MA Music: Early Music pathway

Are you fascinated in early music - not just the music of a particular period, but also the approprach to performing and thinking about music?

Are you interested in learning how the music performance of the past can be used to enhance our understanding today? 

The University’s £16m Bramall Music Building has a world-leading Centre for Early Music Performance and Research (CEMPR), with state-of-the-art facilities. Those wishing to write a dissertation on early music will benefit from access to these facilities, as well as the expertise of staff on a wide range of topics in early music, from the Middle Ages to c.1800.

You will receive specialist supervision as well as training in specific critical and analytical skills to equip you for further study. You will also have the opportunity to participate in one or more of our CEMPR ensembles and receive tuition from the professional performers on our staff, providing an invaluable context for your work.

Early Music studies have always been a centrepiece of Birmingham’s offerings, and the department includes three early music specialists:

Mary O’Neill, who has expertise in music from the Middle Ages to the late 18th Century; Amy Brosius, specialist in seventeenth-century vocal music; and Andrew Kirkman, scholar of late medieval music and director of early music projects from the fifteenth to the early nineteenth century. In addition, CEMPR has some twenty professional early music performers of international standing on its staff who not only teach early vocal and instrumental techniques and repertoire, but also engage in practice-led research.

You will study two core modules:

  • Introduction to Musicology
  • Advanced Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music

You will also choose two optional module and complete a 15,000-word musicology dissertation.

Why study this course

  1. Centre for Early Music Performance and ResearchCEMPR is one of the few centre of its kinds in Europe where the highest professional level of performance and academic research in early music are bought together.
  2. Plenty of opportunities to get involved – CEMPR also exists to co-ordinate and encourage all kinds of early music activities within the Music Department and the University, from lessons for beginners on Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque instruments and in early vocal techniques, through workshops, master classes and concerts, to performance practice, international symposia and research projects.
  3. Attend workshops and masterclasses - We have close links with many of the leading early music performers and ensembles around Europe and in the US, and with staff  working in other early music institutes (such as the Schola Cantorum  Basiliensis, Switzerland, and others in The Hague, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Venice and Berlin). Consequently there are frequent opportunities at CEMPR to attend workshops, lectures and masterclasses with some of the best performers and scholars of our generation. 
  4. Flexibility  – you will have the opportunity to undertake further research in early music or to pursue a professional career as a performer or even mix the two paths – the choice is really up to you.


You will study two core modules:

Introduction to Musicology 

This module prepares students for the field of Musicology by examining key issues, theories, and methodologies in the field. It is taught as a series of seminars by various members of staff, and lectures within the Music Research Colloquium series.

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. 

You will also choose two 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.

Studies in Performance Practice

This module combines the disciplines of musicology and performance, introducing you to the main topics in performance practice of western music. Case studies are devoted to Baroque, Classical, Romantic and twentieth-century music. The module will instruct develop the skills necessary for the PhD in Performance Practice. Topics covered may include organology, rhythm and tempo, articulation, pitch and temperaments, notation, the history of recorded performance and debates around ‘authenticity’ in performance. 

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.

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.

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.

Related staff

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £6,570 full-time; £3,285 part-time
  • Overseas: £14,850 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.

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.

Entry requirements

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

International students

Academic 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:

How to apply

Before you make your application

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

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Your learning will be enhanced by our extensive facilities, including the new Bramall Music Building and the Barber Music Library

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International students can access support through the English for International Students Unit (EISU).

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Over the past five years, 96% of Music postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Whilst some graduates pursue music-related careers, others choose to use their transferable skills to follow career paths in fields including finance, the media and the public sector. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: Arts Council England; BBC; Birmingham Conservatoire; Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Coventry City Council Performing Arts Service; Lancaster University; National Opera Studio; National Orchestra; Raffles Institution; and Royal Northern College of Music.

Music postgraduate alumni profiles

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