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BMus Composition

Introduction

When you study Composition, you will be working with our diverse and talented performing community in some of the best facilities in Europe. You’ll benefit from our professional partnerships with leading ensembles and orchestras, and there will be opportunities to hear your work performed. The performance of new work is of paramount importance to us, and we have a significant reputation for contemporary music. Plug, our critically acclaimed annual festival, has become a renowned platform for new work, premiering hundreds of new works.

You’ll be able to work across the disciplines, and explore composition for film, opera, ballet, and musical theatre, developing your ideas without being restricted to a certain type of player or performance. Collaborations have included work with the Paragon Ensemble, Psappha, the Fidelio Trio, the New Music Players, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Flute Trio, Symposia, and Icebreaker, amongst other orchestras and ensembles, and projects such as working with Glasgow School of Art and Glasgow Caledonian University.

You’ll follow your own tailored path through the programme; you can pursue a second study, work in the superb electroacoustic and recording studios, or devise new work in our purpose-built performance venues.

Our staff are working artists, with various areas of specialist expertise. There’s a real sense of community among our composition students, staff, and PhD cohort; the Composers Forum meets weekly, and our students have also set up their own Composers Collective. Composition can be a solitary existence; at the Royal Conservatoire we help you to develop the skills to work with other artists and across the disciplines. Our students have developed a number of projects in dance, theatre, film, and musical theatre, and often arrange their own performances of new work.

Introduction

When you study Composition, you will be working with our diverse and talented performing community in some of the best facilities in Europe. You’ll benefit from our professional partnerships with leading ensembles and orchestras, and there will be opportunities to hear your work performed. The performance of new work is of paramount importance to us, and we have a significant reputation for contemporary music. Plug, our critically acclaimed annual festival, has become a renowned platform for new work, premiering hundreds of new works.

You’ll be able to work across the disciplines, and explore composition for film, opera, ballet, and musical theatre, developing your ideas without being restricted to a certain type of player or performance. Collaborations have included work with the Paragon Ensemble, Psappha, the Fidelio Trio, the New Music Players, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Flute Trio, Symposia, and Icebreaker, amongst other orchestras and ensembles, and projects such as working with Glasgow School of Art and Glasgow Caledonian University.

You’ll follow your own tailored path through the programme; you can pursue a second study, work in the superb electroacoustic and recording studios, or devise new work in our purpose-built performance venues.

Our staff are working artists, with various areas of specialist expertise. There’s a real sense of community among our composition students, staff, and PhD cohort; the Composers Forum meets weekly, and our students have also set up their own Composers Collective. Composition can be a solitary existence; at the Royal Conservatoire we help you to develop the skills to work with other artists and across the disciplines. Our students have developed a number of projects in dance, theatre, film, and musical theatre, and often arrange their own performances of new work.

Programme structure

The course is designed as a four year journey rather than a journey of four individual years. As such the course is suited to the students’ needs and develops at the speed of the individual student. The Department recognises that most composers come to composition later than most instrumentalists and we take that into consideration when developing each individual’s compositional journey. The Principal Study lessons consist of weekly 90-minute tutorials but that is really the beginning of the experience. The Composition department prides itself on its camaraderie and supportive environment and all the years from undergraduate to postgraduate to research are closely integrated.

Each composer is assessed by portfolio and the end of each academic year.

The Composition department has connections and relationships with most professional music groups in Scotland and recently has collaborated with the Paragon Ensemble, Psappha, the Fidelio Trio, the New Music Players, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Flute Trio, Symposia, and Icebreaker, amongst other orchestras and ensembles, and projects such as working with Glasgow School of Art and Glasgow Caledonian University.

Staff and masterclasses

Our members of staff specialise in areas from aesthetics to electroacoustic composition and performance and workshops. Discussion of student composition is at the core of both the undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

We have strong links with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Glasgow School of Art. Our resident group, the Hebrides Ensemble, gives public performances of work by postgraduate composers.

Our centre-piece annual festival of contemporary music – Plug – has premiered many new works and commissions.

