Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications

School of Music

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MMus Critical and Experimental Composition

Develop your creativity and technical fluency with this specialised programme, which allows you to specialise in composition while maintaining an interest in different aspects of music.

Core modules will allow you to create your own portfolio of original compositions – which can include electro-acoustic work – underpinned by your study of the principles of composition and aesthetic theory. You’ll look at orchestration, arrangement and remix. Then you’ll choose from optional modules allowing you to explore different aspects of music – you could choose electronic and computer music, musicology, performance, editing and source studies, psychology of music or more to inform your own creative work.

Guided by expert researchers and experienced composers and performers, you’ll have access to a wide range of facilities to explore your own ideas. You could even have some of your work performed by our ensemble, LS2, or benefit from the many opportunities you’ll find in the city’s vibrant live music scene.

We have a variety of excellent facilities to support your learning, including rehearsal, performance and practice spaces, a lab for studying the psychology of music and studios for sound recording, software development and computer music composition. We also have good working relationships with a range of prestigious arts organisations: we host BBC Radio 3 concerts, Leeds Lieder and the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition, as well as enjoying a close partnership with Opera North and many others in a city with a thriving music and cultural scene.

Take a virtual tour of the School of Music.

You’ll work on your own compositions throughout the year, developing a portfolio of original work supported and informed by a range of learning opportunities, from tutorials and lectures through to workshops with guest artists.

Throughout the year you’ll take a combination of core modules that allow you to develop your skills as a musician and composer. You’ll develop your academic skills, including research and presentation skills, as well as studying the principles of composition and different professional contexts.

You’ll develop an awareness of broader topics in the study of music to help inform your practice. Central to this is the core module in Semester Two that introduces you to aesthetic theory.

In addition, you’ll choose from the range of optional modules on offer across the School of Music depending on your individual interests and experience: options include performance, editing and archival studies, musicology, computer music, psychology of music and more.

If you choose to study part-time, you’ll study over a longer period and take fewer modules in each year.

Course structure

These are typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our Terms and conditions.

Year 1

Compulsory modules

  • Professional Studies 30 credits
  • Composition Studies 30 credits
  • Portfolio of Original Composition 60 credits
  • Aesthetic Theory 30 credits

Optional modules

  • Individual Project 30 credits
  • Short Dissertation 30 credits
  • Instrumental or Vocal Recital 30 credits
  • Concerto/Song-Cycle/Extended Work 30 credits
  • Applied Performance Studies 30 credits
  • Editing and Archival Studies 30 credits
  • Issues in Critical Musicology 30 credits
  • Computer Music Practice 30 credits
  • Computer Music Contexts 30 credits
  • Case Studies in the Applied Psychology of Music 30 credits
  • Audience Engagement and Impact 30 credits

Learning and teaching

Most of our taught modules will use seminars and tutorials, as well as lectures and instrumental or vocal lessons, depending on the modules you choose. However, independent study is the backbone of this programme, allowing you to build your skills and express your own creativity.


Obviously, you’ll submit original compositions as an important part of your assessment. You will also write commentaries on your own work — drawing on musical/theoretical contexts — and more theoretical modules are likely to make use of written tasks such as essays and reports. Optional modules may also involve assessment through recitals, transcriptions or critical editions, presentations or other forms of assessment.

Entry requirements

A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) in music, or equivalent qualification

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component . For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

Improve your English

If English is not your first language, you may be able to take a pre-sessional course before you begin your studies. This can help if you:

  • don't meet the English language requirements for your course or
  • want to improve your understanding of academic language and practices in your area of study.

Our pre-sessional courses are designed with a progression route to the degree programme and are tailored to the subject area. For information and entry requirements, read Language for Arts and Humanities (6 weeks) and Language for Social Science and Arts: Arts and Humanities (10 weeks).

How to apply

We will consider applications from 1 October – 1 September.

However, we recommend you apply as early as possible, especially if you are planning to apply for external funding. You will usually be expected to have an offer of a place on a programme before you apply for funding. You may also need to leave time to make arrangements such as visa applications or relocating to Leeds.

This link takes you to information on applying for taught programmes and to the University's online application system.
If you're unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

Documents and information you need

Your degree certificate and transcript, or a partial transcript if you’re still studying.

Two academic references.

A recent composition (if hard-copy score, no larger than A4) and recordings if you have them. These can include links to websites, Dropbox, Soundcloud, or similar.

A copy (or draft) of an essay about music in English of around 2,000 words.

If English is not your first language, you’ll need to provide evidence of your English language qualification.

If you want to take a module in performance, we need to see evidence of your performance standard. You can either audition in person or submit a recording on DVD, or a link to a video of your performance online.

Admissions policy

School of Music Taught Postgraduate Admissions Policy


UK/EU: £6,750 (total)

International: £16,250 (total)

Read more about paying fees and charges.

For fees information for international taught postgraduate students, read Masters fees.

Part-time fees are normally calculated based on the number of credits you study in a year compared to the equivalent full-time course. For example, if you study half the course credits in a year, you will pay half the full-time course fees for that year.

Additional cost information

There may be additional costs related to your course or programme of study, or related to being a student at the University of Leeds. Read more about additional costs

Scholarships and financial support

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There may be help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government.  Find out more at Masters funding overview.

Career opportunities

Composition tutors have connections with performers, ensembles, and festivals in all corners of the globe. These relationships can be useful for your professional development, giving you an insight into issues such as funding, publicity and other aspects of working life for professional freelance composers.

Many of our graduates choose to continue and refine their research by applying for PhD level study. Several of our existing PhD students also completed their Masters programmes here at Leeds.

We have other resources to support you as you develop your career plans too – the School of Music boasts a unique Alumni Mentoring Network, where you can be supported by past students as you plan your next steps.

Careers support

We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. Thats one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.

The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more at the Careers website.

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