PG Composition

Key facts

Award
MA Composition
School/s
Bath School of Music and Performing Arts
Campus or location
Newton Park
Course length
One year full time.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements for our postgraduate courses vary. We're generally looking for a good honours degree or equivalent.

Some courses also require an interview or the submission of a portfolio of work.

Please contact our admissions team for more information: admissions@bathspa.ac.uk.

Develop your own compositional identity as part of a vibrant and immersive creative community.

  • Develop your skills as a composer through making new work and explore the contexts that frame it.
  • Extend the technical skills and artistic vision that shape your work.
  • Deepen your understanding of contemporary music issues and contexts.

Our Master’s in Composition course is designed to help you refine and realise your own creative identity in sound and music. The programme will develop and expand your skills as a composer as well as deepen your understanding of current new music contexts, both artistically and professionally. We put your work and practice at the centre of everything we do, offering you a safe space to experiment and explore the potential of the music you want to make.

Development of your creative practice is supported by practical consideration of both professional and academic skills. The course will provide you with additional skills in, for example, writing formally about your work, project planning and funding application, as well as devising successful promotional materials.

Most importantly, in studying for your MA in Composition at Bath Spa University, you'll join a vibrant and immersive community of musicians and other artists, presenting you with opportunities to extend your work beyond music. Creative practice thrives at our institution in many forms, allowing you to derive new creative collaborations with other creative artists, such as choreographers, filmmakers, and theatre practitioners, through joint projects and seminar discussion.

"The course definitely built up my confidence and helped to define my voice as a composer. It also helped me enhance the skills that I would need to move forward in the industry as a composer."

Lois Wyatt, Composition student
Headshot image of Lois Wyatt

What you'll learn

Overview

MA Composition provides a space to explore a wider range of approaches and to experiment with new ideas. We’ll support developments in your creative practice through practical consideration of both your professional and academic skills.

In a typical week, you'll have an individual tutorial session with a specialist composition tutor, participate in led group discussion seminars, and attend guest talks from internationally-renowned composers and artists. Workshops with both internal and external ensembles are also held throughout the year.

Your individual tutorials give you personalised contact time with staff composers, who are themselves active composers on the international new music scene. Here, you'll have focused time to discuss and develop your own niche interests and technical concerns, as well as experiment and provoke yourself into exploring new directions in your work.

Weekly discussion seminars allow your personal development to be contextualised amid the work of others, both that of your student colleagues and the wider musical world. Through this you'll develop and expand your creative, technical and academic skills, commenting critically upon your own and others’ work. We set this against a wider consideration of current music and developments in contemporary musical thought by looking at new work.

Through our weekly Creative Sound Forum, we bring in a broad selection of visiting composers to talk about their practice and widen your perspective of ways to make work. Recent visitors at the forum have included internationally-recognised composer Liza Lim, award-winning sound-artist Kathy Hinde, and Mercury-prize nominated artist Anna Meredith.

Course structure

Tutorials
We’ll meet with you on a one-to-one basis through weekly tutorials to help you develop your work technically and aesthetically. This gives you a chance to get regular detailed feedback on your work and to explore issues arising from your individual practice.

Seminars
We’ll discuss broader issues in groups through the weekly postgraduate composition seminar sessions. The seminars feature themed topics that introduce aspects of contemporary practice, giving you the chance to widen your knowledge of repertoire and key issues, as well as exploring how they relate to what you do as a composer.

Workshops
We organise rehearsals and workshops with visiting professional musicians and fellow students. This enables you to hear your work played live and to make changes based on discussion and feedback. We run a varied selection of ensembles which you can write for in addition to any self-generated projects.

Modules
The course modules develop your creative practice, enrich your understanding of current contexts, improve your research skills, and help you professionalise your work, culminating in a large-scale final project. You'll take six modules overall: four core (Portfolio 1, Professional Practice and Research Methodologies and Contexts, which are worth 30 credits each, and the Major Project, which is a double module worth 60 credits). You'll choose a final optional module (see the list of course modules below) depending on your personal interests and aspirations.

