Course summary
1-2 years
7,500 GBP
Full time/part time
Next available date: September 2020 - London

Course description

Music MA

Music MA - a City University degree programme

City's programme of Music MA provides a wide range of learning courses in western art and popular music. Some of the important contents in learning include world music, contemporary music and electronic music. As candidates, you will learn both critical and creative approaches to musical practice and study. You will be exposed to all the current issues and debates in contemporary musicology including complex relationships between music and other subjects while getting extensive training in fundamental research skills. The programme offers courses in traditions and trajectories of music shaped by a wide range of contextual, historical and aesthetic influences.

Suitability - Who should attend?

We prefer you to have an undergraduate degree in music. However, if you have an advanced level in performance or composition you may also be considered for those pathways. We accept qualifications other than music degrees for entry onto the Ethnomusicology MA pathway.

If your first language is not English, the following qualification is also required:

  • IELTS: an overall score of 6.5 (with a minimum of 6.0 in each sub-test).

Please note that due to changes in the UKVI's list of SELTs we are no longer able to accept TOEFL as evidence of English language for students who require a CAS as of April 2014.

If you are not from the European Economic Area / Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK you may need to apply for a visa or entry clearance to come to the UK to study. /p>

The way that you apply may vary depending on the length of your course; there are different rules for:

  • Students on courses of more than 6 months
  • Students on courses of less than 6 months
  • Students on a pre-sessional English Language course

Please note: If you require a Tier 4 student visa to study in the UK, you cannot undertake any City University London courses on a part-time basis.

Outcome / Qualification etc.

Music MA alumni have gone on to teach, compose and perform music in a wide variety of settings, and are also employed in music publishing, broadcasting, music management, arts administration, music retailing and further musical study at MPhil or PhD level.

Training Course Content

Music MA: offers you a range of options to suit your particular interests, and allows you to focus on a substantial piece of written research in an area of specific individual interest. The pathway gives you exceptional training in research skills and introduces you to the latest critical thinking in music studies and musicology.

Ethnomusicology MA: introduces you to new ways of thinking about music in its cultural contexts, with a particular focus on urban ethnomusicology. You will learn fundamental ethnographic research skills, while also engaging with different representations of musical knowledge, through ethnographic film, sound recordings, and musical performance.

Composing for Moving Images MA: develops your ability to compose notated and/or digital music in relation to moving images, employing a wide range of technical procedures relevant to contemporary composition. You will have the chance to work with performers and/or other collaborators in creating music.

Composition MA: develops your skills within the broad field of contemporary composition, encompassing notated and digital music, sound arts, improvisation, and interdisciplinary practices. You will enhance your understanding of creative practice through critical engagement with theoretical concepts and current issues in contemporary composition. There are opportunities to work with performers and/or other collaborators on innovative new projects.

You take two core modules, two or three elective modules (total 60 credits), and also produce a dissertation, composition portfolio or major performance. Modules by pathway and module descriptions are listed below.

Modules by pathway

(Modules are subject to confirmation.)

Music MAEthnomusicology MAComposing for Moving Images MAComposition MA

Core modules
Researching music in contemporary cultureResearching music in contemporary cultureStudio/ composition techniquesStudio/composition techniques
Critical readingsUrban ethnomusicologyLive projectsContexts of Composition
Elective modules
Audiences and MarketingAudiences and MarketingAudiences and MarketingAudiences and Marketing
Digital culturesDigital culturesDigital culturesDigital cultures
Film makingFilm makingFilm makingFilm making
Interdisciplinarity and Collaborative ProcessInterdisciplinarity and Collaborative ProcessInterdisciplinarity and Collaborative ProcessInterdisciplinarity and Collaborative Process
Music on filmMusic on filmMusic on filmMusic on film
Popular music and societyPopular music and societyPopular music and societyPopular music and society
Professional PlacementProfessional PlacementProfessional PlacementProfessional Placement

Core modules

Contexts of Composition (Composition MA)

You will survey a broad range of concepts and techniques in contemporary composition, sound arts, and interdisciplinary practice, with a view to developing an expanded technical and critical awareness in your own creative work. You will examine contemporary practices in their social context, and analyse the ways in which the conceptual, aesthetic and technical discourses of these practices have formed and evolved.

