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.


Composition is one of the key areas in the research output of our staff. It is also the focus of intensive student activity from undergraduate level through to doctoral research.

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

We teach and engage with experimental trends in Europe and the Americas, and other contemporary music practises from around the world. These approaches are also characterised by our shared interest in:

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


In the undergraduate programmes, composition can be at the heart of the curriculum if you are interested in creative music making.
Composition is available as a subject at all stages of your programme, regardless of which programme you choose.
Composition can also be integrated with performance in a number of modules.
If you decide to take one or more of our modules in composition 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. 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 an 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 and/or musicological study.

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:


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), Royal 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.

At ICMuS, in our research and teaching in musicology, we are fully conscious of the far-reaching challenges facing the discipline at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Musicology at ICMuS includes the usual range of sub-disciplines:

  • historical musicology
  • popular music studies
  • ethnomusicology
  • music analysis

We also work and teach in the recent sub-disciplines of musicology such as:

  • sound studies (including sound art and noise studies)
  • music, gender and sexuality
  • music and politics
  • music and policy
  • music and psychoanalysis
  • music and consciousness
  • popular and vernacular music
  • music and globalisation
  • the history of recording and other sound reproduction technologies
  • the history of the voice
  • musical meaning (semiotics and semiology)
  • music and race

In a large department like ICMuS, there are bound to be many different approaches to the study of music, but there is strong agreement among scholars here that musicology needs constant renewal from outside itself: hence the strong interdisciplinary emphasis in our research and teaching. We also host the international online journal Radical Musicology, which aims to 'encourage work which explicitly or implicitly interrogates existing paradigms, and which acknowledges that musicological work will always have a political dimension.'

Staff at ICMuS teach and research in a number of periods, including: medieval, early modern, the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. They also teach and research across a range of geo-political contexts and regional, national and transnational traditions, including Western Europe (Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy), North America, Latin America, Africa (Tunisia, South Africa and the Congos) and the Caribbean.


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

The Performance Studies programmes at Newcastle are innovative and challenging, with an emphasis on combining first class one-to-one tuition with carefully structured training in different kinds of collective performance, providing a solid basis for successful musical practice in the future.

At both undergraduate and postgraduate level, students get the chance to work alongside professional musicians and to perform in public and we run a lively programme of concerts, recitals and gigs throughout the academic year.

ICMuS has its own professional concert series every Thursday lunchtime during term-time, ’Live in the King’s Hall’, given by world-class professional musicians from a very wide range of music genres and to which entrance is free of charge.

Each Thursday afternoon we run performance workshops and masterclasses and they are followed by a one-hour public Student Performance where students have the chance to perform for, and listen to, their colleagues from all genres – folk, classical, contemporary, jazz and popular.

Staff-supervised ensembles include:
• a full symphony orchestra
• chamber choir
• jazz ensemble
• Newcastle University contemporary music ensemble
• free improvisation group
• folk choir and other traditional music bands
• a brass group, North Indian classical music
• a Salsa Band
• the New Vocal Ensemble (with a repertoire from medieval to contemporary)
• a Viol Consort
• rock bands
• chamber music groups
• and many others

Other ensembles run by and for students include a jazz big band, a string orchestra and a wind orchestra.

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

You are also able to take advantage of the huge variety of excellent musical life outside the University, for example at The Sage Gateshead, where world class music of every kind is performed almost every day (and where students enjoy excellent concessionary ticket prices). The Sage Gateshead is home to the world-class Royal Northern Sinfonia and to Folkworks. There are also dozens of other venues in the city, mostly within walking distance of the campus, where you can enjoy music of just about any kind, from excellent folk, jazz, rock, pop and free-improvisation to opera, world music, dance and theatre.

Singing at ICMuS

If you are a keen singer, your interests will be well catered for at ICMuS.

Performance opportunities range from solo recitals to participation in ensembles, large or small. ICMuS is home to Newcastle Bach Choir, founded in 1915 by the celebrated Newcastle-born composer WG Whittaker. We are also proud of New Vocal Ensemble, an elite group attracting the more dedicated singers at ICMuS and beyond, under the direction of Magnus Williamson. Folk singers join the Vocal Group under the direction of Sandra Kerr.

ICMuS is proud to work in association with Samling Academy providing opportunities to develop extraordinary singing talent and promoting high-profile performances of opera and other vocal practices.
Singers should also be aware of the choral scholarships offered by St Nicholas Cathedral and by St John's Grainger Street.