Digital Composition and Performance - MSc

Digital Composition & Performance

Digital Composition & Performance


This interdisciplinary programme focusses on composition and performance with a variety of computer-based technologies. It is open to active musicians with or without a formal music education. It covers electronic/computer/instrumental composition and performance; sound design concepts and techniques; real-time and non real-time sound synthesis and signal processing; interface design; laptop performance strategies; sound diffusion and spatialisation; algorithmic composition; cultural theory; and more. The focus is upon developing bespoke software for the realisation of personal musical visions.  This, along with exposure to a wide variety of techniques and musical styles, fosters the creation of highly individual styles and helps graduates stand out from the crowd.

This programme is for talented, creative composers; burgeoning laptop performers; obsessively meticulous digital sound producers; visual artists incorporating sound in their exhibitions; glitch-happy hardware hackers; sound designers itching to go further with musical structure; interactive sound installation artists; performers wishing to branch out into the world of electronic and computer music; classically-trained composers wanting to break into the digital age.

A unique approach

University composition courses are usually open only to musicians with years of training on a classical instrument, with all the music theory that this entails.This degree recognises a need to engage with musicians who either never had the opportunity of such a training, or whose practice never demanded it. Its starting point is a drive to make and perform music with digital technologies, as well as to explore a variety of music and texts to inform and develop a highly personalised musical style.

As this degree involves a wide range of disciplines both technical and artistic, you will gain a number of transferable skills ranging from the core matters of composition, audio production, and music programming to more indirect but highly employable skills such as research, documentation, critical thinking, oral presentation, teamwork, and software development.

Our graduates have gone on to be employed as composers, performers, researchers, Cirque du Soleil sound technicians, university lecturers, software engineers, BBC sound recordists, web designers, multimedia/video streaming engineers, DJs, etc.

Graduate profiles

Top five reasons to choose the programme

  • Highly commissioned, knowledgeable, active, and experienced staff covering a wide range of digital composition and performance techniques;
  • Excellent facilities and dedicated technical support team focussing on high-quality kit and including the Reid Studio: come and hear the difference;
  • Stick out from the crowd by learning how to develop your own bespoke software solutions to facilitate your musical visions;
  • Work in an exceptionally vibrant and energetic environment at the Edinburgh College of Art, with related programmes including the fields of Sound Design, Composition, Composition for Screen, Acoustics and Music Technology, Design and Digital Media, and more;
  • Aesthetically open, student-focussed, and with a concentration on sound and musical form rather than notation and music theory.

View the programme handbook (login required) >

Student work


Key teachers on Digital Composition and Performance - MSc

  • Dr Michael Edwards, Programme Director | View staff profile >
  • Dr Martin Parker, lecturer on Sound Design Media and the Digital Media Studio Project | View staff profile >
  • Prof Peter Nelson, course organiser for Composers' Seminar (A&B) and Compositional Practice (A&B) | View staff profile >
  • Dr Owen Green, course organiser for Sound Design Media and the Digital Media Studio Project | View staff profile >

Guest lecturers have included...

  • Chris Watson (BBC sound recordists and sonic artist)
  • Fred Frith (improviser and film music composer)
  • Randy Thom (designing a film for sound)
  • Andy Farnell (Procedural Audio)
  • Shackle (Anne La Berge and Robert van Heumann)
  • Agostino di Scipio (Audible Ecosystems)
  • Eddie Prevost (improvisor/musician)
  • Sabine Vogel (composer/improvisor/musician)
  • Konk Pack (free improvisation trio)
  • Mike Svoboda (trombonist/composer)
  • Lukas Ligeti (percussionist/composer)
  • Marcus Schmickler (composer)
  • Christoph Ogiermann (composer)
  • Christophe Fellay (percussionist/improvisor/composer)
  • Kim Cascone (composer)


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.

Nearly 1,000 items including stringed, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments.

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.

Studio equipment and software tailored for music students to be able to record, edit, and experiment with their work.

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

Scholarships available for one academic year of postgraduate study at Edinburgh College of Art. (£5,000)

For full-time postgraduate taught masters students starting at Reid School of Music. (£5,000)

For current full-time music students. Students wishing to enter the competition must present a programme of organ music lasting 35-40 minutes. (£1,000)

For full-time postgraduate taught masters students starting at Reid School of Music. (£3,000)

News & events

John Palma Robayo IMG_0322 960 x 610.jpg

Photo of a student in the Reid School of Music
John is a Computer Science and Audio Production graduate
He is completing his Masters in Digital Composition and Performance

We talk to Digital Composition and Performance student, John, about creating music for both acoustic instrumentation and live multichannel electronics.

Spin off and start ups grid 960 x 610.png

Collection of images showing music and sound products and people
Start-ups include Krotos, Skoogmusic, Two Big Ears, Audiotalaia and XTH

Martin Parker talks to us about the Reid School of Music as a hub of enterprising talent.


Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Admissions

Phone: +44 (0)131 650 4086