Critical Readings in Musicology (Music MA)

In this module we introduce you to significant issues in modern musical thought and scholarship. You will engage directly with key texts covering topics in musicological methodology, aesthetics, historiography and criticism through seminar discussion groups. Having been encouraged to develop as critical readers and thinkers, you should subsequently possess the methodological and bibliographic tools to evaluate sources of musical knowledge.

Live projects (Composing for Moving Images MA)

Using both live and electronic resources, you will create soundtracks for audio-visual projects. You will engage your creative imagination and discover new approaches to music/image synergy and will learn to generate fluent, coherent and imaginative soundtracks that are dramatically, structurally and gesturally appropriate. This module is organised into a series of demonstrations, workshops, and recording sessions. You work with the digital audio workstation and live ensembles in order to create mock-ups and completed pieces.

Researching music in contemporary culture (Music MA & Ethnomusicology MA)

This module will give you both a practical and theoretical introduction to research methods underpinning the study of music in contemporary culture. You will cover issues including: the role of information technology, and particularly the internet, in modern musical research; interview techniques and technologies for both ethnographic and oral history purposes; textual representation in relation to ethnography, life writing and musical sound; the study of music in performance; research ethics.

Studio/composition techniques (Composing for Moving Images MA & Composition MA)

This module introduces you to advances creative and technical topics in studio-based composition, including: computer orchestration; timbre, harmony and spectral processing; development techniques for working with sonic materials; listening modes and structuring processes; space, perspective and the auditory scene. Topics will addressed through lectures, discussion, workshops, and a series of creative projects.

Urban ethnomusicology (Ethnomusicology MA)

In this module, you will examine the relationship between music and urban space, focusing on London as a multi-cultural, 'global' city. Topics include: music and/of the city; music and urban geography, music and place; musical mapping; representation, orientalism and (economic) power. You will focus on globalisation and the impact of global processes on local musical practices, including: the 'world music' industry; music and identity, both in relation to London's diaspora communities and changing notions of 'Britishness'; migrating music; adopted musical traditions; world music in education; music institutions in the global city.

Elective modules

Audiences and Marketing (15 credits)

This module introduces you to the knowledge and skills needed to consider the function of marketing in a creative and cultural organisation from a strategic perspective. In this module we explore the factors that influence arts/cultural consumption in its diverse forms and examine appropriate ways in which cultural and creative organisations market themselves effectively and productively.

Digital cultures (15 credits)

Digital media are fundamentally re-scripting the relationship between cultural institutions and their users. Notions of producer and consumer, authorship and authenticity are being re-evaluated and explored in ways that are creative, experimental and infinite. This not only opens up new avenues of opportunity for audience development, but simultaneously calls into question the many practices of cultural consumption. This module explores the claims being made for so-called 'new' media in culture. Are they representative of a shift toward more democratic and participatory engagement? What happens to the when and where of this engagement? How is policy changing in order to reflect this paradigm shift? What are the implications for cultural managers?

Film making (30 credits)

This practical module is designed to give you an introduction to the art and technique of camera, sound and editing. Using camera equipment and editing software you will learn the range of techniques used in film production. The aim of the module is to give you a working knowledge of film grammar and established industry practices as well as providing the basic skills for those who wish to generate their own ethnographic film projects.

Interdisciplinarity and Collaborative Process (30 credits)

In this module you will examine interdisciplinary practices in their cultural context, with a particular focus on work and ideas which problematise traditional understandings and classifications of genre and idiom. The module will begin with some historical underpinning for theories of interdisciplinarity as well as selected case studies exploring aspects of creative collaboration in particular artists' works (e.g. Stravinsky/Diaghilev, Herrmann/Hitchcock), but it will to explore modes of communication, social dynamics in ensembles, theories of collaborative process, theories of multimedia, visual and auditory perception and how those correspondences have been explored in artistic work, art-science collaborations, 'hybrid' contemporary performance works, and new interdisciplinary opportunities provided by digital technologies and social media.

