British Music studies is a fast-growing research field in today’s musicology. This pathway takes the broadest perspective on modern British art music, offering case studies in the work of the ‘great composers’ of the tonal idiom such as Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten, evaluation of the Anglican choral tradition and the British symphonic tradition, examination of the problematic status of modernism in British music before 1960, and criticism of modernist and postmodernist composition since World War II. Approaches are critical, analytical and sociological, with some reception history as well.
You will study three core modules:
Music Research Colloquium
Introduction to Musicology
You will also choose one optional module and complete a 15,000-word musicology dissertation.
Why study this course
The Birmingham Music Department has a long history of research in British music, and there are currently three staff members active in this area, covering a broad spectrum of topics from the nineteenth-century social history to postmodernism. Edward Elgar was the first Professor of Music here, and was succeeded by Granville Bantock.
Paul Rodmell has three major books on British music: Charles Villiers Stanford (2002), Music and Institutions in Nineteenth Century Britain (edited, 2012) and Opera in Britain 1875–1918 (forthcoming, 2013). Matthew Riley is author of Edward Elgar and the Nostalgic Imagination (2007), a critical study of Elgar’s music and of its varied reception in paintings, poems, novels, plays and screenplays, and is editor of British Music and Modernism 1895–1960 (2010). Ben Earle has published on Humphrey Searle and on the British reception of Schoenberg, and is working on an edited collection of essays on the music of Frank Bridge.
The Department benefits from archival holdings on Elgar and Bantock and from proximity to the Elgar archives at Broadheath and Worcester and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra archive.
The Department hosted an international conference on Elgar in 2005 to mark the centenary of his appointment as professor, along with an exhibition ‘Elgar and Birmingham’ at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts and the fifth biennial conference Music in 19th-Century Britain was held at Birmingham in 2007.
Recent and ongoing postgraduate research projects have included studies of the canticles of Herbert Howells, the English Symphony before Elgar, the conductor Rudolf Schwarz, the dramatic works of Granville Bantock, the songs of Howells, the Broadwood Company Archive, and English musicals post 1980.
You will study three core modules:
British Music Studies
This module takes the broadest perspective on modern British art music, offering case studies in the work of the ‘great composers’ of the tonal idiom such as Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten, evaluation of the Anglican choral tradition and the British symphonic tradition, examination of the problematic status of modernism in British music before 1960, and criticism of modernist and postmodernist composition since World War II. Approaches are critical, analytical and sociological, with some reception history as well. The repertory under study is mainly choral, orchestral and chamber music.
Music Research Colloquium
You will attend approximately 14 research seminars, most delivered by invited speakers in the Music Department’s research seminar series. Department staff will lead several review sessions. There will be approximately six seminars on library research skills, information retrieval and music-related software..
Introduction to Musicology
This module examines issues that are exercising musicologists in the modern discipline, with a view to preparing you to conduct original research and ultimately prepare you for the profession. It is taught as a series of seminars by various members of staff, each introducing a topic related to their own research expertise.
You will also choose one optional module from the following:
Special Study in Music
You will undertake a special study of a particular field of your choice under the direction of the leader of your pathway, which will typically require attendance at an appropriate series of lectures or tutorials as well as independent reading and research. Topics for study might include: vocalists in the Baroque era; topics in music analysis; or topics in critical musicology.
Sound in Society
This module provides an introduction to the field of Sound Studies, including both the conceptual framework as well as practical techniques. We will begin with an overview of the field and its formation in 2004 through a consideration of the work of Trevor Pinch, Karin Bijsterveld and R Murray Schafer. Subsequent weeks will cover topics such as: soundscapes; sound and the animal world; noise and silence in philosophy; the engineering of sound; sound and radio art; and synaesthesia research in cognitive psychology.
Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
This module consists of a critical examination of topics in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. It considers subjects such as: art and the nature of aesthetic experience; beauty, ugliness and the sublime; symbolism and allegory; the aesthetics of modernism. At its core is an overview of the German aesthetic tradition, involving a close reading of foundational texts by Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel and their contemporaries in the early 19th century. It will also consider work by a range of subsequent authors, such as, for example, Walter Benjamin, John Dewey, Ernst Bloch, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Theodor Adorno and Martin Heidegger. Attention will be paid not only to the conceptual arguments put forward by the thinkers in question, but also to the ways in which their theoretical tenets have underpinned the interpretation and criticism of works of art, music and literature.
Gender and Music
The field of gender studies is a very important area of focus in musicological and ethnomusicological research. This module is divided into two parts: a ten-week seminar on gender studies in general followed by an independent study during which you will apply learned information from the seminar to a chosen essay topic in the discipline of music. The seminar will focus on the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural aspects of gender studies and feminist theories. You will be introduced to a range of theoretical and methodological issues and debates that have characterised the development of gender studies in the twentieth century. You will also be introduced to the ontological, epistemological and methodological issues that arise in feminist scholarship. You will engage with the study of these issues both as analytical categories and approaches within the social sciences. During your independent study, you will meet with an advisor to create an appropriate project that will enable you to apply the general knowledge of gender studies and feminist theories specifically to research in the discipline of music.
Analysis of Music 1770–1910
This module explores major compositions of the Classical and Romantic traditions and explains the main analytical techniques that have been developed for understanding them over the last two decades. These include theories of formal functions (William E. Caplin), ‘dialogic’ form’ (James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy), metrical conflict (Harald Krebs, Richard Cohn), and ‘second practice’ tonality.
Music, Place and Identity
This module is concerned with understanding the relation of music to concepts of place and identity. In addition to a broad theoretical overview of topics related to place (including theories of locality, nationalism, transnationalism, diasporas, and indigeneity) as developed in fields as diverse as history, cultural geography and anthropology, the module will cover seminal ethno/musicological works on how musics inscribe place-based senses of cultural belonging. Topics and examples may include: occupation and cross-cultural collaborations in Palestine/Israel; transnationalism and cultural diplomacy in the Eurovision Song Contest; music and governmentality in the Caribbean; contemporary Native American and First Nations indigenous musics; European art music and colonialism; diasporic South Asian music in the UK; the role of music in the Arab Spring; and music in Birmingham.
Advanced Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music
This module will provide the technical and theoretical background for working in this period and equip you with the skills necessary to proceed to a PhD in Medieval or Renaissance Music. Through a series of case studies, you will be shown a variety of analytical models to provide you with different ways of engaging with the music as well as of talking and thinking about it. You will also examine complex and controversial issues of performance practice.
Fees and funding
We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2015/16 are as follows:
Home / EU: £6,210 full-time; £3,105 part-time
Overseas: £14,140 full-time
For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in year two of your programme.
Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students
Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about
postgraduate tuition fees and funding.
The University of Birmingham is offering awards of ?2,000 to outstanding alumni wishing to undertake Masters study at the University during 2015. There are 50 awards available and applications for the bursary must be submitted by 17:00 on 31 March 2015. Full details and how to apply can be found on the Distinguished Alumni Scholarship page.
Scholarships and studentships
Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.
International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.
We usually ask for a bachelors degree (2:1), or equivalent.
In addition to the usual supporting documents, you must also submit a sample of written work - in English - of at least 3,000 words on a musical topic, with academic bibliography and references.
Learn more about entry requirements
We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.
English language requirements
You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:
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