Students studying for the MA/PG Dip in Music are required to complete the following compulsory modules (30 credits):
Research Skills and Applied Research
This module provides a grounding in the skills and methodologies required for studying music at postgraduate level and in the practical application of research skills in the workplace. The seminars fall into three categories. Some develop generic and subject-specific masters-level research skills. Other sessions develop students’ awareness of recent critical debates within musical scholarship. Finally, further sessions provide training in the practical application of research skills and the promotion of students’ research to a range of audiences via broadcasting, journalism, programme notes, websites and social media.
While the module develops skills and knowledge applicable to entry into any professional work environment associated with music, the module also provides the requisite training to continue to a PhD in music and a vocational session is provided on entering the academic profession.
The Professional Experience module prepares students for a future career in one of three ways: through work experience in a sector of the music industry relevant to the student’s academic and career interests, through a placement with one of our research units, or through focused independent research relevant to further study at doctoral level. The module aims to accommodate learners from a variety of backgrounds with a variety of goals, while offering opportunities to hone skills and develop knowledge that will be relevant to their subsequent careers or life-long learning.
Typical work experience might consist of undertaking a placement with a broadcasting company, an arts-related museum, a concert organisation or opera house, or teaching in a school. Working with a research unit might involve organising a music festival or listening group. Students undertaking an independent research project might choose to develop and practice new research skills (e.g. editing, archival work, language skills, digital humanities) or explore a new research or composition interest separate from their dissertation.
Students undertake an associated work-based project, with outcomes agreed beforehand between student, module leader and a partner institution if applicable.
MA students are also required to complete the following (60 credits):
Dissertation / Major Project
This module offers the opportunity to develop an extended independent research project at the end of the course. This enables students to deploy skills, knowledge and understanding gained during the course in producing a substantial piece of written work, or practice-based outputs.
This can be a critical examination, through independent study and extended written work of an appropriate musicological topic, theme or issue. Recent topics have been as varied as music and gender in Disney films, the institutional failure of nineteenth-century English opera, and Japanese musical responses to the Tohoku earthquake. Alternatively, a portfolio of practice-based work is also acceptable, presented and documented as appropriate to feature an agreed combination of compositions, installations, site based work, live electronic applications.
You will then take two of the following modules depending on your chosen specialism (30 credits each):
Approaches to Experimental Composition and Sound Arts
This module provides students with an opportunity to enhance their understanding of contemporary practices in experimental composition and sound arts whilst introducing them to listening strategies that will enable them to engage critically with the sounding world. Students will build upon their previous experience of creative practice, and will be introduced to new methodologies. They will have the opportunity to focus on acoustic composition, electronic composition, field recording, soundscape studies and sound arts, and will explore the importance of site and context.
The module encourages students to develop a body of practical research – to include scores, recordings, performances, installations, audio documentation - and reflect upon this through seminar feedback sessions.
Electroacoustic and Live Electronic Composition
This module gives students the opportunity to focus on electroacoustic composition and live electronic composition, including interactive computer music.
Students enhance their technical and analytical skills, building upon previous experience of composition. They develop a body of research that might include recordings, software patches and installations - and reflect upon this through seminar feedback sessions.
Students also pursue a research topic that explores electroacoustic or live electronic composition: for instance through the analytical study of the work of a composer or group of composers, or a detailed consideration of a particular conceptual or technical issue. Students also learn how to promote their work, having an opportunity to showcase it at the Audiograft festival.
Students taking the Musicology pathway take Advanced Musicology 1 in Semester 1, which aims to enable students to develop an in-depth understanding of current developments in musicology, either in the field of nineteenth-century music studies or film music studies. They then take Musicology 2 in Semester 2, which focuses on either the field of popular music studies or opera studies. On this module students review a performance: either a gig or an opera. Students taking Musicology 1 and 2 need to decide from the start which fields they would like to include. For example, possible combinations are: nineteenth-century music and opera, film music and opera, nineteenth century music and popular music or film music and popular music.
Advanced Musicology 1: 19th-Century Music Studies
The study of 19th-century music is currently one of the most vibrant areas of historical musicology, inspiring many of the perspectives developed by 'new' and post-modern musicology.
This route through the module explores the music of the 'long' nineteenth century, from late Haydn to early Schoenberg, in its historical and disciplinary contexts and from a range of current perspectives, bringing together cultural studies, history, literature and the arts in an interdisciplinary and transnational approach.
Topics explored include the ideology of genius and the rise of the work concept; music in the salon and the market place; popular music of the 19th century; women as performers, patrons and composers; music and the beginnings of mass media; virtuosity and the cult of celebrity; music and the ‘Gothic’; music and national identity; the rediscovery of early music and historicism.
Advanced Musicology 1: Film Music Studies
This route through the module takes as a starting point the role of music in film, seeking to explore in detail a number of scholarly and creative perspectives on that role.