Head of Composition

Gordon McPherson BA DPhil

Honorary Professor – Sir James MacMillan CBE

Masterclasses

Previous composers in residence have included Judith Weir and Param Vir. Each has brought her/his own unique approach and they have been joined by a growing list of composers including:

  • Sir Harrison Birtwistle
  • Thomas Adès
  • Sir Richard Rodney Bennett
  • Mark-Anthony Turnage
  • HK Gruber
  • Yannis Kyriakides
  • Donnachy Dennehy
  • Nigel Osborne
  • Richard Ayres
  • Trevor Wishart
  • Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
  • Jonathan Harvey

How to apply

Before applying we recommend that you follow our Applicant Guide journey which provides all the essential information regarding entry requirements, and the full application and audition process.

Begin your Applicant Journey here.

 

Making your application

Applications for the BMus programme should be made through the UCAS Conservatoires website. There is a UCAS application fee of £25 (which is in addition to the audition fee) which allows you up to six choices of programme of study.

Preparing for an interview

The audition/interview panel will take account of all aspects of the applicant’s profile i.e.:

  • performance at audition/interview
  • commitment to the particular programme
  • potential to benefit from the programme
  • academic qualifications
  • personal statement
  • performance qualifications
  • performance/practical experience
  • references
  • contextualised data

Applicants are selected first and foremost on the basis of merit and potential. However, due attention is also paid to the range of Principal Studies accepted in order to ensure the optimum experience for each student and to sustain the critical mass required for curricular activities, such as the symphony orchestra and choral activities.

Plug 2017

Plug is back for its 11th year! Our festival of new student compositions takes over RCS with a celebration of exciting new work. We’ve talked to some of our composers to find out a bit more about them and what they enjoy about Plug.

Featured Composer: Matthew Grouse

Matthew is a talented composer who has enjoyed many exciting opportunities and performances of his work since beginning his studies here at the RCS three years ago. He is looking forward to four more world premieres in #Plug2017 – you can hear his work at Plug 2, Plug 3, Plug 5 and Plug 8!

We asked him a few questions to get to know him a little bit better.

Q. What was the first piece of music you wrote?
A. The first instance of writing my own music was for a pop/rock band that I was part of in school called ‘The IDEA’ (excuse the terrible band name)

Q. What do you do when you’re not composing?
A. I spend some time doing advocacy for animal rights and Veganism, in the form of volunteering on information stalls at the weekends. In the last couple of years I’ve been getting really into film, so I spend a lot of time at the GFT. I listen to a lot of music and love going to gigs. If I ever manage to get some time for it, I’m also a keen golfer!

Q. What’s your favourite memory of Plug?
A. The closing concert in my first year at RCS was probably the highlight for me. Witnessing the work of Colin Broom, Jay Capperauld and Beki Smith which all had so many different things to offer, was incredibly inspiring for a composer, new to the department.

Q. Why do you think people should come to Plug?
A. Anyone interested in new art should come to PLUG! It’s an amazing opportunity to hear a wide range of creative expression and witness the combination of committed composers and incredible performers.

Tell us what Plug means to you in three words: Challenging, inspiring, surprising


Featured Composer: Siobhan Dyson

Siobhan is a passionate composer in the first year of her undergraduate degree here at the RCS, currently studying with Oliver Searle. This is her #RCSPlug debut, we caught up with her to find out what it’s like to be a composer.

Q. How/why did you start composing?

A. I started composing quite young (10) but I thought it was normal. Coming from a non-musical family made it some-what more interesting that I managed to play music that was in my head.

Q. What was the first piece of music you wrote?

A. The first piece I wrote was called “10 Years in the Making” – written when I was 10. I love this piece and it will always be my baby. The composition was actually in my head for a while but I didn’t know how to get it out. I thought maybe I had heard it elsewhere but I was wrong. My Grandad gave me a keyboard and I decided to teach myself, that was when I realised how to produce the song in my head.

Q. Give us one (non-music related) fact about you.

A. I love building things (DIY e.g. laying carpets, making frames, building hutches, making toys for my rabbit, building structures that don’t exceed my height) If I wasn’t a composer I would want to be a builder.

Q.Why do you think people should come to Plug?

A. People should come to plug as there are not many chances for us to show you why were the 3rd in the world. We love writing and want everyone to enjoy what we write just as much as we do.


Featured Composer: Aidan Teplitzky

Aidan is a third-year composer who has the honour of closing our #RCSPlug festival this year (Friday, 7:30pm). His interest in Drag, Identity and Pop Culture provide him with inspiration for his work – and this is what we can look forward to on Friday night!

Aidan offered some wonderful and amusing insights into what it’s like being a composer.

