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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 CME

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

Applications for the Composition programme should be made through the UCAS Conservatoires website. There is a UCAS application fee of £24 (which is in addition to the audition fee) which allows you up to six choices of programme of study.

Before applying we recommend that you read the Guide for Applicants which provides information regarding entry requirements, and the full application and audition process. Please download the Guide for Applicants – BMus here.

Late applications may be considered, find out more on our Apply for Music page.

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.

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

Audition Requirements

Audition requirements can be found in the BMus Guide for Applicants on the following website

Fees & scholarships

Tuition fees for academic year 2016-17

  • Scottish/EU Students – £1,820
  • Rest of UK (RUK) Students – £9,000
  • International (Non EU) – £15,135

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?