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More in this section Postgraduate taught

MMus courses

Core MMus course: Skills in Advanced Musical Studies


This course, which stretches across two terms, aims to introduce you to the diverse field of musicology as it is practised today. It includes seminars on current musicological approaches and research papers given by visiting speakers. Diversity of exposure and freedom of choice in assignments are explicit elements of this unit, whose intention is to open up the musicological field beyond your elective courses. The seminars will expose you to a number of musicological working models, provide you with the opportunity to question a number of practitioners about their research and methodology, and through graduated assignments allow you on a small scale to explore new research of your own. 

In addition to this course, students take four other electives from the representative selection shown below, tailored to their need for specialization.



Practical Composition Projects

This course will form an exploration of advanced techniques of musical composition. The course is predicated upon the notion that there is more than just inspiration to the act of composition. It aims to give students a secure grasp of a range of compositional techniques to support their creative work. The specific techniques taught will vary from year to year according to the research interests of the academic staff responsible for teaching the course. Workshops and extensive listening are also an integral part of the course.

Composing for Ensemble

Developing on areas covered in Practical Composition Projects the course will provide a framework for students to deepen their knowledge of their own compositional method. The course is predicated upon the notion that there is more than just inspiration to the act of composition. It aims to give students a secure grasp of a range of compositional techniques to support their creative work. The specific techniques taught will vary from year to year according to the research interests of the academic staff responsible for teaching the course. Workshops and extensive listening are also an integral part of the course. 

Media and Commercial Composition

This course is mainly concerned with the composition of film scores aiming as far as possible to achieve near professional level work. You will learn how to create up‐to‐date and viable music for several different genres of film. You will use traditional notated music to create orchestral scores through to using the most modern software and programming techniques. Issues of production, orchestration, compositional techniques and music business are studied in depth. Composing music for production libraries and television is also part of the course. Music for computer games, animation and advertisements can also be composed in the course depending on student interest. We also study selected works and film scores from the film and media music repertoire.

Fusion, Electronics and Sonic Art

This course is concerned with where all the above types of music meet and explores the compositional possibilities that are to be found here. The course is particularity concerned with the combination of live and computer performance through to purely computer based music. In terms of styles the course covers everything from commercial electronica though to contemporary ‘classical’ approaches. The course is based mainly around Logic but uses a large amount of other software (Reason, Abelton Live etc) as appropriate and will combine this with standard written notation as well. The sort of pieces recently written by students include a Suite for Laptop and String Quartet,  album tracks mixing live recordings from the forests of Cameroon with work created in MAX MSP, music designed to work in interactive installations for children and music for hypnotherapy.

Composers' seminars

In addition to these courses, a composers’ seminar series underpins all of the composition courses at Royal Holloway and is open to all students, both undergraduate and postgraduate. Recent speakers include: Julian Anderson, Philip Cashian, Tansy Davies, Elaine Gould, Gill Graham, Rolf Hind, David Horne, Rob Keeley, Melinda Maxwell, Claudia Molitor, Howard Skempton, Errollyn Wallen, Judith Weir, Mark Anthony Turnage and Michael Zev Gordon.


The Ethnomusicology pathway is a course that enriches and stimulates students’ approaches to the study of music through historical, theoretical, methodological, performance and regional-based modules. Masters students will benefit from an intellectually rigorous environment that is a world-leading centre for Ethnomusicology and world music. They will also find the Royal Holloway Music Department a friendly and supportive place to learn. In addition to research-led class teaching by academic staff, students have individual supervisors for their Special Study projects. Our research culture also includes seminars, postgraduate days, and a thriving community of research students.

Students can participate in any of the department’s ensembles, including the world music ensembles: Andean Band, Sundanese Gamelan, Korean Drumming and Balkan Band. They also develop performance skills and ethnomusicological perspectives on teaching and learning through the course Documenting Performance.

We welcome students with or without prior knowledge of Ethnomusicology, including those with a foundation in other disciplines We also welcome students who wish to complement Masters study in Performance, Composition or Musicology with Ethnomusicological or ethnographic perspectives. The course is aimed to be flexible. You can focus on Ethnomusicology and world music, and this course will prepare you thoroughly for further research in this field, or you can choose courses of special interest in following a more eclectic approach.


Techniques of Ethnomusicology

This course explores a range of issues, perspectives and techniques relevant to the practice of ethnomusicology. It focuses on methods, showing how fieldwork is undertaken in many different geographic contexts. It introduces a variety of theoretical outlooks and key debates, such as ethnographic representation. The course enables the completion of a short fieldwork project and provides a foundation for ethnographic writing.

Topics in World Music

This course includes ethnographic, theoretical and practical dimensions, as appropriate, and introduces a range of issues, perspectives and techniques in the study of world music cultures. Opportunities for hands-on experience may, in some cases, be included. Regional case studies will be often be drawn from research undertaken by course tutors. The course will explore critical perspectives relating to the exploration and generation of knowledge about the world’s musical traditions.

