Popular Music MA
2017 - 2018
Master of Arts
University of Chester
University of Chester
Kingsway Campus, Chester
Full-time and Part-time
Classroom / Laboratory,
1 Year f/t, 2 Years p/t
Annual - October
Arts and Humanities
MA and subject benchmark groups
Wednesday 16th January 2013
The programme aims to instil within students the following:
• a systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of the various academic disciplines, field of popular music or area of professional music practice
• a comprehensive understanding of the techniques applicable to their own research, advanced scholarship and professional practice
• originality in the application of knowledge and practice of music, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge within the discipline
• a conceptual understanding that enables the student to critically evaluate current research and advanced scholarship in popular music and to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.
The above are derived from the QAA level descriptors for Level 7.
Knowledge and Understanding
Successful students will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:
a conceptual understanding of the theoretical principles underlying high quality practice in the specified area (PA7001, PA7010 , PA7016, PA7017, PA7018, PA7021, PA7022);
a comprehensive understanding of a range of techniques and processes relevant to music practice (PA7006, PA7016, PA7017, PA7019, PA7020, PA7018, PA7021);
an advanced understanding of the theoretical and cultural contexts that inform practice through the reciprocity of theory and practice (PA7001, PA7010, PA7016, PA7017, PA7018, PA7021, PA7022);
a sophisticated understanding of the main research methodologies utilised in the field (PA7016, PA7017, PA7018, PA7021, PA7022).
Successful students will:
have the ability to challenge and contest the boundaries of existing bodies of knowledge and where appropriate to offer new hypotheses (PA7001, PA7016, PA7017, PA7018, PA7021, PA7022);
have critical and analytical skills in order to develop ideas and construct arguments and the capacity to evaluate and present these in a range of ways (PA7001, PA7016, PA7017, PA7018, PA7021, PA7022);
articulate and critique theoretical discourses relevant to current scholarship (PA7001, PA7016, PA7017, PA7018, PA7021, PA7022).
Successful students will demonstrate:
advanced skills and techniques pertinent to practice, including making, documentation and independent research (PA7001, PA7010, PA7018, PA7019, PA7020, PA7021);
the ability to engage creatively and critically with the creation and/or production of performance through the understanding of appropriate performance vocabularies, techniques, structures and working methods (PA7001, PA7010, PA7019, PA7020);
the ability to make work that demonstrates originality and a critical awareness of current issues in the arts (PA7001, PA7010, PA7018, PA7019, PA7020, PA7021).
Typically holders of the qualification will be able to:
Deal with complex issues systematically and creatively (PA7001, PA7010, PA7018, PA7019, PA7020, PA7021, PA7022);
Exercise initiative and take personal responsibility (PA7001, PA7010, PA7016, PA7017, PA7018, PA7019, PA7020, PA7021, PA7022);
Make sound judgements in complex situations (PA7001, PA7010, PA7019, PA7020);
Communicate their conclusions effectively to specialist and non specialist audiences (PA7001, PA7010, PA7019, PA7020);
Operate as independent learners, within a professional context (PA7001, PA7010, PA7018, PA7019, PA7020, PA7021);
Demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems (PA7001, PA7010, PA7016, PA7017, PA7018, PA7019, PA7020, PA7021, PA7022);
Act autonomously in planning and implementing projects at a professional or equivalent level (PA7001, PA7010, PA7019, PA7020);
Continue to advance their knowledge and understanding and to develop new skills to a high level (PA7001, PA7010, PA7016, PA7017, PA7018, PA7019, PA7020, PA7021, PA7022).
Successful students will demonstrate:
Effective communication skills to select, manage and present material in a variety of ways to a range of audiences (PA7001, PA7010, PA7016, PA7017, PA7018, PA7019, PA7020, PA7021, PA7022);
Awareness of professional protocols (PA7010, PA7019, PA7020);
The ability to absorb the imaginative concepts of others, to build upon them and to communicate the resultant synthesis (PA7010, PA7018, PA7019, PA7020, PA7021, PA7022).
The MA Popular Music can be tailored by the individual student in order to follow pathways in performance, songwriting and composition or popular music studies or a combination of these.