Q. What was the first piece of music you wrote? (What inspired it? How have you changed?)

A. I think it was a double bass Sonata called “Streetlights and Alleyways” and I have no idea what it was about or how it sounded. Probably for the best.

Q. How has studying at the RCS helped/changed the way you write?

A. Being at the RCS has allowed me to write music that is more authentic to who I am as a person.

Q. What do you do when you’re not composing?

A. A mixture between watching trashy tv (The Real Housewives series has a special place in my heart), reading, and making hip pads for drag queens.

Q. What’s your favourite/least favourite instrument to write for?

A. I’d say the trombone is my least favourite as I writing a solo trombone piece at the moment and it’s maddening.

Q. Why do you think people should come to Plug?

A. For me, Plug is the music festival that is for the modern day. The pieces performed in Plug are about the issues of modern life and don’t shy away from addressing these issues. simply put, Plug is the music festival for the now.

Plug in three words: Fabulous Music Darling


Featured Composer: Rylan Gleave

Rylan trained as a classical singer before moving on to pursue composition here at the RCS – you can hear his pieces being performed in the Composer Collective and Glasgow Piano Duets concerts this week during #Plug2017!

Let’s find out a little bit more about Rylan…

Q. How did you start composing?

A. For my 18th birthday I received composition lessons at Chetham’s School of Music, where I was studying voice, after I’d skipped a few too many classes to work on string quartets in the library.

Q. How has studying at the RCS helped/changed the way you write?

A. Studying with David Fennessy at the RCS has given me the opportunity to explore and compose music that I hadn’t considered before, with ensembles and collaborations that wouldn’t be accessible anywhere else.

Q. What do you do when you’re not composing?

A. I enjoy conversing in British Sign Language (which I started learning at the RCS) and interpreting for deaf friends at transgender social groups, reading and researching, attending live music/theatre events, maintaining my online blogs and playing musical instruments.

Q. What’s your favourite memory about Plug / the composition department at the RCS?

A. The chapters of Plug most memorable would be rehearsals, experiencing what was once an abstract thought come to life via incredibly skilled players and conductors. In terms of the composition department, I would note an evening in first year where a fellow composer, Amit, cooked traditional Indian food for our year, and we all got to know each other and our respective writing styles a little better.

Q. Why do you think people should come to Plug?

A. I think people should come to Plug to hear the next generation of composers – you never know who’ll be successful – and their fantastic work performed and conducted by some of Scotland’s finest musicians.

#RCSPlug in three words: Showcase the upcoming.

Entry requirements

  • Scottish Highers – 3 passes (grade C or above)
  • A Levels – 2 passes
  • International Baccalaureate – minimum score of 24 with 3 subjects at Higher Level

Subject recommended

  • Music at Higher, Advanced Higher or A Level or equivalent
  • English at Higher, Advanced Higher or A Level or equivalent

Other standards

A strong indication of potential is sough at the entrance audition for this programme. Successful applicants will normally be of a standard at least equivalent to Grade 8 with Distinction of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in their Principal Study.

We offer a flexible approach to students taking Highers over more than one academic year and/or who achieve their qualifications in more than one sitting.

Entrance to the Conservatoire is based on talent, potential and ability, therefore consideration will be given to relevant experience which is deemed to compensate for any traditional education. We accept a wide range of qualification, including international qualifications. If you wish to check the suitability of your qualification/experience, please contact us ( admissions@rcs.ac.uk ).

English Language

The language of study is English. Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to provide evidence of proficiency in English. We accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Other equivalent English Language qualifications may be considered, please contact us (admissions@rcs.ac.uk ) for more information.

  • IELTS – 6.0 with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component

 

Fees & scholarships

Tuition fees for academic year 2017-18

  • Scottish/EU Students – £1,820
  • Rest of UK (RUK) Students – £9,250
  • International (Non EU) – £15,513

Scottish/EU students

The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) will pay tuition fees for all eligible full-time Scottish-based and other non-UK undergraduate EU students, who are studying in Scotland at degree level for the first time. Students should apply to SAAS for payment of tuition fees even if they are not applying for any other means of support. Eligible students can also apply for student loans through SAAS . For further advice and to check eligibility contact SAAS directly on 0300 555 0505 or visit their website .

Rest of UK students

Students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland studying in Scotland will be eligible for the same funding/loan package that they would benefit from if they attended an institution in their home country. For further advice please visit student finance England , student financeWales , or student finance Northern Ireland as appropriate.

