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W300 Music BA Undergraduate 2016


UCAS code W300
Degree BA
Mode of study Full Time
Duration 3 years
Location Durham City
Typical offers A Level
International Baccalaureate (IB)
Alternative qualifications

Department(s) Website
Telephone +44 (0)191 334 3140

Course Content


The course at Durham prides itself in combining the traditional and the modern in the study of music. The learning of techniques such as harmony, counterpoint and aural skills are juxtaposed with an investigation of the most up-to-date thinking in musicology, critical theory, composition (acoustic and electroacoustic), analysis, ethnomusicology and performance. Moreover, our teaching, essentially research-led, is enhanced by distinctive staff specialisations that include nineteenth- and twentieth-century British music, music of the Soviet Union, Korean and Indian music, popular music, music technology, conducting, cognitive musicology, early music and contemporary composition.

Year 1

In the first year all students are expected to follow the same course, designed to introduce a broad range of disciplines and approaches.

The course consists of six modules:

  • Historical Studies 1: The Long Nineteenth Century
  • Performance 1: Listening and Performing 
  • Musical Techniques (Harmony and Counterpoint)
  • Approaches to Contemporary Composition
  • Introduction to Ethnomusicology 
  • Analysis 1: Elements of Tonal Theory and Practice

Essential topics in music technology are spread over these compulsory modules, as are foundational research skills that will be needed in the later years.

All Combined Honours students taking one or two modules in Music may take Historical Studies and/or Introduction to Ethnomusicology; students taking a third module in Music have a free choice.

Year 2

In the second year, you will undertake one compulsory module – Historical Studies 2: The Twentieth Century – and choose five modules from a broad menu. As an alternative, you may choose to take one or two modules in other departments.

Modules available in 2014/15:

List A:

  • Studies in Composition
  • Creative Music Technology
  • Performance 2: Practice as Research 
  • Advanced Musical Techniques 
  • Theory and Analysis 
  • Orchestration 
  • Conducting
  • World Music Traditions
  • Russian and Soviet Music, 1890-1975
  • Studies in Popular Music
  • Studies in the History of Opera


Year 3

The third-year course is structured around a compulsory double-weighted independent project, which can take the form of a musicological Dissertation, a composition portfolio, or a 40-minute solo recital. All students are required to do one of these. In addition, you will choose four other modules, selecting from the list below and the second year menu (above). Other possible options are to undertake a single-weighted project (again, a Dissertation, composition or performance) and/or pursue a module in another department.

  • Audiovisual Production
  • Contemporary Music Performance
  • The Music of India
  • Performance 3: Recorded Performance Project
  • Time and Rhythm
  • Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century English Song
  • Britten’s Chamber Operas
  • Arts Management
  • Live Electronic Music
  • Psychology of Music
  • Advanced Ethnomusicology: Themes and Methods
  • Music Theology
  • Studies in Symphonic Analysis

Study Abroad

As part of ongoing curriculum review we are creating opportunities for a year's study abroad for those on the BA Music programme. Exchanges will take place after the second year of the programme with partner institutions now being confirmed.

Learning and Teaching

As a student on the BA Music, you will receive around 7½ hours of timetabled contact per week on average over the course of the programme. This will include a combination of lectures, seminars, and tutorials (including one to one supervision), as well as instrumental or vocal tuition and performance and composition workshops. The number and balance of these activities will change over the course of the programme as you develop your knowledge and abilities as an independent learner.

Timetabled contact is only the beginning of your learning. It provides a starting-point for your development as an independent, self-motivated learner. Typically, classroom teaching and learning will form around 25% of the time that you will spend on your studies during the 22 teaching weeks; you will be expected to spend the remaining 75% of your time on independent research. Students are also encouraged, as an integral part of their studies, to take advantage of other opportunities including participating in performance groups (including staff-led ensembles) and attending research and composition seminars.

In the first year, you will receive about 9 hours of timetabled contact each week. For each module, weekly lectures will introduce you to the broad questions and current issues in Music and its sub-disciplines. Seminars will give you the opportunity to engage with the topics introduced in lectures, discuss key issues in small groups, and look in detail at music and at writing about music. Instrumental or vocal lessons will help you develop your abilities as a performer, while composition seminars and workshops will allow you to explore approaches to composing. Practical training in both generic study skills and music-specific skills such as using notation software and transcribing music are embedded within the core modules.

For each hour of timetabled contact, you will be expected to complete 3 hours of independent research to prepare for your classes, broaden your subject knowledge, and complete assignments (that is, 27 hours of independent research per week). The teaching methods and coursework will be designed to help you achieve this; for example, you will receive reading lists, assignments, presentation briefs, and online materials to direct your research in preparation for seminars.

