Music final year modules

Module details

For those students taking 80 credits of Music:

  • Independent Study
  • Special Subject
  • Optional Modules (from the list of second or final year optional modules)

For those students taking 60 credits of Music: 

  • Independent Study 
  • Special Subject 
  • Optional Module (from the list of second or final year optional modules)

For those students taking 40 credits of Music: 

  • Independent Study

One module from:

  • Optional Modules (from the list of second or final year optional modules)

Alternatively, students may take two optional modules.

Module descriptions

Independent Study Modules

Musicology

  • This module may be taken with Special Subject - Musicology provided that the fields of enquiry are contrasted.

The student will, with supervision from a designated tutor, research and write a short dissertation on an aspect of Musicology of their choosing (but in an area which can be adequately supervised by a member of the academic staff). The dissertation may be historical in nature, focusing, for example, on a composer or a group of composers, on a genre, form or style, or on a musical institution or patron. Alternatively, it may be analytical, or discuss performance practice, or comprise an editorial project. The module will build on the skills acquired in musicological modules taken in Years 1 and 2 and may draw on the knowledge acquired but will emphasise the application of skills to a field of enquiry wholly or mainly new to the student.

Studio Composition

  • Prerequisite: Successful completion of the optional module Studio Composition.

The module builds on the skills acquired in the Studio Composition modules offered in Years 1 and 2, i.e. the composition of original electroacoustic music via the medium of computer-based technology. Following an initial recording session to gather individual source sound materials, classes (of 2 hours most weeks in Semester 1) provide a thorough grounding in the resources available in Studio 6, focusing on digital sound editing, processing and mixing techniques in the Macintosh environment and consolidating skills learned in earlier Studio Composition courses. More advanced and elaborate signal processing software than that used in B11 is then introduced. Classes will also include discussion of compositional and aesthetic issues, with the learning process significantly informed by guided reading and listening - attendance at the weekly MiniBEAST listening sessions (11.30-12.30 on Wednesdays throughout Semesters 1 and 2) and at BEAST events in Birmingham are compulsory components of the course, for which students are required to keep a diary containing critical notes on the works presented; they should therefore avoid scheduling instrumental lessons or committing to any other activities at these times. In Semester 2, attention shifts to the composition of individual pieces by each student; scheduled class times provide an opportunity for the tutor to monitor and give feedback on the progress of each student’s piece as it develops.with the class tutor focus on the specific material and compositional ideas of each person.

Paper Composition

  • Prerequisite: Successful completion of the optional module Paper Composition.

The module seeks to build on the skills and knowledge acquired in the Paper Composition modules offered in Years 1 and 2 with a view to enabling the student to produce a portfolio of compositions using a mixture of traditional music notation and its modern extensions, and which can be performed successfully by a group of specified instrumentalists/vocalists.

Semester 1: Issues in Contemporary Music: 5 weekly seminars on a variety of substantial and influential works, analysis, aesthetic and perceptual issues and aspects of performance. The course requires extensive listening. Tutorials follow.

Semester 2: A tutorial course intended to monitor the preparation of the composition folio, of which at least 50% must be original composition. Final Compositions will be played through by New Music Ensemble in the first week of the Summer Term: see Department Diary for details of deadlines relating to this element of the course.

Additional seminars, workshops and concerts with BCMG (Birmingham Contemporary Music Group) are an integral and quality part of the course. Attendance is required (10% of the final mark) and one mark will be subtracted for each unjustified absence. Bona fide membership of New Music Ensemble so as to develop an understanding of twentieth century performance practices is also required.

Solo Performance

  • Attainment of 50% in the first study assessment of second year Critical Musicology module is a prerequisite for admission to this module.
  • Students attaining marks between 50 and 55 in the first study assessment of second year Critical Musicology module are required to sign a disclaimer acknowledging that the department advises them not to take this module.
  • The Examiners for this module will comprise a panel drawn from the salaried staff of the Department.

Regular individual tuition (11 hours) on either an instrument or voice with approved tutors at the Birmingham Conservatoire or employed by the University of Birmingham.

Occasional seminars on stagecraft and programming.

Interactive Music and Creative Computing

  • Successful completion of the optional module Interactive and Creative Computing is a prerequisite for admission to this course.

This module continues on from Interactive Music and Creative Computing and explores advanced topics in computer-based composition. A variety of topics will be covered in seminar sessions. These may include working with instruments and interactive systems, FFT based processing and other advanced DSP topics, sound installations, algorithmic composition and high level control systems, and realtime video, among others. These will be supplemented by tutorials and group workshop sessions in which student projects will be developed. Knowledge of advanced maths is not a prerequisite.

Special Subject Modules

Musicology

The student will, with supervision from a designated tutor, research and write a dissertation on an aspect of Musicology of their choosing. Areas of investigation will result in a prose dissertation, but this may include analysis, editing, or performance, if approved and appropriate. Attendance at the Department’s Musicology Research Seminar series (selected Tuesdays at 5 pm) is compulsory.

Studio Composition

  • Prerequisite: Successful completion of the optional module Studio Composition.