Music on film (30 credits)

In this module you will explore the role of music in audiovisual texts from a variety of historical, theoretical and cultural perspectives. You will discuss the function of music in a multimedia context will be discussed and students will be introduced to basic analytical techniques which can be used to interpret the role of music in films. Topics may include silent film, the transition to early sound film, Hollywood's 'golden age', the use of pre-existing music in film, and issues of representation in European and 'world' cinema.

Popular music and society (30 credits)

This module examines aspects of popular music in relation to the societies in which, and for which, it was created, as well as probing social responses to popular music. You will investigate the many complex relationships between popular music and society and the ways in which the two are inextricably linked, departing from the premise that understanding the social context is an integral part of understanding the phenomenon of popular music. Possible topics explored in the course of the module include popular music and gender, sexuality, globalization, race, politics, culture, reception, and censorship, drawing on genres such as progressive rock, punk rock, heavy metal, and shock rock and on case studies including Michael Jackson, Abba, Marilyn Manson, and Graceland.

Professional Placement (15 credits)

The Professional Placement module gives students the opportunity to work in the cultural sector in order to practice skills acquired earlier in the programme. With guidance from the module leader, each student draws up their objectives for the placement and identifies potential placement hosts. This helps the student find an appropriate host organisation which fulfils their aims. Students carry out a programme of work supervised by a host at the organisation. The placement lasts for 6 weeks, between April and June. The majority of work placements are based in London and embrace all cultural forms. This module gives you the opportunity to work alongside professionals in the cultural sector in order to practice competences acquired earlier in the programme. The module comprises of two parts: part one is the preparation for the placement; part two is the placement itself.

End-of-year project

  • Music MA: Dissertation
  • Ethnomusicology MA: Ethnomusicology major project
  • Composing for Moving Images MA: Composition portfolio/major project
  • MA Music Composition: MA Composition portfolio

Read the full 2014 programme specification (Music MA)

Read the full 2014 programme specification (Ethnomusicology MA)

Read the full 2014 programme specification (Composing for Moving Images MA)

Read the full 2014 programme specification (Music Composition MA)

Academic staff

  • Dr Newton Armstrong
  • Professor Stephen Cottrell
  • Dr Kyle Devine
  • Dr Alexander Lingas
  • Dr Shay Loya
  • Dr Miguel Mera
  • Dr Laudan Nooshin
  • Ian Pace
  • Dr Diana Salazar
  • Professor Steve Stanton


We teach you through a combination of lectures, interactive sessions, practical workshops and one-to-one tutorials. You also receive further support from a personal tutor. You are encouraged to undertake extensive reading in order to understand the topics covered in lectures and classes and to broaden and deepen your knowledge of the subject.


We assess you in the core and electives modules through either:

  • a 5000-word essay
  • a project portfolio
  • an extended creative task and accompanying commentary

The end-of-year project comprises one of the following, depending on your pathway:

  • a critical discussion (around 15,000 words) of a problem in musicology or ethnomusicology, or based upon original field research, ranging over a coherent body of material, and including the evaluation of original source material where relevant
  • a major project comprising a film or performance element and dissertation (around 7,500 words)
  • a portfolio of compositions: three substantial compositions, or equivalent. Collaborative work is permitted in agreement with your supervisor. A critical self-evaluative commentary (around 3,000 words), and other forms of documentation as appropriate
  • a creative research project (e.g. extended composition, improvisation-based project, sound recording project, film scoring) and a closely related research essay of around 7,500 words accompanied by other forms of documentation as appropriate
  • a recital, either 40 (voice ) or 50 (other) minutes duration, presented in public

Read the full 2014 programme specification (Music MA)



  • Full-time EU: £7,500
  • Part-time EU: £4,000 per year
  • Full-time Non EU: £13,500
  • Part-time Non EU: £6,750 per year

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City University London

City University London

City, University of London is a special place. With skill and dedication, we have been using education, research and enterprise to transform the lives of our students, our community and the world for a hundred years. We are proud of...

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