Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

Popular Music (Research, Production or Performance) - MA

2018

Our taught and research programmes are exciting and innovative, offering you the opportunity to mix with composers, sound designers, film-makers, technologists, ethnomusicologists, theorists, visual artists and curators.

2018

Overview

During your time with us, you become part of our specialist community, exchanging ideas and developing your own creative and intellectual interests, informed by expert academic staff within the School of Music and Fine Art.

All our MA programmes are designed to provide knowledge and skills in practice-based research, as well as giving you experience of current research practices in various areas of critical and analytical thinking. The MA in Popular Music (Research, Production or Performance) offers a high level of flexibility enabling you to choose a pathway that best suits your key interests.

About the School of Music and Fine Art

We are situated on the Medway campus of the University of Kent and our facilities include purpose-built recording studios, post-production rooms, rehearsal spaces, workstations and seminar rooms. We have a professionally designed 5.1 recording and compositional space and a spatial audio studio. In addition, we have a multi-loudspeaker sound diffusion system for the performance of sonic art and live electronics.

The School is also home to the Sound-Image-Space Research Centre which promotes practice-led research underpinned by theory and scholarship within the broad domain of image, sound and the spatial arts. The focus is on new collaborative relationships that generate research outputs through multiple modalities; these include the production of new creative work, performance, publication, and exhibition and curation.

Our students explore both the creative and technical aspects of music and its related technologies and also have the opportunity to work collaboratively with practitioners from other arts subjects.

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, Arts at Kent was ranked 1st for research power and in the top 20 in the UK for research quality.

An impressive 98% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.

Course structure

The programme is divided into two stages. Stage 1 comprises modules to a total of 120 credits and Stage 2 comprises a 60 credit dissertation module. Students must successfully complete each module in order to be awarded the specified number of credits for that module. One credit corresponds to approximately ten hours of 'learning time' (including all classes and all private study and research). Thus obtaining 180 credits in an academic year requires 1,800 hours of overall learning time.

Pathways

The programme has three pathways: Research, Production or Performance. Students choose one of these pathways. The three pathways are distinguished in the four ways set out below:

A pathway will usually be reinforced by the choice of research area for the Dissertation module.

  1. Pathways are primarily distinguished by choices made in the Specialist Project module:
    Research: Musicological/Ethnomusicological study
    Production: Production portfolio
    Performance: Concert
  2. The recommended option modules for each pathway creates a further distinction between pathways:
    Research: Popular and World Music OR Collaborative Project
    Production: Cinema for the Ears OR Advanced Acoustics and Psychoacoustics
    Performance: Ensemble Performance OR Technology in Performance
  3. The recommended compulsory module choice creates a further distinction between pathways:
    Research: Critical and Historical Perspectives on Music
    Production: Advanced Audio Skills
    Performance: Advanced Audio Skills OR Critical and Historical Perspectives on Music

Programme Structure for Part-Time Students

In year 1, part-time students study for the Dissertation module and EITHER Critical and Historical Perspectives on Music OR Advanced Audio Skills. In year 2, part-time students study for the Specialist Project module and an option module.

Modules

Each module is designed to be at a specific level. To be eligible for the award of a masters degree students must obtain 180 credits, at least 150 of which must be Level M. Students who obtain 120 credits, but excluding the dissertation, will be eligible for the award of diploma.

Compulsory modules are core to the programme and must be taken by all students studying the programme. Optional modules provide a choice of subject areas, from which students will select a stated number of modules.

Modules may include Credits

This module aims to develop students’ understanding and skills in a specialised area through student-led work. Students will be encouraged to augment their understanding of their specialism by producing a substantial piece of work in their chosen area. This area of study will focus upon one of the following disciplines: performance, music production or music analysis. Although students will focus upon one of these areas they will develop key insights into related areas of specialist study through whole group seminars and discussions. Students will also be encouraged to present parts of their project and related work at other events, such as concerts and conferences, throughout the year.

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60

This module aims to imbue the student with an advanced compositional ability to a point where meaningful work can take place on the MA Composition Project and Dissertation and Research Skills modules. It will cover a range of contemporary music in the form of a series of etudes in compositional areas that will encourage the development of current practice and an understanding of compositional strategies. It will establish a thorough technical base for future compositional output in a wide range of areas including: acoustic composition, electroacoustic music, composition with live electronics and functional electronic music in combination with other arts subjects.

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30

The module concentrates on the development of student’s skills in performing with music technology, exploring live electronic music with a particular focus on recent developments in laptop music performance. The students will take part in music activities, including group performance. Topics include current use of various interfaces, combination of live instruments with electronic devices, and live processing. Students will develop their understanding of the role of technology in performance, their sensitivity to material introduced during performance by the group, and the interaction of live and processed musical elements.

