MA Music: Instrumental/Vocal Composition pathway

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

We charge an annual tuition fee.
Fees for 2020/21:
UK / EU: £9,250 full-time
International: £18,450 full-time
More detail.

Find your own voice and individual path through the myriad of possibilities open to you on the Instrumental/Vocal Composition MA programme at Birmingham.

This programme combines a solid grounding in the creative history and technique of Western art music with the latest twenty first century compositional techniques. Instruction in practical aspects - for example advanced orchestration, post-serial and post-spectral techniques, computer-assisted composition - is combined with the development of theoretical knowledge and critical faculties. 

The MA in Music at Birmingham offers first class, world-recognised staff who are experts in their fields meaning students learn from people who really are the best at what they do.

Students study within the excellent facilities available with the Elgar Concert Hall, which is one of the most flexible concert halls of its type in any UK university.

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.

Dr Scott Wilson

Why Study this Course?

  • Long standing history – 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.
  • Fantastic resources available – we have a wide range of resources and facilities to support your learning and ensure you receive the maximum benefit from studying this programme. Our facilities in the state-of-the-art Bramall Music Building include the Dome room, which is regularly used for readings, rehearsals, and concerts, and the 450-seat Elgar Concert Hall, which is arguably the best space of its kind in any university in the UK, with flexible acoustics. The entire building is wired with state of the art audio systems which allow for the recording of student works.
  • Lots of opportunities – by studying this pathway you have the opportunity to write works for the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (our ‘Ensemble in Association’), the Department’s New Music Ensemble, and other departmental ensembles. We regularly offer workshops with visiting performers (e.g. the Hermes Ensemble, Darragh Morgan, Carla Rees, and Joby Burgess in recent years). You also have access to excellent equipment and library resources, and the opportunity to interact with distinguished guest artists in our seminar series.

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:

Advanced Studies in Instrumental/Vocal Composition

The module contains the following main areas of study: repertoire studies, advanced compositional techniques, studies in notation, issues of compositional aesthetics.

Topics covered will include: editing and preparation of materials at a professional level, recent stylistic developments in contemporary music, the rational and the intuitive. Composers discussed may range from Ades and Adams to Lutoslawski and Ligeti.

Assessment: Two composition exercises, one editing exercise and one essay

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

Optional modules

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

  • Advanced Studies in Electroacoustic Composition 1 and 2
  • Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
  • British Music Studies 1850-1975
  • Contemporary Music Studies
  • Experimental Music and Sound Art
  • Fieldwork Methods
  • Introduction to Global Popular Musics

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.


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 2020/21 are as follows:

  • UK / EU: £9,250 full-time; £4,625 part-time
  • International: £18,450 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/EU or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students


For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to financial support available via student loans for the duration of their course. For more information take a look at the gov.uk website.

Paying your fees

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.

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.

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students to apply is Wednesday 1 July 2020. The deadline for UK/EU students is Thursday 10 September 2020.

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

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

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 pathways in composition 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, 21 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 59 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

International Requirements


Your learning will be enhanced by our extensive resources, including the Bramall Music Building and our association with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

Course delivery

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

As a full-time student, you will typically take three modules in each term, 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, assignment preparation and independent study.

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).

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.

Over the past 5 years, 75% of Music postgraduates were in work and/or further study 6 months after graduation (DLHE 2012 - 2017). While 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, advertising and public relations.