  • Portfolio 1 develops your composition technique and the aesthetic framework which surrounds it. Working with your individual tutor, you'll complete a portfolio of compositions that are realised in performance or other appropriate ways. It will help you develop a deeper understanding of the contemporary music landscape by exploring the work of composers and artists, and begin to develop aspects of your composition technique in advance of projects later in the course.
  • Research Methodologies and Contexts helps you to develop your skills in academic and artistic research, working towards a project which investigates a topic related to your work as a composer. This might include research into the cultural, commercial and technical aspects of a subject closely related to your practice, a deeper understanding of the professionalism expected of a career in a cognate area, or a critical analysis of existing works, ideas and trends in the subject area. The module extends your critical perspectives on your personal creative practice, introducing you to different research methodologies so that you develop a sophisticated ability to undertake research at postgraduate level.
  • Professional Practice supports your creative practice by equipping you with practical skills and understanding to help you present your work in public contexts. It aims to develop your effectiveness when working with arts professionals and organisations, improve your understanding of legal and business frameworks, and enhance your ability to promote your work. Topics covered include: understanding commissions, contracts, rights, and royalties; developing project proposals, pitching, funding applications, and project management; documenting, promoting, and disseminating creative practice; designing and managing a personal website; and understanding publishing, festivals, broadcasting, and new music organisations.
  • Portfolio 2 (optional) continues to develop your composition technique and comprehension of the aesthetic frameworks that surround it. You'll complete a second portfolio of compositions that are realised in performance or other appropriate ways. One of the projects involves writing to brief for visiting musicians, giving you the opportunity to work with experienced players in the realisation of your music.
  • Major Project is the culmination of the programme. The form of the project is determined by your interests, and might comprise a large-scale composition or a substantial portfolio of related pieces, or other presentations of your work. At the heart of this module is a determination to enable you to define a vision of your future.

Course modules

This course includes or offers the following modules. Please check the programme document (below the main image on this page) for more details on which modules are core, required or optional.

  • Research Methodologies and Context
  • Portfolio 1
  • Portfolio 2
  • Professional Practice
  • Major Project
  • Intercultural Musicology
  • Performance  2
  • Sound Production Creative Project
  • Intertextuality in Sound Production
  • Sonic Architecture
  • Visual Music
  • Sound Design Practice
  • Post Production

How will I be assessed?

The majority of assessment is based on your creative work, including compositions for specified visiting musicians and projects where you decide what to write. You’ll also produce work that assesses your professional and academic skills, including making a website, preparing a project pitch, and researching an area of practice that links to your work.

You'll typically produce a varied portfolio, inspired in part by the opportunities and experiences afforded by the course, as well as your individual interests and future plans.

How will I be taught?

Each module has a weekly seminar. You’ll also have a weekly tutorial during teaching weeks. Throughout the year, we bring in visitors to talk about their work through the Creative Sound Forum, plus industry professionals, to deepen your knowledge and understanding of current contexts. We also bring in professional musicians to play one of your compositions.

“Bath Spa University have given me the knowledge, support, and inspiration that I needed to take my creative work to levels I never thought possible. The experience has been fun, rewarding, challenging, moving, and memorable.”

Eldred Stevenson, Composition graduate.

Opportunities

Work placements, industry links and internships

We have good links with the UK contemporary music scene, and 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, Trio Atem, CoMA Bristol, Kreutzer Quartet, Ensemble Bash, Christopher Redgate, New London Chamber Ensemble and Darragh Morgan.

