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Experimental Performance - MMus / PgCert / PgDip

If you want to study experimental performance in the UK, with or without a focus on sound, then these are the ideal courses for you. Designed for emerging arts practitioners, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s brand new PgCert, PgDip and MMus courses in Experimental Performance provide you with a unique opportunity to undertake independent artistic projects in a fully supportive environment....

Studying with us in 2021/22 and 2022/23

The University has put in place measures in response to Covid-19 to allow us to safely deliver our courses.  Information about the arrangements for the 2021/22 academic year can be found here.  

 

Should the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continue in the 2022/23 academic year or subsequent years of your course, any additional and/or alternative arrangements put in place by the University in response will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

  • School Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media

Overview

If you want to study experimental performance in the UK, with or without a focus on sound, then these are the ideal courses for you.

Designed for emerging arts practitioners, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s brand new PgCert, PgDip and MMus courses in Experimental Performance provide you with a unique opportunity to undertake independent artistic projects in a fully supportive environment.

Available for the first time in September 2019, they enable practitioners from a variety of disciplines (including, but not limited to, instrumental/vocal performance, composition, dance, choreography, theatre, visual and performance art, creative writing) to come together with likeminded people.  This course doesn’t ask you to justify yourself against the background of tradition, but gives you agency. People from every discipline are treated equally with emphasis placed on rigorous conceptual thought and idea-development. By focusing on these non-discipline-specific aspects of performance you will contribute to a collaborative, discursive and interdisciplinary working environment.

The core of your study will be formed by your own artistic ideas, which are developed, through research and dialogue, into professional practical projects.

You will be allocated a mentoring team comprising a personal tutor who has experience in collaborative and conceptual approaches alongside additional specialist support according to your individual needs. Your mentoring team is there to help you realise your ideas into fully developed performances in the best possible way.

Our Experimental Performance courses will equip you with the skills you need to engage successfully with diverse contemporary creative practice. While our PgCert focuses exclusively on Experimental Performance work, complementary modules on the PgDip and MMus are intended to enhance your wider professional development. These will be chosen, in discussion with your personal tutor, from a varied list shared with other postgraduate Principal Study disciplines.

Please note that generally auditions take place in February and May before the September start of the course each year. Although it states an application deadline of 1 October on UCAS, we will consider applications throughout the year. Applicants should make sure that their portfolio arrives at least a month prior to their audition. If you have any questions please contact Michael Wolters.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

  • In depth examination of your current artistic practice.
  • Development of your ability to turn artistic ideas into effective performance material.
  • Mentoring from specialist practitioners.
  • Study within an interdisciplinary working environment that promotes collaboration and discussion.
  • Regular group critique sessions.
  • Using the wide range of spaces offered by BCU with privileged use of our new experimental performance space called The Lab.
  • Understanding the context of your work and placing it in artistic and socio-political discourses.
  • In PgDip and MMus, a core career development module designed to get you thinking about your future professional plans.
  • In PgDip and MMus, the flexibility to choose from a broad menu of Professional Development modules designed to help you work towards achieving your personal career aspirations.
  • In MMus, a core module designed to develop your skills as a researcher or informed practitioner.
  • In PgCert, the ability to focus wholly on the Principal Study area.
  • The possibility of transferring between PgCert, PgDip and/or MMus (as appropriate) once you have begun your studies (but before completion of your original course).

Why Choose Us?

  • This course has been created by artists who actively work with an interdisciplinary mind-set. Working in an interdisciplinary way to us means that you don’t settle for a particular artistic genre but you are interested in finding the best way of expressing an artistic idea. What form your realisation takes, what genres it borrows from would always depend on the particular idea.
  • We know how frustrating it can be when, instead of discussing your work in depth, you have to start by justifying why you work in the way that you have chosen to work. We understand that you might want to perform text on stage without being trained as an actor, or you might want to dance without having had lessons. We are interested in your ideas. We will listen to you, help you to think ideas through and find appropriate concepts for successful realisations in performance. We have considerable experience in this area and enjoy discussing people’s work and ideas.
  • This is a course that supports people who want to advance their artistic practice, whether this will ultimately lead to an advancement of your professional artistic career or to prepare yourself for PhD study with an emphasis on practice-as-research.
  • In addition to our significant expertise within Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, we are also able to work closely with colleagues in areas of artistic practice outside music – for instance, in theatre, visual art and media.

