We have a wide range of resources and facilities to support your learning and ensure you receive the maximum benefit from studying this programme.
You have access to outstanding facilities in the new £16 million Bramall Music building, including five electroacoustic studios (all of them multichannel; the largest 24 channel), an isolation room for recording, a dedicated control room which can record sound from around the building, and an 18 seat computer cluster. The Dome room is home to the 32 channel Mini-BEAST system, regularly used for listening sessions, rehearsals, and concerts. The Elgar Concert Hall – which has extremely flexible acoustics and technologically advanced AV systems designed by renowned acoustician and architect Nicolas Edwards (Symphony Hall Birmingham, Symphony Centre Dallas, Royal Shakespeare Theatre) – is arguably the best and most adaptable space of its kind in any University in the UK. Like the entire building it is wired for audio over Ethernet, and multi-projector video presentation.
The internationally recognised BEAST system (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre; arguably the best system of its type in the world) regularly presents student works in concerts with up to 100 loudspeakers in Birmingham and abroad (e.g. Berlin, Copenhagen, Basel). Our postgraduate laptop ensemble, the Birmingham Ensemble for Electroacoustic Research (BEER) provides opportunities to explore advanced aspects of live electroacoustic performance such as controller integration, network music, and live coding.
You also have the opportunity to write works for the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (our ‘Ensemble in Association’) the Department’s New Music Ensemble, and for other workshops with visiting performers (e.g. Darragh Morgan, Carla Rees, and Joby Burgess in recent years). Excellent equipment (computers, microphones, recorders) and library resources, and the opportunity to interact with distinguished guest artists in our COMPASS Forum seminar series fill out a first class offering.
You will study two core modules:
Information Skills and Resources in Music
This module helps you to identify and access appropriate bibliographical resources, archives, and other sources of relevant information; describe in detail the process of bibliographical research and justify it; and execute a critical survey of the existing literature on a research topic.
Introduction to Music Research
This module introduces you to contemporary issues, methods, techniques and debates in music, in such areas as source studies (manuscript, printed, electronic), historical performance practice, reception history, and genre studies.
You will also choose three optional modules as follows:
Issues in Contemporary Music
For this module you are required to attend the Music Department's COMPASS Forum series of seminars. This includes presentations by invited speakers on a variety of topics related to issues within the field of contemporary music. You will be required to write reports/critical responses for three of these presentations, and to give a short conference length presentation on your own research or a related topic. Additional information will come from a prescribed reading list consisting of key and secondary texts in the field, which will serve to inform your written work and presentations.
Introduction to Programming for Electroacoustics for Postgraduate Students
This course will explore the use of computers for the realtime and non-realtime creation of music and/ or sound installations, within a lecture/workshop environment. This will make use of the free and open source DSP and music language SuperCollider. Topics may include sound synthesis, realtime processing, interaction, the development of graphical interfaces, etc. Knowledge of computer programming and advanced maths is not a prerequisite.
At least one of:
Advanced Studies in Electroacoustic Composition
This module builds on your previous experience at Birmingham or elsewhere. It aims to expand your thinking and musical horizons through theoretical and practical work. The module includes listening, reading, programming, performance training and the use of a large range of audio software and hardware. The module contains six areas of study: sound generating, editing, mixing and processing techniques; source sound recording techniques (studio and field); approaches to spatialisation; diffusion techniques and the MiniBEAST and BEAST sound systems; advanced topics in programming for electroacoustics and digital signal processing; software critique; and repertoire studies.
Advanced Studies in Instrumental/Vocal Composition
The module contains four main areas of study: musical form (micro and macro); advanced studies in notation; repertoire studies; and relevant strands of advanced music theory. Topics covered will include proper editing and preparation of materials at a professional level, recent stylistic developments in contemporary music (e.g. post-spectralism, post-minimalism), and computer assisted composition techniques.
Plus, if you only choose to study one of the above modules, one of:
Thinking about Music: From Aesthetics to Critical Theory
Some knowledge of philosophical aesthetics is an essential prerequisite for any musicologist who wishes to follow the critical debates that have stemmed from the ‘New Musicology’ of the 1990s. Composers, too, are increasingly called upon (or find themselves drawn) to explain their work in philosophical terms. This module is intended to prepare you to meet these demands. At its core is an introduction to the German aesthetic tradition, and the crucial role played in its history by music. Extracts from canonic texts will be read and discussed in seminars, and the development of aesthetic thought traced from the Enlightenment to Postmodernism.
Contemporary Music Studies
This module studies the explosion of musical expression that characterises 20th-century and contemporary music, focusing on key movements (serialism, minimalism, etc) and concerns (tonality/atonality, aleatoric principles, etc). Starting from the musical ‘crisis’ of the early years of the 20th century, the course will address issues such as the separation of ‘art’ and ‘popular’ music, the impact of technology and the presumption of postmodernism at the start of the 21st century. The marked shift in aesthetics and music’s ‘function’ will also be discussed.
This module explores the rapidly developing field of laptop ensemble performance. The class will function as an ensemble group, working to develop and prepare repertoire for public concerts. Topics covered will include: techniques for improvisation; networked music performance; live coding; and composition for live electroacoustic ensemble. Works presented in concert will include student and group developed pieces, as well as ‘classics’ from the field. Students should have at least a rudimentary background in a computer music programming environment such as SuperCollider or Max/MSP, but the projects pursued will be selected according to the ensemble’s makeup each year.
Advanced Music Analysis
This module will benefit Masters students in Music who lack a traditional background in technical analysis. You will attend the Level I undergraduate module ‘Analysis’ and tutorials given by the module leader. Topics include analysis of fugue, sonata form, nineteenth-century harmony, rhythm and metre, post-tonal pitch organisation and musical narrative.