MA in Music (Popular Music Research)

The MA in Music (Popular Music Research) engages with scholarly debates and public controversies around popular music, while examining and developing both traditional and innovative ways of researching popular music.

Find out more about applying.

The deadline for applications is Wednesday 31 July.

About the department

If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline. Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants.

See our tuition fees.
Contact the department
Contact Prof Keith Negus
Visit us
Find out about how you can visit Goldsmiths at one of our open days or come on a campus tour.

It provides a grounding in the development of popular music research as a subfield of musicology, and encourages critical thinking about musical texts, artefacts and ecologies; audiences, reception and questions of interpretation; creativity, industries and production; repertoires broad in historical range and geographical scope.

The course addresses contemporary issues of significance to academics, musicians, industries and organisations involved with popular music.

You'll develop research skills, critical thinking and rigorous methodological expertise with a range of applications both within the academy (at doctoral level) and outside (in music related industries, marketing, arts management, museums and archives, the sciences).

Although a knowledge of and passion for popular music is vital, it is not essential that your first degree is in music or popular music.

We welcome applicants from a wide range of disciplines: the course is designed to be of benefit not only to those wishing to continue their research at doctoral level, but also those wishing to reflect on their experiences as musicians, listeners, or media and arts industry professionals.

Find out more about the MA in Music.

Applying and entrance requirements

You can apply directly to Goldsmiths via the website by clicking the ‘apply now’ button on the main programme page.

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have: 

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments.
  • The email address details of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference.
  • A personal statement. This can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online.
  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory).

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. The deadline for applications is Wednesday 31 July.

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

If you're applying for funding you may be subject to an application deadline. Find out more about funding opportunities for UK/EU students and international students. 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.

Selection process

You will normally be required to attend an interview, and you may be asked to submit examples of your written work in advance (such as an essay of at least 1,500 words on a relevant topic).

Entrance requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class standard in Music or an equivalent subject. 

Your qualification should comprise a substantial academic element relevant to the selected MA pathway and option choices. For the generic MA in Music award you should write a detailed proposal explaining the rationale for your option course choices and how these provide a coherent programme of study leading to dissertation. A detailed transcript of your degree is preferred.

We also accept a wide range of international equivalent qualifications, which can be found on our country-specific pages. If you'd like more information, please contact the Admissions Office.

English language

If your first language isn't English, you need to demonstrate the required level of English language competence to enroll and study on our programmes. 

Please check our English language requirements for more information.

Find out more about applying 

Contact us 

Get in touch via our online form


+44 (0)20 7919 7766

International (non-EU)

+44 (0)20 7919 7702


Research pages and email contacts

Head of Department

Dr Berta Joncus 
Senior Lecturer, BMus Music Joint Admissions Tutor, Departmental Careers Advisor

Academic staff

Dr Freida Abtan
Lecturer in Music/Computing, Programme Convenor for Music Computing

Dr Patricia Alessandrini
Lecturer in Studio Composition

Dr Tamsin Alexander
Lecturer in Music

Professor John Baily
Emeritus Professor of Ethnomusicology, Head of the Afghanistan Music Unit

Dr Lisa Busby
Lecturer, Pathway Leader and Admissions Tutor for MMus Creative Practice

Simon Deacon
Senior Lecturer, Director of Popular Music Performance, BMus Popular Music Admissions Tutor, Programme Convenor for MMus Popular Music

Professor John Levack Drever 
Professor of Acoustic Ecology and Sound Art, Head of Unit for Sound Practice Research, Admissions Tutor for MMus Sonic Arts

Danny Driver
Lecturer in Music (Performance), Programme Convenor for MMus Performance & Related Studies

James Ewers

Ian Gardiner
Senior Lecturer, Programme Convenor for MMus Programme

Dr Stephen Graham

John Harries

Professor Simon McVeigh
Professor of Music

Professor Keith Negus
Professor of Musicology, Co-Head of Popular Music Research Unit, Chair of Exams

Dr Barley Norton
Senior Lecturer, BMus Music Admissions Tutor, Head of Asian Music Unit

Dr Tom Perchard
Senior Lecturer, Programme Convenor for BMus Popular Music, Director of PGR Research, Co-Head of Popular Music Research Unit

