Home > Courses > Courses for 2017 > Postgraduate > Advanced Musical Studies
More in this section Music

Advanced Musical Studies MMus

UCAS code
Year of entry 2018
Course Length
1 year full time
5 years part time
Department Music »


Providing a balance of broad-based study and specialist training, this MA is designed to meet your needs whether you wish to specialise as preparation for future research or take a more varied set of options as a stand along qualification.

Offering four distinct pathways in composition, ethnomusicology, musicology, or performance, the course allows you to take the initiative in constructing your own study programme with options in areas such as multimedia and film music, performance studies, historical musicology, and acoustic and electronic composition.

You will come away well-versed and well-practised in whatever discipline you choose, verbally and technically fluent, fully conversant with a broad range of issues of concern in current musical and musicological endeavour and able to present your ideas orally, in writing, and through performance and composition.

This course has a Continued Professional Development mode of study, enabling you to study alongside working full time. You will take one optional module per year, completing the full course over 60 months.

  • Join one of the largest postgraduate Music communities in the UK (with more than 50 research students and 20 MA students each year)
  • We are ranked third in the UK for research quality (REF 2014) and the only music department in the country to hold a prestigious Regius Professorship.
  • You will have access to well-equipped studios and recording facilities, including a Disklavier, as well as incredible performance spaces including the Windsor Auditorium, Boilerhouse Theatre, Victorian Picture Gallery and College Chapel.
  • Be a part of our creative campus.  Choose from a wide range of performance opportunities including a wide range of orchestras and choirs, including the Royal Holloway Symphony Orchestra and Chapel Choir of Royal Holloway, as well as ensembles, music groups and student led music societies.

Core modules

Skills in Advanced Musical Studies

This module will introduce you to the field of musicological research, looking at contemporary debates in musicology and research techniques. Skills training opportunities are provided in the Department of Music and at the Institute of Musical Research, enabling you to develop musicological language skills and further musicological specialisms. You will explore the application of approaches covered within your chosen area of specialism, enaging in both formal and informal discussion.

Depending on the pathway you have chosen, you will also take one core 'Special Study' option.

For students on the composition pathway

Special Study - Composition

In this module you will shape initial ideas into workable material for musical composition and evaluate initial musical ideas and thoughts to determine their suitability. You will use compositional techniques and devices to compose expansive pieces of music that achieve and articulate a desired emotional and dramatic intent. You will consider the use of clear and appropriate notation to compose for a large variety of musical forces, including solo instrumental writing, chamber ensembles, and symphony orchestra.

For students on the ethnomusicology and musicology pathways

Special Study - Dissertation

In this module you will carry out independent research providing specialist insights into a topic of your choice from the field of ethnomusicology, film studies, historical musicology, performance studies, or theory and analysis. You will look at digital sources, secondary literature, and archive material on your chosen theme, and critically engage with new thinking in musicology. You will be guided by a supervisor who will advise on the planning, organisation, development and presentation of your dissertation, which will be between 15,000 and 18,000 words in length.

For students on the performance pathway

Special Study - Performance

In this module you will develop your technical abilities as a performer or conducter. You will make interpretative decisions based on an informed knowledge and analysis of performance, practising conventions and an understanding of specific musical styles. You will work closely with your chosen instrumental, vocal, or conducting teacher to prepare for a final recital lasting up to one hour. You may focus on a specific repertory, for example the music of the Second Viennese School, or cover a broader range of styles with an emphasis on contemporary music. You will gain confidence and experience as a performer or conductor through weekly seminar work, regular performances and recitals. Conductors will benefit from opportunities to conduct the Royal Holloway Symphony Orchestra and other ensembles. In addition, you will be expected to keep a reflective diary and produce scholarly programme notes.

Optional modules

Along with these core modules, you will choose four other optional course units, at least one of which must be related to your area of special study.

Historical Musicology 1

In this module you will be introduced to methodologies in source studies, editing, archival study, historiography, iconography, social history, and critical epistemologies. You will examine contemporary debates within these specified sub-areas of the discipline, considering issues and methodologies applicable to the study of music in its various historical contexts.

Historical Musicology 2

In this module you will look at a series of case studies to examine the cultural, intellectual and social history of music. You will consider issues of canon, music and text, aesthetics, cultural history, music and politics, critical musicology and hermeneutics.

Topics in Multimedia and Film Music

In this module you will look at the musicological and theoretical literature on multimedia and film music and sound.  You will examine contemporary debates within film and television, opera, musical installations, and music videos, drawing out issues and methodologies applicable to the study of musical multimedia in its various historical and media contexts. 

Topics in World Music

This module will introduce you to the ethnographic, theoretical, and practical aspects in the study of world music cultures, considering a range of issues and perspectives. You will look at regional case studies, exploring critical perspectives relating to the exploration and generation of knowledge about the world’s musical traditions.

Techniques in Ethnomusicology

In this module you will explore a range of issues, perspectives and techniques relevant to the practice of ethnomusicology. You will examine how fieldwork is undertaken within different geographic contexts, considering a variety of theoretical outlooks and debates, such as ethnographic representation.

Documenting Performance

In this module you will develop specific performance skills on an instrument or in a chosen musical style learnt, possibly from scratch. You will work closely with a consultant performer, who will act as your teacher, documenting and critically reflecting upon the music learning processes. You will consider the ethnographic dimensions of learning to perform, including analysis of teaching methods, techniques, cultural expectations and learning strategies. 

Music of the Americas - Politics, Indigeneity and Performance

In this module you will develop an understanding of a range of musical forms, practices and contexts from the Americas, examining the social and political dynamics of their creation, performance, dissemination and reception. You will look at the historical and social processes and contexts that have shaped these musics, and consider how they, in turn, have been shaped by them.

Issues in Popular Music

In this module you will look at the musics of India, considering the complexities of the relationships between popular styles and their socio-cultural contexts. You will examine themes such as media and film, the commodification and globalisation of popular music, the relationship of popular styles with traditional musics, leisure and tourism, space and place, ethnic and national identity, and social and political protest.

Studies in Musical Sources, 850 to 1450

In this module you will examine a group of musical sources from the medieval period. You will consider the transcription and interpretation of those sources, bibliographic analysis, including study of their notation, handwriting and physical structure, and the comparison of their musical texts. You will also look at music‐theoretical texts from the same time and milieu, exploring the relationship between notated sources and contemporary music theory. You will have the opportunity to view medieval manuscripts first‐hand in one or more collections, such as those held at the British Library or the University of London Library.

Techniques in Theory and Analysis

In this module you will develop an understanding of the principal methodologies in accepted use for analysing music today as well as the theoretical foundations on which they are based. You will consider the major trends in musical analysis since the end of the Second World War, examining analytical methods, theoretical issues, and musical repertory.

Short Recital

In this module you will develop your interpretative, analytical and technical abilities as a performer at an advanced level. You will design an intellectually coherent and aesthetically satisfying concert programme based on specialist repertory, and manage the occasion of performance at a professional level, including the writing of scholarly programme notes.

Techniques of Performance Studies

In this module you will look at the methods and approaches used in performance studies research, including the philosophies of performance and historical performance practices. You will examine the practice of Western music between the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries, considering the multi-faceted components of the art of performance and the philosophical, historical and stylistic issues that underpin it.

Fusion, Electronics, and Sonic Art

In this module you will develop an understanding of fusion and cross-genre composition, electronics and sonic art. You will look at the history and repertoire of these genres, and explore the compositional possibilities where these types of music meet. You will examine the combination of live music and computer performance, and the production of purely computer-based compositions, covering commercial electronica though to contemporary classical approaches. You learn to write music that falls under these definitions using contemporary techniques in music software, such as Logic, Reason, and Abelton Live, combined with industry-standard written notation.