In the second year, there is an increased emphasis on the development of critical and analytical skills: a core module concentrates on the development of research skills in musicology, composition and performance. As modules specialise more strongly in particular areas such as performance, composition or different branches of musicology, the type of teaching varies more markedly between modules, so the kind of contact you experience will depend to a great extent on the modules you take. The total contact time you will receive will on average be similar to the first year, around 9 hours per week. As in the first year, you will be expected to complement this with about three times as much independent study as there are contact hours.

In the third year you will develop further your independent research skills, culminating in a double weighted project, which can be a dissertation, composition portfolio or recital: this counts for one third of your marks for the year. This project will give you the opportunity to engage, at an advanced level, with creative cutting-edge research at the forefront of the discipline. On account of the time that you will need to undertake this research, during the third year you will receive timetabled contact of 4½ hours each week on average. This includes one to one supervision on your project (6 hours for dissertation, 8 for recital or 11 for composition) as well as group classes and, for recital, instrumental or vocal lessons. The contact time for dissertation supervisions reflects the text-based nature of the mode of study. The additional hours in the case of the recital and composition projects takes account of their practical nature and the need to investigate and embed further advanced skills specific to the student such as performance practice, notation and instrumental scoring, and the creative use of music technology. Other modules on offer will include a number of single-weighted projects as well as taught courses. Overall, during the third year, you will be expected to spend at least 35 hours on independent research each week.

Throughout the programme, all students also have access to an academic adviser who will provide them with academic support and guidance. A student will meet with their adviser three times a year, in addition to which all members of teaching staff have weekly office hours when they are available to meet with students on a ‘drop-in’ basis.

The department also has an exciting programme of weekly research events (seminars, guest lectures and workshops) which undergraduate students are strongly encouraged to attend. There is a busy programme of musical performance, both within and beyond the walls of the music department, which complements students’ academic programme by providing opportunities both to listen to and to perform a wide variety of music. The many musical ensembles to which students can contribute includes both independent societies (including orchestras, choirs, opera and musical theatre as well as a Javanese gamelan) and department-run ensembles such as the New Music Ensemble and Korean percussion group.

Admissions Process

Subjects required, level and grade

For students who have taken A-levels, our entrance requirements are grades AAB (including Music). In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

  • We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study.
  • We do not include General Studies or Practical Music as part of our offer
  • A-level in Music is required
  • We will accept ABRSM Grade VIII Theory in addition to AAB at A-level or equivalent should A-level Music, or equivalent, not have been available. This must be explicitly stated in your personal statement or reference
  • Grade VIII or equivalent in at least one instrument is required in addition to some proficiency on the piano/keyboard (if this is not your instrument)
  • We are pleased to consider applications for deferred entry.

English Language requirements

IELTS of 6.5 (no component under 6.0); TOEFL iBT 92 (no component under 23); Cambridge Proficiency (CPE) Grade C; or Cambridge Advanced (CAE) Grade A.

Requirements and Admissions

The University accepts the following alternative English language tests and scores.

Information relevant to your country

Fees and Funding


Fees have not been set for this academic year.

Scholarships and funding 

Career Opportunities



Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Pre-application open days are the best way to discover all you need to know about Durham University. With representatives from all relevant academic and support service departments, and opportunities to explore college options, the open days provide our prospective undergraduates with the full experience of Durham University.

Please see the following page for further details and information on how to book a place:

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Department Information



When you join us you will develop your creative, practical and critical skills in a unique and beautiful location.

Music at Durham University covers everything from the music of the great composers to contemporary music and Indian ragas, studied from the perspectives of history, theory, aesthetics and ethnography as well as through composition and performance. Our BA combines a focus on core skills with the chance to choose between diverse specialisms in the second and third years.

We will not only provide you with an extensive knowledge of various musical repertories, we will also help you to develop critical skills which are valued by a wide range of employers.

Durham University is one of the leading centres for music studies in Britain. All of our Department’s teaching is delivered in a unique and beautiful location facing the Cathedral, while the University as a whole offers many and diverse opportunities for practical music making.

  • Ranked joint 1st in the UK for Internationally Excellent and World-leading research impact (REF 2014).
  • 93% of students said that staff were enthusiastic about what they are teaching in the National Student Survey 2014 (sector average 90%).
  • 5th in the Complete University Guide 2015.

The Music Department has excellent facilities. Besides the usual array of lecture rooms situated in the main building on Palace Green (virtually next to the Cathedral), there are three well-equipped electronic studios, a multimedia resource centre, and practice rooms (both in the Department and individual colleges). The University Library houses an extensive collection of books, scores, and CDs, and offers a rich range of online resources.


NB: Information contained on the website or in the literature with respect to the fee is correct at the time of publication but the University reserves the right to change the course information or fee at a later date.

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