Entry Requirements

MMus/PgDip
Essential

UK students should normally hold an honours degree.

Non-UK students should hold a Bachelor's degree or a similar degree-equivalent diploma.

Audition requirements
  • A portfolio presented as one single pdf document. This portfolio should show us all the aspects of your artistic practice that you find important.
  • The single pdf document can contain descriptive or artistic text and images but also links to other websites (for example of video/audio recordings of your work).
  • The nature of the work submitted and its presentation is up to you. However, please bear in mind that we need to clearly understand your personal approach to creating performances and making art. Make thoughtful decisions about specific elements of your work that you absolutely want us to see, for example by highlighting important sections through smart video editing or giving us timecodes so that we can easily locate essential moments within the documentation.
  • The portfolio also must contain a motivational statement, explaining your reasons for applying. This can be delivered in the form of written text (max one side of A4) or via a link to a video or audio recording (or equivalent).

English language requirements

  • IELTS 6.0 overall with 5.5 minimum in all bands.

Please note that generally auditions take place in February and May before the September start of the course each year. Although it states an application deadline of 1 October on UCAS, we will consider applications throughout the year. Applicants should make sure that their portfolio arrives at least a month prior to their audition. If you have any questions please contact Michael Wolters.

Fees & How to Apply

  • International students

Award: MMus

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 30 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • £12,430 per year
  • Apply via UCAS

Award: PgCert

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: PgDip

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: MMus

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 30 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • £26,510 per year
  • Apply via UCAS

Award: PgDip

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead.

Access to computer equipment

You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.

Printing

You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.

Field trips

All essential field trips and associated travel costs will be included in your course fees.

Access to Microsoft Office 365

Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.

Key software

You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.

Key subscriptions

Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.

Free access to Rosetta Stone

All students can sign up to the online learning language platform for free through the Graduate+ scheme.

Project materials (mandatory)

This course includes project work that requires you to develop and produce a portfolio or collection. You'll be expected to provide the materials for use in your individual major projects; costs will vary depending on the options selected and the nature of individual practice.

Excess printing (optional)

Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.

Placement expenses (optional)

If you choose to undertake a placement, you'll need to budget for accommodation and any travel costs you may incur whilst living or working away from home.

Field trips (optional)

This course includes the option of additional trips that may enhance your experience, at extra cost.

Subscriptions (optional)

You may wish to purchase subscriptions to additional journals and websites.

Memberships (optional)

You may wish to join a union or professional body related to this course.

DBS Certificate (optional)

You will need to cover the cost of a DBS Certificate should you need one for the optional pedagogy modules.

Accommodation and living costs

The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.

Please note that generally auditions take place in February and May before the September start of the course each year. Although it states an application deadline of 1 October on UCAS, we will consider applications throughout the year. Applicants should make sure that their portfolio arrives at least a month prior to their audition. If you have any questions please contact Michael Wolters.

An intensive 12-month MMus route may be proposed by an audition panel for any candidates who demonstrate an exceptional level of achievement in their audition and who can provide evidence of a consistently strong previous academic record. It is not possible to apply for direct entry to this intensive programme.

*Professional Placement option

The Professional Placement version of the course is optional and is offered as an alternative to the standard version of the course.

This will allow you to complete a credit bearing, 20 week Professional Placement as an integral part of your Master’s Degree. The purpose of the Professional Placement is to improve your employability skills which will, through the placement experience, allow you to evidence your professional skills, attitudes and behaviours at the point of entry to the postgraduate job market. Furthermore, by completing the Professional Placement, you will be able to develop and enhance your understanding of the professional work environment, relevant to your chosen field of study, and reflect critically on your own professional skills development within the workplace.

You will be responsible for finding and securing your own placement. The University, however, will draw on its extensive network of local, regional and national employers to support you in finding a suitable placement to complement your chosen area of study. You will also benefit from support sessions delivered by Careers+ as well as advice and guidance from your School.