Jeremy Peyton Jones
Deputy Head of Department, Senior Lecturer in Music, Director of Studies

Keith Potter
Reader in Music, Admissions Tutor for MA Contemporary Music Studies

Anthony Pryer
Lecturer, Senior Tutor, Programme Convenor for MA Programme, Pathway Leader and Admissions Tutor for MA Music and MA Historical Musicology

Professor Roger Redgate
Professor in Composition, Director of Research, Head of the Contemporary Music Research Unit

Ian Stonehouse
Head of the Electronic Music Studios

Visiting and Associate Tutors

Pete Astor
Popular Music and Songwriting

Alexis Bennett
Music and Film

Dr Dimitris Exarchos
Theory & Analysis, Contemporary Music Studies

Dr Panos Ghikas

Daniel Jones
Music Computing

Maria Krivenski
Classical Performance, Programme Convenor Short Courses/Summer School

Dr Naomi Matsumoto
Programme Convenor for IFC & Graduate Diploma, International Admissions Tutor

Tom Mudd
Music Computing, Laptop Ensemble Director and EMS Technician

John Reid
Classical Performance

Dmitri Smirnov

Alistair Zaldua

Visiting Fellows 

Maria Chavez, attached to the Sound Practice Research Unit

Dr Gavin Dixon attached to the Centre for Russian Music 

Veronica Doubleday attached to the Afghanistan Music Unit

Helen Frosi attached to the Sound Practice Research Unit

Prof Peter Kivy, Rutgers University

Dr Simon Maguire,
Southeby's, London

Dr Ivana Medic, University of Manchester, attached to the Centre for Russian Music

Gilbert Nouno attached to the Sound Practice Research Unit

Ashley Paul attached to the Popular Music Research Unit and Contemporary Music Research Unit

Lawrence Upton attached to the Sound Practice Research Unit

Visiting Research Staff 

Professor Simon Morrison
Visiting Professor
University of Princeton

Dr Levon Hakobian
Head of the Russian State Institute of Art Studies, attached to the Centre for Russian Music
Visiting Fellow

Katharine Hogg
Librarian of the Gerald Coke Handel Collection, Foundling Museum
Visiting Fellow


Imogen Burman
Events Manager

Anja Jeczalik
Clerical Officer

Ms Mains
Clerical Assistant

Kim Mulhall
Business Manager

Jon Fletcher
Assistant Business Manager

Harry Goodsman
Clerical Officer

Music Technicians

Rick Campion
Technical Manager

Sophie Ellison
Music Technician Receptionist

Alex Horkey
Music Technician 

Mariano Nunez-West 
Senior Music Technician (Piano Specialist)

Goldsmiths Music Studios

Mikko Gordon
Head of Goldsmiths Music Studios

Winther Robinson
Studio Engineer & Archivist

Sean Woodlock
Studio Maintenance Engineer

Harri Chambers
Assistant Engineer

Instrumental Tutors

Flute: Sarah O'Flynn; Finn Peters (Popular Music)
Oboe: Joseph Sanders
Clarinet: Victoria Soames Samek
Bassoon: Julie Andrews

Saxophone: Paul Bartholomew, Dave O'Higgins; Melanie Henry

Horn: Gillian Jones
Trumpet: Andrew Hendrie
Trombone: Leslie Lake
Tuba: Oren Marshall; Nick Newland

Violin/Viola: Devorina Gamalova (personal website)
Cello: Natalia Pavlutskaya (personal website); Léonie Adams; Rebecca Turner; Val Welbanks (Ligeti Quartet website)
Double Bass: Tony Hougham; Arnulf Lidner (Popular Music)

Harp: Gabriella D'Allolio
Bass (popular music): Tom Herbert ( The Invisible website); Matt Round

Piano: Simon Deacon; Nick Ramm; Sam Beste (Popular Music); Jakob Fichert; Maria Krivenski; Andrew Zolinsky (classical)

Percussion:Chris Brannick (Ensemble Bash); David Corkhill
Drum kit: Steve White; Dave Hattee; Tom Skinner

Director: Nan Christie

Voice (popular music): Laura Zakian; Sarah Stephenson; Rachel Bennett
Voice (classical music): Nan Christie;  Caroline Lenton-Ward

Guitar: Graham Devine
Guitar (popular music): Arthur Dick; Nicholas Meier; David Okumu  (The Invisible website) Pete Roth

Chamber Choir conductor: Caroline Lenton-Ward

The Department of Music welcomes most instruments and we will do our best to find a suitable teacher for your studies here. Please note, we cannot guarantee the availability of all tutors.