Film Music Studies focuses on the way in which the interactions of film and music have changed through time, and on how, at any one time, scoring conventions and potential interpretations of these are shaped by a wide range of factors, such as a film’s mode of production, cinematic tradition, genre, and target audiences.
Sessions will involve group discussion of weekly readings, as well as student presentations on specific films and themes.
Advanced Musicology 2: Popular Music Studies
This route through the module examines the methodological issues and traditions in the study of popular music. Popular Music Studies explores a wide range of popular music repertoires, especially the song-based lineages of American country and British folk music, American blues and gospel music, and the transnational languages of pop, rock, and rap. Issues in historiography are implicit throughout the module, especially in defining popular music. Musicological approaches are practised through active listening to selected recordings and live performances.
Forms of writing are examined and discussed, in which popular music is seen within the context of sociology and politics, literary study, cultural and media studies, aesthetics and critical theory.
Advanced Musicology 2:Opera Studies
This route through the module explores recent critical thinking about the creation, performance and reception of opera and about operas as dramatic and musical texts.
Amongst other topics, it focuses upon the following: opera historiography; the social, political and aesthetic contexts that have shaped operas; gender and sexuality on the operatic stage; national identity; operatic institutions and audiences; the staging and interpretation of operas; reception issues; opera on/in film and the role of opera in twenty-first-century society.
Opera studies will range broadly across the operatic repertoire of the ‘long’ nineteenth century, and there will be a series of ‘repertory sessions’, focusing in detail upon a selection of operas as set works. The sessions aim to develop students’ historical research skills and to encourage them to consider critically the politics of opera today.
Sessions will involve group discussion of weekly readings, as well as student presentations on specific operas and themes.As our courses are reviewed regularly for quality assurance purposes, course content and module choices may change from the details given here.
Teaching and learning
The MA in Music is taught through a combination of seminars, tutorials and skills-based workshops. Those taking a work placement will also receive mentoring and formative feedback from an individual at the placement organisation.
During your time here you will engage in lively discussions and original research. We aim to give you an in-depth understanding of recent critical debates, scholarship and practice in your chosen field, as well as to broaden your knowledge of musical repertoire.
Our pathways are original, exciting and flexible and one of the most striking features of the Music Department is its breadth of subject expertise. All staff members in Music are actively engaged in research and we have published our work in top journals and with the most highly respected publishers: our research in popular music, opera and sonic art was identified as 'world-leading' in the 2014 REF.
You will have an opportunity to work closely with staff members not only through the course modules but also through our specialist research units in popular music, opera and sonic art. Membership of these units allows you to attend conferences, workshops and talks by visiting speakers that will complement your formal studies.
Approach to assessment
Assessment methods include essays, student presentations, literature reviews, concert or gig reviews, professional projects arising from work placements, dissertations, and compositions using scores, recordings, software patches or live electronics, performances and installations.
Music at Brookes hosts three specialist research units, which
postgraduate students are welcome to join. These are:
- OBERTO (Oxford Brookes:
Exploring Research Trends in Opera)
- PMRU (The
Popular Music Research Unit)
- SARU (The Sonic
Art Research Unit)
Students have access to the Bodleian Library and its satellite libraries
in Oxford as well as to the first-rate libraries and research
facilities here at Brookes. Some of our students also use the British
Library in London and attend research events hosted by the Institute of
Musical Research, the Royal Musical Association and the University of
The music department houses seven recently refurbished practice rooms,
two dedicated music studios, a music technology room and a drum room.
The studios are equipped with high spec iMacs running Sibelius, Pro
Tools, Adobe Master Collection, Cycling 74's Max, Logic X, as well as
Kontact Komplete 9high-end Avid HD Omni Interfaces and excellent
Genelec monitoring speakers, with one studio featuring a sound-proof
recording booth and the other a 55" LCD screen for visual mixing. The
School of Arts digital suite provides access to Adobe Master
Collection, Audacity, Logic X, Pro Tools and Sibelius. All machines are
connected to the Oxford Brookes network and the Richard Hamilton
Building is equipped with wireless internet access.
The module Approaches to Opera includes attendance at a live opera performance. The cost of attendance is included in tuition fees.
Music staff have a wide network of contacts within the music industry, the media and academia, and can advise students on potential placements. However, an important aspect of the module is that the student takes the initiative to set up his or her own placement. There are many opportunities to take up local placements in Oxford or to do an in-house placement with one of our research units. Some students may wish to take up a placement further afield, for example with an arts organisation in London. Travel costs cannot be covered by the University but some external organisations may be willing to cover or contribute towards them.
Teaching is on Tuesday mornings and Tuesday afternoons, with the exception of the 'Composition and Sonic Art Practice' module, which may in some years be taught on Monday afternoons.
On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published
on the website. For more information, please visit our
Changes to programmes