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  • Duration

    1 Year

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The MMus in Sonic Arts is an opportunity to explore a wide range of creative approaches to studio-based music, including fixed-media composition, improvisation systems, sound art installation and composition for video/film. You have full access to the Electronic Music Studios , which offers advanced facilities for electro-acoustic composition, multi-channel work and live/interactive performance. You develop a rigorous conceptual framework for your creative practice, and engage critically with contemporary ideas and debates in sound art and computer music. As part of your studies you may choose from a range of options that encompass interactive/generative music, film music and film-making. Studio composers taking this pathway may elect to take options in notation-based composition, providing they have the requisite prior experience. Collaborative and interdisciplinary projects, in conjunction with other academic departments and/or external organisations, are also facilitated and encouraged. The pathway is particularly useful for students wishing to pursue studio and computer-based research or professionals seeking to develop their expertise in technology-based creative practice.



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New Cross, SE14 6NW

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About this course

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class standard in Music or a relevant/related subject. Your qualification should comprise a substantial practical/creative element relevant to the selected MMus pathway and option choices. A detailed transcript of your degree is preferred. You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level. International

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  • Production
  • Musical
  • Aesthetics
  • Music
  • Media
  • Technology
  • Systems
  • Project
  • Image
  • Art
  • Sound
  • Composition
  • Options

