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to identify and eliminate errors and / or reconcile variants within a given piece of music

  5. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to prepare a comprehensive critical commentary, editorial principles, source description and introduction as appropriate to a modern scholarly edition

  6. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to apply in independent thinking and enquiry to solving unfamiliar editorial and philological challenges

  7. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to use various resources (e.g. RISM, IMSLP, library catalogues etc.) to identify and locate appropriate sources for editorial work

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Written assignment, including essay Mini-edition project

The main assignment comprises a mini-edition of approx. 80 bars* comprising one or more short pieces (e.g. solo songs), a self-standing short work, or an extract from a longer work (e.g. one or more movements from a multi-movement work or a section from a movement). Your edition will include a brief introduction, source description(s), editorial principles and a critical commentary. You must use a software programme such as Sibelius for the submitted work. You will receive guidance and assistance where necessary in finding sources.

Written assignment, including essay Transcription exercise

Exercise in transcription and source description.

Written assignment, including essay Editing task

Typically this assignment will comprise two basic elements - transcription and editing, as well as demonstration of a basic knowledge of source descriptions. Assignment structure example:
Task 1: You will be asked to identify errors (typically 4 or 5) in a given extract (usually 6–8 bars) and suggest editorial interventions that would correct them.
Task 2: You will be given three or four sources for a short piece or an extract from a longer work (approx. 30 bars). Your task will involve the following main components: (1) identify a copy-text; (2) provide an accurate transcription; (3) provide a set of Editorial Principles; (4) compare all sources for variants, which are then to be listed in a given format (Critical Commentary); (5) make any necessary editorial interventions; (6) provide a brief description of the sources and comment on their relationships, using a stemmatic diagram as appropriate.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Normally one two-hour lecture each week, for eleven weeks (week 5 is a reading week).


Normally two hours (2x1) of seminars each week.


Students can have up to five individual tutorial sessions, 3 hours in total to prepare for their mini-edition project. Depending on the number of students on the module, some tutorials may be in small groups (up to three students).

Private study

This time is allocated to working on the assignments (assessed coursework) and on the un-assessed tasks ahead of the seminars.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • 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
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

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
  • Technological skills – digital capture, digital expression, digital innovation
  • 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)


Resource implications for students

None. A printed book of course notes (written by the tutor) will be given to the students at the start of the module.

Talis Reading list

Reading list


Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: