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MA Music: Composition

Define your own unique compositional voice.

Year of entry: 2023 (September)

Length

1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2023 (semester dates)

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Discovering your compositional voice and presenting it with clarity in compelling, innovative music is a lifelong project. Our MA is designed to help you develop the skills to pursue this, whatever your career aspirations.

Our internationally-renowned composition staff work across a range of styles and media and our students are similarly diverse. Solo or orchestral music, electronic or acoustic, notated, improvised or devised – all of these are valued at York. You'll encounter a wide variety of approaches, but no prescriptions.

You'll join a lively community of postgraduate composers and the rich creative environment of the Department of Music, receiving one-to-one tuition and studying the established and emerging techniques in this exciting and constantly developing field.

Contemporary music has been a cornerstone of the Department since its foundation. From early visits from Cage, Feldman and Shostakovich and the creation of pioneering electroacoustic works by Trevor Wishart and Dennis Smalley to the Proms commissions, Glastonbury appearances and international tours of recent alumni such as Anna Meredith, Kerry Andrew and Christian Mason, York has a long history of nurturing extraordinary talent.

Work with the experts

You’ll be part of CMRC, a thriving community of staff and students dedicated to the creation of new music through composition, improvisation and performance.

2nd for Overall Satisfaction

for Music in the Russell Group, National Student Survey, 2022.

Course content

Over the year, through seminars, concerts, workshops and individual lessons you will encounter a wide array of contemporary music to expand your musical horizons. You will interrogate the techniques by which this music is created, both to acquire the tools and to question the assumptions on which they are based. You will develop your practice across instrumental, vocal and (live-)electronic media, and there will be workshop performance opportunities by visiting professional musicians and Artists-in-Association. Supporting modules will help you articulate your work in terms of practice research and develop the critical awareness and writing skills to be able to do this effectively.

You will benefit from York’s vibrant performance culture, our long history of innovative practice-based teaching and research, and our lively and supportive community of students and staff. This programme is designed to produce innovative, free-thinking graduates with the knowledge, skills, and critical understanding needed for higher degrees and for a range of prestigious graduate careers in music and other related disciplines.

Modules

Core modules

  • Creative and Critical Practice I
  • The Contemporary Composer's Kitchen
  • Research Skills for Musicians
  • Creative and Critical Practice II
  • Advanced Timbre

Option modules

You'll also study one option module, or alternatively take complete an Extended Creative Practice Portfolio as your final project. Examples of option modules may include:

Creative Practice Portfolio

You'll complete a creative practice portfolio of one or more compositions of total duration 20-30 minutes (30-40 minutes for the Extended Creative Practice Portfolio). You'll also complete a critical commentary of up to 2000 words articulating the work as practice research.

The options available to you will be confirmed later in the year. For more information, please get in touch.

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.
Our course structures are changing in September 2023. Find out more about how this course may be affected.

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Work independently and collaboratively with the sophistication, close attention to detail, and creative flair developed through the advanced study of music at Masters level
  • Lead, or constructively contribute to, advanced-level musical activity by composing and communicating about composition at a professional level, supported by advanced skills of research, critical listening, analysis, notation, improvisation, performance, live electronics development, and reflective practice as appropriate
  • Plan and execute focused compositional projects through rigorous planning and the application of appropriate principles and methods, theoretical knowledge, methodologies, practical techniques and experience, and artistic imagination
  • Communicate at an advanced level on a range of issues relating to the history and present of musical repertoire and its performance, its relation to wider culture, and its technical and artistic execution, using appropriate written and oral media and music-making activities
  • Apply the musical and transferable skills gained throughout the programme with confidence and aptitude in a range of national and international professional contexts, for example performance, teaching, project management, academic work, and collaboration
  • Apply self-evaluative skills of reflective practice to inform current work and continuing professional development in composition with creativity, imagination, and initiative.
The MA in Music Composition is a great opportunity to immerse in postgraduate studies, in an encouraging environment of committed teachers with a variety of approaches and areas of expertise, and in interaction with a diverse group of classmates developing very interesting projects.
Florencia, MA Music: Composition

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2023/24

Students on a Student Visa (formerly Tier 4 Visa) are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

Fees information

UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status.

Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2023/24 throughout the year.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Funding opportunities

Departmental funding

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

Creative freedom

For composers, all assessments are based on your own compositions: the focus is always on your creative work.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

Teaching is delivered through a combination of individual lessons, group lessons, seminars, composition workshops and presentations from visiting performers and composers.

You will have regular meetings with your supervisor, who will advise you and help develop your ideas as you progress through your studies.

We encourage you to get involved with our lively departmental community, from our ensembles to our weekly seminars, performance classes and research seminars.

Facilities

The Department is home to the Music Research Centre, one of the finest facilities for listening to and recording sound in the UK. There is a large-scale neutral listening and performing space built to extremely low noise specifications (PNC15), a linked studio suite containing a dedicated performance space with configurable acoustics and two mix down/control rooms (one with an SSL Duality console). These facilities include a wide range of microphones and recording hardware/software.

The Department houses two concert halls: The Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall and the Rymer Auditorium. Through involvement with composition workshops and departmental ensembles, composition students can expect to hear their work performed in these venues.

All students have free access to Sibelius.

Teaching location

You will be based in the School of Arts and Creative Technologies on Campus West. Almost all of your teaching will take place within the Music buildings on this campus.

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

The focus of your assessments will be your own compositions alongside other work that supports your compositional development, which, depending on the options you choose, may also include essays, presentations and/or performance. Feedback occurs frequently, both within individual lessons and in group seminars and workshops where you will share and discuss your work with fellow students.

Careers and skills

By the end of the course, you'll have a firm understanding and facility across a range of approaches to contemporary composition. You will be able to use this to develop independent creative outputs, whether these are led by your own artistic voice or are responses to specific briefs from collaborators. You'll also be able to reflect critically on your creative decisions, and communicate your ideas about composition in writing and speech, skills that are highly valued in any sector. MA Music graduates go on to a diverse range of careers as creative artists and teachers, as well as administrative work and further study at both universities and conservatoires.

Career opportunities

  • Composer of concert music
  • Composer of film / game / commercial music
  • Freelance composer-performer
  • Contemporary music research and PhD study
  • Community arts worker
  • Private music tutor

Transferable skills

  • Time management
  • Creative problem solving
  • Critical analysis
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Self-evaluation
York prepared me for my career by allowing the time and freedom of thought necessary and inherent to any freelance life, and especially in allowing me to embark on the substantial/ambitious projects which enabled my career to get going in the first place.
Christian Mason, MA Music: Composition

Award-winning composer

Entry requirements

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent in Music or another relevant discipline. We will also consider your application if you have a 2:2 honours degree and relevant professional experience.
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

Additional requirements

You will need to attach scores or a link to a portfolio of work which demonstrates your ability as a composer. Please see our guidance on submitting creative work.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Minimum requirement
IELTS 6.5, minimum 6.0 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 176, minimum 169 in each component
Duolingo 120, minimum 105 in all other components
LanguageCert SELT B2 with 33/50 in each component
TOEFL 87, minimum of 21 in each component
Trinity ISE III Merit in all requirements

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.

If you've not met our English language requirements

You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.

The length of course you need to take depends on your current English language test scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.

After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.

Applying

You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

Apply for this course

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