Please note that, as courses are reviewed regularly, the module list you choose from may vary from that shown here.
Years 2 and 3
In the second and third year of the course students can design an individual programme which plays to their strength. The modules to choose from are as follows:
- Creative Approaches to Contemporary Composition
- Electroacoustic Composition and Sonic Art
- Creative approaches to Electronic Music
- History, Music and Ideas
- Popular Music and Society
- Ensemble Performance
- Music Theatre Practice
- Opera and Politics
- Words and Music
- Special Study in Musicology
- Film Music
- Music Independent Study or Solo Performance 1
- Music Independent Study or Solo Performance 2 (honours module)
- Professional Practice (honours module)
- Music Analysis: Case Studies, Concepts, Critique (honours module)
- Music Dissertation (honours module)
- Composition Portfolio (honours module)
The following "pathways" offer some suggestions of how you can select your own programme, depending on your interests. Of course, there are many other options, including a "pick and mix" approach that many students find refreshing and stimulating.
If your previous experience has mainly been in classical music and you want to pursue it further, this is what your ‘pathway’ through the second and third year of music programme might look like.
If you are interested in the ways that music history, and the writing about music history have been shaped by ideologies and fashions, then History, Music and Ideas should interest you.
If you want to find out more about music for the stage or screen, Opera and Politics and Film Music cover the historical and musicological side, while Music Theatre Practice is more practice-based and experimental.
Words and Music usually focuses on vocal music from the past, and Special Study in Musicology also offers opportunity to explore historical topics.
Music Analysis starts with staples of the classical repertoire, such as Mozart’s piano sonatas or Haydn’s string quartets, and you can select a piece of your choice for your main essay.
In the final year, Professional Practice offers opportunities for career development - you can do an internship, for example as a teaching assistant or with the concert organisers ‘Music at Oxford’.
Your dissertation offers scope for an extended individual study; in the past topics have been very diverse, ranging from Buxtehude’s church cantatas to Beethoven’s piano sonatas to the politics of Italian romantic opera.
If you want to develop your performance skills beyond the first year, Ensemble Performance encourages you to form your own ensemble, e.g. a string quartet or a vocal trio with piano accompaniment. You can also continue to hone your skills as a solo performer (subject to audition) through the Solo Performance options of the Music Independent Studies and/or Professional Practice.
If your previous experience has mainly been in rock, pop, jazz or folk music and you want to pursue it further, this is what your ‘pathway’ through the second and third year of the music programme might look like.
If you want to investigate the ways that writing about rock music is influenced by politics and culture, then Popular Music in Society should interest you.
If you want to find out more about music for the stage or screen, Film Music covers the historical and musicological side, while Music Theatre Practice is practice-based and experimental.
Special Study in Musicology offers opportunity for further study of contemporary music and has covered a wide range of topics in the past, including music journalism and music and the media.
In the final year, Professional Practice offers opportunities for career development - students have worked in concert management, music journalism and as performers and concert organisers, Music Analysis students often choose to focus on examples from the rock and pop repertory.
The dissertation offers scope for an extended individual study; in the past topics have been diverse, ranging from recent rock criticism to female singer-songwriters to a close analysis of the guitar solos of Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.
If you want to develop your performance skills beyond the first year, Ensemble Performance encourages you to form your own ensemble, e.g. a rock or a bluegrass band. You can also continue to hone your skills as a solo perfomer (subject to audition) through the Solo Performance options of the Music Independent Studies and/or Professional Practice.
A good example of how the course can be adapted to meet an individual interest was a guitarist interested in jazz. His Ensemble Performance was a jazz quartet in which he played guitar; his Dissertation was a study of jazz harmony textbooks, his Professional Practice consisted of setting up a regular jazz night in a local pub, in which his was the ‘house band’; and his final essay for Popular Music in Society examined the position of (non-singing) women in jazz. Over a half his degree was in fact ‘jazz studies’.
The composition pathway
Composition is at the heart of musical study – the creation of new sound-worlds, the combination of conventional and experimental sound sources, the expansion of timbral possibilities, and the search for new forms. Composition at Oxford Brookes provides you with a chance to experiment, to explore sound-making and to re-examine the experience of the listener.
In the second year at Brookes you can take two ‘double’ modules: Composition, and Electroacoustic Composition and Sonic Art. In the first module you compose a whole series of compositions, culminating in writing for a professional ensemble, who workshop the compositions and perform them in an end-of-term concert. Electroacoustic Composition and Sonic Art allows you to look at more esoteric electronic music and to develop a series of electronic compositions (including a soundtrack to a film).
Your Composition Portfolio can consist of a wide variety of work. Recently, students have composed music for film, electroacoustic music, concept albums, created their own musical instruments. There is also the opportunity to write for professional performers; recently for toy piano virtuoso Isabel Ettanauer, OKEANOS – an ensemble that mix traditional Japanese and Western classical instrumentation – and amplified ensemble [rout].
