Providing a balance of broad-based study and specialist training, this masters course 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 degree is also available via the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) mode of study where students with ongoing professional careers take modules over a four or five-year period.
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, engaging in both formal and informal discussion.
If taking the Composition Pathway then you will take:
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. You will produce 12 to 14 minutes of original music.
If taking the Ethnolomusicology or Musicology Pathway then you will take:
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 13,000 and 14,000 words in length.
If taking the Performance Pathway then you will take:
In this module you will develop your technical abilities as a performer or conductor. 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. You will perform 50 minutes of a full recital programme.
There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the module you will develop an understanding of the philosophy and aesthetics of western music in the broad period of musical modernity from the 18th Century to the present. You will look at selected writings from key figures and consider specific philosophical ideas to musical works, styles of historical genres. You will examine the tradition of German Idealist thought and its legacy (from Kant to Adorno), philosophies of language (from Rousseau to Derrida), the aesthetic consequences of phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty to Serres and Nancy), aesthetics and politics (from Marx to Badiou, Žižek and Rancière) and the tradition of analytical philosophy in relation to music (Kivy, Davies, Levinson, Scruton).
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.
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 surrounding 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.
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.
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.
Teaching & assessment
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 five 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.
For the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) mode of study, the core module is taken in the first year and the Special Study in the last.
UK Honours degree or equivalent.
Normally we require a UK 2:1 (Honours) or equivalent in relevant subjects but we will consider a high 2:2 or relevant work experience. Candidates with professional qualifications in an associated area may be considered. Where a ‘high 2:2’ is considered, we would normally define this as reflecting a profile of 57% or above.
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.
If you wish to pursue a Musicology and ethnomusicology pathway please submit an academic essay.
International & EU requirements
English language requirements
All teaching at Royal Holloway is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.
The scores we require
- IELTS: 6.5 overall. Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 69. No other subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please see here.
Your future career
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
Fees & funding
Home and EU students tuition fee per year*: £7,900
International students tuition fee per year**: £16,800
Other essential costs***: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course
* and ** These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying on the standard part-time course structure over two years are charged 50% of the full-time applicable fee for each study year. All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. This means that the overall cost of studying the programme via part-time mode is slightly higher than studying it full-time in one year. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see tuition fees see our terms and conditions.
Please note that for research programmes, we adopt the minimum fee level recommended by the UK Research Councils for the Home/EU tuition fee. Each year, the fee level is adjusted in line with inflation (currently, the measure used is the Treasury GDP deflator). Fees displayed here are therefore subject to change and are usually confirmed in the spring of the year of entry. For more information on the Research Council Indicative Fee please see the RCUK website.
*** 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, have not been included.