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The flexible modular structure of our taught MA course allows you to focus on a chosen area of specialism but simultaneously facilitates exploration of a wide range of research areas relating to music. It provides an excellent foundation for undertaking postgraduate research at doctoral level, but would also benefit the professional development of musicians intending to pursue careers in teaching, arts administration, broadcasting, and other domains.

Students on the taught MA course join a vibrant international postgraduate community and study with scholars, composers and performers who have achieved international recognition in their fields. The Music Department was ranked the top UK music department for two years running in both The Complete University Guide (2018 and 2019) and The Sunday Times University League Table (2017 and 2018), and appears in the top three in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.

The MA Music course supports study in the following areas of specialism:

  • Musicology
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Composition (acoustic and electronic)
  • Performance

Course structure

You will choose modules from sections A, B, C, and D below:

A. Major project, weighted at 60 credits (a dissertation, a public recital, or a portfolio of compositions/orchestrations and arrangements – depending on your chosen area of specialism)

B. A 30-credit module linked to your chosen area of specialism

C. Two compulsory core 30-credit modules embedding research training and engaging with major intellectual issues attendant on all subject areas

D. An additional 30 credits of Music undergraduate modules/selected undergraduate OR postgraduate modules offered by another department OR another related specialism-specific module from list B, subject to approval of the Board of Studies in Music.

Example: MA with specialism in Musicology

A. A 12,000-word dissertation on a musicological topic weighted at 60 credits

B. 30-credit module ‘Contemporary Musicology’

C. Compulsory core 30-credit modules, ‘Core Research Seminars’ and ‘Research Methods and Resources’

D. 30 credits of Music undergraduate modules/selected undergraduate OR postgraduate modules offered by another department OR another related specialism-specific module from list B

Core Modules

  • Research Methods and Resources
  • Core Research Seminars

The following specialism-specific modules will be offered every year: 

  • Contemporary Musicology
  • Ethnomusicology in Practice and Theory
  • Compositional Techniques
  • Music Performance 

Optional Modules

Optional modules in previous years have included:

  • British Music
  • Music Analysis
  • Electronic Music
  • Orchestration and Arranging
  • Indian Music
  • World Music Analysis
  • Music, Mind, and Culture
  • Audiovisual Documentation and Analysis. 

To view our short film on this course click here 

Course Learning and Teaching

The course is delivered through a mixture of seminars, practical sessions and one-to-one supervision. Seminars provide opportunities for you to discuss and debate particular issues, and to present your own original work, informed by the knowledge that you have gained through independent study outside the course’s formal contact hours. Practical sessions in areas such as studio or field recording techniques help to prepare you for your own independent work. All students must undertake an independent project (dissertation, composition portfolio, or performance), which is developed with the help of one-to-one expert supervision. Finally, optional modules can be drawn from the undergraduate and postgraduate courses of Music or of other departments –these free-choice modules may involve other forms of staff-student contact, depending on the subject area. The Department actively promotes interdisciplinary approaches to the study of music and you are encouraged to engage with other disciplines in the humanities and sciences.

The contact hours experienced by each individual student will vary considerably, given a high degree of flexibility in the course. You will typically attend between 2 and 4 hours of seminars per week in term time, as well as additional practical sessions as appropriate. Individual supervision of dissertations, performance projects and composition portfolios amounts to an average of 6 hours spread over the second and third terms.

Outside timetabled contact hours, you are also expected to attend research seminars, both student-led and those involving staff or guest academic speakers (typically 1-2 hrs each week during term times). You must also undertake your own independent study to prepare for your classes and assessments, to broaden your subject knowledge and to prepare your dissertations or portfolios. You are encouraged, as an integral part of your studies, to take advantage of other opportunities such as participating in performance opportunities (including staff-led ensembles) and attending research and composition seminars, some of which are organised in conjunction with University research institutes.

There is a busy programme of musical performance, both within and outside the Music department, which complements your academic programme by providing opportunities both to listen to and to perform a wide variety of music. The many musical ensembles to which you can contribute includes both independent societies (including orchestras, choirs, opera and musical theatre as well as a Javanese gamelan) and department-run ensembles such as the New Music Ensemble and Korean percussion group.

Department of Music

The Department of Music’s vibrant postgraduate research environment attracts high-calibre applicants from all over the world. The Department’s research staff offer a broad spectrum of supervisory expertise in musicology, music analysis, ethnomusicology, music psychology, performance, and acoustic and electroacoustic composition. We offer you a high level of individual attention and personal support, and provide you with an experience of exceptionally high quality. In addition to fostering your intellectual growth as scholars and researchers, we assist your professional development by preparing you for the world of employment, providing opportunities for you to work as teaching and research assistants, to disseminate your research, and to participate in dedicated training courses. We offer both taught and research postgraduate programmes, and will be happy to offer advice on choosing the course that is best suited to your needs. Many of our postgraduate students choose to study full-time, but we also welcome part-time students. Whatever stage of your career you may be at, we endeavour to provide the necessary support to help you realise your professional aspirations.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply


Visit the MA Music page on the Durham University website for more details!




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Recipient: Durham University

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