Bristol is famous as a film-making city, and the University Music Department's fine reputation for Composition has been strengthened since 1994 by the international standing of this course.
The programme provides professional training in the practice and ideas of composing for screen media. Core teaching covers the technological bases, along with academic and critical perspectives, taught by in-house experts; and units in television and film scoring taught by guest composers active in the professional world. A range of options allow you to build your technical strengths according to need, and follow your interests in the practices of film-making, or in research skills as the foundation for further study.
The MA is taught within our high-specification Composition and Recording Studios, which have full-time technical support. Students are actively encouraged in building opportunities and networks, within and beyond the University, for projects in film, animation, documentary and more. The vibrant musical life of the Music Department provides opportunities for student and professional performance, and we are located at the heart of one of the UK's leading cities for broadcast, commercial and creative screen media.
Visit the Composition homepage for an overview of the people, culture and composer opportunities in the Department of Music, and to see how your postgraduate study is at the centre of what we do.
For information on how to apply, read about the application portfolio for MA-FTV.
The summative assessment of the MA in Composing for Film and TV may be approached by two routes, either (1) a portfolio of original media compositions, or (2) one original media composition and a critical dissertation on an agreed media music topic. The choice of whether to write a Dissertation lies with the student, in consultation with the Programme Director. Students taking option (1) build their media portfolio throughout the year, but the main body of work is during the summer period following completion of the taught units. The portfolio usually includes collaboration with one of the MAFTVP or MAASM projects in the Drama Department. Guidance on the portfolio is provided by the course Tutor and by the Programme Director.
This is a practice-led unit which offers direct experience of the approaches used in media composition today, taught by a guest tutor professionally active in the industry. The unit develops skills in musical characterisation across varied genres, focusing on forms such as Television documentary, promotional videos, advertising and library music. The sessions consider the appropriate use of the latest studio techniques with or without live resources, working to a brief, and considerations of style in relation to the target audience. The unit brings together techniques taught in the Professional Techniques unit and in the student’s choice of optional unit such as Writing for Orchestra.
Director: Mr Jonathan Scott
This unit introduces the concept of studio production: the gray area in between the typical job of a composer and the creation of a polished audio ‘product’. The unit trains the aspiring media composer in the key aspects of music studio work and covers techniques in: effective MIDI sequencing; use of sample libraries and synthesis; audio recording; audio mixing; audio mastering; picture synchronisation. Assignments include the opportunity for live workshop performance of specially composed scores from which the recording may be mixed into a project prescribed in the Media Composition unit.
The unit builds upon the technical skills and media experience established in the first semester to consider larger forms, dramatic scenarios and the feature film. This is a practice-led unit, taught by a guest tutor professionally active in the industry. Sessions consider responses to narrative techniques, genre, acting, larger-scale compositional architecture, orchestration and sound synthesis. The unit includes an introduction to the media-music business world, including issues such as making a pitch, working to a budget, and approaches to self-promotion in the industry.
The unit is designed to introduce students to different ways of looking at music for film and TV, and to the choice of different analytical tools and methods, depending on the salient features of the music in question. The unit introduces the students to characteristic examples from different periods of film music history, from early sound film to the present day, including original scores as well as compilation scores, and to appropriate theoretical frameworks (including narrative theory, semiotics, critical theory) and analytical methods to describe those score adequately. Issues discussed in the session devoted to TV music include music in fact-based programmes (news, documentaries, features), music in TV series and music in TV advertising. The unit starts with the analysis of examples in lectures and mixed lecture/seminar sessions and moves on to sessions in which the students apply what they have learned to their own analyses.
As the foundation to the MA courses it serves, the unit seeks to develop an awareness of some of the key aesthetic and narrative conventions and issues underlying screen-based material. This is achieved by means of a series of individual and group-based practical exercises undertaken to a series of closely structured briefs. The product of these exercises is used as the basis for guided critical discussion led by the Unit Leader. An important element of the unit is the completion of group-work to deadline and within tight constraints, and the presentation and critical reflection on individual and group work.
The unit provides appropriate structures and supervision for the conceptualisation and development of independent project-based and research work appropriate to the programmes it serves. It is intended as a developmental bridge between the induction stages of the programmes and the dissertation, and as such may cover a range of technical, conceptual, theoretical or practical issues, tasks and processes.
This unit is intended to develop the core skills needed to organise and work out a composition from conception to delivery of performance materials. We will focus on chamber music in order to facilitate study of instrumental usage, ensemble design, continuity of idea, texture, and formative approaches. We also cover elements of analysis, repertoire, and orchestration. A study of the contemporary new music scene and the profession will provide orientation on your prospects outside of the University. The Professional Composing unit culminates in a commissioned piece of about 6 minutes from each student for workshop / recording with our resident ensemble Gemini.
This unit develops knowledge of the wide-ranging options for the use of electronics in composition and performance and combines technical and aesthetic concerns, demonstrated through original compositions. The focus is on combining acoustic instrument(s) and/or voice(s) with live electronic resources, but other areas such as acousmatic composition, sound installation, and design of new performance interfaces will be studied according to student expertise and interests. The unit will also address questions of presentation, dissemination, portability and preservation for music that is dependent on rapidly-changing technical resources. Extensive foundational knowledge of studio composition is assumed, but if lacking can be made up by additional attendance in undergraduate and other graduate classes. A substantial element of individual study and compositional activity is expected, with these elements brought together in tutorial. The unit equips composers to include a substantial electronic component in their MA portfolio, and prepares them for further compositional research involving electronics.
This unit will begin with weekly seminars on contemporary music, each one highlighting an issue for creative response in the form of a weekly exercise or compositional miniature on specified topics. Later in the semester, this will replaced by the composition of more extended movements for student ensembles as agreed with the unit director.
This unit will develop students’ understanding of the harmonic language of the 19th century, both through the analysis of representative models and the composition of songs, piano and chamber music pieces in similar styles. By way of introduction, the piano music of Schumann will be examined, but the main part of the course will be devoted to the work of Mendelssohn and Brahms. Exercises will vary between the completion of extracts and the composition of substantial songs or movements for piano or small chamber ensembles.
This unit will introduce students to the compositional techniques of the classical and early romantic periods, both through the analysis of representative movements and the composition of short pastiche exercises in these styles. It will deal, in the main, with song accompaniments in the style of Schubert, though some attention will also be given to classical string quartet writing in the style of Haydn and Mozart.
This unit introduces students to the essential techniques of orchestral writing. We will begin by studying the capabilities of the individual instruments, section by section, using practical demonstrations wherever possible. We will then learn to blend instruments within their family groups and eventually to combine these groups into full orchestral textures. Examples used will be drawn mainly from Classical and Romantic orchestral literature, together with some from the early twentieth century.
For further information on life as a postgraduate in Bristol, visit the Graduate School of Arts and Humanities.
For advice on what kind of scores and materials to send, read about the application portfolio for MA-FTV. For enquiries about the course please contact one of the following: