MA Music: Performance pathway

Performance constitutes perhaps our fastest growing and most exciting venture, with ambitious plans growing out of the £16 million Bramall Music Building, with its acoustically peerless Elgar Concert Hall and Dome Rehearsal Room designed by Birmingham Symphony Hall acoustician Nick Edwards.

Scholar-performer and early music conductor Andrew Kirkman joins forces with Simon Halsey, renowned chorus master of the CBSO and Berlin Radio Choir, and orchestral conductor Daniele Rosina, plus instrumental and vocal lessons arranged with the faculty of Birmingham Conservatoire.

You also receive the opportunity to take advantage of the early performance opportunities afforded by the Centre for Early Music Performance and Research (CEMPR).

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You will study two core modules:

  • Advanced Performance
  • Music Research Colloquium

You will also choose two optional modules and present a substantial solo recital. The recital offers you the opportunity to unite practical and theoretical musicianship, and to demonstrate the ability to plan and independently prepare (with some supervision) a performance at an advanced level.

Modules available typically include:

  • Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
  • Ensemble Performance
  • Fieldwork Methods
  • Gender and Music
  • Introduction to Global Popular Music Studies
  • Introduction to Musicology
  • Sound in Society
  • Special Study in Music
  • Studies in Performance Practice

Full descriptions are available below.

Why study this course

  • Excellent reputation – the Department of Music is one of the most distinguished in the UK, with a history stretching back to 1905 when Edward Elgar was appointed the University’s first Professor of Music and looking forward to the latest cutting edge developments in the practice and study of music. 
  • Fantastic resources available - the £16 million Bramall Music building offers outstanding facilities, including climate controlled rooms for the Centre for Early Music Performance and Research, multichannel electroacoustic music studios and BEAST (the department’s huge loudspeaker system for electroacoustic music; arguably the best system of its kind in Europe). It is also home to the acoustically flexible and technologically advanced 450 seat Elgar Concert Hall, arguably the best and most adaptable space of its kind in any University in the UK. 
  • Taught by experts in the field – you will have the opportunity to draw upon the wide range of interests and knowledge held by the Department’s expert academic staff. 
  • The city – the main University campus is within easy reach of the world-renowned Symphony Hall – home of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and the Hippodrome – home of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. The Department itself mounts concerts in Symphony Hall, the CBSO Centre and the historic Town Hall, which was the venue for the premieres of many major works, including Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius.

Modules

You will study two core modules:

Advanced Performance

This is a module for advanced performers who are approaching a professional standard. Your skills will be honed through individual tuition with experts on your instrument/voice. You will present a lecture-recital involving a performance and a lecture presentation, and submit an extended essay version of the lecture.

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.

You will also choose two optional modules from a range which typically includes:

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, G.W.F. 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, Benedetto Croce, 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.

Ensemble Performance

This is a module for advanced performers who are approaching a professional standard i.e. who might soon be engaged to give a public performances for a paying audience, including ensemble performances. Performing in an ensemble situation will develop skills necessary for your professional development. You will be required to join attend all rehearsals, dress rehearsals and performances for either 1) a University Music Department Ensemble or University Music Society Ensemble that meets in semester 1 and 2 or, 2) two University Music Department Ensembles or University Music Society Ensembles that meets only one semester. 

Fieldwork Methods

This practice-led module will build the skills needed to conduct an independent ethnographic research project. Throughout the module you will become acquainted with the various methods available for fieldwork and learn to assess their strengths and weaknesses in relation to varying research contexts. Topics addressed may include: project design and planning, ethics, audio-visual documentation, interviewing, fieldnotes, transcription, and online/virtual ethnography. Instruction and assessment will be hands-on, applying theoretical readings to concrete materials and activities.

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.

Introduction to Global Popular Music Studies

This module aims to familiarise you with a field of study that has been emerging from the intersection of ethnomusicology and popular music studies. Assigned readings, discussions, and assessments will seek to situate popular music in a global context while also attending to the ways that global processes impact local musical actors, scenes, and styles. Particular attention will be paid to ethnography and its application to the study of popular musics. Topics and cases to be explored include diasporic popular musics, musical migration, recording and production, global music industries, musical labour in the ‘creative industries’, local music scenes, urban contexts, and media theory. This module will also provide an orientation to relevant fields of study (including ethnomusicology and popular music studies) through an engagement with foundational disciplinary texts as well as current debates.

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.

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.

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.


Please note that the optional modules listed on the website for this programme are intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2017/18:

  • Home/EU: £8,370 full-time; £4,185 part-time
  • Overseas: £17,610 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years 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 good Honours degree (2:1), or equivalent, in Music or a related subject with a substantial musical component. Degrees in other subjects will be considered where candidates have significant professional musical experience and relevant qualifications.

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

Personal statement

Your application should include a personal statement of approximately 5000 characters, explaining why you are interested in studying this programme. In order to expedite processing, please clearly state the pathway to which you are applying within the first paragraph of your personal statement.

Written sample of work

In addition to the usual supporting documents, you must also submit a sample of written work - in English - of at least 1,500 words on a musical topic, with academic bibliography and references.

Audition materials

For pathways in performance, you must also present a 20-minute programme during which you play a varied programme focusing on Western classical repertoire. The audition should include a brief spoken introduction - in English - to the programme, discussing the repertoire performed.

Students from the United Kingdom are expected to audition in person, where possible. If you are unable to audition in person or are located overseas, you should submit a video-recorded audition. This is preferably submitted as an internet video link, (e.g., YouTube/Vimeo/Youku or Dropbox/WeTransfer/YouSendIt), with the URL pasted into a text document and uploaded to the application portal. A DVD submission by post is also possible. 

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

Apply now

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

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. The University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

University of the Year for employability

Birmingham's Music postgraduates work in a wide range of careers within and beyond the music world. A postgraduate degree in Music develops a broad base of skills including general skills such as communication, problem solving and research, and also specific skills developed by practice and performance such as self-management, team work and presentation.

Over the past five years, 91% of Music postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Whilst some graduates pursue music-related careers, or go on to teaching and lecturing roles, others choose to use their transferable skills to follow career paths in fields including finance and the public sector.

Music postgraduate alumni profiles

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In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.

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