Creative Music Practice - PhD


The PhD in Creative Music Practice provides an opportunity for candidates to pursue practice-led research in the field of music at the highest level.

Research profile

The PhD in Creative Music Practice involves research that combines textual and musical outputs. For example:

  • Composition
  • Performance (either of original or pre-existing repertoire)
  • Installation
  • Sound design
  • Interactive music software, etc.

The outputs take the form of a portfolio, performance, and/or recording, as well as theoretical work and documentation of the processes by which the music was made (e.g. video, photographs, recordings, sketches, studies, web pages).

The musical outputs are explicitly linked to the textual material. This linkage may take various forms: musical material might exemplify, contextualize, and/or expand an idea elaborated in the text, and vice versa.

The programme requires candidates to critically evaluate and articulate the relationship of textual to extra-textual media in the formation of musical knowledge. The format of the PhD thesis consists of a text of not more than 50,000 words and a comprehensive record of the musical material (recordings, scores, software etc.) contained in a coherent and archive-able format (bound thesis and/or CD/DVD). In the case of theses relating to live musical performances, documentation in the form of high quality audio and video recordings is central to the submitted materials.

Programme demographics

The programme attracts, for example:

  • composer-theorists who wish to carry out research into and practice of particular compositional models
  • performers who wish to deepen their practice through musicological research
  • computer music composers who wish to develop documented hard/software systems for their music
  • performers with a need to study the techniques and organology of period instruments
  • instrument builders/researchers needing historical techniques found from evidence on the original instruments

View the programme handbook (login required) >

Student work


Dr Michael Edwards, Programme Director | View staff profile >

All research degrees require students to work closely with a supervision team. Please browse staff profiles to learn about the research specialisms and outputs of Music staff. If your research is interdisciplinary, look at staff profiles in other subject areas, too. We encourage you to approach staff directly to gauge their availability and suitability as a prospective supervisor.

When making first contact, prepare a couple of sentences which describe the topic (research area, research questions). Please also include a link(s) to allow your prospective supervisor to see examples of your musical practice (website, online portfolio, recordings, written output, etc.). 

This is not a commitment to carrying out a precise project of work, it simply allows potential supervisors to understand how clearly you can envisage the scope of a PhD or MScR project, and also the type of practical - as well as intellectual – matters that postgraduate research entails. This early contact with staff should also be helpful to you, for decisions you will need to make about how to develop your proposal, and with whom you would like to work.

If you are uncertain and wish to seek advice, please do get in touch, either with Dr Michael Edwards or Sophie Ramette (ECA PGT office).

Dr Stefan Bilbao, Acoustics and Audio Research Group; Research Project Director NESS | View staff profile >

Acoustics and audio, Computational, Instrument research, Technology

Dr Matt Brennan, Course Organiser for MMus Musicology | View staff profile >

Contemporary, Cultural history, Empirical, Instrument research, Music industries, Politics, Popular music, Social history, Sociology, Twentieth century, Twenty-first century

Dr Annette Davison, Director of Research, Reid School of Music; Course Organiser for MMus Musicology | View staff profile >

Aesthetics, Archival study, Contemporary, Cultural history, Music for screen (TV/Film/Game), Music industries, Opera/Theatre, Philosophy, Politics, Reception, Social history, Sociology, Theory and analysis, Twentieth century

Dr Dr Anne Desler, Director of Performance, teaching on MMus Musicology | View staff profile >

Aesthetics, Archival study, Classicism, Cultural history, Historical musicology, Historiography, Improvisation, Music industries, Opera/Theatre, Pedagogy, Performance, Philosophy, Popular music, Reception, Renaissance/Baroque, Sacred music, Social history

Yati Durant, Programme Director, MSc in Composition for Screen | View staff profile >

Composition, Contemporary, Electroacoustic, Empirical, Improvisation, Music for screen (TV/Film/Game), Performance, Philosophy, Sonic art, Technology, Twentieth century, Twenty-first century

Dr Michael Edwards, Programme Director, PhD in Creative Music Practice, MSc in Digital Composition and Performance | View staff profile >

Algorithmic composition, Composition, Computational, Contemporary, Electroacoustic, Improvisation, Performance, Technology

Dee Isaacs, Course Organiser, 'Introduction to Community Arts Practice' | View staff profile >

Community, Composition, Ethnomusicology, Sonic art

Dr Elaine Kelly, Teaching on MMus Musicology | View staff profile >

Aesthetics, C19th Romanticism, Cultural history, Historical musicology, Historiography, Opera/Theatre, Philosophy, Politics, Social history, Twentieth century

Prof. Raymond MacDonald, Teaching on MMus Musicology | View staff profile >

Cognitive sciences, Community, Composition, Contemporary, Empirical, Ethnomusicology, Improvisation, Instrument research, Music and health, Music for screen (TV/Film/Game), Musical development, Performance, Psychology, Sonic art, Twenty-first century

Dr Nikki Moran, Programme Director, Music - PhD/MPhil/MScR by Research | View staff profile >

Cognitive sciences, Community, Empirical, Ethnomusicology, Improvisation, Pedagogy, Performance, Psychology, Reception