Course programme

What you'll study Core modules You take the following core modules: Module title Credits. Studio Practice Studio Practice 30 credits This module enhances your skills in a range of studio techniques and creative methods, supported by an understanding of related key concepts. These include recording, editing and mixing, field recording, spectral manipulation, sound synthesis and placement, and electroacoustic compositional methods. The software used includes Pro Tools, Audiosculpt, and Metasynth. Special attention is given to multi-channel sound work using the EMS Multi-channel Studio and 5.1 Studio. Issues related to technology-based composition are explored, such as listening, spatialisation, transformation, site/location and context. This module includes an opportunity to collaborate with students taking theatre writing/performance modules. To take this module you should be able to: 1. Demonstrate an understanding of the fundamentals of digital audio and studio-based production 2. Apply a good, working knowledge of a professional audio editor/mixer (eg. at least one of the following: Pro Tools, Logic, Digital Performer, Cubase) 3. Compose studio-based or electronic music that demonstartes an understanding of contemporary techniques and concerns 30 credits. Sound Agendas Sound Agendas 30 credits Through lectures, discussions and tutorials – including reference to core theoretical concepts in sonic art as well as current thinking concerning studio-based composition and artistic practices using sound – the module develops a theoretical framework for practice. Pivotal historical developments in the application of audio technologies in sonic art are presented, placing compositional techniques in their wider context. The issues and genres considered include: theoretical underpinnings of musique concrète, elektronische musik, futurism and fluxus; interactivity and live electronics; silence and noise; post-digital aesthetics; sampling and plunderphonics; utterance and text-sound composition; audiovision; acoustics and architecture; perception and interpretation; acoustic ecology and phonography. The factors that gave rise to these issues and genres and the artistic results are considered. This understanding provides a basis for experiment and critical evaluation through creative work and subsequent theoretical investigation. Convenor: Dr. John Drever 30 credits. Option modules You choose two modules from a selection that currently includes: Module title Credits. Audiovisual Composition Audiovisual Composition 30 credits This production-centred module provides an introduction to audiovisual composition. It covers several theoretical and practical approaches as well as video production software and techniques. Students will learn about the history of visual music and other cultural and historical contexts for audiovisual composition. They will analyse and discuss pieces of historical significance along with modern examples. Finally, they will produce audiovisual work using the theory and examples discussed in class to inform their compositional strategies. Production techniques taught in the module will centre on video editing and processing, but will include other aspects of production such as filming and compression for various distribution formats. 30 credits. Composition and Moving Image Media Composition and Moving Image Media 30 credits This module engages with practical and conceptual approaches to the composition of music for moving image media – film, television, games and other forms. Initial lectures will consider theories of multimedia and the aesthetics of film music, exploring the relationship of music and sound to the structure and content of film narrative. A lecture on technical issues related to synchronisation is followed by a paired sequence of lectures followed by show-and-tell workshops that will consider individual topics, with ensuing short exercises. These topics may include: dramatic scoring; music in games and new media; library music; sound design; experimental film and video; new approaches to silent film; found film and sound montage; et al. To take this module you should have: competence in music technology programmes – Logic or Cubase or ProTools or Sibelius 5/6 or similar - sufficient to prepare mixed and mastered stereo audio files of media music cues/compositions. Convenor: Ian Gardiner 30 credits. Compositional Techniques Compositional Techniques 30 credits This specialist module is concerned with exploring diverse methodologies for the generation, manipulation and control of the various musical parameters with specific focus in the realms of pitch, rhythm and notation. No stylistic or technical orthodoxy is given particular emphasis, though the module content will necessarily be directed towards the developments of the last 40 years or so. Whilst systematic approaches will be discussed, these will not preclude a consideration of more intuitive methods and how these might be enhanced and extended through the application of more formalised techniques. Work will concentrate not just on note-to-note generation but also on how the foreground details of pitch choice can be projected over the duration of a work. Specific techniques such as post-serial thinking, spectral composition, stochastic techniques and sieve theory will be examined. It is of module inadvisable, if not impossible, to isolate the element of pitch from other musical parameters, and thought will be given as to how aspects of register, timbre, pacing and rhythm alter our perception and treatment of raw pitch materials. The relationship between time signatures, rhythm, tempo and texture in relation to surface activity and fundamental structure will also be discussed as a means of articulating larger scale formal units and defining /shaping musical material. Aspects of articulation, harmonic pacing, pulse and metre will also be discussed in relation to tempo and musical structure. The unit will enhance knowledge of specific rhythmic techniques including mensuration, modes, resultancy, metric modulation, isorhythm and the derivation of systems through manipulation of numerical and pitch patterns. Lectures will address these questions through study of scores and writings of several composers, concentrating particularly on the works of Pierre Boulez, Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Brian Ferneyhough, Gyorgy Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Stravinsky and Webern. To take this module you should have: the ability to read advanced notation and scores; some knowledge of recent developments in contemporary ‘classical’ music and familiarity with the developments of 20th Century compositional thought from Webern to Boulez, Stockhausen, Ligeti etc. Convenor: Roger Redgate 30 credits. Contemporary Music: Practices and Debates Contemporary Music: Practices and Debates 30 credits This module traces just a few of the paths, among many that might be identified, tracked and evaluated, through late twentieth- and early twenty first-century musical cultures, focusing on some key repertoires and the debates which surround them. The Modernisms of this period, however much their creators may have insisted on an aesthetic of rejection and beginning again from first principles, have their aesthetic, and even some of their technical, origins in early twentieth-century Modernisms, whether musical or emerging from other art forms and cultural practices. While the Postmodernisms