Issues in Popular Music 

This course will introduce students to the popular musics of India, paying particular attention to the relations between music and its social and cultural contexts. Although students will become acquainted with the musical features of the most important styles, the course is primarily theoretical rather than practical. Emphasis will be placed on such themes as media and film; the commodification and globalization of popular music; the relationship of popular styles with traditional musics; leisure and tourism; space and place; ethnic and national identity; and social or political protest. 

New: Schenkerian Analysis

Students will learn and then apply standard analytical methods in order to gain a deeper understanding of the music's construction and expressive effect, and to learn the vocabulary and technical proficiency necessary for reading and evaluating analyses of music by scholars from the Schenkerian tradition.

Historical Musicology 1

This course consists of two 5-week modules. Topics to be covered will vary from year to year, depending on the specialisms and research interests of course staff, but will introduce methodologies in source studies, editing, archival study, historiography, iconography, social history, and critical epistemologies. Seminars will address contemporary debates within these specified sub-areas of the discipline (some new, some relatively well established), drawing out issues and methodologies applicable to the study of music in its various historical contexts. 

Historical Musicology 2

This course also consists of two 5-week modules, each of which takes the form of a case study in the cultural, intellectual and social history of music. While the focus of case studies will once again vary from year to year, depending on the specialisms and research interests of course staff, they will address similar issues of canon, music and text, aesthetics, cultural history, music and politics, critical musicology and hermeneutics. 

Techniques in Theory and Analysis

This course is designed to gather together significant and representative essays from the central figures in musical theory, analysis, and what was once called the 'new musicology' in order to address major trends in the discipline of analysis since the end of the Second World War. It encourages critical awareness of current and historical approaches to the analysis of music and aims to develop and foster critical thinking and writing in the students. The course is constructed on three levels, according to analytical method, according to theoretical issue, and according to musical repertory; this is principally achieved by concentrating each week on a match between one or more of each. 

This course aims to provide students with an understanding of the principal methodologies in accepted use for analysing music today as well as the theoretical foundations on which they are based, and to enable them to use such understanding in independent writing. 

Learning Outcomes. Students will: 

  1. construct detailed analyses of a variety of musical compositions 
  2. read detailed analyses of further music 
  3. study theoretical writings on which analytical methods are based 
  4. become familiar with a broad range of contemporary analytical writing 
  5. gain skills that will prepare them for postgraduate work at MPhil/PhD level. 

Topics in multimedia and film music

This course aims to: 

  • give students exposure to the most important and musicological and theoretical literature on multimedia and film music and sound. 
  • develop skills in the close reading of a work of musical multimedia. 
  • enable students to engage critically with previously unfamiliar methods through independent research and writing, or through practice. 
Seminars address contemporary debates within specified sub-areas of the discipline (e.g. Lieder, opera, film), drawing out issues and methodologies applicable to the study of musical multimedia in its various historical and media contexts. Topics to be covered may include: film and television (including narrative theory; sound theory, 

genre theory); opera; musical installations, music videos. 

Studies in Musical Sources, 850‐1450

This course consists of a detailed examination of a group of musical sources from the medieval period (circa 850–1450) – chosen on the basis of the research interests of the cohort. It focuses on the transcription and interpretation of those sources, their bibliographic analysis (including study of their notation, handwriting and physical structure), and the comparison of their musical texts. Music‐theoretical texts from the same time and milieu will also be studied, and the relationship between notated sources and contemporary music theory will be explored. The sources will be studied through facsimile editions, digital images and/or microfilms, and there will be an opportunity to view medieval manuscripts first‐hand in one or more collections (such as the British Library or the University of London Library).



New: Special Study in Conducting

We have recently expanded our teaching expertise to include specialisation in Conducting Studies. Students on the Performance Pathway can now choose to major in this area, receiving tuition from our resident conductor Rebecca Miller. 

New: Music, Management and Production

This is a general course on Music and Management, exploring contemporary and practical approaches to the subject with a view to equipping students in future arts administration and music production careers. As such, key topics to be covered  include economics and music, music and labour, concert production, orchestral management, media law and arts fundraising. The course will be helmed by staff on faculty who will provide theoretical and discourse-based perspectives on the subject, while a roster of guest lectures from key members of the industry will form 5 - 6 seminars.    

Techniques of Performance Studies 1

The course focuses on select areas within the field of performance studies, in particular the performance practice of Western music between the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries, and the philosophies and ideologies of performance. 

Short Recital 

This course will develop the student’s interpretative, analytical and technical abilities as a performer at an advanced level. It will in addition develop his/her skills in programming a recital built around a particular theme, idea or related group of works. At the end of the course you should have acquired skills and techniques necessary for original and independent thought as a performer at an advanced level, be able to design an intellectually coherent and aesthetically satisfying concert programme based on specialist repertory and be sufficiently confident to manage the occasion of performance at a professional level.

Documenting Performance 

This course aims to provide students with specific performance skills (on a given instrument or in a chosen musical style/technique), and the ability to document and reflect critically upon music learning processes. The ethnographic dimension of learning to perform is stressed, where each student works closely with a consultant performer (‘teacher’), and teaching methods, techniques, cultural expectations and learning strategies are closely analysed and documented. The development of this practical and critical skills‐knowledge base is also intended to serve as preparation for the MMus Special Study and/or for doctoral research.



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