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30

The module explores communication acoustics through an ecological perspective; sound generation and propagation, diffraction, reflection, reverberation, modal resonances and absorption, and related architectural acoustics issues; instruments, rooms and plates; and intensity, loudness, audio evaluation and experimental practice. The module looks at current and recent acoustical research, and means of accessing it through published papers, online and paper journals, and conference proceedings.

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15

This module examines the physiological and the perceptual, and forges a link between these two frames of reference, looking at how auditory perceptions arise. It explores processes involved in the organisation of sonic sensations into meaningful percepts, providing both a theoretical and an empirical support to the understanding of how humans interpret and respond to sound and sound structures. Students will be encouraged to develop projects that relate their personal interest in sound and music to the areas of psychoacoustics, and to discuss interrelations with acoustics taught mainly through the pre/co-requisite module.

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15

This module will explore sound-based music composition and analysis, including the work of significant electroacoustic composers and will be taught through a series of interactive seminars. Students will study both the aesthetics and technology of sound-based music, and they will be led to produce creative pieces of work that explore the rich potential offered by sound processing and arranging techniques.

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15

This module will explore spatial sound, multi-loudspeaker and surround sound formats, including an outline of the developments of spatial sound music and the work of significant electroacoustic composers. Students will study both the aesthetics and technology of multi-loudspeaker music, including stereo diffusion techniques, large sound distribution systems and multichannel sound installations. Students will be led to produce creative pieces of work that explore the rich potential offered by sound spatialisation techniques.

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15

The module will focus upon ensemble performance skills and will allow students to develop their understanding of their principal instrument of study in the context of small ensemble or band performances. Students will be expected to develop a thorough understanding of key aspects of ensemble performance such as the importance of shaping passages as a group, communicating throughout a performance, and maintaining a coherent approach to dynamics and tempo changes. They will also begin to consider how to recognise and appreciate the approach of other musicians with an ear for details and articulation, details that will differ from one performance to the next. Regular workshops will be the primary mode of delivery and students will be challenged throughout the course to prepare more effectively for workshop rehearsals and to make use of rehearsal time that is evermore effective.

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15

The module will build on skills and understanding developed in the prerequisite module Ensemble Performance A and will allow students to develop further their understanding of their principal instrument of study in the context of small ensemble or band performances. Students will be expected to develop a thorough understanding of key aspects of ensemble performance such as approaches to balance, parity of phrasing and responsiveness to details of articulation; they will also be expected to develop a far more thorough understanding of the details of and interaction between the parts of a song or work. They will also develop far greater skill in responding sensitively to other musicians with an ear for details and articulation and pitch nuance, details that will differ from one performance to the next. Regular workshops will be the primary mode of delivery and students will be challenged throughout the course to prepare more effectively for workshop rehearsals and to make use of rehearsal time that is evermore effective.

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15

This module examines the intimate interconnection of Anglo-American popular music and music of folk and non-Western origin. Students will look in detail at the stylistic features of popular music and consider the role of music from places such as Africa, Asia and South America in their formation and development. The course will systematically introduce a number of key concepts in the study of popular and world music such as otherness, diaspora, hybridity, syncretism and creolisation.

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15

This module builds on the insight and understanding developed in the module Popular and World Music A. Students will look in detail at the the notion of world music in relation to the development of comparative musicology and ethnomusicology and in relation to the concept of world music as a market category or genre field within the domain of Western popular music. The module will systematically introduce a number of key concepts in the study of popular and world music such as authenticity, postmodernity and emic vs. etic perspectives on music as cultural practice.

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15

This module aims to imbue the student with advanced development and production skills and outlook to a point where meaningful work can take place on the MA Music Technology Project and Dissertation and Research Skills modules. The work will be on a small scale – testing out ideas. It will cover a range of music technology issues found in contemporary music that will encourage the development of current practice and an understanding of current creative strategies. It will establish a thorough technical base for future outputs based on the use of music technology. The student will engage with a wide range of areas including: computer-based composition, interactive systems, live electronics, sound spatialisation, audio programming, or music technology in combination with other arts areas.

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30

This module aims to enable students to develop an advanced understanding of music so that meaningful work can take place on the MA Specialist Project and Dissertation and Research Skills modules. It will cover a range of critical and historical perspectives on music enabling students to develop their own understanding of the field. It will establish a thorough grounding in key issues and methods including: close reading, semiotics, genre theory, critical theory, and the role of social forces such as race, gender and class in the production and reception of music.

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30

This module aims to foster the student's ability to develop her/his research skills through student-led work, and to develop an advanced understanding of musical endeavour. The module facilitates the transition from undergraduate level work or employment to self-management of independent postgraduate study and the formulation and presentation of an agreed research proposal and dissertation. Through a series of themed seminars, it will address current arguments and historical paradigms surrounding music theory and practice, considering areas such as research methods, the role of social forces in the production and reception of music, and perspectives on musical practices. The series will draw upon a number of disciplines, such as critical theory, cultural studies and philosophy. Students will attend the regular School of Music and Fine Art postgraduate seminars, which will encourage the consideration and discussion of research in relation to different practices, contexts and methods.

