Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Music

Magdalena Halay

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your

I am a composer, computer musician, violinist, clarinetist, singer and kickboxer. While studying my BA in music I gained interests in composition, performance, acoustics and computer music. I have had my compositions performed by professional performers, including members of the Edinburgh Quartet, and I have performed my own
compositions throughout the UK at various events. Additionally, I have performed as a professional performer internationally at festivals and on BBC radio and TV, amongst others.

What made you apply to your MA course and to Leeds?

I wanted to apply for the Computer Music MA course at the University of Leeds as there is a wealth of scholarships provided by the university. I was awarded a scholarship which massively helped me financially. I had also heard from other students currently studying within the School of Music that the university had excellent teaching and facilities.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?

I don’t think there was an aspect of the course that I didn’t enjoy. I loved the fact that I could explore most of my interests throughout the whole course. I took Composition as a discovery module so I could continue composing. The Computer Music Practice module enabled me to explore visual programming languages to create an interactive composition and performance system that used camera input. The project for this is flexible and you can create what you want with the knowledge gained from the module. I wanted to explore interactive composition and performance and gain further coding skills, so I decided to research and develop an audio-visual spatialisation of music and sound application in virtual reality using Unity and Google cardboard.

The Professional Studies module is compulsory for everyone, which is great as you get to meet all Music Masters students on different courses. I particularly enjoyed giving the presentation in second semester on the topic of my choosing. I chose to explore voice extraction procedures in music. I was able to take this presentation to a conference at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Research in Music (ICSRiM), so the course prepares and gives you opportunities to give talks about your interests in a professional academic setting.

The Computer Music Contexts module introduced me to philosophical ideas and critical thinking within Computer Music. The discussions were always provoking and engaging. It challenged me to think differently about everything, and I find learning experiences such as these invaluable.

I also joined the Music department’s LSTwo New Music Ensemble during my Masters where we worked with avant-garde composer, Hans-Joachim Hespos, as we performed his works under his guidance, and it was a great experience to have one-to-one composition tutorials with him.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your school and at the University in general?

The learning facilities are excellent in the School of Music. There are many practice rooms with pianos in each room and sound proofing is being installed. There are percussion rooms, store rooms for instruments, and a main concert hall where many concerts take place. Also there are recording and mixing studios with excellent equipment, and different recording equipment can be borrowed during the day from the technicians, who are also helpful and friendly with any technical issues and questions you may have.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

There are so many societies at the University and something for everyone. It’s worth checking them out and joining at least one: it’s a great way to meet others with similar interests to you. I joined the advanced kickboxing classes at Leeds University Union Kickboxing and Krav Maga society so that I could continue practising kickboxing. They have internal competitions throughout the year. The UK Universities Kickboxing Championships is held in Leeds every year and run by the club; universities from all over the UK travel to participate in this competition.

 What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

If you would like guidance yet flexibility in researching your Computer Music interests, this course is for you. The Masters is flexible and what you gain from it is really how much you take advantage of the teaching and learning facilities. I wanted to learn and gain new skills as much as possible and I was happy that this course enabled me to do just that.

What do you plan to do now you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

Now that I have finished my Masters, I can continue to work as a professional musician with extra skills, and incorporate these into my performances and compositions. I am always improving the audiovisual spatialisation of composition and sound application that I started during my Masters and would like it to be available for others to download and use one day.

I am currently studying for a Graduate Diploma in mathematics at the University of Leeds. The skills and knowledge I gained on the Computer Music MA has helped me with researching, and general problem solving and understanding. The coding experiences during the Masters have helped me with the Python coding assignments in my current mathematic courses too. Programming skills are desirable for many jobs too.

In the future, I would like to combine my computer music and mathematical knowledge one day to create useful systems that everyone can benefit from, so the skills and knowledge I gained from my Computer Music MA will continue to help me in future research and projects that I plan to do.


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