We also run a regular series of presentations by visiting composers that brings together MA and PhD students with staff and colleagues from other disciplines. Composers and sound artists who have visited us to talk about their work through the Creative Sound Forum include Peter Ablinger, Joanna Bailie, Laura Bowler, Gavin Bryars, Kim Cascone, Aaron Cassidy, Laurence Crane, Cathy von Eck, Jem Finer, Graham Fitkin, Bryn Harrison, Kathy Hinde, Tom Johnson, Daniel Kidane, Liza Lim, Anton Lukoszevieze, Anna Meredith, Cassandra Miller, Claudia Molitor, Phill Niblock, Michael Pisaro, Matthew Shlomowitz, Howard Skempton, Jennifer Walshe, and Amnon Wolman.

Industry and academic speakers also present their work at the commercially-orientated Music Think Tank. Recent speakers include Paul Brindley, CEO at Music Ally; Paul Gray, Musicians' Union; Vick Bain, BASCA; Chris Carey from EMI; Will Page, chief economist PRS for Music; John Minch, CEO of Boosey and Hawkes/Imagem.

Careers

As well as developing your artistically and musically, the MA Composition course equips you with a broad range of intellectual, practical and transferable skills for the wider workplace. We’ll help you prepare for a portfolio career built around your creative practice, drawing in other related areas of work. The course aims primarily to develop your practice as a composer, as well as supporting the application of these skills in related areas such as teaching, editing, performing, and other areas of the creative industries. Our aim is that when you graduate from the Composition degree, you'll have developed core problem-solving, analytical, and critical skills to support you in the ever-evolving music and composition landscape.

Composition tutors at Bath Spa are internationally-recognised composers, digital sound artists, professional music-makers and active researchers. The course is led by James Saunders and Matthew Sergeant, with additional input from colleagues working in sonic arts, production and sound design. The weekly seminar and visiting composer talk is the main focus of the week, with additional activities taking place throughout the year. You are also welcome to join our many ensembles if you want to involve yourself in practical music making.

Facilities and resources

Where the subject is taught

Based at Newton Park’s Michael Tippett Centre, you’ll have access to a range of University services, venues and facilities (plus further specialist music resources) including:

Resources

You'll have access to networked music technology labs with highly specified workstations, running core software including Sibelius, Ableton, Pro Tools, Logic, MAX/MSP, and Adobe.

We also have:

  • five purpose-built digital recording studios
  • a variety of portable sound-recording equipment, digital cameras available and other technology for use with your projects
  • a purpose-built concert hall with excellent acoustics and PA
  • 17 practice rooms, three with electronically variable acoustic
  • a large, well-stocked library of books, periodicals and CDs with extensive eBook and online journal access
  • a wide range of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque instruments, and a large collection of percussion and orchestral instruments
  • a Javanese gamelan.

Fees

Please note: Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland are not generally eligible for the UK (Home) fee status. Please refer to the international student rate. Irish citizens and those granted Settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme are eligible for UK (Home) fee status. There are also other circumstances where this may apply: See UKCISA for more information.

UK students full time

Course fees
2022/23 entry £8,065
2023/24 entry Published Jan 2023
2024/25 entry Published Jan 2024

International students full time

Course fees
2022/23 entry £15,600
2023/24 entry Published Jan 2023
2024/25 entry Published Jan 2024

Interested in applying?

What we look for in potential students

We’re looking for students with an enquiring approach to music. You’ll be interested in developing your practice and exploring the many contexts in which it is situated.

We support work in a wide range of styles and genres, while maintaining an experimental and exploratory approach.

How do I apply?

Ready to apply? Click the 'apply now' button in the centre of this page.

Need more guidance? Head to our how to apply pages.

Interview and portfolio guidance

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, but is likely to contain scores and recordings.

We’re happy to receive links to online material, CDs, DVDs, printed scores, documentation of performances or installations, as appropriate. If you need guidance on this, please contact the course leader.

Want to apply for this year? 

Many of our postgraduate courses have a limited number of student spaces. To avoid the disappointment of the course being full, we recommend that you apply now.

Late applications (generally those made after 31 July) will only be considered if places remain on the course.

Need more information or still have questions? Contact us to discuss your situation.

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