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MMus Composition

Course Description

The course covers areas of instrumental and vocal composition, with the possibility of working with electronic, digital and multimedia resources. The course offers opportunities for you to work across these areas, or to specialise as appropriate. We support work in a wide range of styles and genres, whilst maintaining an experimental and exploratory approach. Delivery is tailored to your needs, centred around small-group seminars and tutorials. The course runs within a vibrant music department with a lively community of undergraduates, postgraduates and staff and excellent facilities.

During the course you will learn to:

• Develop your creative skills as a composer
• Develop technical skills where appropriate
• Comment critically upon your own and others’ work
• Explore current composition contexts and contemporary musical thought
• Collaborate with other creative artists
• Improve your professional skills
• Conduct academic research


The course is available on either a full-time (typically one year) or part- time (typically two year) basis. The academic year is 12 months long and comprises three semesters: October-January; February-June; and June-October. Taught sessions are normally during the daytime, and access to facilities for directed study tasks is available both then and outside of working hours.


Composition Techniques: This module is designed to offer you an opportunity to develop your practical and creative skills. Through a weekly seminar, you will be introduced to a range of composition techniques which will extend your current practice. These will focus on a mix of analyses of existing pieces, set reading, group discussion, and presentation of personal creative work. The seminars will be supported by a weekly individual tutorial in which you will discuss your current work with your tutor, leading to the presentation of a portfolio of pieces and a short composition commentary.

Context and Methodology: This module furnishes you with the skills necessary for self-directed research. It combines a study of research methodology with a study of context across the range of activities represented by all the MMus pathways – specifically of a set of paradigms that characterise the field’s current creative boundaries.

Commission Project: This module models the composition commission process, with you writing to brief for available resources, producing a composition realised in a public performance. In addition to writing a piece for the specified ensemble, there will be some additional tasks which will give you practical experience of running independent projects yourself. We will look at the commissioning process, making funding applications and submitting proposals to institutions such as festivals for consideration. We will also consider how to get the most from rehearsals and workshops when working with professional musicians, and effective ways to promote your work.

Collaborative and Interdisciplinary Practice: This module allows you to look beyond your core discipline and undertake interdisciplinary projects. A key part of the ethos of the course is a belief that the boundaries between areas of composition are becoming blurred, and many artists are working across these boundaries. This module provides a framework for collaborative work between students on the MMus pathways, and potentially with other artists and practitioners. Delivery will centre around small-group seminars (focused on particular interest areas), and assessment will be based on a portfolio of collaborative or interdisciplinary creative work and a self-evaluation/collaborative process document.

Major Project: This is the culmination of the MMus, and a chance for you to work in a research-oriented environment dependent largely on personal direction and working methods. You will use the skills acquired in your previous experience and the first two trimesters of the MMus to produce a substantial portfolio of work and a small-scale dissertation.


Modules are normally taught via lectures, seminars and practical workshops. A particular feature of the course is regular tutorial support. The Major Project is research-based and student-led, with supporting tutorials. Visiting speakers and other activities are arranged as appropriate. You are encouraged to make full use of library and IT resources within the University, and ample time will be scheduled in studios and workstation labs for independent study. At Newton Park, we have superb facilities including:

• networked music technology labs with highly specified workstations running core software including Pro Tools, Logic, MAX/MSP, Macromedia suites, Final Cut Studio etc.
• five purpose-built digital recording studios
• a variety of portable sound-recording equipment, digital cameras etc.
• a purpose built concert hall with excellent acoustics and PA
• 17 practice rooms, three with electronically variable acoustic
• large, well-stocked library of books, periodicals and CDs
• a wide range of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque instruments, and large collection of percussion and orchestral instruments
• a Javanese Gamelan
• the Michael Tippett Centre gallery space
• the University Theatre


Assessment takes the form of individual assignments for each module. These generally consist of a portfolio of practical work with supporting written documentation. Context and Methodology and the Major Project also involve small-scale dissertations.


MMus Songwriting is designed to enable students to develop a broad range of intellectual, practical and transferable skills. Given the practical nature of the course, it is envisaged that graduates may choose to work as a songwriter or in a related field such as music publishing. Others may use the critical skills they have acquired to work elsewhere in the music industry, perhaps for a record label or as a music journalist.
Upon graduation from the programme, it is the aim of course tutors that students will have acquired the core problem-solving, analytical and critical skills needed to adapt to the changeable and unpredictable work environment of the twenty-first century.

Visit the MMus Composition page on the Bath Spa University website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Lawrence Reed

Bath Spa University not only offered the course that I wanted to do, but it is also conveniently located and has excellent facilities for composition. I particularly liked the fact that the emphasis of the course is on composition, and not on writing. You are given the flexibility within the course to study outside of the core choices and dip into new areas. I was able to choose more traditional and acoustic options whilst also exploring new areas of music. The course is practical too and I was able to learn skills like Sibelius and Logic Pro. My experience from the course has improved my skills, improved my composition in terms of both quality and diversity, given me ideas and inspiration, and provided the ‘credibility badge’ of a Master’s qualification.


Entry Requirements

We offer places on the basis of our assessment of your quality, potential and commitment, and your ability to benefit from the course. Normally, but not invariably, you will have a first degree.Applications are invited from candidates with a range of academic disciplines and from a variety of national backgrounds.You should submit a portfolio with your application, comprising no more than three pieces of representative work. The form of this portfolio will depend on the music you make: we are happy to receive CDs, DVDs, scores, documentation of performances or installations, or online material as appropriate.

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