Placements will only be confirmed following a competitive, employer-led selection process, therefore the University will not be able to guarantee placements for students who have registered for the ‘with Professional Placement’ course. All students who do not find a suitable placement or do not pass the competitive selection process will be automatically transferred back to the standard, non-placement version of the course.

Completing your application

Further information on writing your personal statement can be found on the UCAS Conservatoires website.

Course in Depth

PG Cert

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete one of the following CORE modules (totalling 60 credits):

As an experimental performer, this module enables you to advance your training in your specialist area. For MMus students, it provides a prelude to the further advancement of your training in the Principal Study 2: Experimental Performance module. 

Given that this module is focused entirely on your continued growth as an experimental performer, it will focus on developing such aspects as follows: the realization of ideas and concepts, creative thinking, critical approach to art making, the use of space and structure, interdisciplinary collaboration, self-reflective working, aesthetic awareness and aspects of presentation, including the use of relevant technology.

PG Dip

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete the following CORE module (totalling 60 credits):

As an experimental performer, this module enables you to advance your training in your specialist area. For MMus students, it provides a prelude to the further advancement of your training in the Principal Study 2: Experimental Performance module.

Given that this module is focused entirely on your continued growth as an experimental performer, it will focus on developing such aspects as follows: the realization of ideas and concepts, creative thinking, critical approach to art making, the use of space and structure, interdisciplinary collaboration, self-reflective working, aesthetic awareness and aspects of presentation, including the use of relevant technology.

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 20 credits):

Members of the music profession require not only high-level specialist skills but also the ability to target those skills strategically to different circumstances. This module focuses on a range of different aspects of a musician’s professional development that directly relate to the music industry and their preparation for it: from self-promotion and self-management, to funding and wellbeing. It is thus central to a programme which aims to prepare you for a career as a musician in the 21st century.

It requires you, near the beginning of your postgraduate studies, to reflect ambitiously yet realistically on your professional aspirations, and to formulate a plan that helps you stand the best chance of achieving your goals. Weekly workshops, delivered by internal staff and external professionals, will focus on the practicalities of a career in music, providing you with a better insight into the industry you will be entering, as well as encouraging you to be self-reflective about your own personal and professional development needs.

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete at least 40 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules.

Each module listed is worth 20 credits.

Conservatoire based

  • Concepts in Musicology
  • Contemporary Music Concepts and Practice
  • Creative Interactive Music Technology Performance
  • Critical Editing Techniques
  • Documentation
  • Experimental Performance in Context(s)
  • Historical Instrument Performance
  • Historical Performance Practice
  • Independent Scholarship in Music
  • Music and Ideas
  • Music Technology Contexts
  • Orchestration
  • Performing and Producing in the Studio
  • Professional Music Criticism
  • Self-Promotion Project
  • Teaching Matters: Principles and Practice
  • Work Placement
  • Writing Music for Media
  • Conference Paper
  • Preparation for Research
  • Music, Community and Wellbeing (BMus module)

School of Art based

  • Art and Ecologies
  • Contemporary Philosophy and Aesthetics
  • Discourses in Art and Design
  • Models and Methods of Curatorial Practice
  • Queer Strategies in Practice
  • Small Arts Business Set Up
  • Social Practice in the Visual Arts

School of Media based

  • Live Events and Festival Management
  • Social Media as Culture and Practice

Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

MMus

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete THREE CORE modules (totalling 140 credits):

Members of the music profession require not only high-level specialist skills but also the ability to target those skills strategically to different circumstances. This module focuses on a range of different aspects of a musician’s professional development that directly relate to the music industry and their preparation for it: from self-promotion and self-management, to funding and wellbeing. It is thus central to a programme which aims to prepare you for a career as a musician in the 21st century.

It requires you, near the beginning of your postgraduate studies, to reflect ambitiously yet realistically on your professional aspirations, and to formulate a plan that helps you stand the best chance of achieving your goals. Weekly workshops, delivered by internal staff and external professionals, will focus on the practicalities of a career in music, providing you with a better insight into the industry you will be entering, as well as encouraging you to be self-reflective about your own personal and professional development needs.