Semester 1: Seminars (of 2 hours most weeks) to ensure that students are thoroughly familiar with all the available Studio resources. Starting from a group recording session to gather individual source sound materials, the course builds on and consolidates techniques learned in course B11 Studio Composition, focusing on digital sound editing, processing and mixing. More advanced and elaborate signal processing software than that used in B11 is also introduced. Guided reading and listening, along with discussion of compositional and aesthetic issues, will inform the learning process. This is aided by attendance at BEAST events in Birmingham and by weekly listening sessions throughout Semesters 1 and 2, curated by staff and postgraduate composers, using the Elgar Room MiniBEAST system. Attendance at these sessions (11.30-12.30 on Wednesdays) is part of the course, with students keeping a diary of attendance and critical notes on the works presented; 322 students should avoid committing to any other activity at this time. Towards the end of Semester 1, classes will be replaced by individual tutorials to establish the specific materials for each student’s piece and the best methods of developing that material for the compositional aims of each person.

In Semester 2, attention shifts almost completely to the composition of individual pieces by each student. To support this, fortnightly individual tutorials with the class tutor focus on the specific material and compositional ideas of each person.

Paper Composition

  • Prerequisite: Successful completion of the optional module Paper Composition.

The course comprises three strands:

Semester 1: Issues in Contemporary Music: weekly seminars on a variety of substantial and influential works, analysis, aesthetic and perceptual issues and aspects of performance. The course requires extensive listening. Tutorials follow on and initial compositional ideas are work-shopped by NME towards the end of term.

Semester 2: A tutorial course intended to monitor the preparation of the composition folio, of which at least 50% must be original composition. Final Compositions will be played through by BCMG in the first week of the Summer Term: see Diary for details of deadlines relating to this element of the course.

Additional seminars, workshops and concerts with BCMG are an integral and quality part of the course. Attendance is required (10% of the final mark) and one mark will be subtracted for each unjustified absence. Bona fide membership of NME so as to develop an understanding of twentieth century performance practices is also required.

Performance

  • Attainment of 60% in the first study assessment of second year Critical Musicology module is a prerequisite for admission to this module.
  • The Examiners for this module will comprise a panel of three members of the salaried staff from within the Department.

Instrumentalists and Vocalists: Regular individual tuition (22 hours in total) and practice; occasional seminars on programming, presentation and other general matters.

Conductors: As above, but including conducting the University Chamber Orchestra and a specially constituted vocal ensemble.

Accompanists: As for instrumentalists, but focused on the role of accompanist rather than soloist.

Interactive Music and Creative Computing

  • Successful completion of the optional module Interactive and Creative Computing is a prerequisite for admission to this course.

This course continues on from Interactive and Creative Computing and explores advanced topics in computer-based composition. A variety of topics will be covered in seminar sessions. These may include working with instruments and interactive systems, FFT based processing and other advanced DSP topics, sound installations, algorithmic composition and high level control systems, and realtime video, among others. These will be supplemented by tutorials and group workshop sessions in which student projects will be developed. Knowledge of advanced maths is not a prerequisite.

Optional Modules

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.

The Singer’s Survival Guide

By the mid-seventeenth century the development of an opera repertoire for a certain type of paying public was well under way. Yet, while this certainly changed the cultural landscape of secular vocal music from that point forward, it did not eradicate the popular interest and development of vocal music for private chamber settings, including sacred themed music for private use and making. Studying other vocal genres and the venues in which they were performed side by side with opera at this crucial moment in operatic history presents us with a more complete picture of singing culture from 16050 to the 1750s. In order to become a success in this climate, singers not only needed to be musically but also politically savvy. This module will explore the political and social systems which these singers needed to negotiate and exploit in order to maintain their popularity and social status. We will also focus on the social and cultural issues which shaped the musical development of the different repertories in which they were expected to participate. Musical features of these genres will be studied side by side with the patrons, singers, and composers of these repertories, and will be interpreted through issues of gender, class/social status, reception, the musical canon and the conception of the early modern body.

From Glinka to Glazunov

This module will examine the music composed when Russian musicians were becoming more conscious of their national identity and attempting to create a distinctive national style of composition. The composers examined will include Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Liadov, Borodin and Glazunov and we will attempt to find out what, if anything, made their music distinctive from that of the contemporary ‘mainstream’ Western tradition. The relevant social, political and cultural context will also be examined.

British Musical Renaissance

The ‘British Music Renaissance’ has been commonly dated to the first performance of Parry's Prometheus Unbound in 1880. From that date, it has been argued, Britain gradually shed its status as 'das Land ohne Musik' (the land without music), with the work of such composers as Stanford, Parry, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Holst and many others all encouraging the development of a musical culture which Britain had previously lacked. This course examines the work of these and other composers active in Britain between 1880 and 1914, the relative importance different musical genres (opera, operetta, art song, oratorio, secular cantata, symphony, orchestral music etc.), and British cultural and social attitudes to music and musicians, via a mixture of case studies and historical research.

Handel in London

A Saxon educated in Germany and Italy, Handel moved to cosmopolitan London in the early 18th century and forged a successful career as a composer, performer and impresario. He put opera in England on a (relatively) stable footing and virtually invented the English oratorio and organ concerto. He was both a master of the state occasion, a mirror of the human condition and a superlative musical dramatist. Examples of his anthems, operas, concertos and oratorios will be examined in this module against the social, political and cultural background of 18th-century London. The module will also explore the sources and nature of his musical style and the concept of 'drama' as understood at the time, especially in relation to his operas and oratorios, and consider questions relating to performing practice and to the idea of a musical 'work'.

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.
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Disclaimer

Modules and courses are constantly updated and under review. As with most academic programmes, please remember that it is possible that a module may not be offered in any particular year, for instance because a member of staff is on study leave or too few students opt for it. The University of Birmingham reserves the right to vary or withdraw any course or module.