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60

Teaching and Assessment

Assessment is by a range of coursework, including individual projects, skills-based tasks, seminar presentations and written work.

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • enable students to develop an advanced understanding of music theory and practice taking into account developments in scholarship over the past few decades. In achieving this aim, students will focus upon theoretical and/or practice-based research methods and, in all cases, will engage a range of current research practices that address music critically.
  • provide opportunities for students to develop their work through individual enquiry and through sharing and critiquing ideas at group seminars, which will provide a forum for debate as well as instruction. Staff members who have interests and expertise in various areas of music will run these seminars and students will be encouraged to take up related opportunities for collaborative and interdisciplinary work taking into account other subjects at Medway and Canterbury.
  • combine taught and research modules throughout, allowing for the integrated development of generic and subject-specific acumen. More specifically, a Dissertation module will run in parallel with modules in advanced musical skills (popular musicological or compositional/ technological), specialist project work and option modules. Thus the student will begin to develop their own research expertise while gaining an advanced understanding of wider scholarly insights and skills. To this end, students will be expected to attend research seminars held in the School of Music and Fine Art and will be encouraged to attend and present at postgraduate conferences and study days at the University of Kent and other institutions.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

A knowledge and understanding of:

  • key texts, issues and methods in the study and practice of music, particularly popular music
  • music, particularly popular music, in theory and practice with special reference to research in a specialised area
  • critical approaches to the wider cultural context of popular music with particular regard for a specialised field

Intellectual skills

Intellectual Skills include:

  • critically evaluating and analysing musical texts, using specific terminology and employing a range of methodologies
  • dealing with complex issues both systematically and creatively, developing appropriate and innovative solutions
  • developing systematic approaches to independent and reflexive learning so as to develop new skills to an advanced level

Subject-specific skills

Subject-specific Skills include:

  • Interrogating and contextualising musical materials, particularly those pertaining to popular music traditions, in forming coherent work that demonstrates self-direction and originality
  • Working on a large-scale project over an extended period of time, drawing on existing skills and developing new ones
  • Presenting and disseminating work to specialist and non-specialist audiences using appropriate terminology

Transferable skills

Transferable Skills include:

  • the ability to exercise initiative and personal responsibility
  • the ability to develop clear concepts and ideas when presented with complex situations and conflicting information
  • the capacity to communicate and express arguments with conviction, referring to key issues and relevant questions.

Careers

A postgraduate degree in the area of music and audio arts is a valuable and flexible qualification, which can lead to career opportunities within the creative industries, music recording and production, audio software development, sound for film, composition and academic careers.

These possibilities are augmented by work in video games, the Internet, live sound for theatres and festivals, audio installations for museums, sonic arts and computer music. Postgraduates interested in a research career are supported by the University’s Graduate School Research Development Programme. The University’s Employability Weeks can also provide valuable support in terms of planning future careers.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The University of Kent has invested over £5 million in the School of Music and Fine Art, to provide you with the best possible study and research environment. A number of historic buildings in the atmospheric Chatham Historic Dockyard have been renovated to provide a new range of professional standard facilities. Our new specialist facilities include a large recording studio, a Foley recording space, surround-sound studio and post-production rooms. All have been designed to the highest standard in order to provide an excellent environment for postgraduate work.

We have an array of loudspeakers for electroacoustic performance, live sound and collaborative arts projects. Students are encouraged to participate in these music concerts
and interdisciplinary events, becoming part of the exciting artistic environment here at the University of Kent.

The University’s Drill Hall Library is well resourced in our subject area and houses special collections of CDs, DVDs and musical scores. Students also have access to specialist online and printed journals as well as other electronic resources.

Research-led musical culture

Members of staff have their work performed regularly. Recently performed works include: Northern Loop, an eighty-minute electroacoustic work in collaboration with Ambrose Field, released on the Sargasso label (Dr Paul Fretwell); Flags, audio-visual work in collaboration with Nick Cope, part of The Engine Room exhibition (Professor Tim Howle); Diesis, for solo double bass and electronics performed by Enno Senft (Duncan MacLeod).

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

A first or 2.1 honours degree, usually in a relevant humanities subject. In certain circumstances, the School will consider candidates who have not followed a conventional education path but who may have relevant experience in the industry. These cases are assessed individually by the Director of Graduate Studies.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Kent is a top 20 research-intensive university. All of our academic schools produce world-class research, and Kent is rated as internationally excellent, leading the way in many fields of study.

