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Paper 4: An Introduction to Performance Studies

Aims and objectives of the course 

  • to give students exposure to recent and important scholarly literature on musical performance, especially in the fields of historical performance, analysis and performance, and the psychology of performance; 
  • to foster a broader awareness of the multi-faceted components of the performer’s art and the wide range of issues underpinning it; 
  • to enable students to engage critically with musical performance as both an artistic and a socially enacted process, whether as performers themselves or through scholarly study. 

By the end of the course students will have: 

  • become familiar with a variety of methods and approaches used in performance studies research today, especially in the fields of historical performance, analysis and performance, and performance psychology; 
  • read and discussed descriptions, critiques, defences and illustrations of the methods in question; 
  • evaluated the relationship between designated areas of performance studies research and the performer’s art both in and of itself and in broader social/cultural contexts; 
  • gained skills in critical thinking, researching and writing that would prepare them for further work at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. 

Description of the course 

The course embraces three principal areas: historical performance, the relation between analysis and performance, and the psychology of performance. The series of lectures reflects this division. After an overview of musical performance studies in the first session, there will be two lectures on each of the principal areas followed by a final wrap-up lecture. Topics covered in the paired lectures in each of the principal areas include the following: 

  • Historical performance: literature review and introduction; the authenticity debate; editing; issues related to recordings; 
  • Analysis and performance: literature review and introduction; analysis as the basis of performance; analysis of performance; analysis of recordings; 
  • Psychology of performance: literature review and introduction; practice and memorisation; expression. 

All students will attend the eight 90-minute lectures, and all students will sit a two-hour written paper. 

In addition, by the end of Week 1 in the Michaelmas Term students must have chosen one of two additional assessment options: 

Essay option 

Students taking the Essay option will attend three supervisions along with Recital option candidates, and three additional supervisions focused specifically on the assessed coursework. The latter will consist of an essay of c.3,500 words on a designated topic in the field of musical performance studies. It will be due in Week 1 of the Easter Term

Students taking the Essay option are encouraged to attend the two 90-minute performance workshops.

Recital option 

Students taking the Recital option will attend two 90-minute performance workshops to be given by the Performance Co-ordinator – one in the Michaelmas Term and one in the Lent Term. They are also expected to attend three supervisions along with Essay option candidates, as outlined below. In addition, they will have individual instrumental/vocal lessons, to be arranged by them in consultation with their Director of Studies. Those taking the Recital option will present a 20-minute recital, held at the beginning of the Easter Term, in the presence of one or more external assessors. 

To take this option candidates should have achieved a result of at least 60 in the Performance component of Part IA Music & Musicology Today, or be of an equivalent performance standard.


Lecturer: Prof John Rink

Performance co-ordinator: Margaret Faultless

Person packed font file Prof John Rink

Study Music at Cambridge