The Music course is structured to provide considerable choice and flexibility so that you can build an individual and coherent programme of work to suit your interests.
The study of music broadly falls into three areas:
- Musicology (ie the reading, writing and thinking about music)
While the first year offers a solid foundation in all three areas, the programme in the second and third year is more flexible and can be tailored to individual interests and strengths.
Through the various modules, which are listed below, we cover the following aspects of musical studies:
- notation, harmony and musical analysis
- music history, from the Middle Ages to the present, including 19th-century opera, 20th-century avant-garde art, popular and film music
- composition, whether notation-based, electronic or multimedia
- solo and group performance.
As courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, the modules you choose from may vary from the ones shown here.
The first year of the Oxford Brookes music degree sets out to mediate between students' very diverse experiences of music before coming to university and what will follow in Years 2 and 3 of the course. It divides into several modules, including:
- Introduction to Western Music History: 1800 to the Present (compulsory)
- Introduction to Contemporary Composition (compulsory)
- Notation and Harmony (compulsory for single honours)
- Introduction to Popular Music (compulsory for single honours)
- University Music Performance (double module, compulsory for single honours)
- Case Studies in Music History: The Middle Ages to 1800
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 (alternative compulsory)
- Electroacoustic Composition and Sonic Art (alternative compulsory)
- Creative approaches to Electronic Music
- Composition for Visual Media
- History, Music and Ideas (alternative compulsory)
- Popular Music and Society (alternative compulsory)
- Film Music
- Music Education Pedagogy
- Opera and Politics
- Words and Music
- Special Study in Musicology
- Music Theatre Practice
- Ensemble Performance (alternative compulsory)
- Music Independent Study or Solo Performance 1
- Music Independent Study or Solo Performance 2 (honours module)
- Music Analysis: Case Studies, Concepts, Critique (honours module)
- Professional Practice (honours module)
- Music Dissertation (honours module, alternative compulsory)
- Composition Portfolio (honours module, alternative compulsory)
The following 'pathways' offer some suggestions of how you can select your own programme, depending on your interests.
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 investigate it critically, 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’.
- Dissertation offers scope for an extended individual study. Topics are very diverse, ranging from Beethoven’s piano sonatas to the politics of Italian romantic opera to Debussy's creative strategies.
- If you want to develop your performance skills beyond the first year, Ensemble Performance encourages you to form your own ensemble, eg 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 Study.
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.
- Dissertation offers scope for an extended individual study. Topics are 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, eg a rock or a bluegrass band. You can also continue to hone your skills as a solo performer (subject to audition) through the Solo Performance options of Music Independent Study.
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: Creative Approaches to Contemporary 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).
- You can learn how to write for film, television or video games in Composition for Visual Media or explore experimental approaches in Musical Theatre Practice.
- 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 audiograft festival.
- Songwriting, which you can take as part of Professional Practice 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. They take place as part of the Professional Practice module which enables students to consider their university studies in relation to the wide section of work which has, broadly speaking, 'something to do with music'.
In the age of the global, service-led economy there is a great range of diverse possibilities for music graduates, and the music programme at Oxford Brookes 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 music publishing
- portfolio as a professional performer
We collaborate with a number of regular placement partners, such as Oxford Contemporary Music, Music at Oxford, Soundabout, BBC Oxford and several primary and secondary schools. Students will have to cover the costs associated with a placement, eg travel or accommodation, but we have many local partners or alternatively support students to find placements near their home. Special credit is given to those who show initiative and self-organisation.
In recent years, the work placement has led onto a full-time job with that employer for a number of students.
The Opera and Politics module includes one trip to the opera house to see a cutting-edge production. Your course tuition fee covers the cost of this mandatory field trip. Music students are also welcome to join other field trips in the School of Arts.
The cost of an optional field trip is not included in your course tuition fee, and a separate fee will apply. Please contact our Enquiry Centre (see right for details) if you would like more information about the field trip(s) on this course.
Every year a number of Oxford Brookes Music students spend one or two semesters at a university in another country. This is not a mandatory part of the programme but provides great opportunities to widen your horizon. Recently, Music students have studied in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. 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. You will be supported by the Subject Coordinator and the Oxford Brookes International Team in finding a suitable exchange university and to shape your programme of studies.
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. Travel costs, accommodation and subsistence are not included in this funding.
There is also a European work placement programme which gives you the chance to work abroad as part of your studies.
Free language courses for students - the Open Module
Free language courses are available to full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students on many of our courses, and can be taken as a credit on some courses.
Please note that the free language courses are not available if you are:
- studying at a Brookes partner college
- studying on any of our teacher education courses or postgraduate education courses.
All teaching usually takes place from week 1 to week 11 each semester, with weeks 12 and 13 set aside for assessment. We make good use of the entire week, with rehearsals taking place in the early evening.
We also encourage our students to engage with music during the vacation, especially when they are preparing a major composition project or dissertation.
Performance at Oxford Brookes
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 Footloose to Bruckner's Te Deum, or from a barbershop quartet to a rock band. In any academic year there are up to 50 concerts and gigs.
The Music department maintains the University Orchestra and Chorus and puts on a choral and orchestral concert every semester. This gives new students the chance to meet and perform with each other, as well as with second- and third-year students. There is also an auditioning chamber choir that performs demanding a cappella repertoire. For pop musicians we put on a 'Big Night Out' at which student bands can display their talent in an Oxford venue. They also frequently perform on campus or across Oxford.
Further opportunities are provided by several music societies including a Jazz Band, an Early Music Society, an Opera Society, and the musical theatre societies Fortune Players and Fortune Singers.
Smaller-scale, medium-sized groups appear from time to time depending on student interest. 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 our Harcourt Hill Campus with its pretty New England-style chapel. Concerts of chamber music and classical solo recitals are held at Headington Hill Hall on campus, as well as in the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building and the Holywell Music Room, the oldest concert venue in England. Bands have played at the Bullingdon and the Brookes Union. We also make use of the new spaces on the Headington Campus, especially the Green Room in Headington Hill Hall, the gallery 'The Glass Tank' and the John Henry Brookes Building's forum.
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 Music Performance module; small-scale groups (eg 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 the Solo Performance modules.
As part of the performance modules, the Music department pays for instrumental and vocal tuition and ensemble coaching. Students are expected to maintain their own instruments and if necessary travel to their vocal / instrumental coach. There are no other costs connected with performing.
Computers with the programmes needed for composition and music production are available in the studios 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some students choose to buy a laptop and software when they begin to compose digitally but this is not mandatory and free student licences are available for much of the software. An optional laptop and software would cost approximately £500-£1200.
There are no compulsory books to purchase because the library is very well stocked and the direction of your reading is very individual due to the diverse nature of the course. We encourage students to suggest books, recordings and scores for the library to purchase. Some lecturers recommend text books, but there will always be a sufficient number of library copies. Many students choose to purchase specific books to support their interests so you can expect to spend £25 - £150 on books each year.
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