Core modules

MU71069A Critical Musicology and Popular Music 30 CATS

This module will provide historical context by tracing the way in which popular music has posed problems for and also made a significant contributions to the development of musicology as a discipline. It will introduce students to key debates and issues, conceptual terms and methodological approaches and highlight the various intellectual legacies that feed into the study of popular music (such as the ‘discovery’, valorisation and study of the ‘folk’ and folk song; and the ‘critical theory’ of Adorno and the Frankfurt School seen as a response to commodification, the introduction of recorded sound and anxiety about ‘mass culture’; the cultural politics associated with the ‘counter-culture’ and ‘new social movements’). The module will highlight how the development of scholarly debates about popular music has been informed by interdisciplinary dialogues, an embracement of ‘the popular’ as a political project and the gradual institutionalization of popular music studies within the academy.

To take this module you should have: Prerequisite skills: a general awareness of theoretical debates about popular music; a familiarity with various styles of popular music and musicians; an ability to write in a critical and analytical manner.

Method of Assessment: One 5,000-word analytical essay. 

Convenor: Prof. Keith Negus

Option modules (choose three)

MU71070A Popular Music: Listening, Analysis and Interpretation 30 CATS

This module explores ways in which analytical listening and writing can – and perhaps can’t – help us to understand individual and generic working methods within, and to locate and construct ‘meaning’ for, popular music. Key topics that will be covered include: the problems of the popular music ‘text’, and of the analytical methods that might be used to access it; the representation of popular music in writing, notation and visual image; the use of close listening and analysis in the investigation of individual, cultural and historical musical subjects (in both senses of that term); the variety of ‘analytical’ popular musical knowledge as it appears in scholarly, journalistic and audience discourses. 

To take this module you should havea working knowledge of basic music theory and terminology; familiarity with various styles of popular music; an ability to research and to write in a critical manner. Prior knowledge of art music analytical systems (Schenker, Riemann, etc.) is neither assumed nor necessary.

Convenor: Dr. Tom Perchard


MU71014B Contemporary Ethnomusicology 30 CATS

This explores contemporary approaches in ethnomusicology. The focus is on contemporary theoretical issues in the field, although current concerns will be situated within the history of ethnomusicological discourse. The module will address a range of topics and issues, such as globalisation and diasporas, the “world music” 

phenomenon, ethics, urban ethnomusicology, cognitive approaches, musical experience and phenomenology, music technology, and issues of gender, sexuality, and ‘race’. During the module, students will gain familiarity with the connections between ethnomusicology and related disciplines such as anthropology, and with debates concerning disciplinary boundaries within music studies.

This module does not require prior knowledge of ethnomusicology. 

Method of Assessment: One essay of 5,000 words

Convenor: Dr. Barley Norton

MU71051A Ethnographic Film and Music Research 30 CATS

This examines the uses of ethnographic film/video in music research and enables students to develop the practical, technical and theoretical skills necessary to make their own short ethnographic film on a music topic in a critical and self-reflexive manner. Through a critical reading of key ethnographic films about music, the module will address questions of aesthetics, representation and ethics that arise in the process of filmmaking. It will also consider the use of digital media in musical ethnography more generally and assess the methods of analysis afforded by the visual documentation of music practices. In complement with theoretical seminars, practical workshops on the methods of digital video recording and editing will familiarise students with a variety of approaches to ethnographic filmmaking and techniques of sound recording.

For this module you will develop skills in filming using video cameras and editing using Final Cut Pro. However, it does not require you to have prior experience of filming and film editing. 