Sound-Image-Space Research Centre

The School of Music and Fine Art is home to the Sound-Image-Space Research Centre which promotes practice-led research underpinned by theory and scholarship within the broad domain of image, sound and the spatial arts. The focus is on new collaborative relationships that generate research outputs through multiple modalities; these include the production of new creative work, performance, publication, and exhibition and curation.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Ben Curry: Lecturer in Music

Ben Curry is a musicologist specializing in the field of music and meaning, particularly semiotic approaches to the field. His musical interests stretch from the eighteenth century to the present day

Further areas of interest include music analysis, film music, classical music of the twentieth century, sonic art and the role of twentieth-century technologies in the production and reception of music.

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Professor Kevin Dawe: Professor of Ethnomusicology

Kevin’s research, teaching and performance experience in rock, blues, folk and classical guitar have taken him across the globe, providing the foundation for studies of a variety of instruments (such the mandolin, sitar, Turkish saz, and Cretan lyra), and leading on to graduate studies in ethnomusicology and the anthropology of music. He studied biology at Exeter and biological anthropology at UCL before going to Belfast and was captivated by John Blacking’s ideas and theories on ‘humanly organized sound’ and ‘soundly organized humanity’, and his work on music and the body. Such influences have surfaced in Kevin’s research in ecomusicology and interests in music, health and wellbeing. His current field of research is the popular music of the Mediterranean region, moving from Cretan lyra players to Turkish guitarists, with a focus on deep immersive ethnographic studies.

Kevin serves on editorial boards and acts as a peer reviewer for a number of journals and publishers.  He is also busy as a PhD supervisor.

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Dr Paul Fretwell: Senior Lecturer in Music

Paul’s research focuses on music composition.  His current work explores the tensions and oppositions between the instrumental and electronic approaches to composition and performance.  These divisions are often cultural, rather than specifically musical (for example, performance venue, audience, etiquette).  Historical styles and previous musical traditions are also an important factor.  He enjoys creating works that play with musical references from different musical eras, as well as works that blur the boundaries between formal concert, club environment and background music.

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Professor Tim Howle: Professor of Contemporary Music

Tim’s interests include developing composition, primarily sonic art, acoustic music and music for experimental video.

His academic career has focused on composing sonic art, acoustic music, and the relationship that these areas have with other arts subjects.

Tim currently supervises PhDs in sonic art and composition and has recently examined PhDs at Keele and York.

He has performed over 1,000 gigs in a post-punk experimental band, gained an independent recording contract and had music selected for the John Peel Show.

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Richard Lightman: Lecturer in Popular Music

Hailing from Montreal, Canada, Richard has produced over 35 albums covering a wide spectrum of music, and contributing to the sound design of a number of Hollywood films. He was also the former CEO of the Music Producers Guild.

Richard’s research examines the evolution of the South Asian diaspora-based Bhangra music brought to the UK and its ultimate hybridity and appropriation by diverse cultures seeking new identities. The resultant product being a wholly indigenous music that then has been exported globally. The focus of the research is based on Lightman’s experience as a Bhangra record producer in the early 1990s and the negotiation and translation of musical form and cultural expectations, and the mediation between South Asian and Western sensibilities. It is this discourse of mediation and the key questions of cultural capital that drive his research.

His other interests include copyright issues and negotiations with the government alongside UK Music with reference to the Digital Economy Act.

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Duncan MacLeod: Lecturer in Music

Duncan is a composer whose compositional output encompasses concert music, cross-arts collaboration computer music and electro-acoustic composition.

Duncan’s creative practice and research is primarily centred on the creative application of spatialisation, temperament and manipulation of timbre. A specific area of focus for this research involves concepts of spectator immersion and the blurring of spatial boundaries between performance platform and audience alongside challenging the traditional distinctions of high/low culture. This has led him to explore and develop approaches to reinterpreting formal environments such as the concert hall, as well as the utilisation of unconventional and unique performance spaces, such as clubs or museums. These strands reflect a broader compositional interest in the exploration and creative manipulation of music perception and cognition. New technology is therefore a key aspect of his research methodology. As such, he has research interests in the application of real-time digital signal processing/live electronics as an extension of acoustic instrumental technique, alongside exploring the interface between performer and computer.

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Dr Aki Pasoulas: Lecturer in Music

Aki is an electroacoustic composer, interested particularly in acousmatic music, sonic art, sound perception and spatial sound. His works are continually performed worldwide. He originally studied and worked as a graphic designer, before embarking on music studies.

Aki was a Society for the Promotion of New music (SPNM) shortlisted composer for 2008-11.

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Fees

The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Popular Music (Performance) - MA at Medway:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7300 £15200
Popular Music (Production) - MA at Medway:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7300 £15200
Popular Music (Research) - MA at Medway:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7300 £15200

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both: