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MA Music: Composition pathway

Start date
September
Duration
1 year full-time; 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught
Fees

Annual tuition fees for 2024 entry:
UK: £10,530 full-time
International: £23,310 full-time
More detail.

Music composition in the 21st century is a diverse and ever evolving practice, bringing together performers, diverse styles, cultures, and practices, and the latest in high technology.

As a composer today, all of these resources are available to you, and the Composition pathway aims to foster your skills as you navigate this exciting new world. In this pathway you create new works which combine resources chosen from the latest electroacoustic computer technology and more traditional instruments and voices, or explore those elements separately, all supported through our range of advanced modules. Works for interactive systems, multimedia, improvisation and sound installations are also welcome, and we support each student in exploring their own unique voice and abilities.

Scholarships for 2024 entry

The University of Birmingham is proud to offer a range of scholarships for our postgraduate programmes. With a scholarship pot worth over £2 million, we are committed to alleviating financial barriers to support you in taking your next steps.

Each scholarship has its own specific deadlines and eligibility criteria. Please familiarise yourself with the information on individual scholarship webpages prior to submitting an application.

Explore our scholarships

At Birmingham, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students also have the opportunity to learn graduate academic languages free of charge, to support your studies.

The MA in Music at Birmingham offers first class, world-recognised staff who are absolute experts in their fields, so you're learning from people who really are the best at what they do. We also have excellent facilities such as the Elgar Concert Hall, which is arguably the most flexible concert hall of its type in any UK university.

Professor Scott Wilson

Why study this course?

  • Long standing history – the Department of Music is one of the most distinguished in the UK. Building upon an illustrious history, our postgraduate programmes embody the latest cutting-edge developments in the practice and study of music.
  • Fantastic resources available – Our state-of-the-art facilities in the Bramall Music Building include the Dome room, used for readings, rehearsals, and concerts, the acoustically flexible 450-seat Elgar Concert Hall, five electroacoustic studios, an isolation room for recording, a dedicated control room which can record sound from around the building, and a 17 seat computer cluster. The entire building is wired with state-of-the-art audio systems which allow for the recording of student works. . The recently opened University Music Hub offers a newly equipped recording studio and flexible rehearsal spaces, which double as additional recording spaces.
  • Cutting-edge activities – 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). The Dome room hosts the 32 channel Mini-BEAST system, regularly used for listening sessions, rehearsals, and concerts. Postgraduate groups explore areas such as laptop performance, modular synthesis, network music, and live coding.
  • Lots of opportunities – 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. the Hermes Ensemble, Darragh Morgan, Carla Rees, and Joby Burgess in recent years). The Department of Music also offers excellent equipment and library resources, and the opportunity to interact with distinguished guest artists in our seminar series fill out a first class offering.
  • Performance opportunities - You will complete the programme by producing a composition portfolio, , which includes an opportunity to hear part of it performed by the acclaimed Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG) or as part of BEAST events.

The postgraduate experience

The College of Arts and Law offers excellent support to its postgraduates, from libraries and research spaces, to careers support and funding opportunities. Learn more about your postgraduate experience.

Modules

Core modules

You will study the following core modules:

Composition Tutorials 1 and 2

Across these two modules you will receive regular one-to-one tutorial teaching, enabling you to develop your compositional technique and a self-reflexive critique of your own work. You will be taught composition techniques appropriate to your individual needs. You will also be encouraged to broaden your range of compositional practice, and move toward the development of a personal ‘voice’.

Assessment: A series of compositions

Music as Critical Practice

This module introduces the aesthetics and criticism of contemporary music and sound art. Its themes cross the notation/sound-based divide and may include post-formalism and conceptual music; music and the Anthropocene; inter-and post-media art; music as social activism; music and posthumanism; music and the digital; music and contemporaneity; practice-based research. A key problematic for twenty-first century music is its relationship to what is not music, whether that be sound, the other arts, other media, or the social and political. We will explore this substantively, discussing examples that challenge the legacies of high modernist formal aestheticism and medium specificity.

Assessment: Written project, Sound based project and Listening diary 

Music Employability

Music Employability offers opportunities to develop applicable skills to foster a music career and identify transferable skills for adjacent career trajectories. You will improve your grant writing skills, cultivate public presentation skills, acquire skills in content creation, and explore new means of self-promotion. Using a combination of seminar discussions, masterclasses, and project-based work, you will draw on the resources of the University of Birmingham Careers Network and connections to the wider city community to pursue topics that may include leadership cultivation, digital literacy, professional development, copyright awareness, public presentation tools, podcast and video creation, and website development.

Assessment: Professional Development Statement and Portfolio and Creative Project 

Optional modules

You will choose two of the following four modules, one in Semester 1 and the other in Semester 2.

  • Advanced Studies in Electroacoustic Composition 1
  • Advanced Studies in Electroacoustic Composition 2
  • Advanced Studies in Instrumental/Vocal Composition 1
  • Advanced Studies in Instrumental/Vocal Composition 2

You will also chooseone optional module from a range which typically includes:

  • Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
  • British Music in Performance
  • Sonic Alchemy: Live Electronic and Mixed Music Ensemble
  • Fieldwork Methods
  • Introduction to Global Popular Musics
  • Electronic Music Studies
  • Historically Informed Performance
  • Classical and Romantic Keyboard Music
  • Gustav Mahler: The Philosophy of Music
  • Postsocialist Music and Ethnography

For more information, see our Music module descriptions.

Composition Portfolio

In addition to your taught modules, you will produce a portfolio consisting of one or more compositions amounting to approximately 13-23 minutes duration in total (length to be agreed with your supervisor), and an accompanying written commentary of approximately 3-5,000 words. Students are also required to attend and to write short summaries of research seminars presented during the academic year.


Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is 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

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2024 entry are as follows:

  • UK: £10,530 full-time; £5,265 part-time
  • International: £23,310 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.

Fee status

Eligibility for UK or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

Paying your fees

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.


Are you an international applicant?

All international applicants to this course will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £2,000 on receipt of an offer, to secure their place.

Find out more about the deposit >>.

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.

How To Apply

Advice on your application

Please review our Entry Requirements carefully before making your application.

Please note that we take your degree grades, personal statement, English language results (if applicable), composition portfolio and relevant experience into consideration when we make admission decisions. We also conduct telephone/Skype interviews and ask for your cooperation in setting a mutually convenient date for this to enable us to make a decision on your application.

Please ensure that your application has been completed fully within two weeks of submission as we cannot consider your application without all of the necessary documentation (composition portfolio, references, personal statement and results, if available). If you have outstanding documentation relating to pending language test results and degree results, please make this clear on your application, and your application will be considered. We are able to make offers which are conditional on you achieving a particular qualification if you have not yet finished your current programme of study.

How to Apply for a Postgraduate Degree - Taught programmes

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students (requiring a VISA) to apply is 30 June 2024. The deadline for UK students is 30 August 2024.

Making your application

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate taught programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the taught programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard 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.

Your application should include a personal statement of approximately 5,000 characters. You should use your personal statement to explain 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.

All prospective students for the composition pathway must also submit a portfolio of 3–4 compositions, showcasing your range of styles and compositional technique. Compositions should be submitted as either scores (PDF files) or recordings, as appropriate for your chosen pathway. Audio and/or video files should be uploaded to a web-hosting site (e.g. SoundCloud/MixCloud or YouTube/Vimeo/Youku or Dropbox/WeTransfer/YouSendIt) with the URL pasted into a text document and uploaded to the application portal. This should be submitted at the time of making your application, or uploaded within two weeks of submitting your application. If this is not provided within the stated timeframe your application may be declined.

International/EU students

Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 67 with no less than 64 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements


Your learning will be enhanced by our extensive facilities, including the Bramall Music Building and the Electroacoustic Music Studios and Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST)

Teaching year

We have three teaching terms per year, the autumn, spring and summer terms. Term dates can be found on our website.

As a full-time student, you will typically take three modules in each of the first two terms, followed by your dissertation. If you are a part-time student, you will typically take three modules across each year, followed by your dissertation.

Each module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, homework and assignment preparation.

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 of Birmingham is the top choice for the UK's major employers searching for graduate recruits, according to The Graduate Market 2024 report.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for your future career, but this can also be enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University and the College of Arts and Law.

The University's Careers Network provides expert guidance and activities especially for postgraduates, which will help you achieve your career goals. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated  careers and employability team who offer tailored advice and a programme of College-specific careers events.

You will be encouraged to make the most of your postgraduate experience and will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive one-to-one careers advice, including guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique, whether you are looking for a career inside or outside of academia
  • Meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs and employer presentations
  • Attend an annual programme of careers fairs, skills workshops and conferences, including bespoke events for postgraduates in the College of Arts and Law
  • Take part in a range of activities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers and enhance your CV

What’s more, you will be able to access our full range of careers support for up to 2 years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: Music

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.