International students

Students from outside the EU typically fund higher education by a variety of resources, depending on the home country. More specific information on funding options relevant to specific countries can be found here .

Scholarships

Any potential student who auditions for a place at the Royal Conservatoire will automatically be considered for a scholarship. They are awarded on a combination of talent, potential and financial need. More information about Scholarships is available here

Sources of external funding

For more information about alternative funding sources, including external scholarships and bursaries, please visit here.

The Conservatoire’s International and Student Experience team are available to advise and assist applicants and current students in respect of queries about funding your studies at the Conservatoire. Please email or telephone +44 (0)141 270 8281/ +44 (0)141 270 8223 for further information.

Graduate destinations

Most composer graduates from the Composition department choose to remain in Glasgow’s flourishing music culture and some go on to forward study both at other institutions and here (MMus and PhD). Many of our graduates have formed and instigated ensembles and music events in Glasgow which in turn have fed back into the learning culture of the Conservatoire, most notably ensembles Thing, Symposia and the Glasgow New Music Expedition and experimental music events such as Engines, Gregor Samsa and Eyegrid. Most of our graduates have become professional composers working in the world of classical contemporary music with commissions and residencies from amongst others the Royal Scottish national Orchestra, RedNote, the BBC, Scottish Opera, Royal Opera House and Ensemble Modern.

Testimonials

“Going to the RCS was the single best decision I have ever made; the composition department is a vibrant, imaginative community which offers great opportunities to hear your work performed and to develop as a composer. The teaching is second to none and you are supported and encouraged by all this to explore who you are as a composer and to be the best you can at what you do.”
Richard Greer BMus (2010) MMus (2012)

“The Composition department at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland stands out as a haven of creativity and opportunity. Here composers are challenged to discover innovative ideas and concepts in an open, nonjudgmental atmosphere where inventive combinations and forms are encouraged and supported. Innovative new works at the RCS develop in an enriched performance environment populated with an astonishing talent pool of brilliant young musicians firmly grounded in traditional orchestral practices and repertoire, while constantly invigorated by exciting new experimental approaches and technologies. The conservatoire composition department afforded me not only the ability to create new compositions and conceive and compile a PhD, but to produce high quality performances and realization of my work. I am extremely grateful and honored to be associated with the faculty and student composers the RCS.”
Steve Forman PhD (2010)

Facilities

The Composition department has a full suite of computers which are equipped with the industry standard versions of Sibelius, Protools, MaxMSP as well as other software designed to engage the compositional process. We have three electroacoustic music studios and one recording studio a full sized Indonesian gamelan and are about the ship from Los Angeles one of the former student and Rhythm Theory expert Steve Forman’s exciting collection of working exotic percussion to become part of the department’s permanent collection.

Images and videos

Plug Film 2012

Composition students talk about the experience of writing music for two Conservatoire films and then showcasing them at the 2012 Plug Festival.

Plug rehearsal

“…Scotland’s most ambitious and daring new music project .” (The Herald)

PLUG started off from a lack of enthusiasm for what had become the official annual contemporary music festival. We felt that the canon of what is generally accepted as contemporary music in the UK was no longer relevant to our students so we wanted to create something new.

As a result our first instincts were to concentrate on composers that are relatively ignored by most of the performing organisations in the UK – composers such as Ingram Marshall, Claude Vivier, Henry Brant and Jani Christou.

As well as this unusual repertoire it was becoming increasingly clear, as the Composition Department grew, that some of the interesting music around was coming from our own composers.

So, we decided to give them their own platform to showcase solely their works. And that idea became the concept for PLUG, our annual festival of new music. Since those first days, PLUG has grown from strength to strength and is heralded as one of the most exciting festivals in the UK, if not wider, for new music. It not only means a hectic week of hundreds of new works at the Royal Conservatoire but last year also saw the compositions of two of our students premiered at the City Halls, with Ilan Volkov conducting our own ensemble MusicLab. The concert was part of BBC Hear and Now, was filmed for the BBC and recorded for BBC Radio 3.

Altogether we have premiered over 300 new works since PLUG has been running. For our students it is a phenomenal opportunity to have their works played by wonderful musicians. Last year we even had tap dancers, furniture builders and a performance by two of our Modern Ballet students. Intrigued?