Method of Assessment: Coursework Portfolio consisting of: 1. A short ethnographic film on a music topic (c.10-20mins), or other equivalent video documentation of musical practices. 2. Commentary and analysis of film/audiovisual material (c.2,000 words).

Convenor: Dr. Barley Norton

MU71054B Contemporary Music: Practices and Debates 30 CATS

This module traces just a few of the paths, among many that might be identified, tracked and evaluated, through late twentieth- and early twenty first-century musical cultures, focusing on some key repertoires and the debates which surround them.

The Modernisms of this period, however much their creators may have insisted on an aesthetic of rejection and beginning again from first principles, have their aesthetic, and even some of their technical, origins in early twentieth-century Modernisms, whether musical or emerging from other art forms and cultural practices. While the Postmodernisms that overlapped with, as well as succeeded, them  are frequently associated with the blurring and even breakdown of previously-erected barriers between "High Art" and "Low Art", this module will attempt to assess the significance of such movements and musical phenomena as part of a continuing tradition of "serious", even "classical" musical endeavour: a tradition whose validity and success will receive consideration here.

"Modernism" and "Postmodernism" will be considered not only as they can be applied to cultural practice generally, but also as they may be held up as useful tools to understand the specific musical practices involved, and their influence on subsequent developments.

The methodologies examined and tested in this module include history (cultural as well as musical), cultural theory and musical analysis, and the extent to which at least certain of these might be combined. 

To take this module you should have: some knowledge of the main currents of development in Western composed art music during the 20th century.  It is possible to benefit from this module if your main musical experience lies outside the Western "classical" tradition; but in this case, in particular, it would be much easier to get a grasp of the module content if you had already read at least something by, if not necessarily the really "hard" theorists such as Adorno and Lyotard, then by, say, Bradbury or Jencks.  By no means all such writers refer to music at all, but the application of some of their ideas to a wide range of music will form an important part of this module.

Method of Assessment: One essay of c. 5,000 words.

Convenor: Keith Potter

MU71056A Performance as Research 30 CATS

The aim of the module is to develop knowledge and understanding of musical performance as a research technique, particularly in relation to the music of other cultures. It will address practical, theoretical and conceptual issues concerning music performance, including issues such as the nature of musicality, processes of music learning, theories of improvisation, modal theory, and the body in music performance. Theoretical understanding will be developed in conjunction with practical, experiential learning.

Students will develop a research-centred performance project by either learning to perform from a repertory outside their primary music culture or by developing expertise in a new area of performance practice. This may include learning to perform a new instrument and/or genre; developing music improvisation skills; or the arrangement and performance of pieces from a particular music tradition. Students will be required to give a short performance demonstrating the development of their performance skills and to theorise their performance practice and experiential learning in a written form. 

Method of Assessment: Performance Project (100%) consisting of a performance (c.15 minutes); AND an essay or reflexive diary (c. 3,000 words) relating to the performance and/or the learning process

Convenor: Dr. Barley Norton

MU71036B Philosophies of Music 30 CATS

Everyone has philosophical ideas about music. They tend to come to the fore when we want to dismiss certain works as ‘noise’ (the ‘definition’ problem), or bypass historical context by claiming an interest in ‘the music itself’ (the ‘ontological’ problem), or assert a belief in the profundity of music, or the embodiment of emotions in music, or the parallels between music and language (these are semantic and epistemological problems). They arise too when we defend ourselves by saying that all values are relative (except, apparently, that one, which is supposed to be a universal truth), and that non-western cultures and subcultures have every right to make a claim on the notions of art and the aesthetic.

And philosophical issues also lie at the heart of the ethical decisions that arts administrators and politicians have to make about the distribution of funds in a world of scarce resources – should we allow ourselves to weep at Tosca whilst ignoring tragedy in the streets?

This module provides a gathering-point for discussion and examination of the many concepts that play a role in the ways in which we define, understand, evaluate and justify music. Its aim is to say things so clearly that we can tell when we are talking nonsense, and it does this by analysing ideas systematically in relation to the writings of important figures in the field (see the bibliography on

To take this module you should have: some knowledge of the traditions of music (whether classical or popular or non-western), a good standard of linguistic literacy, and a willingness to challenge your own ideas as well as those of others. 

