Information about postgraduate composition

If your interest is in the broad spectrum of contemporary concert composition, read on for information about how to apply for the MA in Music (Composition Pathway), or for a Research Degree in composition.

If you are interested in composing for the screen, read about our renowned MA in Composition of Music for Film and Television.

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.

How do I apply to do research in composition - MPhil, MMus, PhD?

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.

How do I apply for the MA in Music (Composition Pathway) at Bristol?

First look at the section entitled How to apply on the Postgraduate prospectus website.

Composers on the MA in Music come from very varied backgrounds. To make sure the course will be suitable for you, we want to hear your music as well as read about your qualifications. Together with your online application, you will need to send a hard-copy portfolio of your compositions.

What to include in your portfolio

We are open to variations of individual circumstances, but as a guide:

Instrumental / vocal work

  • Two or three recent written scores for contrasting mediums.
  • Live workshop or concert recordings of the above where available. (Synthesised demos are not encouraged, but may be substituted if a live recording is not available.)

Electronic and mixed media work if applicable

  • Electroacoustic composition, for example acousmatic music, presented as a recording.
  • Mixed-media concert works, such as for instrument/voice and tape or live electronics. Include the written score and a performance recording, as above.
  • Film track or music-theatre work. Include the written score (if applicable), a video recording, and a statement indicating what component of the creative work is your own.

Send your best work: quality, not quantity. Typically not more than 3 pieces and 15 minutes total playing time.

How to present your scores and media

Scores should be typeset or in fair-copy manuscript (i.e. suitable for presentation to a performer), and be in standard double-sided format on A4 paper or similar; preferably bound (e.g. comb binding); and NOT placed in individual plastic sleeves. Large-format scores may be included if this is how the music was created.

Recordings may be presented as one or more of the following:

  1. an audio CD;
  2. a DVD (PAL or NTSC) containing audio-only tracks and/or video;
  3. a data-CD or data-DVD containing named audiofiles and/or QuickTime movies.

If possible, combine your media recordings on a SINGLE clearly labelled disc.

List the portfolio contents on a single sheet of paper, and including track numbers, names and durations for CD / DVD. Make clear on this list whether each item is presented as score, recording, or both.

CDs and DVDs: use only good quality new media, and use the "write once" type (e.g. CD-R) not the re-writeable kind (CD-RW). Ensure your disc is clean and free of scratches, and enclose it in a jewel case, NEVER loose nor in a thin envelope. Please write your name and "MA in Music (Composition) application" on the disc using a CD-writer pen. Do not use sticky labels, and don't write with ballpoint / roller-tip / pencil etc or washable ink: these can all cause damage to the disc and / or player. You are strongly advised to test your disc before sending it, by playing it right the way through on a variety of playback systems.

Be Warned that

  • submitted materials will NOT be returned unless you include a stamped self-addressed envelope, or arrange for collection.
  • you should never send unique or top copies.
  • you should package your materials carefully for mailing. Damaged materials will lead to delay in processing your application.

Further questions...

If you have any further questions about the portfolio of work required please contact the Composition Pathway Tutor, Justin Williams.

WHERE to send your portfolio

Send the materials by post to the Graduate School of Arts & Humanities, 7 Woodland Road, Bristol, BS8 1TB. Include a cover note that states your full name, student number and the programme you are applying for. Graduate School staff will then match your portfolio with your online application. Do NOT send materials to the Music Department address.

WHEN to apply

Applications for the MA in Music are accepted on a rolling basis until the course is full.


If you wish to be considered for a scholarship or bursary, note the deadlines in the list of 'Funding options'. You need to have been offered and accepted a place on the course before you submit your funding application. That typically means your application should have reached us by the end of February at the latest.

We do not usually interview MA applicants, but you are very welcome to attend one of the Faculty's postgraduate open days, when you will have the opportunity to meet academic staff in the music department. Details are available from the Graduate School.