Media and Commercial Composition

In this module you will develop an understanding of the composition of film scores for several genres of film. You will learn to compose traditional notated music for orchestral scores, and how to use modern music software and programming techniques. You will examine contemporary issues surrouding production, orchestration, compositional techniques, and the business of music, including production libraries, television, advertisements, computer games and other visual media. You will also look at the working practices of commercial and film composers and current industry standards.

Practical Composition Projects

In this module you will explore the advanced techniques of musical composition, considering the idea that there is more than just inspiration to the act of composition. You will look at a range of current trends in compositional techniques, learning to manipulate these in sophisticated, creative and personal ways. You will examine the possibilities of instrumentation, including the exploitation of instrumental capabilities, and the practical compositional issues facing composers today.

Composing for Ensemble

In this module you will examine a broad range of contemporary vocal and instrumental concert repertoire from a variety of perspectives. You will look at compositional theory and thought across a wide body of modern musical styles, examining different ways of thinking about composition for ensemble and the working practice of a stylistically diverse range of composers. You will examine how to incorporate some of these elements in to your own creative work.

Elective courses are typically assessed by essay (3,000–5,000 words, or two shorter essays), composition portfolio, or performance. At least one of the electives you choose from this list must be in the same area as your Special Study (i.e. in the broad area of ethnomusicology, music history, etc.). Up to two electives may be substituted for course units taken in other departments at Royal Holloway (such as languages or history).

In addition to the Special Study and the four electives, all students take the core 'Skills in Advanced Musical Studies', which consists of five lectures in the first term (leading to a 2,500-word essay) plus a second component chosen from a wide range of different research training options (including seminars at the Institute for Musical Research or Visiting Lecturer series). This component is assessed mostly by essay but there is scope for other kinds of assignment by agreement.

Entry criteria:

UK Upper Second Class Honours degree (2:1) or equivalent.

Relevant experience will also be considered.

English language requirements:

IELTS score of 6.5 with 7.0 in writing and no sub-score below 5.5 for non-native English speaking applicants.


If you require Royal Holloway to sponsor you to study in the UK, your IELTS must be a UK government-approved Secure English Language Test (SELT).

International and EU entry requirements

Please select your country from the drop-down list below




Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.

 Additional information:

  • Candidates may be called to interview and be asked to submit examples of written work in support of their application. If you wish to pursue a Special Study in performance rather than a dissertation, an authenticated 20 minute audition recording of three contrasting pieces should be submitted. If you wish to pursue a Special Study in Composition, a small portfolio of original music is requested for review.

Our recent graduates have gone into careers as music teachers, composers and musicians. Others have gone into PhD studies at Royal Holloway or other leading universities, and then into academic careers, with some working in the highest-rated research departments in the country.

Composers at Royal Holloway have their music played and recorded regularly by resident and visiting professional musicians, the Royal Holloway Sinfonietta and, of course, by fellow students. Our award-winning Ensemble-in-Residence CHROMA gives you unrivalled workshop and performance opportunities.

Many Royal Holloway graduates are now making careers as professional composers, including:

  • Tansy Davies
  • Richard Baker
  • KT Tunstall
  • Joby Talbot
  • Michael Zev Gordon
  • Deirdre Gribbin
  • Jonathan Cole
  • Paul Newland

Home and EU students tuition fee per year 2017/18*: £7,000

Overseas students tuition fee per year 2017/18*: £14,500

Other essential costs**: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course

Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

*The tuition fees given above apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis.  Students studying part-time are charged a pro-rata tuition fee and information is available from the Royal Holloway Student Fees Office on Student-Fees@rhul.ac.uk. All fees are likely to rise annually in line with inflation but no more than 5 per cent per year.

For further information, please see Royal Holloway’s Terms & Conditions.

** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.

Back to course search results

 
 
 

Comment on this page

Did you find the information you were looking for? Is there a broken link or content that needs updating? Let us know so we can improve the page.

Note: If you need further information or have a question that cannot be satisfied by this page, please call our switchboard on +44 (0)1784 434455.

This window will close when you submit your comment.

Add Your Feedback
Close