As an experimental performer, this module enables you to advance your training in your specialist area. For MMus students, it provides a prelude to the further advancement of your training in the Principal Study 2: Experimental Performance module.

Given that this module is focused entirely on your continued growth as an experimental performer, it will focus on developing such aspects as follows: the realization of ideas and concepts, creative thinking, critical approach to art making, the use of space and structure, interdisciplinary collaboration, self-reflective working, aesthetic awareness and aspects of presentation, including the use of relevant technology.

As an experimental performer, this module enables you to continue to advance your training in your specialist area and thus provides professionally-relevant experience. It builds on the technical and creative skills acquired in the Principal Study 1 Experimental Performance module, encouraging greater ambition, the development of an individual voice and personal aesthetic, and a consistently professional approach to presentation.

In addition to continuing to develop the practical and critical skills fostered in Principal Study 1 Experimental Performance, it will seek to enhance your ability to deal with more ambitious ideas/concepts/projects (including the creation of large structures), and to be reflective, especially in how you write about and discuss your own work.

In order to complete this course, a student must successfully complete at least 100 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules:

  • THREE Professional Development modules (20 credits each), and

  • ONE MMus optional module (40 credits)

Professional Development modules (20 credits each)

Conservatoire based

  • Concepts in Musicology
  • Contemporary Music Concepts and Practice
  • Creative Interactive Music Technology Performance
  • Critical Editing Techniques
  • Documentation
  • Experimental Performance in Context(s)
  • Historical Instrument Performance
  • Historical Performance Practice
  • Independent Scholarship in Music
  • Music and Ideas
  • Music Technology Contexts
  • Orchestration
  • Performing and Producing in the Studio
  • Professional Music Criticism
  • Self-Promotion Project
  • Teaching Matters: Principles and Practice
  • Work Placement
  • Writing Music for Media
  • Conference Paper
  • Preparation for Research
  • Music, Community and Wellbeing (BMus module)

School of Art based

  • Art and Ecologies
  • Contemporary Philosophy and Aesthetics
  • Discourses in Art and Design
  • Models and Methods of Curatorial Practice
  • Queer Strategies in Practice
  • Small Arts Business Set Up
  • Social Practice in the Visual Arts

School of Media based

  • Live Events and Festival Management
  • Social Media as Culture and Practice

MMus optional modules (40 credits each)

  • Research Project
  • Critical Edition
  • Lecture-Recital
  • The Reflective Practioner
    • There are two pathways through this module: 1. Professional Placement, and 2. Creative Interdisciplinary Artist.

Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

Course structure

Whichever course you choose, work in the Principal Study area lies at its heart. For Experimental Performers, the Principal Study modules each culminate in a portfolio of original work. Preparation of this is supported by individual specialist tuition, as well as by a variety of related activities,including sessions with performers, workshops with artists, professional development sessions, discussion-led seminars and a regular group critique session, which will provide an opportunity for discussion of each other’s work.

If you are a MMus or PgDip student you will take a Career Development module, which will require you, near the beginning of your course, to reflect ambitiously yet realistically on your professional aspirations, and to formulate a plan that helps you stand the best chance of achieving your goals. You will also choose, in addition, some Professional Development Options from a varied list. The following gives an indication the kind of optional modules which may be offered in a given year, including some offered by Birmingham City University’s Schools of Art and Media (note, not all will run every year).

MMus students will additionally choose a 40-credit option from one of two categories: ‘The Emerging Researcher’ or ‘The Reflective Practitioner’.

Part-time options

There is some room for negotiation in how the course unfolds for a part-time MMus student over three years, or in the case of part-time PgDip students, over two years.

Employability

OpportUNIty

OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

International Students

Experimental Performance taped upRoyal Birmingham Conservatoire has a growing community of international students from across the world.

We appreciate the challenges of moving to a new country to live and study and aim to be as supportive as possible.

Aside from being friendly and welcoming, we have various support mechanisms in place to help you settle in as an international student, including:

  • An international students' 'orientation week', including a special Conservatoire welcome event
  • A dedicated international student admissions administrator
  • A full-time staff member employed as International Student Support Programme Director (who speaks Mandarin)
  • A mentoring system in which you, as a new postgraduate international student, are mentored by continuing postgraduate international students who will be supporting you both pastorally and academically though weekly workshops
  • Additional supporting classes for international students that are particularly designed to help you further develop your English reading, speaking and comprehension skills
  • Additional academic skills support provided by expert tutors from the BCU's Centre for Academic Success

Further information for prospective international students is available on the University's international pages.

