MUSV3132 - Music and Social Justice: Artistic Activism and Applied Research in the Twenty-First Century


Lessons are not given in the academic year 2023/2024

Course content

Music is often invested with strong ideas of morality and power. In different cultures and at different historical times, music has been used to alleviate human suffering, bring about positive social change, and to nurture social harmony. While musicology has long clung to the idea of musical autonomy, music researchers over the last thirty years have been very interested in the social, psychological, political and medical impact music can have. Indeed, many scholars today actively engage in wider social issues and apply their own research to address larger social challenges of the twenty-first century. Today, music is employed by networks of artists, activists, academics, NGOs and state authorities in a wide variety of socially engaged artistic projects. While these projects are often celebrated in the media, there is less public discussion about the projects’ lasting impacts, the wider ethical issues they raise, and the persisting social inequalities they supposedly overcome.

This course will foster critical discussion and reflection on a wide range of artistic activism and applied research. What is musical activism? What kind of social responsibilities do music researchers have? Can music be used to bring about social justice? Topics and case-studies we will focus on include: music as a tool to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda; the West-Eastern Divan orchestra and the hope of peace in the Middle East; musical projects with refugees in Europe; music therapy in post-conflict regions such as Bosnia and Herzegovina; Fargespill and multicultural social integration in Norway; music used in European aid and development in the Global South; music in global environmental activism. Interrogating the ideological foundations of such projects, this course will provide a global overview of the political potentials and ethical challenges of employing music to pursue social justice.

Learning outcome


An examinee with a completed qualification in MUSV3132

  • has learned about specific musical activist projects in different parts of the world
  • has deepened their understanding of current global social, political, environmental and health issues
  • has gained insights into the social responsibility of researchers and the ethics of applying their work


An examinee with a completed qualification in MUSV3132 will have

  • gained the ability to discuss musicological texts
  • developed their skills in assessing audio-visual material
  • deepened their expertise in presenting (both orally and in writing) original thoughts on current debates.

Learning methods and activities

This course will consist of mandatory lectures and seminars. Each lecture will address particular case studies and a specific debate on musical activism; each accompanying seminar will introduce interactive group work that further deepens discussion of the lecture topic. Within each lecture and seminar, discussion will focus around set texts and audio-visual material as well as various materials prepared by students. It is expected that students will be prepared to discuss these texts and their views on them at each lecture/seminar.

Compulsory assignments

  • Satisfactory participation in compulsory instruction

Further on evaluation

Assessment consists of:

1) one semester essays (8-10 pages long, font size 12, line spacing 1.5)

2) a collaborative project (blogpost of 1500-2500 words, or podcast of 30-40 minutes)

3) a reflection journal (3-4 pages long, font size 12, line spacing 1.5)

Specific conditions

More on the course



Version: 1
Credits:  7.5 SP
Study level: Second degree level



Language of instruction: English

Location: Trondheim

Subject area(s)
  • Music History
  • Music Theory
  • Musicology
  • Music Pedagogy Subjects
  • Music Technology
Contact information

Department with academic responsibility
Department of Music


  • * The location (room) for a written examination is published 3 days before examination date. If more than one room is listed, you will find your room at Studentweb.

For more information regarding registration for examination and examination procedures, see "Innsida - Exams"

More on examinations at NTNU