Composition

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How to Apply

The course covers areas of instrumental and vocal composition, with the possibility of working with electronic, digital and multimedia resources. The course offers opportunities for you to work across these areas, or to specialise as appropriate.

 

Why study Composition?

We support work in a wide range of styles and genres, whilst maintaining an experimental and exploratory approach. Delivery is tailored to your needs, centred around small-group seminars and tutorials.

MMus Composition is led by composers James Saunders and Joe Duddell. Joes work spans classical and alternative genres, and he has worked with orchestras including the BBC Philharmonic and the Halle, percussionist Evelyn Glennie, as well as collaborations with bands such as James, Elbow, and dubstep pioneers Nero. Jamess work explores open forms, and he has worked with many international ensembles including Ensemble Modern, Apartment House, London Sinfonietta and ensemble recherché. Both composers bring current professional knowledge and experience of a variety of international new music contexts to the course. There is also additional input from other music staff specialising in digital and commercial music, performance, and musicology.

Composition workshop

 

 

Course structure

The course is available on either a full-time (typically one year) or part-time (typically two year) basis. The academic year is 12 months long and comprises three semesters: October-January; February-June; and June-October. Taught sessions are normally during the daytime, and access to facilities for directed study tasks is available both then and outside of working hours.

Composotion worksop

Modules

Composition Techniques

This module is designed to offer you an opportunity to develop your practical and creative skills. Through a weekly seminar, you will be introduced to a range of composition techniques which will extend your current practice. These will focus on a mix of analyses of existing pieces, set reading, group discussion, and presentation of personal creative work. The seminars will be supported by a weekly individual tutorial in which you will discuss your current work with your tutor, leading to the presentation of a portfolio of pieces and a short composition commentary.

Module Timetable Wednesdays 11am-1pm (Full-time/Part-time Year 1): Composition Techniques (Trimester 1). Weekly composition tutorials by arrangement with course tutors. 

Context and Methodology

This module furnishes you with the skills necessary for self-directed research. It combines a study of research methodology with a study of context across the range of activities represented by all the MMus pathways – specifically of a set of paradigms that characterise the field’s current creative boundaries.

Module Timetable Thursdays 2-4pm (Full-time/Part-time Year 2): Context and Methodology (Trimester 1) 

Commission Project

This module models the composition commission process, with you writing to brief for available resources, producing a composition realised in a public performance. In addition to writing a piece for the specified ensemble, there will be some additional tasks which will give you practical experience of running independent projects yourself. We will look at the commissioning process, making funding applications and submitting proposals to institutions such as festivals for consideration. We will also consider how to get the most from rehearsals and workshops when working with professional musicians, and effective ways to promote your work.

Module Timetable Wednesdays 11am-1pm (Full-time/Part-time Year 1): Commission Project (Trimester 2). Weekly composition tutorials by arrangement with course tutors. 

Collaborative and Interdisciplinary Practice

This module allows you to look beyond your core discipline and undertake interdisciplinary projects. A key part of the ethos of the course is a belief that the boundaries between areas of composition are becoming blurred, and many artists are working across these boundaries. This module provides a framework for collaborative work between students on the MMus pathways, and potentially with other artists and practitioners. Delivery will centre around small-group seminars (focused on particular interest areas), and assessment will be based on a portfolio of collaborative or interdisciplinary creative work and a self-evaluation/collaborative process document.

Module Timetable Thursdays 2-4pm (Full-time/Part-time Year 2): Collaborative and Interdisciplinary Practice (Trimester 2)

Major Project

This is the culmination of the MMus, and a chance for you to work in a research-oriented environment dependent largely on personal direction and working methods. You will use the skills acquired in your previous experience and the first two trimesters of the MMus to produce a substantial portfolio of work and a small-scale dissertation.

Other Opportunities

In addition to the scheduled seminars and tutorials, students can engage with many other departmental activities. We run a Research Forum on Thursdays from 12.30-2pm, and there is a weekly lunchtime concert on Wednesdays at 1pm. The department runs a lot of ensembles, and students are encouraged to write for these in addition to the other opportunities provided through the modules themselves. It is also possible for students to sit in on selected undergraduate classes with the prior agreement of the module tutor.

Course assessment

Assessment takes the form of individual assignments for each module. These generally consist of a portfolio of practical work with supporting written documentation. Context and Methodology and the Major Project also involve small-scale dissertations.

The course runs within a vibrant music department with a lively community of undergraduates, postgraduates and staff, plus excellent facilities.

During the course you will learn to:

  • Develop your creative skills as a composer
  • Develop technical skills where appropriate
  • Comment critically upon your own and others’ work
  • Explore current composition contexts and contemporary musical thought
  • Collaborate with other creative artists
  • Improve your professional skills
  • Conduct academic research

Composition workshop

Teaching methods

Modules are taught via individual tutorials, seminars and practical workshops, supported by online activity within the University's Virtual Learning Environment.  The Major Project involves student-directed work, with supporting tutorials. Composers are encouraged to collaborate with each other and with other students within the School of Music and Performing Arts (whether in music or in other disciplines). You are encouraged to make full use of library and IT resources within the University, and ample time will be scheduled in studios and workstation labs for independent study, as appropriate. In addition to the facilities available on the Newton Park campus, including the Michael Tippett Centre, we have access to the University's new Corsham Court Centre. Facilities include:

