What is the difference between Digital Composition & Performance and Sound Design?

For those of you who are considering both Digital Composition and Performance and Sound Design and are wondering what the differences are:

The Sound Design and Digital Composition and Performance MScs currently share three of their seven courses (Sound Design Media, Digital Media Studio Project, and Media and Culture).

The fields are of course quite related, especially in their concentration on digital technology for sound production. The programme aims do differ however:

Sound Design explores a range of sound practice including the creation and treatment of sound for film and animation, sound installation, radio, interactive sound, internet audio etc.

Digital Composition and Performance concentrates much more on music composition (Sound Design does not usually include this) and new performance practice with computers. It is as such more artistically focussed.

The difference between the two MScs will be highlighted most in the Final Project concentration, as well as the focus and application of the techniques presented in the various courses.

What are the entry requirements?

Entry requirements can be found on the University of Edinburgh Degree Finder.

Is there a reading list for the programme?


  • Music Technology Reference Book, Peter Buick & Vic Leonard, PC Publishing, 1997.
  • The MIDI Companion, Jeff Rona, Hal Leonard, 1994.
  • Loy, Gareth, Musimathics — The Mathematical Foundations of Music, Vol. 1&2, Cambridge: MIT Press. 2006/7.
  • The Computer Music Tutorial, Curtis Roads, MIT Press, 1996.
  • Computer Music, Charles Dodge and Thomas A. Jerse, Schirmer Books, 1985
  • Composing Music with Computers, Eduardo Reck Miranda, Focal Press, 2002
  • Music, Cognition, and Computerized Sound, Perry Cook (editor), MIT Press, 1999

Real-Time/Interactive Systems:

  • Interactive Music Systems, Robert Rowe, MIT Press, 1992.
  • Composing Interactive Music: Techniques and Ideas Using MAX, Todd Winkler, MIT Press, 1998.

In addition it is strongly recommended that you download the demo version of Max/MSP from http://www.cycling74.com/products/maxmsp and start working through the tutorials.

Algorithmic Composition:

  • Notes from the Metalevel, Heinrich Taube, Taylor & Francis, 2004
  • Formalized Music, Iannis Xenakis, Indiana University Press, 1971

I've never studied music formally, can I do this MSc?

This one is difficult to answer because each applicant's background is unique.

The short answer is: very possibly, especially if you're a composer/music maker already.

No course on this MSc requires a formal training in Music Theory; however, you can never have enough (!) and you will certainly have an easier time on the programme if you know at least the basics.

What is required is significant experience in making your own music (aka composition). If you have a Bachelors degree in, for example, French or Engineering, are passionate about music, would like to learn how to compose (but haven't written anything yet) etc. etc. this programme is (sadly) not for you.

On the other hand, if you don't have a degree of any description but have plenty of experience making music, we may be able to admit you on the strength of a portfolio.

The main point is: if you have a decent portfolio of music already, don't hesitate, just apply.

Will this programme teach me to be a commercial success?

The MSc in Digital Composition and Performance strikes new ground in offering an advanced degree in composition to people whose backgrounds in music are very diverse and, most importantly, may not have included any formal training in music theory--we don't require that our students can read/write music.

Neither do we impose any particular aesthetic on our students; rather, we try to work with them individually on developing and stretching their own musical goals, whatever their tastes may be.

However, this is not a programme about "popular music"; it does not concentrate on teaching you how to write music that is commercially viable. If that is a result of your efforts here, fantastic, but it's not our primary goal.

Our main interest is artistic: we aim to stimulate our students to reach out into fields of music technology that they may never have considered before, fields that will free them up to create their music in exciting new ways, very often leaving behind the usual studio practice paradigms.

The techniques we present are based on research and practice that have in the past led to commercial success, and we believe that by learning them you will most certainly be putting yourself ahead of the crowd out there looking for work in music composition.

Do I have to attend any interview or pass an admission exam?

Not usually. In exceptional cases, where perhaps the applicant's background is not typical for Masters entry, we may invite for interview, but usually the application form and work examples suffice.

We do not use the GRE or any other such admissions testing system.

Can I study part-time or by correspondence?

You can study part time over two years, but not by correspondence. You are expected to be in residence in Edinburgh during your studies here.

How long will it take to get a response to my application?

It could take several weeks after we receive your application, depending on what time of year your application arrives, and how busy the College Postgraduate Office is.

How long does the programme last?

The programme involves 6 courses and a project (for the MSc) or 6 courses (for the Diploma), and takes a full academic year, September to August (September to May for the Diploma). There is no difference in fees for the MSc or Diploma. The programme is also available part time over two years in which case the fees are split over two years.

What standard of English language competence do I require?

Can the programme be studied part-time? Or as a correspondence course?

You can study part time over two years, but not by correspondence, you must be resident in Edinburgh to take this programme.

How much does it cost?

Costs have two components: fees and living costs. For the latest fees you can visit the University of Edinburgh Taught Degrees fees page and search for Sound Design from there, as well at other useful links below:

Is there any funding, e.g. scholarships, available for this programme?

Students are usually either self-funded, or funded by non-UK government scholarships.

For further questions contact Michael Edwards: michael(at)music.ed.ac.uk

Are you interested in studying Digital Composition and Performance - MSc at Edinburgh College of Art?