Guildhall School of Music and Drama Composition
Guildhall School of Music and Drama Composition
Individual Lessons and Masterclasses | Workshops | Techniques of Composition | Orchestration | Electronic Music | Analysis | Aesthetics
Guildhall offers some of the most stimulating and creative training for composers available in the UK. Our guiding principle is that composers should develop in collaboration with technically-proficient, sympathetic instrumentalists under the expert guidance of experienced practitioners.
We make a commitment to workshop every composition that you write. And by studying at a conservatoire you will benefit from a range of unique opportunities. These include access to performers, a creatively-active team of staff composers, and a host of external partners. There is also the chance to study inside a lively arts complex and take advantage of Guildhall School’s multi-disciplinary environment. Every Guildhall student is encouraged to take an innovative and collaborative approach, and you will be part of a constant, cross-departmental flow of ideas, skills and creativity encompassing Music, Acting and Technical Theatre.
Guildhall School’s undergraduate composition pathway is intended to support the creative development of composers, whatever your interests or sources of inspiration. There is no ‘house-style’. We are not looking for one kind of composer. Consequently, our community of student composers is very diverse but with a shared sense of commitment, purpose and mutual respect.
The BMus composition pathway is built on complementary strands of academic activity: Original Composition and Techniques. Original Composition activity follows a four-year trajectory that builds from small-scale chamber projects in Year 1 (monody, duo, voice and instrument, percussion ensemble), through the more ambitious demands of working with wind quintet, string quartet and 14-piece ensemble. The journey culminates in Year 4 with the composition of works for full orchestra, vocal ensemble and live sounds and electronics. All compositions are workshopped either by your fellow students in the School or by professional, world-renowned visiting ensembles and soloists.
The Techniques strand is intended to equip you with a high level of skill and expertise in the craft and technique of musical composition. In the first two years, topics range from Harmony, Counterpoint and Pastiche Composition. They also include a 20th Century Materials course informed by core concepts in 20th and 21st-century harmonic and rhythmic practice, as well as equipping you with practical knowledge and experience in working with percussion. In addition, there is a Creative Ensemble element which challenges student composers to form their own performing ensemble, offering a chance to engage with ideas and possibilities of experimental, and often transmedial practice.
Topics in Years 3 and 4 range more widely and include Aesthetics, Workshop Skills and Orchestration. In all four years of Techniques work, student composers also take classes in Electronic Music and Analysis.
Workshopping your work
At the heart of the programme is the workshop process. We make a commitment to workshop every piece that you write, from your first exercises for one or two instruments, to full ensemble and orchestral pieces in your third and fourth year. This programme thrives on close partnerships with other Guildhall School departments, and all undergraduate composers are encouraged to develop their skills and experience by working collaboratively as creative artists.
Read more about the BMus course structure.
MMus/MComp in Composition
MA in Opera Making and Writing
Read more about the new MA in Opera Making and Writing, in association with the Royal Opera House.
Read more about our Composition research programmes.
Activities and Ensembles
- Individual lessons – 30 hours a year for BMus and MMus students; 20 hours a year for MA in Opera Making and Writing students (plus production classes and mentoring)
- Open Sessions – a series of weekly presentations given by both staff and distinguished visiting composers, to discuss current concerns, ideas and aesthetic questions relating to contemporary music
- Workshops – all student compositions are performed and rehearsed in formal workshops, providing composers with a broad range of feedback and response and a richer perception of their creative ideas in real time
- Departmental classes and seminars – the undergraduate programme includes a substantial series of departmental classes, while postgraduate and doctoral students take part in seminars
- Creative Ensemble – made up of BMus years 1 and 2 student composers who are encouraged and supported to work experimentally using their own cohort of composers as a performing ensemble
- Guildhall New Music Ensemble, which presents a concert each term curated by a Guildhall School composition professor or visiting composer
- Work placements for undergraduate composers via the Professional Studies module
- City Chamber Choir Composer-in-Association – each year, one Guildhall School composer is appointed as Composer-in-Association to the City Chamber Choir, an association which offers creative development and a London premiere of an a cappella choral work
- London Symphony Orchestra/London Philharmonic Orchestras – the Department has good connections with both institutions and supports its student composers to apply for either the London Symphony Orchestra’s Panufnik Young Composers Scheme or the London Philharmonic Orchestras’s Young Composer programme
Owing to the School’s location within an international arts venue, distinguished visiting composers pass through our doors regularly, giving masterclasses, seminars and individual lessons to our students. The department enjoys close working relationships with a number of external partners including the Royal Philharmonic Society, Royal Opera House, London Contemporary Dance School, The Opera Group, and the Wigmore Hall, organisations such as Sound and Music, new music ensembles such as Exaudi or Chroma, orchestras such as the BBC Symphony, London Symphony or Aurora orchestras, and festivals such as the City of London Festival and Spitalfields Festival.
If you would like further information, or a detailed outline of our course, please contact the Composition Department Administrator to request a copy. Or read our Frequently Asked Questions about the Composition course
Alternatively, come to our Open Day, when the content of the course will be explained in more depth and you will have the opportunity to ask questions.