Centre for Composition and Associated Studies (COMPASS)

The Centre for Composition and Associated Studies (COMPASS) is the focal point for all activities related to contemporary music at the University of Birmingham. It is comprised of internationally recognised faculty and a dynamic community of undergraduate and postgraduate students.


COMPASS faculty members include composers Michael Zev Gordon, Daria Kwiatkowska, Annie Mahtani, Ryan Latimer, and Scott Wilson,  musicologist/composer Chris Haworth and musicologist Ben Earle. They bring to COMPASS a wide range of interests including:

  • Instrumental/Vocal Composition for small and large forces
  • Multichannel electroacoustic music and spatialisation
  • Live and interactive electronics
  • Live coding and network music
  • Contemporary Music Study, Analysis and Aesthetics
  • Studio Culture
  • Nonstandard synthesis

See our academic staff and research pages for more detail

Composition study

Student members of COMPASS are part of a dynamic learning community which offers them the opportunity to explore many aspects of contemporary music today. Rather than being made to specialize in one area of contemporary music, students are encouraged to find their own path. They are encouraged to develop a personal compositional practice which can freely mix instrumental and vocal composition, studio-based or live electroacoustic work, sound installations, technical research, etc. The department offers a wide range of course and programme options (full-time, part-time, external) at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level. We have many students from overseas, and international applications are welcome.


COMPASS hosts a number of ongoing research projects in various areas. Recent research includes:

  • Performance practice work on extended cello techniques
  • A new viola-based control interface for sound synthesis
  • Development of software for the control of large-scale multichannel electroacoustic presentation systems
  • Ongoing contributions to the SuperCollider computer music language

BEAST and the Electroacoustic Music Studios

The BEAST setup in blue lightingCOMPASS is home to Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST), an internationally recognised concert organisation which is famous for its presentation of electroacoustic music on multichannel systems of circa 100 loudspeakers. BEAST's activities center around the department's bespoke electroacoustic music studios. The Dome Room system contains a semi-permanently installed 32 channel immersive sound system, which is used for performance, rehearsal, and our weekly Mini-BEAST listening sessions. Our annual BEAST FEaST Festival of music and ideas presents the full BEAST system in the Elgar Concert Hall, and includes multimedia, mixed works, and distinguished guest composers and speakers.

Birmingham Contemporary Music GroupBCMG Link

COMPASS has a long standing link with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, our 'ensemble in association', and one of the finest contemporary music groups in the country. Our joint activities are varied, and include workshop sessions in which student composers have the opportunity to have their works performed and recorded with the ensemble. Each year one work from the workshops is awarded a prize and usually given a public performance by the ensemble.

BEERBirmingham Ensemble for Electroacoustic Research (BEER)

BEER was founded in 2011 as a research project within the Music Department to explore aspects of real-time electroacoustic music making. Particular interests include networked music performance and live coding.


New Music Ensemble and Contemporary Music Performance

Photograph of an orchestra in performanceThe department's New Music Ensemble gives regular performances of contemporary music, and plays student works in both concerts and workshop sessions. Other ensembles within the department and the University Music Society also perform contemporary and student works.