School of Arts and Cultures

Areas of Study


We teach through a variety of methods, all centred on three main areas of study.


Each of the composers based at the International Centre for Music Studies (ICMuS) has an individual approach to innovation. They have in common a progressive outlook, a desire to communicate and to engage performers and audiences.

Find out more about our composition work.


Our staff and students are interested in what we 'know' about music, and how that is shaped by the history of our discipline. We question our discipline and the assumptions under which it continues to operate.

Find out more about our musicology work.


At both undergraduate and postgraduate level, students get the chance to work alongside professional musicians and to perform in public.

Find out more about our performance work.

A guide to studying music at Newcastle.


Composition is one of the key areas in the research output of our staff. It is one of our most visible bridges with the music industry and, of course, is also the focus of intensive student activity.

Our composers critically engage with the recent past, but do not have rigid affiliations to currents or schools.

Another common theme is engagement with cultural traditions. These include:

  • Northumbrian traditions of music-making
  • English and Scottish folk musics
  • technologically mediated creation and performance
  • improvisation and sound art
  • European classical tradition
  • Latin American folk

We now look at experimental trends in Europe and the Americas, and classical music practised around the world.


In the undergraduate programmes, composition is at the heart of the curriculum.

Composition is available as a subject at every stage of your programme, regardless of which programme you choose.

It is compulsory at entry level, and there are elective modules in composing at every stage of study.

Composition can also be integrated with performance in modules such as Creative Music Practice 1 and 2.

At all levels, you can rely on the supervision of one or more of our resident composers.

Our approach

We take an approach based on practical engagement with the material. You'll be involved in the production of your work from the earliest creative stages.

The Stage 1 module Creative Projects lets you devise new work in workshops. You'll then perform your pieces in front of other groups for critique and assessment.

At the more advanced stages of your degree, you'll have the opportunity to interact with professional performers during and after the creative process.

In the last few years the students have interacted with guest composers such as HK Gruber, David Lang, Peter Wiegold, Howard Skempton, Kent Olofsson and Richard Rijnvos.


Composition attracts students from around the world who come to study at masters and PhD level.

You can take a MMus specialising in composition, where you'll devote two-thirds of your study time to composing.

The MMus also lets you combine your composition studies with performance.

Doing a PhD with us gives you the opportunity to develop a substantial body of new work following an original and innovative direction. You do this under the personalised guidance of one of our resident composers:

  • Agustín Fernández
  • Kathryn Tickell
  • Bennett Hogg
  • Will Edmondes


ICMuS acts as a melting pot. The Centre enables interactions that generate projects, collaborations and mutual influences between staff. These often challenge the commonly accepted boundaries between genres.

Research students collaborate with staff in performance, multimedia and recording projects. Students from different degree programmes take part in shared workshops and performances.

In our compositional research, creative collaboration partners have included Peter Maxwell Davies, Penguin Café Orchestra, Joanna McGregor, Sting (Tickell), Magnus Andersson, Julian Siegel (Hogg), Northern Sinfonia, Instituto Laredo, Orquesta Filarmónica Nacional de Venezuela, Momenta Quartet, Orchestra Sinfonica di Perugia, Fort Worth Symphony, New Juilliard Ensemble and Cappella Transylvanica.


Musicology at ICMuS is a large field of study, with more than half the academic staff engaging in research and teaching in this area.

We have developed a culture of critical scholarship and challenging teaching, together with a nurturing and supportive learning environment.

You'll flourish at ICMuS if you are prepared to ask difficult, challenging and searching questions about music's:

  • meaning and uses
  • political and aesthetic importance
  • role in shaping societies, cultures, and our sense of who we are

Our teaching

Staff at ICMuS teach and research in a number of periods, including medieval, early modern, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

They teach and research across a range of geo-political contexts and regional, national and transnational traditions.

ICMuS encompasses a pluralistic approach to the study of music. Staff specialisms cover:

  • Western Art Music (‘classical’)
  • tradition
  • popular
  • vernacular
  • traditional approaches

We look at cross-pollinations between these specialisms.

Our research

Musicology at ICMuS includes a broad range of sub-disciplines such as historical musicology, ethnomusicology, music analysis and music education.

Our work is at the forefront of traditional and developing musicological sub-disciplines, including:

  • gender studies
  • politics
  • psychoanalysis
  • listening ecologies of modernity and postmodernity
  • popular and vernacular musics
  • the history of the voice
  • critical musicology

We have a strong belief that musicology needs constant renewal from outside itself. This is why there's a strong interdisciplinary emphasis in our research and teaching.

Radical Musicology

We host the international online journal Radical Musicology.

This journal aims to encourage work which explicitly or implicitly interrogates existing paradigms, and which acknowledges that musicological work will always have a political dimension.


We offer excellent performing opportunities for students. We support many different kinds of activities, reflecting the eclectic and all-embracing ideals of our musical interests.

Many are led or supported by members of staff, but we also encourage students to organise groups and activities themselves.

ICMuS has a body of around a 100 highly-qualified and experienced specialist professional instrumental and vocal tutors.


Our Performance Studies programmes are innovative and challenging. They combine one-to-one tuition from our performance tutors with carefully structured training in different kinds of collective performance.

This gives you a solid basis for successful musical practice in the future. Student ensembles include a jazz big band, a string orchestra and a wind orchestra.

We have a good collection of instruments for student use, including:

  • orchestral percussion
  • drum kits
  • guitar amplifiers and PA equipment
  • several Steinway grand pianos
  • an organ
  • harpsichord and fortepiano

We have a number of other early music instruments, including a set of baroque string instruments and bows.


If you are a keen singer, your interests will be well catered for at ICMuS. Singing is overseen by our Head of Performance, and you'll be allocated a suitable singing tutor.

Performance opportunities range from solo recitals to participation in ensembles, large or small. These include:

  • Newcastle Bach Choir
  • New Vocal Ensemble, under the direction of Magnus Williamson
  • the Vocal Group, under the direction of Sandra Kerr

We're proud to work in association with Samling Academy. This provides opportunities to develop extraordinary singing talent. It promotes high-profile performances of opera and other vocal practices.

Singers of folk and traditional musics can discuss their interests with Sandra Kerr and/or have tutor allocated by the Degree Programme Director of the Folk Degree.

Our activities

We run a professional concert series every Thursday lunchtime during term-time, Live in the King’s Hall.

Entrance is free, and you'll hear world-class professional musicians from a very wide range of music genres.

Later each Thursday afternoon there is a one-hour student performance, where students have the chance to perform for, and listen to, their colleagues from all genres.

There are lots of staff-supervised ensembles.

These include a full symphony orchestra, folk choir and other traditional music bands, a brass group, North Indian classical music, salsa band and the New Vocal Ensemble.