Facilities and Staff

Experimental Performance course page image

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s £57 million music building opened in September 2017, and is located on Birmingham City University’s City Centre Campus in the Eastside ‘learning quarter’ of the city.

This brand new music facility include five public performance venues – a 500 seat Concert Hall, 150 seat Recital Hall, Organ Studio, Eastside Jazz Club and the experimental black box performance venue known as The Lab. As well as these stunning performance venues, we have nearly 100 practice spaces; including 70 small practice rooms and larger ensemble rooms and workshops.

Our new home is the first conservatoire built in the digital age, and as such it has been vital to ensure that the technical infrastructure installed is on par with any advanced commercial facility. We have seven recording studios, a mastering suite, a distance learning hub, and all of our performance venues feature high specification audio-visual equipment that enables interconnectivity and advanced functionality throughout the building.

These impressive modern facilities guarantee that we are excel in our unique dual purpose of providing the highest standard of music education deserved by our students, as well as meeting our role as a concert and performance venue for the people of Birmingham; taking our place in the vibrant cultural landscape of the UK’s second city.

Our staff

Dr Michael Wolters

Deputy Head of Composition

Michael Wolters (born 1971 in Mönchengladbach, Germany) has maintained the position of an “other” in the world of contemporary music with works that queer traditional concert and performance situations. He has written music for traditional ensembles like Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and prefers to challenge conventional set-ups and rituals. This has resulted in pieces with unusual instrumentations (like his twelve-minute-long opera The Voyage, produced with theatre company Stan's Cafe for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad written for mezzo-soprano, eleven recorders and double bass), performances in unusual places (wahnsinnig wichtig on ice took place on and around an ice rink while product placement was set in a supermarket) or projects of unusual duration (his Spring Symphony: The Joy of Life, lasting 17 seconds in total is the shortest symphony in the world while the performance of Wir sehen uns morgen wieder lasted for a month). He strongly believes that the idea of a work is the driving element in the creation of an art work, informing the concept and all artistic decisions.

More about Michael

Dr Andy Ingamells

Research Assistant and Visiting Tutor

Andy Ingamells is composer-performer of experimental music. His work is rooted in traditional elements of music making and classical concert conventions but implemented in a different way. Traditional elements such as score-reading, performance and improvisation often do not give way to recognisably musical material. His is a musical practice that does not privilege the sounding result but sees it as one amongst many different and equal possibilities.

More about Andy

Dr Paul Norman

Paul Norman’s composition practice places emphasis on ideas and concepts and includes visual and performative elements in both the composition process and performance.

 Norman has produced solo projects and interdisciplinary collaborations together with dance, fine art and theatre, showing his work across Europe, including: Frankfurt LAB, Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt, Theatre Freiburg, Kampnagel, Hamburg, Tanzhaus NRW, Düsseldorf and Sophiensäle, Berlin in Germany, Gessnerallee, Zurich and Tingueley Museum, Basel in Switzerland, Post-Paradise, Fluid, Coda and Frontiers Festivals, Birmingham in the UK.

Norman was recently awarded a PhD in composition that explored the effects that decisions made in the composition process have on what is communicated to an audience during performance. Titled UNPROTECTED PRACTICE: Including Process as Compositional Material the PhD was awarded by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and fully funded by AHRC Midlands3Cities.

More about Paul

Luan Shaw

Interim Vice Principal, Music (Learning and Teaching) and Director of Postgraduate Studies

Luan is Director of Postgraduate Studies at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire where she has taught since 2011. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and was made an Honorary Member of RBC in 2001. In her former role as RBC’s first Head of Pedagogy (2011-2018), she significantly expanded provision for instrumental teacher education across the RBC curriculum. Luan is passionate about helping students to build their portfolio careers and her doctoral research focuses on facilitating the transition from student to professional through instrumental teacher education in conservatoires.

More about Luan