  • Networked music technology labs with highly specified workstations running core software
  • Including Pro Tools, Logic, MAX/MSP, Macromedia suites, Final Cut Studio etc.
  • Five purpose-built digital recording studios
  • A variety of portable sound-recording equipment, digital cameras etc.
  • A purpose-built concert hall with excellent acoustics and PA
  • 17 practice rooms, three with electronically variable acoustic
  • Large, well-stocked library of books, periodicals and CDs
  • A wide range of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque instruments, and a large collection of percussion and orchestral instruments
  • A Javanese Gamelan
  • The Michael Tippett Centre gallery space
  • The University Theatre

The Music Department also runs a wide range of ensemble activity, all of which will be of use to MMus Composition students. These ensembles include those in the western classical tradition (such as our Symphony Orchestra and Georgian Band) and jazz (Big Band) as well as in other areas (such as Gamelan and experimental music). BSU Music Department has developed close links with high-profile promoters of live music (including Bath International Music Festival, Bath Philharmonia, Bath Mozart Fest, Pump Room Series, Iford Arts).

We have regular visits from performers, composers and other industry speakers during the year. Recent visiting performers who have played student work include Plus Minus Ensemble, Kreutzer Quartet, Ensemble Bash, Christopher Redgate, Alexandra Wood, New London Chamber Ensemble. Composers and sound artists who have visited us to talk about their work include Joanna Bailie, Gavin Bryars, Kim Cascone, Jem Finer, Graham Fitkin, Kathy Hinde, Tom Johnson,  Liza Lim, Steve Martland, Miller Puckette, Phill Niblock, Michael Pisaro, Scanner, Matthew Shlomowitz, Dennis Smalley, Jo Thomas, Chris Watson, Judith Weir, and Trevor Wishart. The Department runs two visiting speaker series during the year, and these are open to MMus students. Industry and academic speakers present their work at the weekly Music Research Forum and the commercially orientated Music Think Tank (recent speakers include Paul Brindley, CEO Music Ally; Paul Gray, Musicians Union; Vick Bain, BASCA; Chris Carey, EMI; Will Page, chief economist PRS for Music; John Minch CEO Boosey and Hawkes/Imagem).

Application method

Application forms are available online and should be completed and returned to us either electronically or through the post. If you have any queries please contact the admissions department:

Telephone: (01225) 875624.

International students should visit our international pages for more information about our entry requirements, fees and scholarships, and student support.

Course enquiries

Please contact course leader Professor James Saunders:

Telephone: (01225) 875422

j.saunders@bathspa.ac.uk

Entry requirements

We offer places on the basis of our assessment of your quality, potential and commitment, and your ability to benefit from the course. Normally, but not invariably, you will have a first degree.

Applications are invited from candidates with a range of academic disciplines and from a variety of national backgrounds.

You should submit a portfolio with your application, comprising no more than three pieces of representative work. The form of this portfolio will depend on the music you make: we are happy to receive CDs, DVDs, scores, documentation of performances or installations, or online material as appropriate. If you need guidance on this, please contact the Course Leader.

Career opportunities

MMus Composition is designed to enable students to develop a broad range of intellectual, practical and transferable skills. Graduates develop portfolio careers built around their creative practice, drawing in other related areas of work such as teaching, editing, performing, and work in other areas of the creative industries. Upon graduation from the programme, it is the aim of course tutors that students will have developed their core problem-solving, analytical and critical skills to support them in the changeable and unpredictable work environment.

Composition workshop 

For more information on former students, please have a look at their websites:

What students say...

Bath Spa University not only offered the course that I wanted to do, but it is also conveniently located and has excellent facilities for composition. I particularly liked the fact that the emphasis of the course is on composition, and not on writing. You are given the flexibility within the course to study outside of the core choices and dip into new areas. I was able to choose more traditional and acoustic options whilst also exploring new areas of music. The course is practical too and I was able to learn skills like Sibelius and Logic Pro. My experience from the course has improved my skills, improved my composition in terms of both quality and diversity, given me ideas and inspiration, and provided the ‘credibility badge’ of a Master’s qualification.

Lawrence Reed

My MA in composition from Bath Spa helped me to broaden my knowledge, skill set and appreciation for the art of composition. Working with live musicians and other students in various disciplines helped me to gain confidence in working with others. The tutors are informative and very passionate and that rubs off on you as a student. My four years at Bath Spa were fantastic!

Clement Leek

Bath Spa University is an ideal location to study composition. In my experience, I was given the opportunity to customize and broaden my approach to composition whilst working with the expert guidance of the teaching team. I was able to broaden my skills and the diversity in my work through acoustic composition and interdisciplinary projects. I also engaged with the flexibility of the course to acquire new knowledge in areas I had previously not experienced, such as programming in MAX/MSP software. Alongside the predominantly practical approach to the course, I gained clear tuition on research methodologies and approaches to writing. The course has very strong connections with Bath Spa University’s Centre for Musical Research, this allowed me to experience new research on composition, its technical development as well as new theoretical understandings. The Masters has enhanced my professional practice and my CV through its qualification value, the development of my skills and my approach to composition. For me, the Masters also lead to a new composition project as a PhD student at Bath Spa University.

Joseph Buckler