Masters degrees in Composition train postgraduates to devise, structure and perform new pieces of music. Specialisations include Electroacoustic Composition, Film Music and Sonic Art.
Taught MA and MMus (Master of Music) courses are typical for this field. Entry requirements normally include an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject such as Music or Performance Studies.
Courses in this field allow you to explore a range of compositional styles and techniques across several industry applications. From traditional music composition and performance, through to sound exhibition and art, you may specialise in a whole host of areas.
Across all disciplines, training will be provided in the context and concepts surrounding different forms of composition, over different periods in history. You will examine the sociocultural significance of different compositional forms, exploring these in your own work through contemporary techniques.
These include notated music, digital production, improvisation and many interdisciplinary techniques, such as live recordings edited via digital means. Alongside these techniques, you will also consider composition for different audiences, within different performance sites.
Alongside conventional composition and performance, careers may include music management, broadcasting for TV or radio, music publishing or teaching.
Develop your creativity and technical fluency with this specialised programme, which allows you to specialise in composition while maintaining an interest in different aspects of music.
Core modules will allow you to create your own portfolio of original compositions – which can include electro-acoustic work – underpinned by your study of the principles of composition and aesthetic theory. You’ll look at orchestration, arrangement and remix. Then you’ll choose from optional modules allowing you to explore different aspects of music – you could choose electronic and computer music, musicology, performance, editing and source studies, psychology of music or more to inform your own creative work.
Guided by expert researchers and experienced composers and performers, you’ll have access to a wide range of facilities to explore your own ideas. You could even have some of your work performed by our ensemble, LS2, or benefit from the many opportunities you’ll find in the city’s vibrant live music scene.
We have a variety of excellent facilities to support your learning, including rehearsal, performance and practice spaces, a lab for studying the psychology of music and studios for sound recording, software development and computer music composition. We also have good working relationships with a range of prestigious arts organisations: we host BBC Radio 3 concerts, Leeds Lieder and the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition, as well as enjoying a close partnership with Opera North and many others in a city with a thriving music and cultural scene.
You’ll work on your own compositions throughout the year, developing a portfolio of original work supported and informed by a range of learning opportunities, from tutorials and lectures through to workshops with guest artists.
Throughout the year you’ll take a combination of core modules that allow you to develop your skills as a musician and composer. You’ll develop your academic skills, including research and presentation skills, as well as studying the principles of composition and different professional contexts.
You’ll develop an awareness of broader topics in the study of music to help inform your practice. Central to this is the core module in Semester Two that introduces you to aesthetic theory.
In addition, you’ll choose from the range of optional modules on offer across the School of Music depending on your individual interests and experience: options include performance, editing and archival studies, musicology, computer music, psychology of music and more.
If you choose to study part-time, you’ll study over a longer period and take fewer modules in each year.
These are typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our Terms and conditions.
Most of our taught modules will use seminars and tutorials, as well as lectures and instrumental or vocal lessons, depending on the modules you choose. However, independent study is the backbone of this programme, allowing you to build your skills and express your own creativity.
Obviously, you’ll submit original compositions as an important part of your assessment. You will also write commentaries on your own work — drawing on musical/theoretical contexts — and more theoretical modules are likely to make use of written tasks such as essays and reports. Optional modules may also involve assessment through recitals, transcriptions or critical editions, presentations or other forms of assessment.
Composition tutors have connections with performers, ensembles, and festivals in all corners of the globe. These relationships can be useful for your professional development, giving you an insight into issues such as funding, publicity and other aspects of working life for professional freelance composers.
Many of our graduates choose to continue and refine their research by applying for PhD level study. Several of our existing PhD students also completed their Masters programmes here at Leeds.
We have other resources to support you as you develop your career plans too – the School of Music boasts a unique Alumni Mentoring Network, where you can be supported by past students as you plan your next steps.
We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. That’s one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.
The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more at the Careers website.
