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Course content

This course offers intensive training for composers and provides excellent preparation for doctoral work or a career in the professional world. With a strong focus on practical music making and supported by an outstanding programme of workshops and performances by professional musicians, it offers an invaluable opportunity for composers to hone their skills and develop their personal voice.

What makes us distinctive?

  • Links to ensembles as an integral part of the course.
  • Interaction with the music profession, including the BBC Philharmonic and Manchester Camerata.
  • Opportunities to develop professional skills, for example through collaborating, rehearsing and networking with professional musicians; learning to arrange/orchestrate; undertaking outreach opportunities; and collaborating in the creation of performances.
  • Flexibility to develop your own compositional and research interests.
  • Close ties with electroacoustic composers in NOVARS, and the flexibility to combine electroacoustic course units with those for instrumental and vocal composition.
  • Integration into the active research culture of the University of Manchester, through research seminars, performance workshops and concerts.

In addition to the submission of a final Portfolio of Compositions , all instrumental and vocal composition students take the core course unit Composition Project and the further compulsory taught course unit, Compositional Etudes. Optional course units normally include Contemporary Music Studies , Advanced Orchestration , Fixed Media and Interactive Music , Aesthetics and Analysis of Organised Sound , Historical or Contemporary Performance (subject to audition). For further information about the content of individual course units, see Course Unit Details below.

SALC Placement offers students the opportunity to spend a minimum of 20 days over a period of up to 12 weeks with an arts and cultural organisation, business or service provider. Placements will be established in Semester 1 to take place early in semester 2; they will be supervised by a work-based mentor and overseen by an academic staff member. The placement may take the form of an investigation of a specific business idea, development strategy or management proposition to resolve a problem or particular issue, and will result in a placement report, proposal or essay.


This programme aims to:

  • Enable students to develop compositional techniques and professional skills appropriate to their creative needs.
  • Enable students to work with both student and professional performers toward the performance of recently composed prices.
  • Develop awareness of aesthetic, analytical and technical issues relating to contemporary Western art music.
  • Encourage students to discuss with clarity and conviction issues relating to contemporary music.
  • Enable students to compose several works worthy of public performance.
  • Equip students with skills appropriate to the development of further postgraduate study on MPhil and PhD programmes.

Special features

Our close links with in-house and Manchester-based ensembles allow us to guarantee that every student taking the MusM Composition programme will have their music performed and/or workshopped by professional ensembles, including the Quatuor Danel, Psappha, Trio Atem and the Manchester Camerata.

  • The Quatuor Danel enjoys a huge international reputation and their repertoire seemingly knows no limits. From early Haydn through Beethoven and Schubert, to neglected masterpieces from the Soviet Union, to white-knuckle rides through Ligeti, Xenakis and Lachenmann and premieres of new works by Manchester composers, our intrepid String Quartet-in-Residence regularly scales the summits of chamber music. Their visits to Manchester form a backbone of the university's concert series.
  • Psappha is one of this country's leading contemporary music ensembles, specialising in the performance of music by living composers and that of the 20th and 21st centuries . The ensemble has an extensive repertoire and a reputation for technical assurance and interpretive flair. Psappha has commissioned and premiered works by a wide range of composers, achieving particular notoriety for their performances of music by Peter Maxwell Davies.

In addition, MusM students frequently have their work performed by   the University of Manchester's new music ensemble.

Teaching and learning

The MusM degree consists of 180 credits in total, made up of four 30-credit taught course units and a 60-credit portfolio. Full-time students take two course units per semester; part-time students take one. Most course units are delivered via regular seminars and/or tutorials, supported where appropriate by practical workshops. The composition portfolio is supported by one-to-one supervision and is submitted at the beginning of September. (Part-time students may submit in either September or December following their second year of study.)

Each student meets regularly with their supervisor (for full-time students usually on a weekly basis during term-time, less frequently during vacations), allowing for in-depth exploration of ideas and intensive support for the various course units offered. Other members of the academic staff are also available for individual consultation during designated office hours.

Alongside their taught units, students have access to a range of non-assessed seminars, workshops and training sessions offered by the Graduate School of the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. All postgraduate students are expected to undertake their own programme of self-directed learning and skills acquisition. This may also involve wider reading, language work, computer training and attendance at research seminars in other parts of the university.

Coursework and assessment

There are no formal examinations. Taught course units - all of which must be satisfactorily completed - are assessed by submission of compositions, coursework essays or other tasks, normally submitted at the end of each semester (January and May). The Composition Portfolio is created over the entire duration of study and is submitted at the end of the academic year (after the summer vacation). All work is double-marked internally and moderated by the External Examiner.

Visit the Composition (Instrumental and Vocal) (MusM) page on the University of Manchester website for more details!




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