Entry requirements

For UK students, a good honours degree, i.e. a 2:1 or 1st (not necessarily in Music). For EU/International students, a qualification equivalent to a good honours degree. If you do not meet the standard entry requirement it may be possible to consider your application based on evidence of other relevant personal and professional experience, the support of your referees and examples of written work. Please also see the university's general entry requirements.

Months of entry


Course content

The MA in Music offers advanced training in either musicology or composition. The modular structure allows students to pursue a broad generalist programme or to specialise in a particular area of their choice. Within the field of musicology, students can slant their studies towards one or several of the following areas: music in nineteenth-century culture, opera studies, popular music studies or film music. The composition pathway, meanwhile, provides a practice-based contemporary composition curriculum that encourages students to push the boundaries of their practice and thinking, develop an understanding of creative agency and develop a voice as an engaged and creative composer.
A distinctive feature of the programme is its combination of a rigorous academic education with the opportunity to acquire vocational skills through our innovative Professional Experience module. Students also receive training in disseminating their research via broadcasting, journalism, conference papers and social media. The course therefore offers rich opportunities for career development and can pave the way for further study at PhD level if so required.

As our courses are reviewed regularly, course content and module choices may change from the details given here.

Students studying for the MA/PG Dip in Music are required to complete the following compulsory modules (30 credits):

Research Skills and Applied Research

This module provides a grounding in the skills and methodologies required for studying music at postgraduate level and in the practical application of research skills in the workplace. The seminars fall into three categories. Some develop generic and subject-specific masters-level research skills. Other sessions develop students’ awareness of recent critical debates within musical scholarship. Finally, further sessions provide training in the practical application of research skills and the promotion of students’ research, via such means as broadcasting, journalism, programme notes, websites and social media.

While the module develops skills and knowledge applicable to entry into any professional work environment associated with music, the module also provides the requisite training to continue to a PhD in music and a vocational session is provided on entering the academic profession.

Professional Experience

The Professional Experience module prepares students for a future career in one of three ways: through work experience in a sector of the music industry relevant to the student’s academic and career interests, through a placement with one of our research units, or through focused independent research relevant to further study at doctoral level. The module aims to accommodate learners from a variety of backgrounds with a variety of goals, while offering opportunities to hone skills and develop knowledge that will be relevant to their subsequent careers or life-long learning.

Typical work experience might consist of undertaking a placement with a broadcasting company, an arts-related museum, a concert organisation or opera house, or teaching in a school. Working with a research unit might involve organising a music festival or listening group. Students undertaking an independent research project might choose to develop and practice new research skills (e.g. editing, archival work, language skills, digital humanities) or explore a new research or composition interest separate from their dissertation.

Students undertake an associated work-based project, with outcomes and assessment criteria agreed beforehand between student, module leader and a partner institution if applicable.

MA students are also required to complete the following (60 credits):

Dissertation / Major Project

This module offers the opportunity to develop an extended project in independent study or creativity, taken at the end of the course. This enables students to deploy skills, knowledge and understanding gained during the course in producing a substantial piece of written work, or practice-based outputs.

This can be a critical examination, through independent study and extended written work of an appropriate musicological topic, theme or issue. Recent topics have been as varied as music and gender in Disney films, the institutional failure of nineteenth-century English opera and Japanese musical responses to the Tohoku earthquake. Alternatively, a portfolio of practice-based work is also acceptable, presented and documented as appropriate to feature an agreed combination of compositions, installations, site based work, live electronic applications.

You will then take two of the following modules depending on your chosen specialism (30 credits each):

Composition Pathway

Approaches to Experimental Composition and Sound Arts

This module provides students with an opportunity to enhance their understanding of contemporary practices in experimental composition and sound arts whilst introducing them to listening strategies that will enable them to engage critically with the sounding world. Students will build upon their previous experience of creative practice, and will be introduced to new methodologies. Students will have the opportunity to focus on acoustic composition, electronic composition, field recording, soundscape studies and sound arts, and will explore the importance of site and context.

