MusM Music (Ethnomusicology) / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course description

Our MusM Music (Ethnomusicology) course offers a solid master's-level foundation in ethnomusicology. With a strong focus on theory, methodology and current debates in the discipline, together with appropriate research techniques and presentational styles, it offers excellent preparation for doctoral study and also for applied work.

You will be able to choose units and a dissertation/critical edition topic that best matches your special interests and aspirations. Together, the taught units encompass a wide range of topics and approaches - from gender and ethnicity, music and conflict, music revivals and performance culture, to postcolonial theory and the politics of ethnography.

Seminars allow for close collaboration between lecturers and students, with ample opportunity for you to present your own work and receive individual feedback. Discussion and debate forms an important part of most course units.


We aim to:

  • build on undergraduate studies of music and society and the cultural study of music, introducing you to a wide range of advanced methodologies, theories, discourses and practices;
  • enable you to refine and develop your individual skills, talents and interests;
  • prepare you for a career, either inside or outside music, where critical judgement and developed powers of communication are needed;
  • foster the skills in critical thinking, argumentation, and effective written and oral communication necessary for further postgraduate study;
  • enable you to gain an expert and detailed knowledge of a specialist topic, and to formulate ideas that can later be pursued within further research programmes.

Special features

Music in Manchester

Manchester is home to more professional music-making than any UK city outside of London. There are three professional orchestras, as well as internationally recognised institutions such as the BBC, Bridgewater Hall, Opera North and The Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM).


Staging over one hundred live music events each year, the Music department is unique in its combination of academic excellence and conservatoire levels of performance. Watch examples of our previous performances by visiting the Music department YouTube channel.

Teaching and learning

Most taught course units are delivered via weekly seminars and/or tutorials. Full-time students take two 30-credit course units per semester; part-time students take one.

The dissertation or critical edition is supported by one-to-one supervision and is submitted at the beginning of September. Part-time students may submit in either September or December following their second year of study.

Seminars feature a range of presentation formats and activities, including presentations by course tutors, student presentations, discussion and debate based on prepared reading or coursework tasks, and workshop-style activities.

Members of the academic staff are also available for individual consultations during designated office hours.

Alongside your taught units, you will have access to a range of non-assessed seminars, workshops and training sessions offered by the Graduate School.

All postgraduate students are expected to undertake their own programme of self-directed learning and skills acquisition. This may also involve wider reading, language work, computer training and attendance at research seminars in other parts of the University.

Coursework and assessment

There are no formal examinations. Taught course units are assessed by coursework essays or other tasks, normally submitted at the end of each semester (January and May).

The precise nature of the assessment varies according to what is appropriate to the course unit in question. In most cases, a choice of questions or topics is offered. All taught units must be satisfactorily completed.

The dissertation or critical edition (12,000-15,000 words or equivalent) is based on independent research into a topic agreed in consultation with the supervisor. A Research Outline needs to be presented and approved (usually in February) before you proceed with the dissertation.

All coursework is double-marked internally and moderated by the External Examiner. Recitals are heard by at least two internal examiners.

Course unit details

You will undertake units totalling 180 credits. Core and optional units combine to make 120 credits, with the remaining 60 credits allocated to a dissertation or critical edition.

The dissertation or critical edition offers the opportunity to work with world-leading experts in a range of specialist areas. You will choose your own topic, subject to initial approval and the availability of a suitable supervisor; this may be informed by topics and approaches encountered in the course of the Semester 1 taught units.

Recent titles include:

  • Music in the Museum: An Ethnomusicological Approach to the Display of Musical Culture 
  • Rebetiko Recontextualised: An Ethnographic Examination of Processes of Recontextualisation at Rebetiko Carnival 
  • Ways of Understanding - Ethnomusicology and the Cretan Lyra 
  • Are You Here for the Jazz? A Study of Derry Jazz Festival

All students take Advanced Music Studies: Skills and Methodologies and Texts and Studying World Music Cultures: Themes and Debates and, usually, Ethno/Musicology in Action: Fieldwork and Ethnography. A range of optional units are available (see the course unit list below).

A maximum of 30 credits may be chosen from another MA course in the arts or social sciences (subject to availability and approval by the course tutor).

Possible options include From Papyrus to Print: The History of the Book; Perspectives on Medieval and Renaissance Studies; and Gender, Sexuality and the Body.

Students are also expected to attend the Music Research Fora on Thursday afternoons to enrich their studies. These sessions explore current trends, approaches, and issues in musicological and ethnomusicological research with presentations from a variety of invited scholars, professional musicians and composers.

If you choose to take the placement unit, placements will be established in Semester 1 to take place early in Semester 2 and will be supervised by a work-based mentor and overseen by an academic staff member.

You will spend a minimum of 20 days over a period of up to 12 weeks with an arts and cultural organisation, business or service provider. The placement may take the form of an investigation of a specific business idea, development strategy or management proposition to resolve a problem or particular issue, and will result in a placement report, proposal or essay.

Course unit list

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Dissertation or Critical Edition MUSC40110 60 Mandatory
Studying World Music Cultures: Themes and Debates MUSC60021 30 Mandatory
Advanced Music Studies: Issues and Approaches MUSC60051 15 Mandatory
Advanced Music Studies: Research Skills in the Digital Age MUSC60061 15 Mandatory
Contemporary Music Studies MUSC40061 30 Optional
Historical or Contemporary Performance MUSC40072 30 Optional
Advanced Analysis MUSC60011 15 Optional
Ethno/Musicology in Action: Fieldwork and Ethnography MUSC60032 30 Optional
Advanced Orchestration MUSC60042 30 Optional
Historical and Editorial Skills MUSC60091 30 Optional
Music Criticism in Theory and Practice MUSC60112 15 Optional
Professional and Pedagogical Skills MUSC60402 30 Optional
Aesthetics MUSC60502 15 Optional
Business Strategies for Arts, Culture and Creative Industries SALC60072 30 Optional
Creating a Sustainable World: Interdisciplinary Applications of the Sustainable Development Goals UCIL60312 15 Optional
Displaying 10 of 15 course units


You will have access to a wide range of study facilities and cultural assets at Manchester.

The Martin Harris Centre offers students an exceptional home equipped with state-of-the-art facilities.

Alongside teaching rooms and practice rooms, the building houses the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall (capacity 350, with a stage large enough to accommodate a full symphony orchestra), the John Thaw Studio Theatre, the Lenagan Library and a postgraduate suite consisting of a common room and computer room.

The Lenagan Library is a small reference library housed in the Martin Harris Centre that includes major scores, reference tools and a large collection of recordings, together with listening rooms and a spacious work area.

The Henry Watson Library is located in Manchester's Central Library and is renowned for its Handel and Vivaldi manuscripts, and the library of the nearby Royal Northern College of Music.

Find out more about our facilities .

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: