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The MPhil in Music is a 9-month programme which combines structured teaching with individual supervised study. It is a freestanding programme, but is particularly suitable as a basis for doctoral studies, whether you continue at Cambridge or go elsewhere. The course offers two strands: Music Studies and Composition. For Music Studies, we welcome applications on any aspect of the academic study of music, and invite potential applicants to consult our Research pages for information about particular areas of specialization.  These include medieval music, the cultural history of music from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, opera studies, sound studies, music and science, music analysis, performance studies and ethnomusicology. 

The MPhil programme is designed to give you:

  • Critical awareness of current issues and trends across a broad spectrum of music studies
  • The opportunity to acquire or develop research skills and expertise relevant to a specified area of music studies
  • Experience in carrying out focused research under close supervision

As a postgraduate student you will also participate in skills training courses, weekly colloquia, and other events within the Faculty of Music, and will have access to the outstanding facilities of one of the world’s top research universities.


Course Structure

The MPhil in Music is made up of the following components:

1. Plenary courses (Michaelmas Term)

  • Music Skills: a series of sessions covering essential research skills such as bibliography, discography, archives and sources, research ethics and scholarship in the digital age. This foundational element is compulsory (optional for composers) but unassessed. 
  • Musicology and its Debates: this series of seminars, based on a weekly set of readings, introduces students to a range of contemporary issues and debates across the discipline. This element counts for 15% of the programme and is assessed through a set of abstracts (pass/fail) and one 3,500-word essay (15%). 

    Composers may choose to offer an extended portfolio of compositions in place of taking Musicology and its Debates. 

2. Optional courses (Lent Term)

  • Students will usually take two courses in Lent term on more specialist topics, which vary year on year. With the agreement of the Degree Committee, these options may be replaced by courses offered in other faculties: this applies in particular to students working on medieval or renaissance music, who may take courses in such areas as Palaeography, Codicology, Printing, or Advanced Latin, and to students wishing to take courses through the SSRMP (Social Sciences Research Methods Programme). This element counts for 30% of the programme and is assessed through two 3,500-word essays or their equivalent (e.g. compositions, transcriptions, fieldwork notes).
  • Optional courses for 2022-23 include The Science of Musical Emotions (Dr Peter Harrison), The Black Messiah (Dr Alisha Jones), Music as Text (Dr Stefano Castelvecchi), Global History (Prof Benjamin Walton), Techniques of Performance Studies (Prof John Rink), Composition (Dr Marta Gentilucci).
  • Students who choose the recital option are recommended to take 20 hours of instrumental or vocal lessons with a teacher approved by the Faculty. Students should note that vocal/instrumental lessons are not funded by the Faculty.

3. Individual project

Counting for 55% of the programme, this supervised element of the course consists of a 12,500 to 15,000-word dissertation, except in the following cases:

  • for students taking the recital option, this element may alternatively consist of a recital lasting approximately 50 to 60 minutes plus a related essay of 7,500 words (the recital and essay will be assessed as an integrated submission).
  • in Composition, this element will consist of a portfolio of compositions lasting approximately 30 to 45 minutes plus a related essay of 5,000 words (again assessed as an integrated submission). 
  • Extended Project: Composers may choose to offer an extended portfolio of compositions in place of ‘Musicology and its Debates’.
Students will need to submit an extended dissertation proposal (1,500 words) and annotated bibliography by the beginning of Lent Term.
Students may typically expect 8 hours of supervision for dissertations and composition portfolios.