Final year - Independent studies modules - Music


  • 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 & 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.




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.