MA Music: Instrumental/Vocal Composition pathway

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. 

Dr Scott Wilson

Dr Scott Wilson

“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.”

You will study six taught modules and produce a composition portfolio of new musical works.

You will study three core modules:

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

You will also choose three optional modules from a range offered within the Department of Music.

Further module information is available below.

Assessment

Modules are assessed by a combination of practical and written assignments. You will complete the course with a composition portfolio.

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.

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
  • Advanced Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music
  • Arts Management in Practice
  • British Music Studies 1850-1975
  • Contemporary Music Studies
  • Fieldwork Methods
  • Introduction to Global Popular Musics
  • Laptop Ensemble

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 and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2019/20 are as follows:

  • UK / EU: £9,250 full-time; £4,625 part-time
  • International: £16,995 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

We can also confirm that EU students who are already studying at the University of Birmingham or who have an offer to start their studies in the 2019-20 academic year will continue to be charged the UK fee rate applicable at the time, provided this continues to be permitted by UK law. The UK Government has also confirmed that students from the EU applying to courses starting in the 2019-20 academic year will not see any changes to their loan eligibility or fee status. This guarantee will apply for the full duration of the course, even if the course finishes after the UK has left the EU.

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.

Entry 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. Materials can be also submitted by post if desired, addressed to: Dr. Christopher Haworth, Department of Music, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT, United Kingdom.

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Please review our Entry Requirements before making your application.

Application deadlines

International students requiring visas

Monday 1 July 2019 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2019 made after this date - a new application should be made for September 2020. Applications will reopen for 2020 entry in early October 2019.

UK/EU students

Please apply by Friday 30 August 2019. However, we would encourage you to apply at the earliest opportunity, to allow adequate time to prepare for starting your studies once receiving a decision on your application.

Late applicants are encouraged to contact the Admissions Tutor for advice.

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

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 employment and this will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University.

The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy, and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver tailored programmes of careers events and local support.

You will have opportunities to: meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs; attend employer presentations and skills workshops; receive individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two 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 five years, around 90% of Music postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Whilst 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.

Music postgraduate alumni profiles

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

The Guild of Students hosts over 250 student groups and societies to suit a wide range of interests. These include the Postgraduate and Mature Students Association which runs a regular and varied programme of events specifically tailored to postgraduate students.

In addition, you will find that each Department runs its own social activities, research fora and student groups.

Accommodation

We offer accommodation for postgraduates on or near to campus, although many of our students also choose to live privately in student accommodation, shared houses or flats. If you do choose to live in private accommodation, the University has dedicated support services to help you to find properties from accredited landlords.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.