module specification

AR7061 - The Soundscape of Modernity (2019/20)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2019/20
Module title The Soundscape of Modernity
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 200
161 hours Guided independent study
39 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 75%   Essay 4000 words
Practical Examination 25%   Seminar presentation
Running in 2019/20

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary

The module offers an interdisciplinary study of music and architecture in a historical context, with a focus on the theory of the soundscape of modernity in relation to architecture and urban design, and the practical application of sonic studies in the built environment. It aims to introduce a culture of listening in architecture and urban design. It explores the rich opportunities that lie in an interdisciplinary study of music and architecture and aims to introduce a new body of research and writing to architectural history and theory.


Starting from more traditional studies of music and architecture in the context of harmony and proportion, this module locates the question of sound and architecture in a widening field of enquiry that emerged with modern art, composition and modernist writings on music as well as the rise of field recording, sonic studies and sound art in the early 20th Century. It investigates music as a social and anthropological phenomenon that shares a common history with architecture and examines how critical cultural transformations are expressed in both disciplines.

In doing so, it follows the model of other academic disciplines, such as geography, anthropology, psychology or engineering, which all have formed separate sonic enquiries. It responds to a marked increase in awareness of the role of sound in the built environment and how sonic enquiries not only affect creative processes in architecture but also legislation and government policies.

The module allows students to explore these topics through a number of readings, film and audio-screenings and practical exercises such as sound surveys of sites, sound-mapping and sound-walks. It follows the model of ‘action research’, which aims to re-evaluate traditional and consolidated processes in architectural design through the practical application of new theories and ways of thinking. LO1,LO2,LO3,LO4

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Scheduled teaching ensures that independent study is effective and addresses the learning outcomes and assessment tasks. Students are expected to, and have the opportunity to, continue with their studies outside of scheduled classes. There will be a range of learning strategies deployed and individual learning styles will be accommodated. The module’s learning outcomes, its contents and delivery, have been scrutinised and will be regularly reviewed to ensure an inclusive approach to pedagogic practice.

The module and course utilise the University’s blended learning platform to support and reinforce learning, to foster peer-to-peer communication and to facilitate tutorial support for students. Reflective learning is promoted through assessment items and interim formative feedback points that ask students to reflect on their progress, seek help where they identify the opportunity for improvement in learning strategies and outcomes, and make recommendations to themselves for future development. Throughout the module, students build a body of work, including reflections on progress and achievement.

Learning outcomes

On completing the module the student should be able to:
1. think critically and with precision about different aspects of creating and communicating meaning and their expression within architecture and architectural theory;
2. use historical and cultural materials imaginatively in the pursuit of such questions;
3. construct a clear and forceful argument, effectively expressed through prose;
4. show evidence of an ability to apply the specific subject matter of the course to other contexts.

Assessment strategy

The assessment comprises a media based/ written project equivalent to an essay of 4,000 words (75%), class presentations on a text and/ or a sound-based exploration of architecture and the city (25%). The pass mark for the module is to be calculated as an aggregate of the components weighted accordingly, with the proviso that the candidate must pass Component 1 (the essay).


Rasmusssen, S. E. (1989) Experiencing Architecture, (Cambridge, Mass:MIT Press)
Lucier, A. (1995) Reflections: interviews, scores, writings, (MusikTexte)
Crow, F. (2008) ‘Noise Mapping: Tracing Sound’, in Earshot, 5
Blesser, B. and Salter, L-R. (2007) Spaces Speak, are you Listening? Experiencing Aural architecture, (Cambridge, Mass: MIT)
Top, D. (1995) Ocean of Sound: aether talk, ambient sound and imaginary worlds, (London: Serpent’s Tail)
Brandon, L. (2010) Acoustic Territories: sound culture and everyday life, (London: Continuum)
Murray Schafer, R. (1977) The Tuning of the World, (New York: Knopf)
Attali, J.(19895) Noise: the political economy of music, (Manchester: Manchester University Press)
Adorno, T. (2002) Essays on Music, (Berkeley: University of California Press)
Thompson, E. (2002) The Soundscape of Modernity: architectural acoustics and the culture of listening in America, 1900–1933, (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press)
Ripley, C. (2007) In the Place of Sound: architecture, music, acoustics, (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing)
Avidar, P., Ganchrow, R. & Kursell, J. (eds), (2009) ‘Immersed: sound and architecture’ in Oase, 78 (Utrecht: NAi Publishers)