Key to the composition teaching at Oxford Brookes is a desire to equip composers with the conceptual and technical tools to take an active role in the pluralistic musical world of the 21st century. You will be urged to question the role of the composer – why do we need them and what is their function in contemporary musical culture? Throughout the course, you will be able to take advantage of a range of opportunities for performance by professional ensembles.
There is a committed and active community of composers at Brookes - including undergraduates, students on the MA in Composition and Sonic Art, PhD students, and staff, alongside the Sonic Art Research Unit, who recently collaborated with harpsichordist Jane Chapman.
Our undergraduate and postgraduate students get involved in the annual Songwriting, which you can take as part of the Professional Practice module or as an Independent Study module, offers individual songwriters in bands, or singer-songwriters, the opportunity to develop a portfolio of new songs with guidance from a tutor. In addition, you study a particular songwriter of your choice or a theme in songwriting, while attempting in one song to imitate that repertory. Past studies have included Oasis, Elliot Smith, Syd Barrett, Aimee Mann, Seth Lakeman, and confessional female songs. Finally, the songwriter aims to get the songs heard through performances, for example in the weekly lunchtime concerts, and web and radio exposure.
Work placements form an integral part of the music degree at Oxford Brookes. Our Professional Practice module (offered in Year 3) enables students to consider their university studies in relation to the considerable section of work which has, broadly speaking, 'something to do with music'. In the age of the global, service-led economy there is a greater range of diverse possibilities for music graduates, and the music aims to demonstrate the potential of that range, in relation to individual aspirations and interests. Through the work placement students gather experience in a field of their choice, such as
- music education (primary and secondary schools)
- vocal or instrumental tuition as a "peripatetic" teacher
- arts administration and management
- music therapy
- music journalism
- recording and publication
- research assistantship
In the past years, several students have gone straight from the work placement to a full-time job.
Every year a number of Oxford Brookes Music students spend either one or two semesters at a university in another country. Recently, Music students have studied in the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Iceland. If you are interested in studying in a different country, our wide-ranging international contacts will help you to find a suitable place to study.
Studying abroad provides an amazing opportunity to add value to your studies by:
- increasing your employability within an international market
- boosting your language skills
- building your confidence in adapting to new situations
- improving your knowledge of different cultures.
While on exchange you will gain credits which count towards your degree.
We have more than 100 partner universities around the world. Funding is available through the Erasmus scheme, and also via some international programmes such as the Santander Student Awards.
There is also a European work placement programme which gives you the chance to work abroad as part of your studies.
Departmental research highlights
The Music Department covers a wide range of historical, contemporary and creative research areas. Our special fields of interest are in opera, popular music and sonic art, each of which is supported by a dedicated research unit:
- SARU: Sonic Art Research Unit
- PRMU: Popular Music Research Unit
- OBERTO: Oxford Brookes - Exploring Research Trends in Opera
We regularly host study days, conferences and workshops and are active in the Royal Musical Association and other research networks and societies. Our research students, who are studying for an MA or PhD, are fully integrated into the research culture of the department. If you are interested in the research of individual members of staff, e.g. their forthcoming book or recent conference appearance, you can visit our staff profiles.
We have a varied portfolio of performance opportunities at Oxford Brookes and in any given year the amount of music-making is truly impressive; just one semester can include everything from a motet by Thomas Tallis to the musical Hair to Poulenc's Gloria, or from a barbershop quartet to a rock band. In 2012/2013 alone there were 57 concerts and gigs.
The department puts on a choral concert every semester, giving new students the chance to meet and perform with each other, as well as performing with second- and third-year students. We also put on a 'Big Night Out' at which student bands can display their talent. They also frequently perform on campus or across Oxford.
Further opportunities are provided by several music societies including a Jazz Band and the musical theatre societies Fortune Players and Fortune Cookies. There is an auditioning chamber choir with an ambitious repertoire, as well as a classical orchestra. Smaller-scale, medium-sized groups appear from time to time depending on student interest, for example an opera group, the pop choir Glee or a wind band. Students are of course also encouraged to form their own ensembles or groups to enhance their musical experience at Oxford Brookes.
Lunchtime concerts are held weekly, providing a forum for soloists, small groups and bands. We've taken our music to a number of venues, including in recent years our Harcourt Hill Campus with its pretty New England-style chapel. Music has been put on in the drama studio; bands have played at the Students’ Union bars, the Bullingdon and the O2 Academy. Concerts of chamber music and classical solo recitals are held at the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building and the Holywell Music Room, the oldest concert venue in England. We also make use of the new spaces on the Gipsy Lane site, especially the gallery and the new multi-purpose hall.
All of these activities are open to music students, but also to students from other subjects. For the music students, we have converted much of this activity into various forms of academic credit: participation in the large-scale ensembles informs the first-year Performance module; small-scale groups (chamber ensembles, vocal groups, rock bands) can take the advanced module Ensemble Performance after the first year; while students can opt to present a solo performance under the auspices of Professional Practice or Independent Study modules.