The Department of Music is a centre of research excellence in both composition and musicology.
In composition, there is no particular house style, but we are well known for a number of areas, including:
- acoustic music, ranging from solo to symphonic scale;
- electro-acoustic, including acousmatic composition, live electronics, and mixed forms with instrument/voice;
- composition exploring the interface of Western and non-Western traditions.
The department also provides access to a wide network of opportunities for professional and amateur performance.
In musicology, research strengths include not only the Western art music tradition, but also screen media, non-Western (Turkey) and popular music. We have particular depth of expertise in the early Middle Ages (especially Spain), and in the 19th and 20th centuries (including the music of France, Britain, Germany, and Soviet Russia). We also have strengths in Anglophone vernacular traditions, including jazz and hip hop; opera, film music and the history and philosophy of technology; music and migration; and cultural and reception history more generally.
MPhil (Composition, Musicology): a standalone, one-year (full-time) research degree. Students will undertake their own research project, concluding in the submission of a portfolio of 25–35 minutes of music and an analytical/contextual commentary (c.4,000–5,000 words), or a 25,000-word dissertation. Students may have the option to audit units from our taught master's programmes if they are relevant to their research.
MMus (Composition): a standalone, two-year (full-time) research degree. Students will undertake their own research project, concluding in the submission of a portfolio of 50–70 minutes of music and an analytical/contextual commentary (c.8,000–10,000 words). Students may have the option to audit units from our taught master's programmes if they are relevant to their research.
PhD (Composition, Musicology): a research project undertaken across three to four years, culminating in a portfolio of 75–120 minutes of music and an analytical/contextual commentary (c. 15,000 words), or an 80,000-word thesis, or a combination of musicological and compositional components as part of one coherent project (in flexible proportions, details to be discussed with the Department of Music). As well as having the option to audit taught units, there may be the potential for PhD students to assist on or teach units relevant to their research.
The PhD, MMus and MPhil can be studied via distance learning.
MPhil (Musicology): An upper second-class degree or international equivalent. Please note, acceptance will also depend on evidence of your readiness to pursue a research degree.
MPhil (Composition): An upper second-class degree or international equivalent, plus a portfolio of representative compositions. Please note, acceptance will also depend on evidence of your readiness to pursue a research degree.
MMus (Composition): An upper second-class degree or international equivalent, plus a portfolio of representative compositions. Please note, acceptance will also depend on evidence of a suitable level of professional accomplishment.
PhD (Musicology): A master's qualification, or be working towards a master's qualification, or international equivalent. Applicants without a master's qualification may be considered on an exceptional basis provided they hold a first-class undergraduate degree (or international equivalent). Applicants with a non-traditional background may be considered provided they can demonstrate substantial equivalent and relevant experience that has prepared them to undertake their proposed course of study.
PhD (Composition or Musicology): A master's qualification, or be working towards a master's qualification, or international equivalent. Applicants without a master's qualification may be considered on an exceptional basis provided they hold a first-class undergraduate degree (or international equivalent) and/or can demonstrate evidence of a sustained and high level of professional accomplishment. Applicants with a non-traditional background may be considered provided they can demonstrate substantial equivalent and relevant experience that has prepared them to undertake their proposed course of study.
In all cases, applications must be supported by a portfolio of representative compositions. Please note: applicants may be registered on the MPhil or the MMus degree in the first instance.
See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.
Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.
If English is not your first language, you will need to reach the requirements outlined in our profile level C.
Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.
Fees and funding
- UK: full-time
- £4,665 per year
- UK: part-time
- £2,332 per year
- Overseas: full-time
- £20,100 per year
Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to an 8% increase in fees each year.
More about tuition fees, living costs and financial support.
University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a 25% reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni discount.
Funding for 2023/24
The University of Bristol is part of the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW DTP), which will be offering studentships for September 2023. For information on other funding opportunities, including University-funded studentships, please see the Faculty of Arts funding pages.
Further information on funding for prospective UK and international postgraduate students.
A significant number of graduates from this programme develop careers in higher education or work on high-level research projects in the field of music; others take up careers as composers and musicians.
Meet our supervisors
The following list shows potential supervisors for this programme. Visit their profiles for details of their research and expertise.
Research is structured in several interlinked clusters:
- Composition - Contemporary vocal, instrumental and orchestral music; electro-acoustic music and live electronics; transcultural composition; music with film and mixed media; traditional media, such as brass band and choral work. Group members: Professor Michael Ellison, Professor Neal Farwell, Professor John Pickard
- Music, politics and society - Music and cultural transfer; transnationality and colonialism; migration and diasporas; reception studies; music, revolution and totalitarianism; medieval liturgical chant and orality. Group members: Professor Michael Ellison, Professor Pauline Fairclough, Dr Guido Heldt, Professor Sarah Hibberd, Professor Emma Hornby, Professor John Pickard, Dr Florian Scheding, Dr Justin Williams, Dr Kate Guthrie.
- Intermediality - Music in multi-medial cultural artefacts and practice, including: popular music, especially hip hop; opera, musicals; music for film and television; medieval music. Group members: Professor Michael Ellison, Professor Neal Farwell, Dr Guido Heldt, Professor Sarah Hibberd, Professor Emma Hornby, Dr Justin Williams.
- Music as performance - Historical performance practice; medieval oral transmission.
Group members: Professor Emma Hornby.
- Old Hispanic Office Research Project - Medieval liturgical chant (primarily Western European); liturgy; theology; computer-assisted chant analysis; veneration of saints; processions. This research group is funded by the Leverhulme Trust/British Academy (until 2023), and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (until 2024). Project members: Professor Emma Hornby, Dr Maeve O'Donnell (postdoctoral research fellow), Paul Rouse (IT Specialist), Laura Lanceley (AHRC project administrator).
- Beyond East and West Research Project - Composition for western and traditional Turkish musicians; developing and documenting an evolving transcultural musical practice. Funded by the European Research Council (2015–23). Project members: Professor Michael Ellison, Professor Emeritus Simon Jones (Theatre), Dr Argun Çakır (post-doctoral fellow).
- Hip-Hop's Fifth Element: Knowledge, Pedagogy and Artist-Scholar Collaboration - An interdisciplinary study of hip-hop's 'fifth element': knowledge, supported by a collaboration between the AHRC and the German Research Foundation (until 2024). The project will consolidate issues around power structures of knowledge and education by creating a comprehensive theory of the fifth element, developing the research agenda of European hip-hop studies, and promoting a collaborative and participatory approach to art and education. Project members: Dr Justin Williams, Dr Sina Nitzsche (Dortmund), Oliver Kauty (University of Cologne).
Faculty of Arts Admissions
- +44 (0) 117 428 2296