that overlapped with, as well as succeeded, them are frequently associated with the blurring and even breakdown of previously-erected barriers between "High Art" and "Low Art", this module will attempt to assess the significance of such movements and musical phenomena as part of a continuing tradition of "serious", even "classical" musical endeavour: a tradition whose validity and success will receive consideration here. "Modernism" and "Postmodernism" will be considered not only as they can be applied to cultural practice generally, but also as they may be held up as useful tools to understand the specific musical practices involved, and their influence on subsequent developments. The methodologies examined and tested in this module include history (cultural as well as musical), cultural theory and musical analysis, and the extent to which at least certain of these might be combined. To take this module you should have: some knowledge of the main currents of development in Western composed art music during the 20th century. It is possible to benefit from this module if your main musical experience lies outside the Western "classical" tradition; but in this case, in particular, it would be much easier to get a grasp of the module content if you had already read at least something by, if not necessarily the really "hard" theorists such as Adorno and Lyotard, then by, say, Bradbury or Jencks. By no means all such writers refer to music at all, but the application of some of their ideas to a wide range of music will form an important part of this module. Convenor: Keith Potter 30 credits. Ethnographic Film and Music Research Ethnographic Film and Music Research 30 credits This examines the uses of ethnographic film/video in music research and enables you to develop the practical, technical and theoretical skills necessary to make your own short ethnographic film on a music topic in a critical and self-reflexive manner. Through a critical reading of key ethnographic films about music, you will address questions of aesthetics, representation and ethics that arise in the process of filmmaking. You will also consider the use of digital media in musical ethnography more generally and assess the methods of analysis afforded by the visual documentation of music practices. In complement with theoretical seminars, practical workshops on the methods of digital video recording and editing will familiarise you with a variety of approaches to ethnographic filmmaking and techniques of sound recording. For this module you will develop skills in filming using video cameras and editing using Final Cut Pro. However, it does not require you to have prior experience of filming and film editing. Convenor: Dr. Barley Norton 30 credits. Interactive and Generative Music Interactive and Generative Music 30 credits This course explores creative and technical approaches to the design of computer music systems for interactive performance, composition and/or installations in audio and audiovisual practice. The principal software used is Max (Max/MSP/Jitter), however students are welcome to use other environments for generative and interactive processes in addition to or in the place of Max. A number of fundamental methods for real-time computer music are investigated, including digital signal processing, synthesis, gesture-following and machine learning. Various paradigms of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and audiovisual interaction are explored using a range of performer interfaces, within software environments and using external devices. Music Information Retrieval (MIR) and gestural control of electronics are introduced, while the paradigm of 'computer-as-creator' is explored as well using algorithmic and generative methods, including stochastic and artificial intelligence (AI) -related approaches. Students develop a creative project that explores the compositional and musical possibilities of working with real-time systems, leading to live workshop presentation or performance. To take this module you should be able to : 1) apply good IT skills and knowledge of the Mac OS; 2) demonstrate understanding of the fundamentals of digital audio; 3) demonstrate knowledge of studio or notated composition, and/or improvised music and/ or contemporary music performance; 4) use and edit basic Max/MSP patches.(students are recommended to familiarise themselves with Max prior to the course; Max is installed in all Music computer labs and the EMS studios, and a free 30-day demo is available at Coordinator: Dr Patricia Alessandrini 30 credits. Material, Form and Structure Material, Form and Structure 30 credits This module is divided into two parts. The first concentrates on orchestration and contemporary developments in instrumental techniques, and the second considers the nature of material in relation to the articulation of formal structures. Taking Schoenberg's comments concerning the organisation of timbre from the end of his ‘Harmonielehre’ (1911) as a starting point, the module explores the more recent investigations into the relationship between harmony, texture and form. Areas also to be discussed will include stochastic music, spectral composition, sound realism, microtonality, arborescences and complexity. The notion of ‘material’ in relation to orchestration and notation will be studied. The module is designed to develop further an understanding of instrumental usage. Consideration of both standard and extended playing techniques of individual instruments will be included, with particular reference to those instruments encountered less often. Guidance will be given on how to develop an original and individual approach to instrumental colour and function. Issues related to writing for the voice will also be addressed. The module will also study issues raised by the musical notations employed by composers since c. 1950 and by improvisers in different fields who have (more or less) rejected Western musical notation as a tool. The module provides opportunity for composers to experiment and engage with different types of notation in a practical setting. To take this module you should have: the ability to read advanced notation and scores, including a basic knowledge of standard orchestral instruments and playing techniques; some knowledge of recent developments in contemporary ‘classical’ music and familiarity with the developments of 20th Century compositional thought from Webern to Boulez, Stockhausen, Ligeti, etc. Convenor: Roger Redgate 30 credits. Creative project Module title Credits. Creative Project Creative Project 60 credits The Creative Project acts as a focus for the knowledge and skills acquired during the course, and gives students the opportunity to undertake independent exploratory creative work - employing relevant research methods, creative strategies and contemporary techniques that build upon the advanced and systematic understandings developed in other elements of the programme. It requires substantial independent study, which will be supported by individual consultation with the appointed supervisor, with particular emphasis on term 3, supported by compositional workshops and other practical activities as applicable. 60 credits. Download the programme specification for the 2018-19 intake. If you would like an earlier version of the programme specification, please contact the Quality Office. Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.

MMus in Sonic Arts

Price on request