At PGCert stage: The Research Methods module is shared with other MA programmes within the department and seeks to introduce candidates to research methodologies and strategies appropriate to the study of performing arts, allowing popular music students to examine popular music in the context of the wider area of performance. Each of the three optional modules that run alongside this, offer an opportunity to specialise from the start;
Popular Music Studies addresses the various critical frameworks employed in the academic study of popular music;
Performance 1* will enable the students to understand the importance and value of technical skill, stylistic delivery and interpretative issues within performance;
From Machaut to Mashup will critically investigate extant compositional models in terms of melody, harmony, manipulation of ideas, structure, textures and timbre.
At PGDip stage: The Mechanics of Music module is core for all students and will examine generic methodological approaches to the analysis of Popular Music appropriate to a range of different musicians. Each of the three optional modules that run alongside this offer a continued opportunity to specialise;
Popular Music Case Studies will involve the students in supervised research into individually chosen topics of interest within the field of popular music studies;
Performance 2* will engage students in performance within the public arena and result in critical discussion and analysis;
Subverting the Canon: Studies in Transgressional Composition will critically examine what is subversive in composition through analysis, and consider new methods of experimentation pushing the boundaries of the students' current practice in order to encourage individuality to emerge within their work.
*Students wishing to take the Performance 2 option must have completed the Performance 1 module as it is a pre-requisite.
At MA stage: As in the other MA programmes in the department, students can choose to concentrate on the construction of further performance or practical work with an evaluation (Major Practical Project - 60 Credits), or the writing of a dissertation (Research Dissertation - 60 Credits). It is wholly appropriate to give students choice at this final 60 credit stage, in terms of the kind of research methods and practice they wish to pursue.
The Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits in total) will be awarded on successful completion of the core Research Methods (20 credit) module and any one of the three optional (40 credit) modules of Popular Music Studies, Performance 1 or From Machaut to Mashup.
The Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits in total) will be awarded on successful completion of a further 60 credits work, including The Mechanics of Music (20 credit) core module and any one of three optional (40 credit) modules; Popular Music Case Studies, Performance 2 or Subverting the Canon: Studies in Transgressional Composition.
The MA will be awarded on completion of a final module chosen from either the Major Practical Project (60 credits) or the Research Dissertation (60 credits).
Applicants will normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree in Music or a similar field. Candidates will be expected to attend an interview and/or audition. Where candidates are not progressing directly from a first degree, relevant professional experience and expertise will be taken into account. APL for entry to postgraduate programmes of study is available for students and who do not fulfil the usual entry requirements (an initial degree qualification at an appropriate level). Applicants will be required to present evidence that equates to level 6 work, the final year of an undergraduate programme or other equivalent standard, e.g., certain professional qualifications. A subject tutor will help determine how much of the learning is of an appropriate level; even though it may not have been undertaken in a Higher Education environment, its value may be equivalent.
The links below lead you to the appropriate benchmark statements:
The Subject Benchmark for Dance, Drama and Performance (DDP) is available on the QAA website (www.qaa.ac.uk) QAA subject bench marks are not currently available for dance, drama and performance at MA level. However the QAA's guide to academic qualifications states that Master's degrees are awarded to students who have demonstrated:
a systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their academic discipline, field of study or area of professional practice;
a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship;
originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline;
conceptual understanding that enables the student to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline;
to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.
Typically, holders of the qualification will be able to:
deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences;
demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level;
continue to advance their knowledge and understanding, and to develop new skills to a high level.
And holders will have the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring:
the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility;
decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations;
the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.
All programmes in the Department of Performing Arts aim to develop thinking artists and practitioners through rigorous engagement with theory, process, practice and notions of professional practice. Teaching in the department seeks to move students thinking and practice towards being professionally engaged in the process and outcomes of their creative and performance practice.
At MA level, this approach takes the form of lectures, workshops, seminars, tutorials and rehearsals which have both performative and written outcomes: these are designed to enable the individual student to develop as a creative, reflective practitioner.
The popular music programme will be taught through a combination of workshops, rehearsals, seminars, lectures, tutorials and the close supervision of creative projects and written work. It is a feature of the learning and teaching strategy of the course that the student be given as much opportunity as possible to explore and develop work which is of direct relevance to their specialism. There is a balance in the construction of the MA to allow for this as well as the more taught elements.
