Department of Music

the university of hong kong

Common Core Courses

Music contributes significantly to HKU’s Common Core curriculum by offering four common core courses, namely, CCCH9035 Music along the Silk Road, CCHU9049 Reinventing Classical Music, CCHU9065 A Life Worth Living, CCHU9072 Staging the Voice: Opera Today.

  • CCCH9035      Music along the Silk Road

The Silk Road has long facilitated dynamic cultural exchanges, many of which were manifested in various musical traditions that flourished along the ancient conduit. This course examines some of these musical traditions and treats each of them as a cultural process, focusing on the spread and development of these orally-transmitted art forms, thereby highlighting the complexity of Chinese culture by way of its interaction with other cultures on the Silk Road.

In this course, the Silk Road is understood as an ever-changing series of peoples, places, and musical traditions. Through examining a broad range of these pre-modern Eurasian musical cultures, the course helps students move beyond their preconceived understanding of music, open their minds and ears to musics of the past, and interpret interconnections between past and present.

By exploring the globalized music scene of the Silk Road as a product and reflection of culture, the course nurtures critical intellectual enquiry and self-reflection across a wide range of socio-cultural issues, so as to enable students to be aware of the wider world, to respect and value diversity, and to understand how the world works culturally, socially, and politically.

  • CCHU9049      Reinventing Classical Music

This course explores classical music and the ways in which it has been reinvented over time. Students will learn how different generations have deliberately or unconsciously chosen what to cherish or reject from the past. Whether it be composers altering their musical language to adhere to the political climate of their time, performers reinterpreting the “great works,” or the music industry repackaging ancient melodies for use in contemporary media, classical music figures in a vast social and cultural landscape that is in a constant state of change. This course examines the history and culture of classical music from the early modern era to the present, focusing on the themes of innovation and tradition, in order to understand the social and cultural processes through which Western art music is made anew again.

  • CCHU9065      A Life Worth Living

What does it mean to live a worthy life? This is one of the most fundamental questions of human existence and this course addresses the relevant issues through an engagement with various philosophical and religious traditions, such as Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Christianity and Secular Humanism. We shall discuss how the teachings of important historical figures from these traditions have influenced the choices of people over the centuries, and how they have been contextualized and adopted in contemporary society. We shall examine how these figures regard the place of bodily pleasures, intellectual pursuits, power, status, possessions, accomplishments, virtues, relationship with other human beings and the relationship (or not) with the transcendent in their vision of a good life. We will explore the resources they offer for dealing with stress, temptations, disappointments and failures, social oppression, the loss of possessions and of loved ones, and with one’s own death. The course will help students connect across different disciplines and cultures, and develop the ability to examine controversial issues from multiple perspectives. Students will achieve these aims through interactive learning and high impact practices such as group debates and interviewing contemporary advocates of different worldviews concerning the question of “what makes a worthy life?”

  • CCHU9072     Staging the Voice: Opera Today

Opera is arguably the most complex and demanding art form to have emerged from the European tradition. It is also among the most esoteric. Its poetry is arcane, the plots opaque, and the music old-fashioned. Yet it continues to enjoy the favour of a large, devoted audience the world over (including, most notably, China). Why? Part of the answer lies in the larger-than-life characters, virtuoso singers who interpret them, grandiosity of the sets, extravagance of the costumes, and the richness and prestige of its history. But operas are more than just a display of artistry; they also deal with issues of profound significance. To make their priceless legacy come alive, Staging the Voice: Opera Today aims to engage students not only by teaching the fundamental tenets of the art but also by inviting them to respond to opera creatively through the media at their disposal—whether writing, drawing, phone cameras and videos, web presentations, or social media. The possibilities are as many as the students’ imaginations and media at their disposal.

This is a part academic, part experiential learning course that revolves around the challenge of responding to art not just verbally but also through the creation of multi- or mixed-media work in which students actively participate as creators, designers, critics, and exhibitors. The first half of the course will cover opera thematically by looking at its various components (libretto, casting, the orchestra, production, etc.). The course will also feature guest lecturers—singers, composers, stage, film and television directors, designers and impresarios—all of whom will share their experience so as to help students feel a connection with opera as a contemporary form. Also included is a ‘field trip’ in the form of a live opera performance (presented by either the Hong Kong Arts Festival or Opera Hong Kong) as well as the collaboration with The Met: Live in HD Student Programme, which brings screenings of live performances to the HKU campus.

Useful Links

Undergraduate Course Selection 2018/19

For information about undergraduate courses offered in 2018/19, as well as audition and selection requirements for performance courses, please visit the page Course Selection 2018/19. Please also visit the page Brilliant Shine Bursary, which details the information about a new initiative to cover the cost of music performance lessons for students taking Instrument Workshop, Vocal Workshop or Percussion Workshop under MUSI1022/2066/3021/4001 Performance study 1/2/3/4 or MUSI3032 Special performance study.