The module encourages students to develop a body of practical research – to include scores, recordings, performances, installations, audio documentation - and reflect upon this through seminar feedback sessions.

Electroacoustic and Live Electronic Composition

This module gives students the opportunity to focus on electroacoustic composition and live electronic composition, including interactive computer music.

Students enhance their technical and analytical skills, building upon previous experience of composition. They develop a body of research that might include recordings, software patches and installations - and reflect upon this through seminar feedback sessions.

Students also pursue a research topic that explores electroacoustic or live electronic composition: for instance through the analytical study of the work of a composer or group of composers, or a detailed consideration of a particular conceptual or technical issue. Students also learn how to promote their work, having an opportunity to showcase it at the audiograft festival.

Musicology pathway

Students taking the Musicology pathway take Advanced Musicology 1 in Semester 1, which aims to enable students to develop an in-depth understanding of current developments in musicology, either in the field of nineteenth-century music studies or film music studies. They also take Musicology 2 in Semester 2, which focuses on either the field of popular music studies or opera studies. Students taking Musicology 1 and 2 need to decide from the start which fields they would like to include. For example, possible combinations are: nineteenth-century music and opera, film music and opera, nineteenth century music and popular music or film music and popular music.

Advanced Musicology 1: 19th-Century Music Studies

The study of 19th-century music is currently one of the most vibrant areas of historical musicology, inspiring many of the perspectives developed by 'new' and post-modern musicology.

This route through the module explores the music of the 'long' nineteenth century, from late Haydn to early Schoenberg, in its historical and disciplinary contexts and from a range of current perspectives, bringing together cultural studies, history, literature and the arts in an interdisciplinary and transnational approach.

Topics explored include the ideology of genius and the rise of the work concept; music in the salon and the market place; popular music of the 19th century; women as performers, patrons and composers; music and the beginnings of mass media; virtuosity and the cult of celebrity; music and the ‘Gothic’; music and national identity; the rediscovery of early music and historicism.

Advanced Musicology 1: Film Music Studies

This route through the module takes as a starting point the role of music in film, seeking to explore in detail a number of scholarly and creative perspectives on that role.

Film Music Studies focuses on the way in which the interactions of film and music have changed through time, and on how, at any one time, scoring conventions and potential interpretations of these are shaped by a wide range of factors, such as a film’s mode of production, cinematic tradition, genre, and target audiences.

Sessions will involve group discussion of weekly readings, as well as student presentations on specific films and themes.

Advanced Musicology 2: Popular Music Studies

This route through the module examines the methodological issues and traditions in the study of popular music. Popular Music Studies explores a wide range of popular music repertoires, especially the song-based lineages of American country and British folk music, American blues and gospel music, and the transnational languages of pop, rock, and rap. Issues in historiography are implicit throughout the module, especially in defining popular music. Musicological approaches are practised through active listening to selected recordings and live performances.

Forms of writing are examined and discussed, in which popular music is seen within the context of sociology and politics, literary study, cultural and media studies, aesthetics and critical theory.

Advanced Musicology 2:Opera Studies

This route through the module explores recent critical thinking about the creation, performance and reception of opera and about operas as dramatic and musical texts.

Amongst other topics, it focuses upon the following: opera historiography; the social, political and aesthetic contexts that have shaped operas; gender and sexuality on the operatic stage; national identity; operatic institutions and audiences; the staging and interpretation of operas; reception issues; opera on/in film and the role of opera in twenty-first-century society.

Opera studies will range broadly across the operatic repertoire of the ‘long’ nineteenth century, and there will be a series of ‘repertory sessions’, focusing in detail upon a selection of operas as set works. The sessions aim to develop students’ historical research skills and to encourage them to consider critically the politics of opera today.

Sessions will involve group discussion of weekly readings, as well as student presentations on specific operas and themes.

Information for international students

Please see the university's standard English language requirements

Qualification and course duration


part time
24 months
full time
12 months

Course contact details

School of Arts
+44 (0)1865 484959