Overview of all courses

Music and Words

Study Levels: Undergraduate
Faculty: Dr. Christina Guillaumier & Dr. Ingrid Pearson
Royal College of Music

Dr. Christina Guillaumier introduces Music and Words

Music and Words


This course builds on students’ skills as a communicator about music through both writing and speaking. Students will explore different styles of communicating about music, analyse examples from other practitioners, and draw on their own music-making to inform their responses.


By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • communicate about music confidently and persuasively through the spoken and written word across various genres;
  • refine different approaches and skills which are pertinent to musical practitioners; develop creative approaches to both the processes and products of writing and speaking;
  • explore creative writing as a means of self-expression;
  • critique and analyse the writings of others;


Speaking portfolio (50%): choose TWO items from the following list [ONE for non-RCM students]:

  • a 5-10 minute introduction to a piece of music, a musician or a musical concept for a non-specialist audience
  • a 10-minute interview with another musician exploring their life, experiences and musical priorities
  • a 10-15 minute radio-style discussion of a favourite recorded interpretation with audio extracts OR a lecture/recital of the same length with audio examples

Writing portfolio (50%): totalling about 2000 words, and including TWO items from the following list [ONE for non-RCM students]:

  • an encyclopaedia entry (c. 300 words)
  • a piece about an item from the RCM Collections (c. 700 words)
  • a piece of creative writing (c. 1000 words)
  • opera synopsis (c. 500 words)
  • Programme Notes for a concert at your institution (c. 700 words)
  • extended blog entry on an approved topic (c. 1000 words)


This course will be taught in a hybrid mode during the pre-Christmas term. You will be required to prepare work in advance of every synchronous class, using the multimedia resources created for the purpose. Classes will be recorded for playback and further study. You will be expected to work independently and to collaborate with your peers for your presentation assessment. You will also be expected to contribute to the discussion groups on the learning platform, as this forms part of your continuous learning and reflects the workshop nature of the course.


  1. (synchronous) Introductory session: what is musical communication? Why do we do it? For whom? We’ll also explore your skills to date and what you want to achieve in this unit.
  2. Writing styles: descriptive, evaluative, interpretative as well as free writing.
  3. Speaking about Music, part 1: exploring the reasons, content, methods and venues in which musicians communicate, and what special skills we bring to this.
  4. The ingredients of writing, exploring area such as introducing your material, structuring your writing, making best use of the active vs the passive voice
  5. (synchronous) Speaking about Music, part 2: how do musicians communicate about the music they know as practitioners? What special knowledge do we use and how do we share this? How do we articulate our different expectations of live and recorded music making? Speaking about Music: context and corroboration
  6. Communicating about musical objects: exploring a selection of items from the RCM Collections such as autograph and copyists’ manuscripts, early printed editions, letters, librettos, instruction books and concert registers. Language & rhetoric (1): writing about familiar objects and letters from the past
  7. Writing about musical works from different perspectives
  8. Keeping your writing fresh: strategies and approaches, and creative writing
  9. Speaking about Music, part 3: communicating other people, their music making and artistic practice
  10. (synchronous) My journey in communicating about music: summary session with ideas for drawing on writing skills in future.


Written and verbal formative and summative feedback will be provided throughout the course – students will have the opportunity to sign up to an individual tutorial session with the teaching professors. Group tutorials foster a supportive peer learning environment particularly for those working outside their native language. Break-out rooms further facilitate peer-learning. Course materials are deliberately inclusive, and students have opportunities to share and discuss materials from their own culture and life experiences. Classes are recorded for further independent study (these can be captioned & translated). Course tutors are themselves are representative of the international reach of music.