Method of Assessment: One essay of 5000 words. The essay should present a discourse or argument on a philosophical issue of existence, or meaning, or evaluation or justification in relation to music, but centred upon, or applied to, specific musical examples, events or phenomena. A list of suggested essay topics will be provided, and there will be individual tutorials as well as lectures and discussions.

Convenor: Anthony Pryer

MU71067B Interpretation, Meaning & Performance 30 CATS

This module shows students how critical theory illuminates or impacts on a performer’s interpretation.  Performance is a decision-making process, guided often by attitudes towards the work, its meaning, and what is considered stylistically appropriate. Using case studies, this module will explore three different models for interpretation – intention-validated, text-validated, and culture-validated – and analyse recordings to illustrate these models. By studying performances students will also explore how style is engendered. 

The module is divided into two sections. The first explains competing views about how we construe meaning in music. Questions central to this debate are: does the artist shape the work’s meaning for audiences; does the work’s meaning inhere to its formal structure; or do social conventions construct a musical language and its meaning? Students will also consider apposite issues – art versus craft, event-based performance, improvisation, mechanical reproduction – and the emergence of ‘style’ in performance and in repertory. Drawing together audio, visual and printed sources, the module’s second section studies legendary performers to ask how a performance articulates and relates to critical theory. 

To take this module you should have: foundation skills in musical scholarship, in the history of Western Art Music, and in academic writing. All students (native and non-native speakers) should attend the 8-week module during Term 1 on academic writing: 'How to… a module for first year undergraduate and postgraduate students' held at the Centre for English Language and Academic Writing.

Method of Assessment: One essay of 5000 words. The essay should present an argument that integrates knowledge of critical theory with the analysis of a recording or a series of recordings by a particular artist.

Convenor: Berta Joncus

MU71048A Working with Original Musical Documents 30 CATS

The module will provide detailed study of selected manuscript and printed sources, with a guide to their notational systems, palaeographic features, their relation to other copies of the same repertory (stemmatics) and their construction as documents (codicology). It will also teach methods of reading, investigating and dating documents, of locating them geographically, historically,  and institutionally, and of transcribing them in accordance with the conventions of modern editorial methods. The module will necessitate visits to repositories of original sources (e.g. Sotheby’s, British Library, etc.). For historical musicologists this module – along  with Sources and Resources – provides an essential foundation for their dissertation work.

To take this module you should have: a high degree of musical literacy and a familiarity with Western Art Music traditions and performance-practice conventions. 

Method of Assessment: EITHER: a) a critical edition of an older musical source, which would include a critical commentary and accompanying contextualising essay, OR: b) a professional description of an older musical source with a contextualising essay (5,000 words). 

Convenor: Anthony Pryer


MU71046A Dissertation 60 CATS

The dissertation acts as focus of the knowledge and skills acquired during the programme, and gives students the opportunity to undertake genuinely original work, employing relevant research methods and building upon the advanced and systematic understandings developed in other elements of the programme. The dissertation can be in the form of a critical discussion of a problem in musicology, analysis, or an appropriate repertoire, or a critical edition of a musical document. Most work on the dissertation will be independent study, supported by frequent and individual consultation with the appointed supervisor throughout the academic year, with particular emphasis on term three.

Method of Assessment: 
EITHER a critical discussion (not exceeding c.15,000 words) of: 1. A problem or debate in musicology or in contemporary and popular music studies; or 2. An analytical study; or 3. An appropriate repertoire, ranging over a coherent body of material, and including the evaluation of original source material as relevant.

OR a critical edition of a single musical document (manuscript or printed), including an editorial commentary and apparatus, and an introduction discussing any problems raised by the document, situating it within its historical and social context and including a critical discussion of the music or the musical issues involved (textual component not exceeding c. 10,000 words).

Programme specification

To find out more about this degree, including details about the ways you'll be assessed and information about our marking criteria, you can download the programme specification.

Content last modified: 24 Jul 2013

Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW, UK
Telephone: + 44 (0)20 7919 7171

Goldsmiths has charitable status

© 2000- Goldsmiths, University of London. Copyright, Disclaimer and Company information | Statement on the use of cookies by Goldsmiths