Dr Michael Newton, Programme Director MSc Acoustics and Music Technology | View staff profile >

Acoustics and audio, Computational, Instrument research, Technology

Dr Katie Overy, Director, Institute for Music in Human and Social Development (IMHSD) | View staff profile >

Cognitive sciences, Empirical, Music and health, Musical development, Neurosciences, Pedagogy, Psychology

Dr Martin Parker, Programme Director MSc Sound Design/MScR Sound Design | View staff profile >

Acoustics and audio, Composition, Computational, Contemporary, Electroacoustic, Improvisation, Instrument research, Music for screen (TV/Film/Game), Performance, Sonic art, Technology, Twenty-first century

Dr Benedict Taylor, Course Organiser for MMus Musicology | View staff profile >

Aesthetics, C19th Romanticism, Classicism, Cultural history, Historical musicology, Opera/Theatre, Philosophy, Reception, Theory and analysis, Twentieth century

Dr Gareth Williams, Teaching on MMus Composition | View staff profile >

Community, Composition, Contemporary, Music and health, Opera/Theatre, Twentieth century


Everything you need to know about finding perfect student accommodation.

Six purpose-built, acoustically-treated music studios, with tie-lines to a shared recording space.

A fully operational, entirely student-run 90-seat theatre housed in a neo-gothic church.

Recording equipment is available to students through BookIt, the online booking system.

Get information, advice and guidance about your career options.

The Centre for Research Collections (CRC) is the main space for anyone using the University of Edinburgh’s historic collections.

Work spaces are available across the University. ECA's computers include software tailored to the disciplines studied here.

At the heart of the Evolution House Learning and Research Zone, the ECA Library provides an innovative environment for learning, teaching and research resources in art and design.

ECAfé provides a full catering service to all staff, students and visitors to Edinburgh College of Art.

Edinburgh Global's mission is to encourage internationalisation, enhance the student experience, create and develop partnerships.

EUSA represent the student voice. They provide services, run events, and facilitate student societies.

Information and guidance on financial matters for all students of the University of Edinburgh.

A Georgian garden that doubles as a venue for performances in the centre of the city.

The primary collection of books, periodicals, manuscripts, and research material.

Edinburgh is home to a number of musical societies, bands, orchestras and dance troupes.

17 practice rooms equipped with pianos, ideal for students requiring a private place for music practice.

A technical support team is on hand to help you with any studio or equipment queries.

Information on the equipment available to students in the music studios and editing suites.

Includes organs, harpsichords, and instruments from the Musical Instruments Museum.

By day, a café, bar and study space, and by night a club venue. Potterrow’s dome is also home to the Advice Place and the Potter Shop.

A 218-seat Victorian venue built in 1859. Used for regular orchestral and choral rehearsals and performances.

Located beneath Reid Concert Hall, this studio is built to record live performances in the venue.

The neo-classical Sculpture Court in the ECA Main Building is home to the many pieces from the Edinburgh Cast Collection, and is regularly used for student exhibitions.

Caters to a diverse range of users from occasional exercisers to international athletes.

The oldest purpose-built concert hall in Scotland. Used for concerts and part of the Musical Instruments Museum.

Offering counselling services for students, workshops, consultation and training for staff.

Supporting students with dyslexia, mental health issues and students on the autistic spectrum, as well as those who have physical and sensory impairments.

Talbot Rice Gallery is the public art Gallery for the University of Edinburgh.

Home to six distinctive bars, Teviot is the oldest purpose built students' union in the world.

A hub for the University Societies and setting regular live music, comedy, spoken word and poetry nights.

A bar at the Lauriston Campus which hosts regular events including club nights and gigs.

Scholarships & bursaries

Successful applicants will have a research interest aligning with, or cutting across, ECA's five Schools.

The scholarships cover tuition fees, maintenance allowance, research and travel allowance.

Designed to attract high quality students applying for PhD research.

Funding for PhD students undertaking interdisciplinary research at ECA. (£16,000 per year)

Open to overseas students starting a PhD at University of Edinburgh.

Open to current students pursuing research in the area of Scottish Music. (£1,000)

Open to new and current postgraduate Musicology students. (£500)

News & events

2016-10-07_IMAGE BY LISA NAAS_Glass in Translation.jpg

A display of interactive Glass work from the Glass in Translation part of the exhibition
Glass in Translation
Image by Lisa Naas

The project aims to bridge the gap between art object and audience.

Tomke Kossen-Veenhuis (right) with CHSS winner Maddie Long (left) and people¹s choice winner Edgar Rodriguez (middle)_cropped.jpg

Tomke Kossen-Veenhuis (right) with CHSS winner Maddie Long (left) and people's choice winner Edgar Rodriguez (middle)
Tomke Kossen-Veenhuis (right) with CHSS winner Maddie Long (left) and people's choice winner Edgar Rodriguez (middle)

Tomke Kossen-Veenhuis was placed second in the CHSS round of this year's '3 Minute Thesis' competition


Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Admissions

Phone: +44 (0)131 650 4086