Composition is integral to Music at Bristol at every level of study. The wide and complementary interests of its current composing staff Professor John Pickard, Dr. Neal Farwell and Dr. Michael Ellison, as well as top quality visiting composers, ensure a lively scene supported by excellent public concerts and workshop opportunities, and state of the art studios.
Recent and current visiting artists giving concerts and workshops of student compositions include:
We also have regular performances of student works by the student-led Contemporary Music Venture (CMV)
Visiting composer seminars have recently been given by:
In 2009 we began a major collaboration with Bristol Ensemble, the city's professional chamber orchestra (formerly known as Emerald Ensemble), sponsored by the Bristol Institute for Research in the Humanities and Arts as winner of the BIRTHA Research Programmes Scheme 2009.
More information about the Composition and Recording Studios and about BULO can be found at the studios' homepage.
All undergraduates take an introductory course in Composition during their first year. We understand that many students may not have thought themselves capable of composing before, but even if they have done quite a bit, by starting from basic principles and through practical workshops in instrumental and studio genres, the Bristol course rapidly provides the tools and experience, developing technical command and confidence at all levels. Many students then take the option to continue through intensive second year units - choosing from (or combining) "Compositional Strategy", "Studio Composition Live", and "Writing for Orchestra" - leading to final year composition options in either acoustic or studio composition (or both), either of which can be a major (40 credit) or minor (20 credit) project.
We engage with all genres of serious contemporary composing:
Most years we have 12 MA-CFTV composers, several MAs, and the expanding PhD community now exceeds 12 composers. Recent PhD graduates receiving significant national exposure include Alan Charlton, Geoffrey Palmer, Owen Leech, Halyna Ovcharenko, Christian Alexander and Alwynne Pritchard. Most of our current postgraduates are achieving successes with Sound and Music, Cutting Edge, or COMA (UK) and competition successes such as the University of Aberdeen Music Prize.
The broad range of high-art styles and technical preoccupations in 21st-century composition is well represented by the complementary interests of the composition staff, who are highly active as contemporary composers and have established serious profiles far beyond the University or indeed this country. John Pickard's direct and powerful musicality is seen in a variety of concert genres, particularly in his internationally acclaimed string quartets, orchestral works and brass band scores. Electro-acoustic specialist Neal Farwell brings the latest of international technologies and aesthetics to his post-modernist perspective, and is especially involved in music combining electronics with live instruments and voices. Michael Ellison, American by birth and education but resident in Istanbul for the decade until his appointment in Bristol, combines musical insights from both worlds in his powerful and refined individual voice. All are active as conductors, committed equally to the high level performance of new music and to wider repertoires.
Weekly research seminars (sometimes with invited specialist composers) provide the opportunity to explore and discuss a spectrum of contemporary ideas, tastes and points of view, ensuring that each composer is able to test and extend his/her unique contribution to new music.
There are two possibilities for taught postgraduate composition, and three for postgraduate research:
If you are interested in applying for a Research Degree in composition, please contact John Pickard, Neal Farwell or Michael Ellison to discuss your ideas. You may wish also to read the further details for composers.