Our MMus programme is distinctive in its range of musicological, compositional and performance-based elements.
You will benefit from the diversity of our research strengths, numerous ensemble performance opportunities and expertise in a range of musical fields, including contemporary music for the concert hall, popular music, film music, opera, acoustic, electronic and computer-generated music.
The Composition pathway of the MMus Music programme is designed to develop your individual compositional style and technique through tutorial guidance and opportunities for performances, workshops and recordings.
Various stylistic and generic strands can be pursued individually or in combination, including jazz, music for screen and multimedia, contemporary music for the concert hall and computer sound design.
You will take two compulsory research training modules followed by a combination of composition-related options. Having completed the Postgraduate Diploma stage of the programme, you will progress to Masters stage and submit a composition folio.
The programme provides ideal preparation for future research work at PhD level.
This programme is studied full-time over one academic year and part-time students must study at least two taught technical modules per academic year.
Example module listing
The following modules are indicative, reflecting the information available at the time of publication. Please note that not all modules described are compulsory and may be subject to teaching availability and/or student demand.
The School welcomes applications from students who wish to undertake one module of study from the Masters programme.
Potential applicants may make an appointment for an informal interview with the Programme Director if practicable. All applicants will be asked either to submit a sample of written work, a DVD of their performance, or samples of their compositional work, or to sit an audition depending on their chosen specialism.
Our work achieves wide international circulation, both through established scholarly channels and, distinctively, through broadcast media (such as BBC TV, Channel 4, BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4, and National Public Radio in the USA).
School staff are much in demand for pre-concert talks at venues such as London’s South Bank and Barbican centres. The research environment at Surrey is sustained by open discussion and debate, and through the regular airing of work-in-progress.
Our work is strengthened by the ready input of our peers and research students at various stages allowing collective engagement to foster innovation.
The MMus (Composition) programme aims to provide students with a high quality education in the creative, re-creative, technical, critical, vocational and academic areas of the subject. It aims to provide students with the necessary skills, techniques and methodologies to work at an advanced level with a critical awareness of the discipline.
The programme aims to reflect current developments within the theory and practice of music composition and, in so doing, to educate students so that they may work confidently and constructively within the musical culture of the present.
The programme aims to offer the necessary preparation for students wishing to undertake doctoral level study in practice-based areas.
The programme provides opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding, skills, qualities and other attributes in the following areas:
Knowledge and understanding
Intellectual / cognitive skills
Professional practical skills
Key / transferable skills
We often give our students the opportunity to acquire international experience during their degrees by taking advantage of our exchange agreements with overseas universities.
In addition to the hugely enjoyable and satisfying experience, time spent abroad adds a distinctive element to your CV.
In this dynamic programme you’ll build on your existing musical skills and develop a greater understanding of the theories and techniques of digital composition and performance.
A focus of the programme is bridging the gap between the musical vision and its performance. With this in mind, you will be encouraged to perform your own music in live situations and take your place at the forefront of your music’s realisation.
An emphasis is also placed on the field of digital composition within a wider context, which you will address through seminar work. You’ll learn how to plan a technological project and translate your musical ideas into interactive computer music programmes and/or scores.
Your study will take the form of weekly lectures or seminars, as well as at least 10 hours a week on project work.
You will complete six courses.
In semester 1:
In semester 2:
In addition, over the spring and summer, you will prepare a final digital composition and performance project.
Students will gain in-depth knowledge of:
As this programme involves a wide range of disciplines both technical and artistic, you will gain a number of transferable skills ranging from the core matters of composition, audio production and music programming to more indirect but highly employable skills such as research, documentation, critical thinking, oral presentation, teamwork and software development.
Our graduates have gone on to be employed as composers, performers, researchers, Cirque du Soleil sound technicians, university lecturers, software engineers, BBC sound recordists, web designers, multimedia/ video streaming engineers, and DJs.
See our alumni webpage for details of the careers of recent graduates: