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Acoustic Composition

Both graduates of the MA in Composition and qualified applicants from outside Queen’s are eligible to apply for the PhD in Composition, which prepares the student for professional composition through work on a portfolio of original instrumental/vocal projects under the supervision of Professor Piers Hellawell and Dr Simon Mawhinney. The programme places emphasis on the development of professional standards of writing, and seeks to facilitate each composer’s individual direction. The student composer devises a programme of projects over the study period that represents, and takes forward, that student’s compositional concerns; as a counterpart to the works composed the student reflects on these questions and their realisation within written commentaries. As supplementary activity composers are encouraged to take up the exploration of new technologies, and all composers, most especially those on DEL Awards, are expected to take a full part in attending the School’s Seminar Series, in which guest speakers give informal papers to the research community. There are opportunities for composers to present their own work to this forum as they advance.

Student composers are encouraged to bring work in progress to regular workshops with professional players and ensembles visiting the School; in recent years our composers have benefitted from workshop work with artists such as Sarah Watts (bass clarinet), The Lawson Piano Trio, Philip Dukes (viola), The Vanbrugh Quartet, Ian Mitchell (clarinet), the Ulster Orchestra and the Buckle-Casey Piano Duo. The School’s new String Quartet in Residence also now offers unparalleled opportunities to PhD composers. At the same time, students are encouraged to seek professional outlets for their work; our past PhD composers have had workshop and concert performances of their work by, among others, the Arditti Quartet, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/James Macmillan, Concorde Ensemble and the Dublin and Con Tempo String Quartets. Current composer students include the winner of the West Cork Composition Competition (2010) and runner-up in the Jerome Hynes Composition Competition (2010).

Supervision of acoustic composition is by Piers Hellawell and Simon Mawhinney. Both are established professional composers with a wide range of commissioned works in the public domain and on commercial CD; their many collaborations include projects with Schubert Ensemble, Fidelio Trio, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Recherche, Stockholm Kammarbrass, The LSO, Caput Ensemble, The Philharmonia, Håkan Hardenberger, Psappha, Garth Knox, The Hilliard Ensemble and Kolbeinn Bjarnason. Professor Hellawell is a former Gresham Professor of Music in the City of London; his music is published by Peters Edition (London).


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Applications should be made on line, via the Queen's  Postgraduate Applications Portal