Music postgraduate modules

Indicative module descriptions (2020/21) 

Advanced Studies in Electroacoustic Composition 1 and 2

These two co-requisite modules present selected topics in advanced electroacoustic composition, including, but not limited to:

  • Advanced recording techniques (studio and field) using conventional and ambisonic techniques
  • Approaches to multichannel spatialisation
  • Diffusion techniques and the MiniBEAST and BEAST sound systems
  • Topics in programming for electroacoustics and digital signal processing
  • Live electroacoustic performance
  • Advanced or non-standard synthesis techniques
  • Mixed instrumental and electroacoustic composition.

Assessment: A combination of written and practical tasks

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

Advanced Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music

This module is ideal preparation for those wishing to proceed to PhD in medieval or renaissance music. Through a series of case studies, you will be shown a variety of analytical models to equip you with sophisticated ways of engaging with the music as well as of talking and thinking about it. We will also cover the necessary technical and theoretical background for working in this period. Complex and controversial issues of performance practice will also be addressed.

Assessment: 4,500-word essay

Arts Management in Practice

This is a practical module in Arts Management focusing on the Classical Music industry, and delivered as a combination of seminars and practical classes. Subjects covered include marketing, stakeholder management, project management, fundraising and finance, and ‘creating a project with impact’. Classes include group tasks and you are expected to present your findings to your peers.

One of the assessment areas, the ‘CBSO Project’, will enable you to work alongside the CBSO Chorus Department - in particular the Projects Officer - to assist in the delivery of a large-scale professional choral event. Alternative projects may be offered subject to the number of MA students on the module.

Assessment: 1,500-word written summary for the CBSO Project, a 2,000-word music project proposal, a 1,000-word marketing strategy and a panel presentation

British Music Studies 1850-1975

British Music studies is a fast-growing research field in today’s musicology. This module takes the broadest perspective on modern British art music, offering case studies in the work of the ‘great composers’ of the tonal idiom such as Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten, evaluation of the Anglican choral tradition and the British symphonic tradition, examination of the problematic status of modernism in British music before 1960, and criticism of modernist and postmodernist composition since World War II. Approaches are critical, analytical and sociological, with some reception history as well. The repertoire under study is mainly choral, orchestral and chamber music.

Assessment: Two 2,500-word essays

Composition Tutorials 1 and 2

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

Contemporary Music Studies

With Schoenberg’s adventures in atonal music now a century old, and with the experimental music composer John Cage now officially sanctioned by the BBC Proms, the aim of this module is to ask, simply: what is music doing now, in the latter part of the second decade of the 21st century? What creative concerns unite or divide contemporary composers, and to what extent do they build on or depart from the innovations of 20th century modernism? Is there a shared sense of political, economic, and cultural background against which composers respond and react? Is ‘new’ or ‘contemporary’ music more global now than it was in the twentieth century, or do Europe and America still dominate? And what does ‘contemporary music’ actually refer to: when did ‘the contemporary’ start, when will it end, and what musics does it include and exclude?

Each class will address a different theme in contemporary music, focusing on (but not guaranteed or limited to): composition and improvisation; language and voice; multimedia and post-medium art; musical systems after serialism; globalisation and the internet; music and the body; and changes in the relations between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. Seminars will focus on discussion of texts, scores, videos and other media, and you will have the opportunity to learn through the creation or performance of a work of contemporary music.

Assessment: A compilation of listening diaries, a creative project or essay and in-class presentation (1,750 words or equivalent) and a 2,250-word research project

Fieldwork Methods

This practice-led module will build the skills needed to conduct an independent ethnographic research project. Throughout the module, you will become acquainted with the various methods available for fieldwork and learn to assess their strengths and weaknesses in relation to varying research contexts.

Topics addressed may include: project design and planning, ethics, audio-visual documentation, interviewing, field notes, transcription, and online/virtual ethnography. Instruction and assessment will be hands-on, applying theoretical readings to concrete materials and activities.  

Assessment: 2,500-word research prospectus and five applied fieldwork assignments totalling 2,500 words

Historically Informed Performance

You will study key issues and practices in the history of musical performance.  Through a series of case studies presented by experts in a range of fields, you will learn to navigate the complexities of historically informed performance. Topics examined might include instrument design and performance techniques, treatment of tempo and rhythm and conventions affecting temperament and ornamentation. Through this module you will gain an advanced insight into the notation practices of the early-modern period; tutorials will support you in developing your own specialism within the field.

Assessment: Two research projects, each 2,500 words or equivalent

Introduction to Global Popular Musics

This module aims to familiarise you with a field of study that has been emerging from the intersection of ethnomusicology and popular music studies. Assigned readings, discussions, and assessments will seek to situate popular music in a global context while also attending to the ways that global processes impact local musical actors, scenes, and styles. Particular attention will be paid to ethnography and its application to the study of popular musics. Topics and cases to be explored included diasporic popular musics, musical migration, recording and production, global music industries, musical labour in the ‘creative industries’, local music scenes, urban contexts, and media theory. This module will also provide an orientation to relevant fields of study (including ethnomusicology and popular music studies) through an engagement with foundational disciplinary texts as well as current debates.

Assessment: 3,000-word research project and ten weekly reading responses totalling 1,500 words

Introduction to Musicology

This module prepares you for the field of Musicology by examining key issues, theories, and methodologies in the field. It is taught as a series of seminars by a number of staff in the Department of Music, and any research presentations organised for department staff and visiting scholars. 

Assessment: Two 2,500-word essays

Laptop Ensemble

This module explores the rapidly developing field of laptop ensemble performance. The class will function as an ensemble group, working to develop and prepare repertoire for public concerts. Topics covered will include techniques for improvisation, networked music performance, live coding, and composition for live electroacoustic ensemble. Works presented in concert will include student and group developed pieces, as well as ‘classics’ from the field. Experience in programming is helpful but not required, and the projects pursued will be selected according to the ensemble’s makeup each year.

Assessment: A series of short programming assignments, an improvisation test, and a final performance

Performance Skills 1

This module runs in the autumn term. It is designed to address the extra-musical aspects of successful musical performances and is intended to complement and enhance performances given in other MA performance modules. 

You will attend five two-hour seminars/workshops in the Department’s Music Health and Wellbeing series, which focus on the physical and psychological elements of performance. You will deliver a presentation summarising the key skills and techniques covered in the series, relating them to your own performance practice. You will also attend all three Barber Evening Concerts, and produce a review of each concert.

Assessment: Ten-minute presentation and three 500-word reviews

Performance Skills 2

This module runs in the spring term. Following on from Performance Skills 1, it is again intended to address the extra-musical aspects of successful music performance.

You will attend five 'Performance Platform' sessions, where students perform for one another, analyse each other’s performances, and receive formative feedback from professional specialists, as well as their peers. Your assessment - a performance and short presentation - will require you to apply the skills and techniques learned in both the Music Health and Wellbeing Series (autumn term) as well as the feedback received during Performance Platform sessions. You will also attend three further Barber Evening Concerts, and produce a review of each concert.

Assessment: Ten-minute performance and five-minute presentation, plus three 500-word reviews

Please note that the optional module information listed here is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year, and depending on your programme pathway. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.