The assessment within the course will be geared towards enabling students to develop their knowledge and skills as advanced performers, composers/songwriters or musicologists. Assessment opportunities are designed for students to evidence the learning outcomes of the programme through a variety of means, including practical performances and presentations, portfolios of original works, essays and oral assessments.
Formative assessment is embedded within the design of the curriculum and feedback is given regularly within tutorials and larger group sessions.
The programme welcomes applications from those already engaged as practicing musicians or involved in education. It is also useful for those candidates who, on completion of their first degrees wish to pursue and develop careers within the creative industries, as performers, composers, songwriters, or those aspiring to work in academia.
Graduates of the MA Popular Music will typically have:
• an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the popular music discipline informed by current research, scholarship and practice as well as a critical awareness of current issues and developments in the field.
• the ability to complete a theoretical or practice based research project within the subject.
Generic attributes and transferable skills that may be particularly relevant to an employment setting, such as the ability to:
• use initiative and take responsibility;
• solve problems in creative and innovative ways;
• make decisions in challenging situations;
• continue to learn independently and to develop professionally;
• communicate effectively, with colleagues and a wider audience, in a variety of media.
The University is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.
The MA Popular Music can be tailored by the individual student in order to follow pathways in performance, songwriting and composition or popular music studies. It is a rigorous academic programme with substantial scope for major practical projects where a student can engage in thorough exploration, research, practice and practise within areas of direct interest to them in the field of popular music.
Popular Music is positioned within the Performing Arts department and is therefore uniquely placed to examine and engage in practice in a holistic manner taking into account the multifaceted nature of Popular Music during its creation, practice and performance. The expertise of the department will enable students to develop technical skills, abilities and knowledge relevant to their field of study, but, more importantly, to be supported in developing a thorough understanding of the context within which they are working at any given time.
The Popular Music programmes are supported by many industry professionals and organisations, including the Musicians Union who visit us regularly to talk to students. Visiting artists that have given workshops at the University include Ian Matthews of Kasabian, vocal coach Louise Ryan who has nurtured young Welsh talent including Charlotte Church and Lucie Jones from X-Factor and Les Misérables, concert pianist and teacher Marie-Louise Taylor and guitarist John Wheatcroft who is currently Head of Guitar at Guitar-X music school in London.
Research, scholarship and professional practice are vital components of the programmes within the Department of Performing Arts. The vibrant research environment created by the staff and students is very important and much investment is made in order to ensure its success. The internationally recognised quality of research in the Performing Arts Department was highlighted by the results of the UK-wide Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2014, with a significant proportion judged to be of internationally recognised or internationally excellent quality in terms of originality and significance. Furthermore, significant grants have been awarded to staff from organisations such as the British Council, European Union and the Arts and Humanities Research Council in order to fund cutting edge work.
Staff are producing books, book chapters, journal articles, conference papers as well as a plethora of practice-based research such as performances, choreography, digital media and compositions. Without exception the research interests of staff make a direct contribution to the curriculum and several modules derive directly from staff research thereby constituting research based teaching in the most complete sense. Research interests include: performance; transcription; songwriting and composition; popular music; popular culture; vocal health; performance anxiety; collaborative practice; analysis.
There are a number of PhD students studying across drama practices, applied drama and music. All postgraduates (research and taught) and staff are active members of the vibrant Departmental research seminar series and contribute papers to this and the Faculty’s Centre for Research in Arts and Media. Furthermore, the Faculty and Department have organised a number of conferences, the most recent being held in June 2012 on the subject of Contemporary Ethnography and Traditional Performance which revisited the meetings of folklore, anthropology and the performing arts that formed a foundation for performance studies from an international point of view including representation from Canada, England, New Zealand, Philippines, Scotland, and Spain.
Student Support and Guidance:
All students have access to comprehensive Performing Arts Handbook. Students needing further advice are welcome to consult the Programme Leader (who acts as Personal Academic Tutor(s) for students on the programme) and or the popular music staff team.
In addition to the Kingsway facilities, students will use the library at the Parkgate Road campus. Students are welcome to use the facilities of the Performing Arts Department (rehearsal and performance spaces, sound and lighting facilities, technical support and IT resources).
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